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July 5, 2019
Summer is about enjoying the outdoors, but it can be tough to come up with ideas to fill those long days. Have you visited the Tampa Riverwalk lately? With 2.5 miles to explore, you could go there every day for an entire week and have a completely different experience each time. Here are seven ideas for family fun-filled afternoons.
The historic Tampa Heights neighborhood has become a hotspot thanks to an explosion of growth along the north end of the Riverwalk. Start with lunch at the trendy Armature Works, where dining choices inside the Heights Public Marketplace food hall run the gamut from sushi to pizza to ice cream. Sit under an umbrella and enjoy an unobstructed view of the Hillsborough River while the kids play with the life-size chess set or run around the AstroTurf. If you prefer more traditional table service, the affordable kids’ menu and picture-perfect setting at Ulele Restaurant are tough to beat. Afterwards, linger on the open lawn where you can easily get caught up in a competitive game of cornhole. Cap your afternoon with a visit to Water Works Park. On a hot day, the kids will especially love the giant, water-dropping bucket at the splash pad.
Pack a lunch and a blanket; bring a football or soccer ball; have the kids grab their skateboards or bikes; and just enjoy the path along the water. On weekdays, it’s easy to park along the side of the road along Doyle Carlton Dr. just steps from the Riverwalk. If you’d prefer not to lug your own equipment, bike-sharing stations and Segway rentals are available. You can do almost anything along the paved walkway, except fish or ride electric scooters. You will stumble upon plenty of playgrounds, open fields, dog parks and pretty places to rest along the way. In this case, the journey is the destination.
The sweet spot for art lovers is midway through the Riverwalk, where three art venues converge. The Tampa Museum of Art showcases everything from ancient to contemporary art. The fourth Friday of every month, “pay as you will” admission 4-8 p.m. allows visitors to pay nothing or make a donation of choice to get in. Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the museum offers Art Spot— a free, drop-in, art-making activity for kids of all ages and skill levels based on the current exhibitions. A five-minute walk will get you to The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, housed in a striking, six-story cube building and displaying impressive contemporary and historic photographs. If you prefer stage arts, The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts is a must.
Start with a picnic lunch at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, followed by a game of frisbee or catch on the Great Lawn. When it’s time to cool off, the kids will love running through the two interactive fountains. Then, head inside the Glazer Children’s Museum. If you visit on the first Tuesday of the month, admission is free between noon and 6 p.m.
Options for enjoying a few hours on the Hillsborough River abound in the area near the Tampa Convention Center. Around the Sail Plaza, you will see plenty of places to rent water bikes, pedal boats, electric boats and stand-up paddle boards. Expect to spend around $30 per hour. You can also hop on the Pirate Water Taxi and travel up and down the river. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll find more dining choices than ever in this stretch of the Riverwalk. Two Tampa staples are slated to open outposts this month: Datz at the Convention Center and Big Ray’s Fish Camp alongside The Sail.
Step back in time at the Tampa History Center at the south end of the Riverwalk. Kids will especially enjoy the Treasure Seekers Gallery, highlighting conquistadors, pirates, an 18th-century pirate ship and shipwrecks with artifacts dating back to the 1600s . On the Fourth of July, admission is only $5, and guests can interact with reenactors representing several eras of military history. A Cuban sandwich at the historic Columbia Cafe and some fun on the playground next door will complete your visit to this part of the Riverwalk.
For a fun and free way to get around, hop on the TECO Line Streetcar connecting downtown, the Channel District and Ybor City. Start at Sparkman Wharf at the easternmost part of the Riverwalk. Watch the cruise ships departing the Port of Tampa, pick up lunch at one of the shipping containers-turned-restaurants, and just relax in the eclectic setting. Another good stop on the streetcar line is the Florida Aquarium, where kids can connect with the sea and play all day long at the popular splash pad. Just next door, The American Victory Ship and Museum is also worth a visit, and you can get in for free by signing up for a Discovery Pass using your library card at hcplc.com.
An action-packed week at the Tampa Riverwalk awaits. Check tampasdowntown.com or thetampariverwalk.com for a calendar of summer events.