All About Tampa: Arts, Entertainment and History
As the Hillsborough River meanders through downtown Tampa, the pedestrian-friendly Riverwalk leads to a vibrant arts and culture scene that links classic and contemporary visual arts, a dynamic performing arts center, waterfront history center and children’s museum.
From Ybor City's rich Latin history to the Gasparilla legacy that includes the annual Gasparilla Festival of Arts, visitors who follow this waterway path can discover their own trifecta of treasures.
An Eye for Art and Architecture
Whether your interest is classic art exhibits and collections, man-made designs or views of water, sky and green space, the River Arts District along Tampa’s Riverwalk balances it all.
There’s plenty of visual stimulation – inside and out – at The Tampa Museum of Art, recognized with a 2011 American Architecture Award for the building design. Then there’s its colorful neighbor, the Glazer Children’s Museum, where open spaces and hands-on activities invite exploration.
From the vantage point of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, visitors can gaze across the river at the University of Tampa’s historic minarets, setting up a striking, palm tree laden backdrop for photos and relaxation.
Beyond Pirates, More Treasure
Tampa is known for its pirate invasion, thanks to the famous José Gaspar (Gasparilla). Beyond the legacy of parades and parties, though, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, held annually in March, is one of the country’s top-rated juried fine art and craft shows.
For more than 40 years, this show has brought accomplished artists to downtown Tampa, and is now home in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. It’s the perfect setting for showcasing more than 300 artists and works in every form and media – from creative arts to live entertainment and children’s art activities. The Riverwalk is the place to be during the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
Performing Arts Epicenter
A cornerstone of the River Arts District, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts is a world-class entertainment and education center that is also home to the Florida Orchestra.
From Broadway to grand opera, youth theater performances, dance, jazz and more, visitors will find a variety of entertainment options in the five theaters at the Straz Center, plus views along the riverfront from its terraced open spaces.
History Comes to Life
With just over two miles to travel along the Riverwalk, set your pace to include the Tampa Bay History Center, located in the Channelside District. The History Center feels open and airy, thanks to a stunning atrium, and its exhibits explore the people and places that shaped Tampa Bay. With a prime location on the river, it’s perfect for watching sunsets over the Tampa skyline, and is close to hotels and restaurants.
To get a more modern feel for Tampa’s heritage, hop on the TECO Line Streetcar and visit Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin Quarter and best-known for its cigar-making past. Experience the culture, stop for tapas and Spanish sangria and take in the main street Historic District. Come for the annual Fiesta Day, held each February – a celebration of ethnic heritage, music, dance and food, including the Flan Fest, a bake-off contest with plenty of the decadent dessert for sampling.
A Welcoming Gateway
The rhythm of the city resonates on Tampa’s Riverwalk, welcoming visitors to this unpretentious urban center where an upbeat arts, entertainment and culture scene offer a unique vacation experience.
Visit ArtsTampaBay.com for information on Tampa Bay’s arts and culture-related events and venues.
This article was brought to you by Tampa Bay & Company. To plan your trip to Tampa Bay, visit visittampabay.com.