Approximately 2.2 miles completed. Some sections of the River Walk do not as of this writing directly connect.
The walkway will ultimately stretch from North Boulevard Bridge (near Blake High School) down the Hillsborough River along Garrison Channel to the Channelside District. There are 24 segments that stretch approximately 2.4 miles. The Tampa Riverwalk Phase I Plan includes 21 of the 24 segments spanning the 2.2 mile area from the North Boulevard Bridge to the Beneficial Drive Bridge. The City is designing the Riverwalk to cross under all of the 12 bridge spans along the walkway to avoid crossing busy city streets.
Outdoor Travels Rating:
4 out of 5 bikes.
Thumbs Up and Down
• Connects many exciting and fun Tampa attractions
• Beautifully designed and constructed
• Nice parks and river access
• Pretty and interesting urban scenery
• With all of the attractions, restaurants and pubs along the way or nearby, there is an almost endless combination of afternoon ride adventures
• The last few connections are now being completed via donations which might take a while.
• Not a long ride in terms of distance.
Nuts & Bolts
Downtown Tampa, Florida. Running along the Hillsborough River currently from just north of the Performing Arts Center to the Tampa History Museum at Channelside Drive.
Commercial space, retail, restaurants, nightlife and watercraft access are available. There are public restrooms currently at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at the Tampa Art Museum. Specific destinations along the Riverwalk include the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the Sail Pavilion at the Tampa Convention Center, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, the St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Bay History Center, several parks and restaurants. The Glazer's Children's Museum, the Tampa Museum of Art and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park are all available as well. The Channelside Bay Shoppes, Florida Aquarium and the American Victory Ship are located at the southern terminus.
Access and trailheads:
With the entire southern section in place, you can park in the lot next to the St. Pete Times Forum (South Regional Parking Garage) and walk toward the water to enjoy Cotanchobee/Ft Brooke Park, the south entry plaza, and the area behind the Marriott Waterside Hotel and Tampa Convention Center. The Platt Street Underpass links the Tampa Convention Center and USF Park. There is ample parking under the Crosstown Expressway to access the USF park end of this continuous section. The Ft Brooke Parking Garage provides direct access to MacDill Park. Many downtown city streets have parking meters close to the Riverwalk. As the downtown continues to develop, parking is a key consideration in every decision. For further information on parking go to: Downtown Tampa Parking
Driving Directions From Bradenton/Sarasota
Take I-75 to Exit 256 (Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway), West on Crosstown Expressway to Exit 7 (Downtown West), West on Brorein to Tampa Street. There are several lots and the Tampa Convention Center garage available for parking.
From St. Petersburg & Tampa International Airport
Take I-275 North to Exit 44 Downtown West (Ashley/Tampa Street). The exit splits; bear to the right (Ashley Street). The Poe Garage is on the right and street parking is available.
Take Courtney Campbell Causeway East (S.R. 60) to I-275 North to Exit 44 Downtown West (Ashley/Tampa Street). The exit splits; bear to the right (Ashley Street). The Poe Garage is on the right and street parking is available.
Take I-4 West to Tampa. It turns into I-275. Follow I-275 South to Exit 44 Downtown West (Ashley/Tampa Street). The exit splits; bear to the right (Ashley Street). The Poe Garage is on the right and street parking is available.
Take Lee Roy Selmon (Crosstown Expressway) West to Exit 7 Downtown West. Proceed straight down exit onto Brorein Street to Tampa Street. There are several city lots and the Tampa Convention Center available for parking.
Take I-75 South to I-275South. Follow I-275 South to Exit 44 Downtown West (Ashley/Tampa Street). The exit splits; bear to the right (Ashley Street). The Poe Garage is on the right and street parking is available.
From Ybor City
You can park in the Ybor parking garage and catch the trolley to the Riverwalk at Cotanchobee, Marriott, and the Convention Center. RECOMMENDED: You may also access a Riverwalk connector at the intersection of E Kennedy Blvd. and N Meridian Ave. This multi-use path runs south to Channelside Drive and the Southern Terminus of the Riverwalk.
Tampa, Florida Opening the river to the people
Dana Farnsworth, Outdoor Travels
As I stood at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, back to the Hillsborough River, astride my bike, feet planted on Tampa's Riverwalk, I felt as though I was on vacation, visiting a new vibrant and exciting city. It was one of those "Chamber of Commerce Days". A cloudless azure sky set the mood as I cruised along the banks of the Hillsborough River on Tampa's Riverwalk. Traveling only a short distance, I had already stopped multiple times to admire a myriad of urban scenery. This scenario would repeat itself again and again during this relatively short 2.2 mile ride.
Running along the Hillsborough River currently from the Patel Conservatory just south of the Laurel Street Bridge to Channelside Drive its 2.2 Miles contain 7 Parks, 11 Bridges, multiple restaurants, multiple bars and pubs, boat docks, a cruise terminal, an aquarium and 5 Museums - just to name a few of its attractions. Serving as a backbone and/or connector for the city of Tampa, Riverwalk has been surmised succinctly by the mayor, "Opening the river to the people will improve the quality of life for everyone helping to make Tampa one of the most livable cities in America."
Riverwalk, is not quite complete as of this writing (February 2010), but what currently exists is a huge asset to the City of Tampa, it's residents, and its visitors. It really is that interesting. It's short (for a bike ride) distance of 2.2 miles is an all-afternoon urban adventure - not balls to the wall 25 mph fitness road ride.
Arts District Area
I began my ride at the current northern terminus near the Patel Conservatory. There is a plan in place to add more distance north of here to a proposed Water Works Park. Heading south along the Hillsborough River, I passed the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. At the Center, there is a beautiful fountain, nice views Plant Hall across the river and a nice indoor/outdoor restaurant. Although I didn't stop there, it looked to be a really nice place to grab some lunch or dinner and a drink. Some of the prettiest bits of river and urban scenery are here. It actually looks and feels a tad European.
Next up, I came into the first broken piece of trail - The Cass Street Bridge. A plan is in place to build a floating section of Riverwalk under the bridge, but for now, you'll have to dismount your bike, walk up a few steps and cross the street. The trail is well marked, and the crossing isn't that bad. After crossing Cass Street, I found myself at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
It's a wide open green field connecting downtown with the River. It seems like a big green gateway. Here there are public restrooms, a dogpark, a playground and a big open field of green. The Tampa Art Museum and Glazer Children's Museum are here as well. If you go a little "off trail adventuring" here, you'll find several nice bars and restaurants within a block or three of the park. Less than a few tenths of a mile, and already I could have spent all afternoon.
Midtown to Macdill Park
Just south and adjacent to Curtis Hixon Park is Kiley Gardens. Once again, there is a plan in place for a floating section of trail that will connect Kiley Garden's with Macdill Park. Currently, it's still pretty easy. For all purposes the paved multi-use "ramp" leading up to Kennedy Boulevard looks to be part of Riverwalk - that is until you reach a dead end at the distinctive River Gate Tower (aka The Beer Can Building). To an unprepared, first time Riverwalker it appears to be the end of the line. Appearances are deceiving. Of note, there is a restaurant in the bottom floor of the River Gate Tower.
A bit confusing but worth it
Take a left (towards the city) onto the Kennedy Boulevard sidewalk and cross Kennedy onto Ashley Drive heading south along the sidewalk or road if you wish. This is probably the longest broken stretch of the Riverwalk. Once again, a plan is in place to connect this section. In no time, the next section of Riverwalk - Macdill Park, will be on your right. The fun comes to an abrupt end again, as MacDill Park is currently a Riverwalk island. That is, the next connection is not complete yet. To access USF Park and the next section of Riverwalk, Take the sidewalk along Ashley Street South. Within a short distance you'll come to the E Brorein Street intersection. After crossing E Brorein Street, you'll see the Entrance to USF Park underneath the Crosstown Expressway Bridge. That's it for the tough navigating.
USF Park meanders along the Hillsborough River and features natural river bank landscaping. Riverwalk then passes under the Platt Street Bridge and turns a corner east towards the Convention Center. If you cross the Platt Street Bridge, there is a supermarket on the other side, not to mention an Irish pub a few blocks west on Platt. You can also access Bayshore Boulevard. It's a long winding sidewalk that takes you along the bay. Many locals Rollerblade, bike, walk, run and jog the trail. Bayshore Boulevard is billed as the world's longest continuous sidewalk - about four and a half miles.
Lots of good stuff left
Running along the Tampa Convention Center, Riverwalk is well marked. It's a good thing since it feels as though you might be on private property. Here you can see the Jose Gasparilla ship and make a stop at one of my favorite places, the Sail Pavilion. Sitting outside with a nice cold beer and a great view of the bay make this a must stop for me when they are open. Check their hours of operation ahead of time. Tampa's historic trolley line has it's main terminal here as well. One could hop on a trolley here and venture to Ybor City (the original Tampa). Riverwalk begins building attraction momentum as you pass under a bridge and skirt the Mariott Waterside Hotel and Marina. This is a nice section that features pretty urban/river scenery and a couple of restaurants. Cotanchobee Ft. Brooke Park is up next. The Saint Pete Times Forum is here as well as the Tampa History Museum, a playground, splash park and more. The park is very nice. It's meandering path flanked by natural river/bay bank landscaping on one side and cityscape on the other is very attractive. There is another restaurant/cafe at the History Museum. It's open to the public, even if you don't go into the museum.
End of the road, really isn't the end of the road
Turning a corner and heading north around the Tampa History Museum brings you to the end of the line (or the beginning if you will) at Channelside Drive. It's not really the end though.... Crossing Channelside, you'll find a little publicized connector that runs north - south along Meridian Drive. This connector links the Riverwalk with many residential projects along Meridian. Of note: The connector ends at the intersection of E Twiggs Street. From here a cruise into Ybor City is only a few blocks away. In Ybor City, you'll find many great restaurants, bars, pubs, shops and more!
Back at the end at Channelside Drive - Less than a block away from the southern terminus of Riverwalk is Channelside. It's an entertainment complex that's full of bars, restaurants, shops, a cruise ship terminal, and more. Of note, the Channelside management is not bike friendly. Although Channelside features a big central outdoor area, the security guards will not allow a rider to take their bike into this area. They do have bike racks on the perimeter of the complex, but they are out of site when visiting all but a few shops. Because of this, I personally don't frequent Channelside very often. But, if you don't mind leaving your bike locked up out of site, you can have a nice time there.
Last but certainly not least, Right beside of Channelside is the "don't miss" wonderful Tampa Aquarium, and a WWII Victory ship that is open to the public for tours.
It's no wonder I have a new found pride in living in Tampa. Riverwalk is more than a sidewalk along the river. It's a wonderful experience that can morph and change every time it's visited. I would dare guess that 100 people spending an afternoon on the Riverwalk may have 100 different adventures - it's that exciting and fun.
The Master Plan
The Tampa Riverwalk will consist of approximately 2.4 miles of a 15-foot wide walkway along the east side of the Hillsborough River from the North Boulevard Bridge south to the Tampa Convention Center and continuing along the north side of the Garrison Channel to the Channelside area. The 2.4 mile stretch is currently divided into 24 segments; some over the water and some over land. As these segments are in various stages of completion, design, or planning, one of the main challenges in designing a master plan for the Riverwalk is to connect the disparate segments and unite the entire Riverwalk.
The Master Plan sets forth a Riverwalk that begins at the North Boulevard Bridge and meanders, like the river, to the Garrison Channel and the Channel District. Adjacent to The Heights development, the winding Riverwalk is set back from the water and offers shaded areas and water overlooks. It then intersects a retail restaurant plaza before following a sweeping curve through Water Works Park that is also set back from the water’s edge to preserve trees and take advantage of shade. The Riverwalk hugs the bank under the I-275 in a nod to the utilitarian nature of this section before slowing down at the Laurel Street Bridge, where it arcs out over the water as a floating element and inland along the street as well, embracing the green space fl anking the bridge as designated park space.
Continuing south past Laurel Street, the Riverwalk passes the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and then encounters the Cass Street Bridge. While extensive efforts were undertaken to select the ideal crossing for Cass Street, the choice was finally postponed to the design development phase at which time plans for the redevelopment of Curtis Hixon Park will have advanced to the point of helping define the optimal solution. Just past the park, the Riverwalk makes its grandest gesture, arcing again out over the water as a floating element connecting underneath the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge and coming back to land adjacent to the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel before connecting to the northern edge of MacDill Park, where another proposed restaurant enlivens the Park and the Riverwalk. Passing Trump Tower Tampa, another planned restaurant and new docking area add interest.
The Riverwalk then dips under Brorein Street, winds through USF Park and dips back under Platt Street before emerging as a new fixed overwater segment abutting the Tampa Convention Center. This segment also includes a pier element projecting out into the waterway, serving as a physical and virtual gateway marker at the mouth of the river. Just past the Tampa Convention Center to the east, the Riverwalk intersects with the new Gateway Park, a welcoming green space in this tight location. The Riverwalk passes the Marriott Waterside Hotel and winds through Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park before traversing the Tampa Bay History Center site and turning back north to Channelside Drive at the foot of the emerging Channelside residential neighborhood. Along its entire length, the Riverwalk will use interpretive features, signage, and art to excite, educate and entertain Riverwalk users, be they residents or visitors. When fully implemented, The Tampa Riverwalk will be a major civic asset for the entire community and Tampa’s downtown waterfront will become an attractive, vibrant part of the city.