Is The Tampa Riverwalk Pass Worth It? Tampa is an easy and inexpensive flight for most mid-westerners, so it is a very popular destination and one we finally experienced. We needed more sun and Tampa did not disappoint! We planned our trip around the three-day $79 Tampa Riverwalk Attraction Pass and are here to tell you if it’s worth it (includes the Tampa Museum of Art, the History Center, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, the Pirate water taxi, the American Victory Ship, the HB Plant Museum, the Glazer Children’s Museum, and the Florida Aquarium).
At first, we planned for two attractions per day but soon found that we had allotted too much time for each destination. We ended up only spending about an hour and a half at each place, so keep that in mind when you are making your plans.
Our first stop on the Tampa Riverwalk Attraction Pass was the History Center.
Once you use your first ticket, you have to use the rest of the tickets within three days. This is easy to do. We parked at Channelside Parking Garage and walked over. This parking garage was much less expensive than some of the other advertised parking around. We went quite quickly through the History Center, which costs $16.95 per adult if you don’t have a pass. It was smallish, geared toward children, and wasn’t that interesting. The highlights were the movies and presentations. Here you can learn about the link between Tampa and the story of Pocohantas, pretend to be a pirate in a small interactive theater, and ride real saddles while learning about Tampa’s livestock. There is also a gorgeous deck view where you can look out over Tampa. I would definitely never pay full price for this museum, but with the Riverwalk Pass, it was pleasant enough.
From here we thought we would take the Pirate Water Taxi (included in your Tampa Riverwalk Pass) to the photography and art museums.
We thought the water taxi ($25 for an all-day pass or $15 one-way) would operate as a real shuttle, arriving at each destination every 10 minutes or so. We were wrong. The taxi arrives every hour or so. Then it only makes regular stops going north. It only makes south-going stops if someone who is in the taxi asks it to stop. Further, you can’t take one taxi on the whole route, you have to transfer to a different water taxi part way. So not wanting to wait forever for the taxi, we walked along the river to the art museums. It was very nice to walk along the river.
The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and the Tampa Museum of Art were a short walk away.
It took us about 20 minutes to walk from the History Center. The museums were both small but had some very cool pieces and we enjoyed them. We probably spent about two hours seeing both. They were right next to each other. One floor of the photography exhibit was closed, so if it had been opened we would have spent a little more time. If we would have paid full price for these museums it would have been $30 each ($20 for the art museum and $10 for the photography museum). That would not have been worth it, but with the pass, it seemed reasonable.
We studied the Pirate Water Taxi schedule and this time we had a ready plan for riding it. Catching the taxi at the correct time at stop 12, we decided to ride it all the way traveling north to its final stop. Then it turned around and sailed south. We subsequently transferred to another water taxi at stop 7 and it took us to where we parked at stop 1. During the initial ride north, we were given an audio tour of Tampa which was nice. It was also a welcome respite from all of the walking. It took over an hour to make the round trip back to our car. The Pirate taxi would definitely not be worth the full price of admission.
The next day we visited the American Victory Ship and the HB Plant Museum.
We had learned a little bit about the HB Plant Museum ($10 full price) during the audio tour on the Pirate Water Taxi and were more excited to see it than we had been. We actually thought it was a museum for plants. Don’t laugh. Apparently “Plant” is the last name and the unique museum was built at the height of the Gilded Age. HB Plant was a wealthy man with a great vision, that didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but Tampa made it work. This is where you learn the interesting history of Tampa. This was my second favorite museum on the Riverwalk Pass and worth the full price of admission.
But I digress, first, we stopped and toured the American Victory Ship ($10 full price). My husband loves anything from WW2, so he was excited to see this. I will warn you that it is not air-conditioned. However, they have some designated air-conditioned rooms. Still, it was neat to walk around inside. It wasn’t crowded when we went and you can actually use the original ships’ claustrophobic bathrooms (yay lol!). I personally loved the 1940s music they were piping through as we walked around and learned about life aboard the ship. I wouldn’t have wanted to pay full price for this, but my husband probably would have.
And saving the best for last was THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM!
This aquarium would normally cost an adult a whopping $31.45 each which is perhaps why it wasn’t very crowded. But this was also why the aquarium was so awesome. When a museum isn’t very crowded you can really get up close and see everything. I don’t usually love aquariums this much, but we got to see a lot of really cool things without the crowds. We spent about 2 hours here.
Is The Tampa Riverwalk Pass Worth It?
We didn’t go to the Glazer Children’s Museum which was also included in our pass because we didn’t bring children, so if you have children this may play into your decision to buy the pass. Overall though I don’t think I would have purchased it. If I know what I know now, I would have paid for the Florida Aquarium and the HB Plant Museum only. You can find coupons or you may also qualify for discounts to reduce the price, such as a military or senior discount.
The best parts of our trip to Tampa were all of the other things we did!
Since the pass didn’t take up as much time as we expected we had to do other things! The best things we did in Tampa were visiting the Florida Hindu Temple (sign up for a free tour), and walking The Original Food Tour in Ybor City (cool history of Ybor City with delicious eclectic ethnic foods). We also loved eating at the original Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. One of the best meals we have had for a long time! And don’t forget Busch Gardens. We didn’t do this, this time around, but the CityPASS includes it and the Riverwalk pass doesn’t.
Don’t forget St. Petersburg, Florida!
Our other favorite activities were next door in St. Petersburg- The Sunken Gardens (use a Groupon or this coupon), the Dali Museum, and Palm Pavillion Beachside Bar and Grill at Clearwater Beach. Overall we had a great trip!
I hope you enjoy your trip to Tampa and/or St. Petersburg, Florida! And now you know…Is The Tampa Riverwalk Pass Worth It?