What are you doing Friday night? Join the growing crowd hanging out at museums, restaurants

On the last Friday of each month, people can explore Downtown Tampa’s vibrant art and culture scene. What can start off as a free ride on the Hillsborough River with the Pirate Taxi could turn into an exploration of the Tampa Museum of Art, drinks at the Franklin Manor, a stroll up the Riverwalk and more.
Fourth Fridays truly allow locals to experience parts of Downtown Tampa they might not have ever experienced before, says Shaun Drinkard, Executive Director for Friends of the Riverwalk.

“People may have gone to one or two different cultural institutions, but there's a lot of them that they may have never visited,” says Drinkard. “Fourth Fridays are a perfect way to get people in their door to see what they have there. It's a way to get people in there and see all the different exhibits, projects and activities that take place in these different cultural venues.”

Raving reviews for Fourth Fridays

Fourth Fridays was first launched in March 2016. Friends of the Riverwalk and Tampa Downtown Partnership collaboratively worked together to help Fourth Fridays evolve into what it is today.

Now, thousands of people have attended Fourth Fridays since its inception, all with positive feedback.

“It makes me happy that we have an event like Fourth Fridays. It's a start,” says Carol Osborne, Marketing Instructor at USF. “It's the culture, it's the creativity of the local ethos. Local people want to do it and be interested in it and see what's going on in Downtown Tampa.”

“It's a fun and interesting way to find out what's going on in the downtown area,” says Sheila Waddill, who is retired. “Fourth Fridays are going to bring people downtown and expose them to things they wouldn't normally see. … It also brings people to eat dinner down here, which is good for the downtown economy.”

Positive impact on Downtown Tampa and its growth

More than 25 cultural venues, bars and restaurants offer deals to experience the ever-evolving Downtown Tampa at little to no cost. Businesses like Jerk Hut, Café Dufrain, Bamboozle Tea Lounge and Bizou Brasserie at Le Meridien Hotel are just a few of the local businesses that are seeing an increase in visitors because of Fourth Fridays.

“We thought it was our responsibility as the steward of Downtown Tampa to work with all of these different cultural groups,” says Drinkard. “They all came to us and said, ‘We all have different nights that we're offering something, but as one voice, we would speak a lot louder. How can we do this?’”

In addition to having Fourth Fridays helping locals become more connected to Downtown Tampa, Fourth Fridays are also providing tourists with the unique opportunity to explore Downtown Tampa in the way a local would.

In Boston, there’s only ever one institution that offers discount prices during events like these, says Becki Kipling, Early Childhood Manager at the Boston Museum of Science, who was visiting Tampa during September’s Fourth Friday event.

“This is the first time I've seen a community coming together to do it,” says Kipling. “Fourth Fridays gives people choices. If I lived here, I would do it.”

Locals also have the unique opportunity to experience Downtown Tampa and learn about all that it has to offer. As the downtown area grows, the more options there are for locals to explore.

“I’ve lived in Downtown Tampa for six years now and I've watched it grow and watch the way the city has blossomed,” says William Ibister, a banker. “To have these events, you're going to draw more attraction downtown and likely for more people to live downtown and move down here.”

The future for Fourth Fridays

The construction and planning of more than 4,000 apartments across 13 buildings are on the drawing board to be built in the urban core of Downtown Tampa, according to a recent news report.

“Fourth Fridays will continue to grow and evolve as new developments come out of the ground, specifically on the waterfront,” says Drinkard. “Whether it's things that are currently under construction or things that are proposed, there’s a critical amount of new residential developments in the works.”

As Downtown Tampa grows, I feel more and more connected to it, says Ibister. “Downtown Tampa is the place to be.”

Downtown Tampa is the “heart of the city. That sense of place is what people know. It really opens the door for people to identify with everything that their city has to offer,” says Drinkard. “Fourth Fridays really feeds into that downtown lifestyle of every night there’s something to do and see in Downtown Tampa. … It becomes a part of their lifestyle. We hope that that's what Fourth Friday does.”

Read more articles by Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy.

Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Tampa. She earned her BA in Journalism from Washington and Lee University in May 2016. Zebrina is also a social media specialist and content writer for startup companies and small businesses. She helps build their brand through social media management and creates their brand story through content writing. She is constantly motivated by Tampa Bay's entrepreneurial spirit. Zebrina is dedicated to share entrepreneurs' stories of grit, passion and innovation. Learn more at her website and follow her on Instagram or Twitter @zebrinaemaloy.
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