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Travel: Tampa Taco Festival - Al Lopez Park

This weekend my mother and I went to Tampa Taco Fest! This is an outdoor group of taco vendors and other wonderful Latin fair hosted by the planner on We had such a memorable time that I felt the need to break my rule of not blogging about something until I go a second time.  

I promise my review is constructive and though honestly brutal, I felt an obligation to share my experience so others can be better prepared, I can also look back on this when I go next year. 

Overall rating, I give a 6, food was a strong 9.2, the event planning failed this event. Luckily, event planning is an easy thing to fix, and I hope the hosts take the recommendations from their many 2022 reviews. 

Let's start with the good... Low cost of entry of 6$ pre-sale, food and drinks were delicious; from the abundance of tacos and fresh drinks (though limited water), the quality and price was on point. I got 12 amazing tacos from various vendors that cost me about $40 total. The spirit of a taco being quick, delicious and cheap saved this festival.  

Location... Al Lopez park in Tampa. Parking was free in the park and paid parking was abundant a short walk away. The park also has real running-water bathrooms, supplemented with porta-poddies for the festival. The park is spacious and well shaded with trees. My only issue with the space is it was very dusty, wear something light and comfy that you don't care if you get tacos on, and you will be fine. 

Now for the opportunities for improvement.... (eye roll). These really frustrated me because I see them as such easy wins that would have a huge impact on the experience of the event. They made some huge cardinal sins..
  • They restricted access to water and then ran out.... Food vendors were not allowed to sell drinks, not even water. This is a dangerous, cheap event red flag especially from a public safety perspective in the Florida heat.
  • They oversold tickets - posted about it last minute and cut people off in line - then removed the post (and comments)... admitting shame. Eeekk
  • Disappointing VIP - I was soooo close to getting the VIP for $52 presale and I am soooo happy I didn't. There was a tent and high-tops without chairs. Reviews state VIP ran out of food and drinks as well. The most surprising review I read was that the VIP tacos were cold, bad tacos at a taco festival.... come on. This VIP area missed the mark of making the patrons feel comfortable and special, if anything they left envying the people in general admission. 
  • Huge difference in preparation of vendors - some understood the importance of a simple menu and easy to prepare items, for others it was their downfall causing an hour to wait to order and then an additional hour to get your food. I put responsibility on the event planners, they need to prepare the vendors for expected order volumes so the vendors can prepare and manage wait times.

    Easy Improvements: 
  • Include water in the price of the ticket, have the water sponsored if the price is a concern. Give water to the vendors to hand out as well.  
  • Provide a site map with locations of vendors and bathrooms
  • Have vendor menus available with site map 
  • VIP only event glasses as souvenirs (collectable year after year)

Like I said at the start of the post, I will give this event a try next year. To be fair and to test out my experience with better preparation. When you go to a public event, your prep and expectations have a huge impact on you enjoying the event. It's hard to look past the FOMO social media posts and get a real feel of how to prepare, but I hope my list below makes you more confident to go.

Here's my game plan for next year based on my experience and reviews from other people, so you can make your own VIP area!

  • Come early - gates open at 10am, plan to be there 11am at the latest
  • Bring lawn chairs, reusable water bottles, blankets, boardgames, plates/utensils/napkins/wipes, sunscreen & hat and bug spray. I have a beach wagon that will definitely be coming too!
  • Wear something comfy and flowy for the heat, the park is very dusty so wear something you don't mind getting dirty 
  • Divide and conquer - bring a few friends so someone can stay with the camp site then others can get tacos, water and drinks for everyone to bring back to enjoy 
    • Get a few bottles of water per person at the start of the event - the water stations also gave out ice too, fill up that water bottle! 

Hopefully the event manager will heed the comments (not just blow them off) and create a better event for everyone! The event manager totally dropped the ball on this one, letting easy and simple items kill the event. Luckily the wonderful vendors brought it back to life and this is why I will go back next year, and I hope you do too!