By Daryn Bauer
Community Engagement Manager
We at The Florida Orchestra dislike sitting in traffic on the Howard Frankland Bridge as much as the next person. With the Cross Bay Ferry in action again, I wondered, can I skip the traffic and get a view? Can I really use it to get to a concert? I decided to give it a try for one of TFO’s Happy Hour Concerts, starting from the St. Petersburg side. Destination: Armature Works in Tampa.
Purchasing tickets in advance using the ferry’s app was very easy, costing $8 each way. I parked in the Sundial garage and started my trip at the dock behind the Museum of Fine Arts. When I boarded the boat, I was pleasantly surprised to see a full bar, snack options and clean bathrooms. There are two main seating areas. The bottom level is fully enclosed with plush seats and large windows, and the top deck opens to breathtaking views, yet it’s protected if you don’t want that wind-swept look.
Taking the trip in the late afternoon provided colorful skies over St. Pete as we sailed toward Tampa. Travel time across the bay is about 50 minutes, so it might not save a lot of time, depending on traffic, but at least I could sit back and enjoy the ride with a beverage.
The ferry docks at the Florida Aquarium near Sparkman’s Warf in Tampa, which is still about 2.5 miles from Armature Works. I rented a bike from Coast for $3.33 and rode the beautiful Riverwalk trail along the water, which took me about 25 minutes – less if you don’t stop to take photos of the sunset. You can also take your own bike onto the ferry.
If biking isn’t for you, there are several transportation options to get to the Straz Center, Armature Works or other Tampa venues. You can get a taxi, use your favorite ride-share app, or hop on one more boat and take the Water Taxi.
If you’re coming from Tampa for a concert in St. Pete, it’s about a 15 minute walk from the ferry dock to the Mahaffey Theater. Or you can catch the free Downtown Looper shuttle.
The ferry holds a little under 150 people and runs November through the end of April, with a schedule that will work for most of our Masterworks and Pops concerts. It typically makes four round trips on Fridays and Saturdays and two round trips on other days, except for Mondays. It’s busier on the weekends.
The ferry ride back offers a quiet and serene view of the water, a lovely way to talk about your favorite moments from the concert, and a chance to see your city from a new perspective.
It definitely offers a lot fewer hassles than sitting in rush hour traffic. If you want to give it a try from St. Pete, we have the perfect opportunity: TFO’s next free Happy Hour Concert starts at 6:30 pm at Armature Works on Wednesday (March 13).