With school looming across Tampa Bay, it’s time to say goodbye to summer and begin preparing for the upcoming school year! Fortunately, there are plenty of back-to-school events around the Bay area to make the transition easier like Florida’s tax-free shopping weekend and fun back-to-school bashes as well as school supply drives to help students in need get ready for school in 2017.

Tax-Free School Shopping

Florida’s Statewide Tax-Free Weekend

Friday, August 4th through Sunday the 6th, students and their families get a break while school shopping with Florida’s Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. This weekend only, you can buy everything you need for the upcoming school year without paying that pesky sales tax, which can range from 6% and 7.5% depending on your county. Tax-free items include:

  • Clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $60 or less per item
  • Certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item
  • Personal computers and certain computer-related accessories, selling for $750 or less per item, when purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.

Even if you don’t have school-age children, you can still take advantage of this awesome three-day sale! For more details on which items are tax-exempt, read Florida’s 2017 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday: What to Know on News Channel 8’s website.

Back-to-School Events in Tampa

Tampa Bay Parenting's 10th Annual Back-to-School Fair

For the tenth year in a row, Tampa Bay Parenting magazine will be hosting its annual Back-to-School Fair at Westshore Plaza in Tampa! Join thousands of Bay Area families on Saturday, August 5th for tax-free school shopping as well as school supply giveaways, photo-ops with your favorite mascots and movie characters, and raffle prizes throughout the day. Some of the giveaways include coveted prizes like hotel stays, family packs of tickets for Florida theme parks, and family memberships to museums. There will also be vendors with information about after school activities, doctors and dentists, tutoring services, and everything else for your children’s education and well-being. The fair is from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, but you’ll want to get to the mall early because the first 500 kids will receive a free backpack!

Westfield Countryside Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt

On Saturday, August 5th from 10:00 AM to 3:00 Pm, Westfield Countryside in Clearwater is also having a back-to-school event in Tampa Bay, but with a fun twist: a scavenger hunt! Kids will enjoy walking around the mall and checking items off their list, and the first 250 to complete the scavenger hunt will get a free full-size backpack! They will also enjoy meet-and-greet session with their favorite mascots and characters while parents can go school shopping tax-free as well as get valuable information about school, health, and safety resources.

Back-to-School Family Fun Day

Celebrate the season with Back-to-School Family Fun Day at Pinellas Park’s Performing Arts Center on Saturday, August 5th from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. There will be games, activities, a live DJ, prizes, a bike raffle, and free school supplies. Kids will also enjoy watching a live K9 Unit demonstration.

Back-to-School Night

Have a fun night with the kids before school starts at Explorations Children's Museum in St. Petersburg on Saturday, August 5th from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM. Kids will have a blast playing and creating in the museum’s many exhibits while the museum offers families light food and lunch packing tips. Admission to this event is $10 a person (ages 1 and younger are free), and the first 100 families will receive a special gift bag.

Free Backpacks from YMCA

On Saturday, August 5th from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, the YMCA will be giving out 1,100 backpacks filled with school supplies to qualifying, pre-registered students in grades K-12 at Camp Cristina in Riverview. There will also be free healthy snacks, health screenings, insurance sign ups, crafts, and activities. This event is free for students and their families, but registration is required, and you can register by emailing Kavita.Marballi@tampaymca.org or calling (813)684-1371, ext. 1606.

“Wild” Back-to-School Bash

Have fun with the family and “go wild” one last time before school starts at Sarasota Jungle Gardens Back-to-School Bash! On August 5th and 6th, adults can bring up to three children for free with the purchase of a full-price adult ticket. Families will enjoy feeding flamingos, holding alligators, and watching interactive animal shows as well as exploring acres of park’s beautiful jungle paradise.

School Supply Drives

Backpack to School Supply Drive and Buzzed Spelling Bee 

Join 81Bay Brewing Company and Metropolitan Ministries Tampa at this fun ADULT spelling bee and supply drive in South Tampa's first brewery on Thursday, August 3rd from 6:30 PM to 10:00 PM.

Related Content: School Supply Drive and Buzzed Spelling Bee Coming to 81Bay Brewing Company

Clothes To Kids

Clothes to Kids gives clothing and shoes to elementary school children in need. This school year, they're asking for school shorts sizes 4 to 16, short-sleeve shirts sizes S to XL, and kids' shoes. New or gently-used clothing and shoes can be dropped off from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM on weekdays at Clothes to Kids two locations: 1059 N Hercules Ave., Clearwater, and 3251 Third Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

Free Oil Change at Supply Drive for Needy Children

On top of helping students in need, you can also get a free oil change when you donate $15 worth of new school supplies at Ice Cold Air in Tampa. All of the school supplies collected will be donated to Joshua House, the Children’s Home, and needy schools in the Tampa Bay area.

Donate Supplies for the Boys and Girls, Get Free Drink

District Tavern in Channelside will be hosting a school supply drive for the Boys and Girls Clubs in Tampa Bay on Friday, August 4th from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM. If you bring a hefty donation, you’ll get a free drink and food specials!

Connect to everything local including Family-Friendly events in Tampa, Shopping, restaurants in Tampa, Free Things to Do in Tampa and more by registering above. It's FREE! Let us know of any other back-to-school events in Tampa Bay; we are happy to add them to this guide. (Cover photo by Aaron Burden)