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Retail shopping, one of my favorite things to do. And in Tampa, there are plenty of great places to get your retail therapy in. Yes, your student is at USF for school, but there will always be something they need, particularly at the start of the semester. It is a good idea to order some things online and have them waiting for you at a store in Tampa, especially larger items that won’t travel well on an airplane or in a car. Lots of stores offer this service these days, and it can be very helpful in the crazy world of college retail shopping. A few are Target, Walmart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Best Buy. Let’s not forget Amazon. Last-minute items can be ordered and delivered directly to your student’s dorm (and students get a FREE Amazon Prime account with their college email address). Like most other large cities, there are plenty of major retail box stores near USF, including IKEA, Dick’s Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Homegoods, and Kohl’s.
If you want the full mall experience, here are a few of my favorites:
Tampa Premium Outlets is located off of I-75 and SR 56 and is 20 minutes from campus. Like any other outlet mall, you can find just about all the name brands you want there. It is a beautiful, newer outside the mall but can be hot in the summer. It has a food court, along with many restaurants surrounding it. You can’t beat sales at outlet malls, so it is a great place to stock up on essentials.
*Side note: Costco is in the same complex as the outlet mall, so if you are a member, then you can kill two birds with one stone if needed.
The Shops at Wiregrass is another beautiful outside mall located in the area of Wesley Chapel, also 20 minutes from campus. It has Macy’s, Dillard’s, and JC Penney as its anchor stores. They have a great “farmer’s market” on the first and third Saturdays of the month. There are great places to eat as well. Our favorites are Noble Crust, Grill Smith, and Prime Bar.
The International Plaza & Bay Street is located adjacent to the Tampa International Airport on Westshore Blvd and is about 25 minutes from USF. It is a sophisticated mall with two stories. It houses 200 stores with Dillard’s, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus as their anchors. A large Apple store is located here, so this is the place to visit if Apple services are needed. The open-air Bay Street houses many fun eateries and nightlife. It’s one of our favorite malls.
The Westfield Brandon mall is just 8 miles east of Tampa in an area known as Brandon. It is 20 minutes from campus, and it is right off of the interstate at I-75 and SR 60. It’s anchor stores are Dillard’s, Macy’s, JC Penney, and Sears. There is a smaller Apple store at this mall as well. Along with the food court and other eateries, Bahama Breeze is good, as well as the Ryuu Japanese Steak House.
There are a few other smaller malls, along with countless strip malls in the Tampa area. Tampa has some great boutiques for every interest. It’s worth checking them out on your visit.
Other notable retail shopping stores are:
Bed Bath and Beyond – The large store carry every item imaginable for a bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. They do cater to the college market offering services like a registry, where the family can purchase gifts for their student and can be picked up at the store near campus. The store closest to USF is the Carrollwood location, which is about 7 miles from USF.
Target – I have yet to meet someone unfamiliar with this big-box giant. They too sell just about everything your student may need for college including room essentials, cleaning, and school supplies, toiletries and some grocery items. You may want to take a look at their website and college registry before arrival day. The Target at University Plaza is sure to be a madhouse on move-in day, so plan your time accordingly. It is very close to campus but is smaller than the more popular Target on Bruce B. Downs and County Line Road. This Target is huge and frequented often by USF students.
Walmart – This supercenter is just 0.2 miles from campus. There are other locations near the school, so remember that some not as close may be less crowded during move-in and move-out times. From toiletries to furniture, groceries, paper goods, cleaning supplies to clothing, it is the go-to place for picking up almost anything. The move-in week will create long lines so shop early. You can also find USF gear here!
Best Buy – This chain store is known for electronics, computers, appliances, cell phones, video games, and anything tech-related. They are also known for their Geek Squad when you need repairs for your computer and other electronics. For students needing a dorm fridge or TV, you can simply order it online and then arrange to have it picked up at a location near the school. Be sure to sign up for College Student Deals to receive discounts through their College Student Deals Page. The store near campus is just 5.5 miles away.
When you are first moving your student to The University of South Florida, you should expect that the area will be crowded with parents and their students all vying for the same items. While most of the stores are prepared for this onslaught, there are some items they still run out of and some you won’t have realized you need until you get there and actually begin the setup. Another consideration is the wait time to pick up the items that you may have pre-ordered. It is, as I said, sometimes worth going to the further location to avoid this. And don’t forget to save all the receipts. I did have to make a run of returns after moving our daughter into her dorm. We found that we overbought on some things and some items she ended up not needing.
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