America's Best College Towns
Roy Van Doorn
Strolling along Ithaca Commons in Upstate New York is a crash course in College Town, U.S.A. Spitting distance from both Cornell and Ithaca College, the four-block pedestrian area buzzes with vendors, cafés, festivals, and, of course, students around every bend.
But venture beyond, and there’s another Ithaca to be discovered, including one of the most intriguing wine regions in the country. Sure, big cities have their glitz, but it’s this kind of understated charm, diversity, and affordability that draws visitors to cool college towns.
For our first America’s Favorite Towns survey, we asked T+L fans and followers to post nominations on social media with the hashtag #TLTowns—and then to vote for the 744 towns in 55 categories. Ithaca and other popular college towns scored highly in categories like coffee, bars, and quirkiness (ahem, Asheville, NC), while Burlington, VT, rose to the head of the class as the No. 1 college town.
Talk to University of Vermont alums, and they’ll wax poetic about the college-crowd scene, with tales of chilly dips in Lake Champlain and “that epic Phish show” at Nectar’s. But they’ll also hasten to tell you about the local food culture and how you should plan your visit to City Market around the local celebrity bread maker, who sells his goods only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
But it’s not just East Coast college towns that made our list. San Luis Obispo, CA, and Flagstaff, AZ, also won over the T+L community. Read on to find out why these and others made the top 20 list. And, devotion to alma maters being what it is, we have a feeling you’ll want to add your favorites in the comments below.