America's Most Beautiful College Campuses

  • University of Washington: Seattle

    Photo: University of Washington/University Photography

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    Take a crash course in architecture at the country’s most beautiful college campuses.

    From September 2011 By , , ,

    “If you ask freshmen why they chose their colleges, they usually say one of two things,” says Baltimore architect Adam Gross, who’s worked on projects at the University of Virginia and Swarthmore. “Either they got a good financial aid package or they thought the campus was beautiful.”

    America’s most beautiful college campuses have the power not only to sway indecisive high school students, of course, but also to attract tourists. Their appeal comes through varying combinations of awe-inspiring architecture, landscaping, and surroundings. To choose among more than 2,600 four-year American colleges, we considered these three key factors as well as architects’ expert opinions.

    “The most important thing to realize is that how landscaping and buildings interconnect is as important as the buildings themselves,” explains Boston-based architect Mark deShong. At Princeton University, for example, “It’s really about landscape,” he says. The campus connects its ivy-covered gray stone buildings with footpaths, idyllic small greens, and courtyards that create an intimate village-like scale.

    Architectural coherence also plays a role in making a campus beautiful. Take the University of San Diego, which sticks to one architectural style: the Spanish Renaissance, with its elaborate façades, delicate ironwork, and carved wood. Ocean views and palm-tree-lined courtyards are extra selling points.

    Yale can’t compete when it comes to location, but it has embraced one architectural movement after another. As Robert A. M. Stern, dean of Yale’s School of Architecture, puts it: “Our campus is a living history of the architecture and urbanism of its three centuries in New Haven.” Whatever your taste, you’ll find a structure to your liking on a campus stroll, perhaps dorms designed by 1960s starchitect Eero Saarinen or James Gamble Rogers’s imposing Gothic bell tower.

    But no assessment of America’s campuses would be complete without the University of Virginia. “You might think it looks like all these other campuses, but it’s the first to look like that,” says deShong. He cites founder and architect Thomas Jefferson’s then-novel concept of flanking a lawn with pavilions linked by colonnades and a grand library at its head. New York-based architect Alexander Cooper concurs: “UVA remains the masterpiece of American campus planning.”

    So plan your own trip to check out these campus masterpieces. Think we missed a beautiful campus? Tell us why it should make the grade by posting a comment below. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Bard College: Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

    Photo: Peter Aaron/Esto

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    Bard College: Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

    Frank Gehry’s Fisher Center—an undulating work of glass and brushed stainless steel—showcases Bard’s thriving arts scene throughout the year (current college president Leon Botstein himself is an accomplished conductor). The center is on the contemporary side of the rural campus’s architectural spectrum, which goes back to the 19th-century Blithewood Mansion and its manicured Italian garden. Pathways make for easy exploring, with the Catskill Mountains visible in the distance. —Kate Appleton

  • Stanford University: Palo Alto, CA

    Photo: Tina Case of Case Rust Photography

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    Stanford University: Palo Alto, CA

    The entryway to Stanford’s 8,180-acre campus is arguably the grandest of any college campus: a mile-long, tree-lined Palm Drive, which leads up to the expansive green Oval, red-clay-roof-tiled Main Quad, and the campus’s crown architectural jewel, Memorial Church, with its striking mosaic façade.

    Photo-op: The view of campus—and all the way to San Francisco on a clear day—from the Hoover Tower observation platform.

    To-Do List: The Cantor Arts Center’s collection of 170 bronzes by Auguste Rodin, among the largest outside Paris, includes the Gates of Hell and Burghers of Calais. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Notre Dame: South Bend, IN

    Photo: Dennis MacDonald / Alamy

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    University of Notre Dame: South Bend, IN

    It’s hard to miss the glistening golden dome of the university’s Main Building, not to mention the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Sacred Heart that defines this 150-year-old Catholic school. Besides gorgeous architecture, the campus is chock-full of lush quads, where students congregate to kick back when they’re not in class—or at the football stadium. —Joshua Pramis

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Florida Southern University: Lakeland, FL

    Photo: imac/ Alamy

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    Florida Southern College: Lakeland, FL

    What do Ellis Island and Florida Southern College have in common? They’re among the 32 U.S. spots that have recently been put under watch by the World Monument Fund as endangered cultural sites. You might also be surprised to learn that Florida Southern—on a hillside overlooking Lake Hollingsworth—has the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, including the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel with its colored pieces of glass and wrought-iron tower. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Best College Campuses: University of Cincinnati, OH

    Photo: Courtesy of University of Cincinnati

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    University of Cincinnati: Cincinnati, OH

    A decades-long renewal topping $1 billion is paying dividends for Cincy, which has cultivated a strikingly modern look—and proven that “it doesn’t need ivy-covered brick walls” to be beautiful, as UC Magazine put it. Notable architects Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, Frank Gehry, and Peter Eisenman have each made their mark on the campus, whose Main Street leads to the prow-shaped Steger Student Life Center and the Tangeman University Center, which, in 2005, dramatically repositioned the original clock tower atop a skylight in a 90-foot atrium. —Kate Appleton

  • University of San Diego: San Diego

    Photo: Courtesy of University of San Diego

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    University of San Diego: San Diego

    Some campuses are an amalgam of styles; the University of San Diego sticks to just one, and what a glorious one it has chosen—the Spanish Renaissance, with its elaborate façades, delicate ironwork, and carved woodwork. Ocean views and palm-tree-lined courtyards only add to the paradise-on-campus appeal.

    Photo-op: The Immaculata Chapel, with its piercingly blue dome, visible from much of the city.

    To-Do List: A walk around the Garden of the Sea, behind the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, and its serene reflecting pool and gardens overlooking Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Berry College: Mount Berry, GA

    Photo: Berry College

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    Berry College: Mount Berry, GA

    This rural college holds a lofty record: it’s the world’s largest contiguous college campus in the world, with more than 26,000 acres of fields, lakes, forests, and mountains. Berry makes prime use of its setting too, with numerous reflecting pools and fountains situated nearby its beautiful English Gothic–inspired buildings like the Ford Dining Hall, Ford Auditorium, and Mary Hall, made possible by the school’s largest benefactor—Henry Ford. —Ratha Tep

  • Lewis & Clark College: Portland, OR

    Photo: Courtesy of Lewis and Clark College

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    Lewis & Clark College: Portland, OR

    Six miles from downtown lies this 137-acre parklike campus of verdant forests, sweeping pathways, and stone walls. A tree walk with native species encountered by the two explorers for whom the college was named on their epic journey west surrounds the Frank Manor House—originally built as a 35-room private mansion.

    Photo-op: The serene Reflecting Pool, bordered by a wall of wisteria, for a stellar view of Mount Hood.

    To-Do List: A day hike through surrounding Tryon Creek State Park. Begin with coffee brewed with beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Lewis & Clark bookstore. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Rice University: Houston

    Photo: Courtesy of Rice University

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    Rice University: Houston

    Don’t be fooled by Rice’s urban address. A double row of majestic oak trees encloses its perimeter—a harbinger of the lush 285-acre campus to come, divided into quadrangles and planted with 4,000-plus elms, hickories, maples, and other trees (a ratio of more than one for each undergrad). The oldest buildings, like the standout Lovett Hall, borrow elements of medieval southern European architecture, including grand, arched passageways and rose-hued brick. —Ratha Tep

  • Cornell University: Ithaca, NY

    Photo: Courtesy of Cornell University

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    Cornell University: Ithaca, NY

    Ambitious campus planners wanted to create a main quad over dramatic Cayuga Lake, the longest of the Finger Lakes. “It’s the idea of putting education on a high platform,” says architect Mark deShong. That original plan evolved, and the beautiful setting now accommodates both historic structures (McGraw Tower) and contemporary ones like the I. M. Pei–designed Johnson Museum of Art—whose walls screen movies on summer evenings—and the new Milstein Hall by Rem Koolhaas.

    Photo-op: Cascadilla Gorge, whose eight waterfalls drop more than 400 feet from Cornell’s campus to downtown Ithaca.

    To-Do List: The paved paths that wind through Cornell Plantation’s 150-acre arboretum; climb to the Newman Overlook for a sweeping panoramic view. —Ratha Tep

  • Sewanee, The University of the South: Sewanee, TN

    Photo: University of the South, Sewanee

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    Sewanee, The University of the South: Sewanee, TN

    This 13,000-acre campus on the Cumberland Plateau overlooking the Tennessee Valley combines Gothic-inspired architecture with magnificent surroundings: forest, lakefront bluffs, and a garden ravine that follows a stream through campus. In spring, it blooms with daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips.

    Photo-op: All Saints’ Chapel draws inspiration from the University Church at Oxford and Notre Dame in Paris.

    To-Do List: Burgers at Shenanigans followed by a show at the Tennessee Williams Center, named after the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright who left his estate to Sewanee. —Ratha Tep

  • University of Washington: Seattle

    Photo: University of Washington/University Photography

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    University of Washington: Seattle

    The eye-catching Collegiate Gothic Suzzallo Library at UW’s Seattle campus has 35-foot-high stained-glass windows and elaborately gilded vaulted ceilings that soar 65 feet in the air. But come spring, the Quad’s 30 Yoshino cherry trees steal the spotlight with blooms of delicate pink petals set against red-brick buildings (peak cherry blossom season, mid-March to early April).

    Photo-op: The Drumheller Fountain for spot-on views of snowcapped Mount Rainier.

    To-Do List: Musical acts at the newly renovated Neptune Theatre, which debuted in the University District in 1921. —Ratha Tep

  • Princeton University: Princeton, NJ

    Photo: Princeton University; Office of Communications

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    Princeton University: Princeton, NJ

    Gray stone buildings like the University Chapel and Cleveland Tower are pure Collegiate Gothic splendor. But the 500-acre campus’s beauty extends beyond their doors. “Princeton has beautiful buildings, but the exquisite landscaping amplifies them even more,” explains Boston-based architect Mark deShong. Courtyards, idyllic small greens, and crisscrossing footpaths dot the campus.

    Photo-op: The handsome ivy-covered Nassau Hall is not only the oldest building on campus, but also a former home to the Continental Congress.

    To-Do List: The Princeton Art Museum collection which ranges from remarkable Mayan figures to Andy Warhol’s Blue Marilyn. —Ratha Tep

  • Kenyon College: Gambier, OH

    Photo: Courtesy of Kenyon College Office of Public Affairs

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    Kenyon College: Gambier, OH

    Kenyon’s hilltop setting in tiny Gambier makes for one of the country’s most idyllic campus walks: the 10-foot-wide Middle Path, which spans the length of the college and through town, shaded by massive trees that glow fiery orange in the fall. Veer off the path for Kenyon’s castle-like Victorian Gothic Ascension Hall and the Greek Revival Rosse Hall with its elegant columns.

    Photo-op: In front of Old Kenyon, the college’s first permanent building, with its multicolored spire.

    To-Do List: The 14-mile Kokosing Gap Trail, a paved path built on a former railroad line, for biking through Knox County’s small towns and through campus, past rolling farmland, and along the gentle Kokosing River. —Ratha Tep

  • Swarthmore College: Swarthmore, PA

    Photo: Courtesy of Swarthmore College

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    Swarthmore College: Swarthmore, PA

    Just southwest of Philadelphia, Swarthmore’s Scott Arboretum nurtures idyllic gardens of hydrangea, lilacs, and tree peonies and a courtyard devoted to fragrant trees and shrubs. The highlight is its outdoor amphitheater, a series of cascading lawn-covered stone tiers shaded by tulip trees and surrounded by Crum Woods and its holly and rhododendron collections.

    Photo-op: The Dean Bond Rose Garden has 200-plus varieties and views of stately Parrish Hall in the background.

    To-Do List: Gardening classes and tours at the arboretum; topics range from growing maples to the benefits of green roofs. —Ratha Tep

  • Indiana University: Bloomington, IN

    Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University

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    Indiana University: Bloomington, IN

    To explore IU’s flagship campus, follow the meticulously kept red-brick path that starts at the Sample Gates and winds through Dunn Woods, filled with 80 varieties of mature trees, and the Old Crescent Historic District with its carved limestone structures. Among the most impressive is the Student Building with its soaring clock tower.

    Photo-op: The limestone Sample Gates where nearby flowerbeds bloom with bright red tulips in the spring.

    To-Do List: I. M. Pei’s IU Art Museum displays more than 30,000 works of art by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. For a more controversial look at the human body, tour the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. —Ratha Tep

  • University of Virginia: Charlottesville, VA

    Photo: Dan Addison/ U. Va. Public Affairs

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    University of Virginia: Charlottesville, VA

    How’s this for honors? UVA is the only university in the U.S. to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and Thomas Jefferson chose its founding to be one of only three of his many accomplishments noted on his gravestone (being president wasn’t among them). Jefferson designed the campus’s since-copied layout and even hired its initial faculty and planned the curriculum.

    Photo-op: The Neoclassical domed Rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

    To-Do List: The Small Special Collections Library showcases the most comprehensive collection of letters, documents, and early printings of the Declaration of Independence. —Ratha Tep

  • Yale University: New Haven, CT

    Photo: Michael Marsland/ Yale University

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    Yale University: New Haven, CT

    While some campuses hold stubbornly onto their pasts, Yale embraces changing architectural movements. “Our campus is a living history of the architecture and urbanism of its three centuries in New Haven,” notes Robert A. M. Stern, dean of Yale’s School of Architecture. The collection spans from the Georgian-style red-brick Connecticut Hall (whose construction predates the Revolutionary War) to the Postmodernist (is it a turtle? a whale?) Ingalls Rink by Eero Saarinen and an upcoming Norman Foster project.

    Photo-op: Inside the wondrous Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which houses volumes in a six-story glass-enclosed tower, set against translucent grained Vermont marble panels.

    To-Do List: A performance at the Yale Repertory Theatre, which has staged more than 100 premieres. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Duke University: Durham, NC

    Photo: Chris Hildreth, Duke Photography

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    Duke University: Durham, NC

    Much of this Collegiate Gothic wonderland, including soaring Duke Chapel, was designed by Julian Abele, one of the country’s first prominent African American architects. But Duke’s campus isn’t all Gothic-inspired marvel. Among its newest architectural gems are the glass-walled Karl and Mary Ellen von der Heyden Pavilion and the Rafael Viñoly–designed Nasher Museum of Art—five pavilions shaped in a loose radial pattern that house contemporary works by Andy Warhol and Kara Walker. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Colorado at Boulder

    Photo: George Rose/ Getty Images

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    University of Colorado at Boulder

    The flagship university of Colorado combines sweeping views of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains and Flatirons, a gorgeous natural setting that includes a serene lake and two creeks, and ruggedly beautiful buildings to match. Most, including the grand Norlin Library, feature a distinct Tuscan-meets-the-West architectural style of local sandstone walls, red tile roofs, and limestone trim. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Photo: Images-USA/ Alamy

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    University of Wisconsin–Madison

    There are a number of campuses set on pretty lakes, but none commands its lakeshore setting quite like the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Its august Memorial Union and outdoor stone Terrace, dotted with bright green, orange, and yellow starburst chairs, practically hug the shores of Lake Mendota. Another building on campus occupying prime real estate: the white-columned hilltop Bascom Hall. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Wellesley College, MA

    Photo: Courtesy of Wellesley College

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    Wellesley College: Wellesley, MA

    Only 12 miles west of Boston, Wellesley’s 500-acre campus is another world entirely, with pathways that meander through sprawling meadows, groves of conifers and hardwoods that surround tranquil Lake Waban, and 19th-century brick buildings tucked into the wooded hillsides. Fifteen greenhouses, lush with tropical, subtropical, and desert plantings, stay green straight through the long northeastern winters. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: The College of William & Mary: Williamsburg, VA

    Photo: Joel Pattinson/ The College of William and Mary

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    The College of William & Mary: Williamsburg, VA

    Named for its royal English founders, William & Mary is the second-oldest college in the U.S. (Harvard came first) and is anchored by the brick Wren Building, whose weather vane bears the founding date of 1693. Students sprawl on the grassy Sunken Garden, which stretches from the Wren to Crim Dell Pond. Duke of Gloucester Street links the 1,200-acre campus to the town of Williamsburg—a throwback to the college’s colonial days. —Kate Appleton

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: St. Olaf College: Northfield, MN

    Photo: Courtesy of St. Olaf College, Marketing and Communications

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    St. Olaf College: Northfield, MN

    Norwegian-Americans opened St. Olaf in the late 19th-century amid wetlands, woods, and prairie grass—and the college prides itself on environmental stewardship. A wind turbine supplies up to a third of its energy, and LEED Platinum–certified Regents Hall has a plant-filled greenhouse that overlooks two of the campus’s earliest, loveliest landmarks: the Old Main and Steensland Hall, with its Greek Revival columns, porch, and dome. —Kate Appleton

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Scripps: Claremont, CA

    Photo: Ian Bradshaw

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    Scripps College: Claremont, CA

    The Mission Revival–style buildings—popular in California when Scripps was founded in 1926—and campus landscaping are artistically connected thanks to the careful coordination of architect Gordon Kaufmann and landscape architect Edward Huntsman-Trout. Unlike many other palm tree–lined southern California campuses, Scripps also has an abundance of deciduous trees that turn rich shades of red and orange in autumn. —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Chicago

    Photo: iStock

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    University of Chicago: Chicago

    Located in the South Side Hyde Park neighborhood, this campus blends traditional English Gothic style with the modern designs of Eero Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe—across 215 acres that include an official botanical garden. Be sure to pay attention to details: many of the gargoyles on the ivy-covered buildings date back to the end of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, when the campus was constructed. —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Bryn Mawr, PA

    Photo: Jim Roese

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    Bryn Mawr: Bryn Mawr, PA

    The first example of the Collegiate Gothic style created by architects Cope and Stewardson (who drew influences from Oxford and Cambridge universities) is found at this women’s liberal arts college. Campuses across the U.S., including Princeton and Washington University in St. Louis, went on to emulate the look of Bryn Mawr’s Pembroke Hall. But the buildings aren’t the only lookers; Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park, helped with the layout of the campus’s 135 tree-covered acres. —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Furman University: Greenville, SC

    Photo: Courtesy of Furman University

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    Furman University: Greenville, SC

    The serene landscape of this 750-acre wooded university is focused around a lake and the landmark Bell Tower. From a Buddhist temple beside the school’s Asia Garden—full of irises, bamboo, and camellias—to a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s home, the setting on this campus is as diverse as its student body. Oh, and did we mention the 18-hole golf course and miles of walking trails? —Joshua Pramis

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Bard College: Vanderbilt University: Nashville, TN

    Photo: Vespasian / Alamy

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    Vanderbilt University: Nashville, TN

    Sure, it might be planted just outside of downtown Nashville, but you certainly wouldn’t know by looking around. The campus actually doubles as a sprawling arboretum. With some 170 species of trees scattered across 300-plus acres and sightings of hawks, owls, and cardinals, it’s easy to forget you’re actually in the middle of a city. Italianate-style Kirkland Hall is an orienting landmark and helps give the campus an atmosphere that T+L commenter blevins called “civility personified.” —Kate Appleton

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  • University of Washington: Seattle

    “If you ask freshmen why they chose their colleges, they usually say one of two things,” says Baltimore architect Adam Gross, who’s worked on projects at the University of Virginia and Swarthmore. “Either they got a good financial aid package or they thought the campus was beautiful.”

    America’s most beautiful college campuses have the power not only to sway indecisive high school students, of course, but also to attract tourists. Their appeal comes through varying combinations of awe-inspiring architecture, landscaping, and surroundings. To choose among more than 2,600 four-year American colleges, we considered these three key factors as well as architects’ expert opinions.

    “The most important thing to realize is that how landscaping and buildings interconnect is as important as the buildings themselves,” explains Boston-based architect Mark deShong. At Princeton University, for example, “It’s really about landscape,” he says. The campus connects its ivy-covered gray stone buildings with footpaths, idyllic small greens, and courtyards that create an intimate village-like scale.

    Architectural coherence also plays a role in making a campus beautiful. Take the University of San Diego, which sticks to one architectural style: the Spanish Renaissance, with its elaborate façades, delicate ironwork, and carved wood. Ocean views and palm-tree-lined courtyards are extra selling points.

    Yale can’t compete when it comes to location, but it has embraced one architectural movement after another. As Robert A. M. Stern, dean of Yale’s School of Architecture, puts it: “Our campus is a living history of the architecture and urbanism of its three centuries in New Haven.” Whatever your taste, you’ll find a structure to your liking on a campus stroll, perhaps dorms designed by 1960s starchitect Eero Saarinen or James Gamble Rogers’s imposing Gothic bell tower.

    But no assessment of America’s campuses would be complete without the University of Virginia. “You might think it looks like all these other campuses, but it’s the first to look like that,” says deShong. He cites founder and architect Thomas Jefferson’s then-novel concept of flanking a lawn with pavilions linked by colonnades and a grand library at its head. New York-based architect Alexander Cooper concurs: “UVA remains the masterpiece of American campus planning.”

    So plan your own trip to check out these campus masterpieces. Think we missed a beautiful campus? Tell us why it should make the grade by posting a comment below. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Bard College: Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

    Bard College: Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

    Frank Gehry’s Fisher Center—an undulating work of glass and brushed stainless steel—showcases Bard’s thriving arts scene throughout the year (current college president Leon Botstein himself is an accomplished conductor). The center is on the contemporary side of the rural campus’s architectural spectrum, which goes back to the 19th-century Blithewood Mansion and its manicured Italian garden. Pathways make for easy exploring, with the Catskill Mountains visible in the distance. —Kate Appleton

  • Stanford University: Palo Alto, CA

    Stanford University: Palo Alto, CA

    The entryway to Stanford’s 8,180-acre campus is arguably the grandest of any college campus: a mile-long, tree-lined Palm Drive, which leads up to the expansive green Oval, red-clay-roof-tiled Main Quad, and the campus’s crown architectural jewel, Memorial Church, with its striking mosaic façade.

    Photo-op: The view of campus—and all the way to San Francisco on a clear day—from the Hoover Tower observation platform.

    To-Do List: The Cantor Arts Center’s collection of 170 bronzes by Auguste Rodin, among the largest outside Paris, includes the Gates of Hell and Burghers of Calais. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Notre Dame: South Bend, IN

    University of Notre Dame: South Bend, IN

    It’s hard to miss the glistening golden dome of the university’s Main Building, not to mention the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Sacred Heart that defines this 150-year-old Catholic school. Besides gorgeous architecture, the campus is chock-full of lush quads, where students congregate to kick back when they’re not in class—or at the football stadium. —Joshua Pramis

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Florida Southern University: Lakeland, FL

    Florida Southern College: Lakeland, FL

    What do Ellis Island and Florida Southern College have in common? They’re among the 32 U.S. spots that have recently been put under watch by the World Monument Fund as endangered cultural sites. You might also be surprised to learn that Florida Southern—on a hillside overlooking Lake Hollingsworth—has the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, including the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel with its colored pieces of glass and wrought-iron tower. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Best College Campuses: University of Cincinnati, OH

    University of Cincinnati: Cincinnati, OH

    A decades-long renewal topping $1 billion is paying dividends for Cincy, which has cultivated a strikingly modern look—and proven that “it doesn’t need ivy-covered brick walls” to be beautiful, as UC Magazine put it. Notable architects Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, Frank Gehry, and Peter Eisenman have each made their mark on the campus, whose Main Street leads to the prow-shaped Steger Student Life Center and the Tangeman University Center, which, in 2005, dramatically repositioned the original clock tower atop a skylight in a 90-foot atrium. —Kate Appleton

  • University of San Diego: San Diego

    University of San Diego: San Diego

    Some campuses are an amalgam of styles; the University of San Diego sticks to just one, and what a glorious one it has chosen—the Spanish Renaissance, with its elaborate façades, delicate ironwork, and carved woodwork. Ocean views and palm-tree-lined courtyards only add to the paradise-on-campus appeal.

    Photo-op: The Immaculata Chapel, with its piercingly blue dome, visible from much of the city.

    To-Do List: A walk around the Garden of the Sea, behind the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, and its serene reflecting pool and gardens overlooking Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Berry College: Mount Berry, GA

    Berry College: Mount Berry, GA

    This rural college holds a lofty record: it’s the world’s largest contiguous college campus in the world, with more than 26,000 acres of fields, lakes, forests, and mountains. Berry makes prime use of its setting too, with numerous reflecting pools and fountains situated nearby its beautiful English Gothic–inspired buildings like the Ford Dining Hall, Ford Auditorium, and Mary Hall, made possible by the school’s largest benefactor—Henry Ford. —Ratha Tep

  • Lewis & Clark College: Portland, OR

    Lewis & Clark College: Portland, OR

    Six miles from downtown lies this 137-acre parklike campus of verdant forests, sweeping pathways, and stone walls. A tree walk with native species encountered by the two explorers for whom the college was named on their epic journey west surrounds the Frank Manor House—originally built as a 35-room private mansion.

    Photo-op: The serene Reflecting Pool, bordered by a wall of wisteria, for a stellar view of Mount Hood.

    To-Do List: A day hike through surrounding Tryon Creek State Park. Begin with coffee brewed with beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Lewis & Clark bookstore. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Rice University: Houston

    Rice University: Houston

    Don’t be fooled by Rice’s urban address. A double row of majestic oak trees encloses its perimeter—a harbinger of the lush 285-acre campus to come, divided into quadrangles and planted with 4,000-plus elms, hickories, maples, and other trees (a ratio of more than one for each undergrad). The oldest buildings, like the standout Lovett Hall, borrow elements of medieval southern European architecture, including grand, arched passageways and rose-hued brick. —Ratha Tep

  • Cornell University: Ithaca, NY

    Cornell University: Ithaca, NY

    Ambitious campus planners wanted to create a main quad over dramatic Cayuga Lake, the longest of the Finger Lakes. “It’s the idea of putting education on a high platform,” says architect Mark deShong. That original plan evolved, and the beautiful setting now accommodates both historic structures (McGraw Tower) and contemporary ones like the I. M. Pei–designed Johnson Museum of Art—whose walls screen movies on summer evenings—and the new Milstein Hall by Rem Koolhaas.

    Photo-op: Cascadilla Gorge, whose eight waterfalls drop more than 400 feet from Cornell’s campus to downtown Ithaca.

    To-Do List: The paved paths that wind through Cornell Plantation’s 150-acre arboretum; climb to the Newman Overlook for a sweeping panoramic view. —Ratha Tep

  • Sewanee, The University of the South: Sewanee, TN

    Sewanee, The University of the South: Sewanee, TN

    This 13,000-acre campus on the Cumberland Plateau overlooking the Tennessee Valley combines Gothic-inspired architecture with magnificent surroundings: forest, lakefront bluffs, and a garden ravine that follows a stream through campus. In spring, it blooms with daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips.

    Photo-op: All Saints’ Chapel draws inspiration from the University Church at Oxford and Notre Dame in Paris.

    To-Do List: Burgers at Shenanigans followed by a show at the Tennessee Williams Center, named after the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright who left his estate to Sewanee. —Ratha Tep

  • University of Washington: Seattle

    University of Washington: Seattle

    The eye-catching Collegiate Gothic Suzzallo Library at UW’s Seattle campus has 35-foot-high stained-glass windows and elaborately gilded vaulted ceilings that soar 65 feet in the air. But come spring, the Quad’s 30 Yoshino cherry trees steal the spotlight with blooms of delicate pink petals set against red-brick buildings (peak cherry blossom season, mid-March to early April).

    Photo-op: The Drumheller Fountain for spot-on views of snowcapped Mount Rainier.

    To-Do List: Musical acts at the newly renovated Neptune Theatre, which debuted in the University District in 1921. —Ratha Tep

  • Princeton University: Princeton, NJ

    Princeton University: Princeton, NJ

    Gray stone buildings like the University Chapel and Cleveland Tower are pure Collegiate Gothic splendor. But the 500-acre campus’s beauty extends beyond their doors. “Princeton has beautiful buildings, but the exquisite landscaping amplifies them even more,” explains Boston-based architect Mark deShong. Courtyards, idyllic small greens, and crisscrossing footpaths dot the campus.

    Photo-op: The handsome ivy-covered Nassau Hall is not only the oldest building on campus, but also a former home to the Continental Congress.

    To-Do List: The Princeton Art Museum collection which ranges from remarkable Mayan figures to Andy Warhol’s Blue Marilyn. —Ratha Tep

  • Kenyon College: Gambier, OH

    Kenyon College: Gambier, OH

    Kenyon’s hilltop setting in tiny Gambier makes for one of the country’s most idyllic campus walks: the 10-foot-wide Middle Path, which spans the length of the college and through town, shaded by massive trees that glow fiery orange in the fall. Veer off the path for Kenyon’s castle-like Victorian Gothic Ascension Hall and the Greek Revival Rosse Hall with its elegant columns.

    Photo-op: In front of Old Kenyon, the college’s first permanent building, with its multicolored spire.

    To-Do List: The 14-mile Kokosing Gap Trail, a paved path built on a former railroad line, for biking through Knox County’s small towns and through campus, past rolling farmland, and along the gentle Kokosing River. —Ratha Tep

  • Swarthmore College: Swarthmore, PA

    Swarthmore College: Swarthmore, PA

    Just southwest of Philadelphia, Swarthmore’s Scott Arboretum nurtures idyllic gardens of hydrangea, lilacs, and tree peonies and a courtyard devoted to fragrant trees and shrubs. The highlight is its outdoor amphitheater, a series of cascading lawn-covered stone tiers shaded by tulip trees and surrounded by Crum Woods and its holly and rhododendron collections.

    Photo-op: The Dean Bond Rose Garden has 200-plus varieties and views of stately Parrish Hall in the background.

    To-Do List: Gardening classes and tours at the arboretum; topics range from growing maples to the benefits of green roofs. —Ratha Tep

  • Indiana University: Bloomington, IN

    Indiana University: Bloomington, IN

    To explore IU’s flagship campus, follow the meticulously kept red-brick path that starts at the Sample Gates and winds through Dunn Woods, filled with 80 varieties of mature trees, and the Old Crescent Historic District with its carved limestone structures. Among the most impressive is the Student Building with its soaring clock tower.

    Photo-op: The limestone Sample Gates where nearby flowerbeds bloom with bright red tulips in the spring.

    To-Do List: I. M. Pei’s IU Art Museum displays more than 30,000 works of art by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. For a more controversial look at the human body, tour the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. —Ratha Tep

  • University of Virginia: Charlottesville, VA

    University of Virginia: Charlottesville, VA

    How’s this for honors? UVA is the only university in the U.S. to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and Thomas Jefferson chose its founding to be one of only three of his many accomplishments noted on his gravestone (being president wasn’t among them). Jefferson designed the campus’s since-copied layout and even hired its initial faculty and planned the curriculum.

    Photo-op: The Neoclassical domed Rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

    To-Do List: The Small Special Collections Library showcases the most comprehensive collection of letters, documents, and early printings of the Declaration of Independence. —Ratha Tep

  • Yale University: New Haven, CT

    Yale University: New Haven, CT

    While some campuses hold stubbornly onto their pasts, Yale embraces changing architectural movements. “Our campus is a living history of the architecture and urbanism of its three centuries in New Haven,” notes Robert A. M. Stern, dean of Yale’s School of Architecture. The collection spans from the Georgian-style red-brick Connecticut Hall (whose construction predates the Revolutionary War) to the Postmodernist (is it a turtle? a whale?) Ingalls Rink by Eero Saarinen and an upcoming Norman Foster project.

    Photo-op: Inside the wondrous Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which houses volumes in a six-story glass-enclosed tower, set against translucent grained Vermont marble panels.

    To-Do List: A performance at the Yale Repertory Theatre, which has staged more than 100 premieres. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Duke University: Durham, NC

    Duke University: Durham, NC

    Much of this Collegiate Gothic wonderland, including soaring Duke Chapel, was designed by Julian Abele, one of the country’s first prominent African American architects. But Duke’s campus isn’t all Gothic-inspired marvel. Among its newest architectural gems are the glass-walled Karl and Mary Ellen von der Heyden Pavilion and the Rafael Viñoly–designed Nasher Museum of Art—five pavilions shaped in a loose radial pattern that house contemporary works by Andy Warhol and Kara Walker. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Colorado at Boulder

    University of Colorado at Boulder

    The flagship university of Colorado combines sweeping views of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains and Flatirons, a gorgeous natural setting that includes a serene lake and two creeks, and ruggedly beautiful buildings to match. Most, including the grand Norlin Library, feature a distinct Tuscan-meets-the-West architectural style of local sandstone walls, red tile roofs, and limestone trim. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Wisconsin-Madison

    University of Wisconsin–Madison

    There are a number of campuses set on pretty lakes, but none commands its lakeshore setting quite like the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Its august Memorial Union and outdoor stone Terrace, dotted with bright green, orange, and yellow starburst chairs, practically hug the shores of Lake Mendota. Another building on campus occupying prime real estate: the white-columned hilltop Bascom Hall. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Wellesley College, MA

    Wellesley College: Wellesley, MA

    Only 12 miles west of Boston, Wellesley’s 500-acre campus is another world entirely, with pathways that meander through sprawling meadows, groves of conifers and hardwoods that surround tranquil Lake Waban, and 19th-century brick buildings tucked into the wooded hillsides. Fifteen greenhouses, lush with tropical, subtropical, and desert plantings, stay green straight through the long northeastern winters. —Ratha Tep

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: The College of William & Mary: Williamsburg, VA

    The College of William & Mary: Williamsburg, VA

    Named for its royal English founders, William & Mary is the second-oldest college in the U.S. (Harvard came first) and is anchored by the brick Wren Building, whose weather vane bears the founding date of 1693. Students sprawl on the grassy Sunken Garden, which stretches from the Wren to Crim Dell Pond. Duke of Gloucester Street links the 1,200-acre campus to the town of Williamsburg—a throwback to the college’s colonial days. —Kate Appleton

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: St. Olaf College: Northfield, MN

    St. Olaf College: Northfield, MN

    Norwegian-Americans opened St. Olaf in the late 19th-century amid wetlands, woods, and prairie grass—and the college prides itself on environmental stewardship. A wind turbine supplies up to a third of its energy, and LEED Platinum–certified Regents Hall has a plant-filled greenhouse that overlooks two of the campus’s earliest, loveliest landmarks: the Old Main and Steensland Hall, with its Greek Revival columns, porch, and dome. —Kate Appleton

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Scripps: Claremont, CA

    Scripps College: Claremont, CA

    The Mission Revival–style buildings—popular in California when Scripps was founded in 1926—and campus landscaping are artistically connected thanks to the careful coordination of architect Gordon Kaufmann and landscape architect Edward Huntsman-Trout. Unlike many other palm tree–lined southern California campuses, Scripps also has an abundance of deciduous trees that turn rich shades of red and orange in autumn. —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: University of Chicago

    University of Chicago: Chicago

    Located in the South Side Hyde Park neighborhood, this campus blends traditional English Gothic style with the modern designs of Eero Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe—across 215 acres that include an official botanical garden. Be sure to pay attention to details: many of the gargoyles on the ivy-covered buildings date back to the end of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, when the campus was constructed. —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Bryn Mawr, PA

    Bryn Mawr: Bryn Mawr, PA

    The first example of the Collegiate Gothic style created by architects Cope and Stewardson (who drew influences from Oxford and Cambridge universities) is found at this women’s liberal arts college. Campuses across the U.S., including Princeton and Washington University in St. Louis, went on to emulate the look of Bryn Mawr’s Pembroke Hall. But the buildings aren’t the only lookers; Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park, helped with the layout of the campus’s 135 tree-covered acres. —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Furman University: Greenville, SC

    Furman University: Greenville, SC

    The serene landscape of this 750-acre wooded university is focused around a lake and the landmark Bell Tower. From a Buddhist temple beside the school’s Asia Garden—full of irises, bamboo, and camellias—to a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s home, the setting on this campus is as diverse as its student body. Oh, and did we mention the 18-hole golf course and miles of walking trails? —Joshua Pramis

  • America's Most Beautiful College Campuses: Bard College: Vanderbilt University: Nashville, TN

    Vanderbilt University: Nashville, TN

    Sure, it might be planted just outside of downtown Nashville, but you certainly wouldn’t know by looking around. The campus actually doubles as a sprawling arboretum. With some 170 species of trees scattered across 300-plus acres and sightings of hawks, owls, and cardinals, it’s easy to forget you’re actually in the middle of a city. Italianate-style Kirkland Hall is an orienting landmark and helps give the campus an atmosphere that T+L commenter blevins called “civility personified.” —Kate Appleton

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