If you’re looking for a refreshing dose of culture in the middle of nowhere, college towns are a safe bet. Whether located in a state capital or a small town, a college pays respects to its natural surroundings while also maintaining a built-in network of vibrant local businesses, performing arts venues, and calendars packed with parties and events.
On your next road trip or family vacation, consider visiting a college campus or historic college town. Spring and fall are ideal times to go, when classes are back in session, but no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll still be able to stroll picturesque lawns, attend a football or basketball game, and stop in for a pint at a local brewpub. The best part of a college visit: no studying is required.
Each year, Travel + Leisure polls readers on their favorite towns across America, with an entire category devoted specifically to determining the best college towns, based on criteria like live music, dive bars, pizza, and craft beer. Travelers to these editor-approved college towns will find a healthy selection of independent shops (especially book stores) as well as world-class art museums, concert halls, and libraries that are so distractingly beautiful, it’s a wonder students get any work done at all.
For travelers, a bustling college or university campus can provide unique insight into a destination. Head to a place like Santa Cruz for some first-rate surfing, or sample aromatic brews in the relaxed coffee shops of Syracuse, New York. Craving some Art Deco architecture? Asheville, North Carolina, is your spot. We’ve got adventure junkies covered, too: from kayaking in northern Vermont to biking in the Rockies, outdoor activities abound at top colleges and universities across the country.
Both urban and rural colleges are making it easier than ever for friends and family to visit campus. For instance, new millennial-friendly hotel brands are catering exclusively to college towns in Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, and more. What makes them special? Affordable rates, free Wi-Fi, and tasteful academic-inspired touches like framed chalkboards and brick-walled cafés. With lodgings this charming, you may just consider going back to school all over again.