In college towns, there is a constant flux of diverse individuals passing through shaping and transforming the place itself. Choosing the 10 best college towns in America is an impossible (and controversial) task. All we’ll say is there are a few spots you should most definitely add to your list…
If your perfect day starts with a brisk run through the park, Eugene is your dream town (did we mention Nike originated there?) Smack in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, it’s a place where cycling and walking are the preferred modes of transportation. Home to the University of Oregon, the atmosphere is best described as vibrant. Specializing in psychology and education with numerous research facilities, it cultivates an atmosphere of perpetual discovery. The restaurants and bars truly reflect this.
Where to Drink: Ninkasi Brewery – Everyday visitors will appreciate the refreshing flavors. Craft beer fanatics will love the fact that everything from the hops to the mountain water is locally sourced.
Don’t Miss: The Bach Festival – For three weeks every summer the town is taken over by classical musicians. Music is played the way it should be enjoyed.
Nestled at the bottom of the spectacular Rocky Mountain Range is Logan. It’s a place where you can fish, hike or ski whenever the impulse strikes. With Utah State University at its center, it has a true sense of community. With older students offering freshman advice on the 200+ clubs and organizations to join, you’ll find your niche. If you want a break from nature, Logan also has a lively theater and performing arts scene.
Where to Eat: El Sol – The ideal combination of delicious and inexpensive. This place is a favorite among the locals for Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine.
Don’t Miss: Bear Lake – Truly Instagram worthy, this beautiful lake provides 18 miles of uninterrupted views of the mountain range.
Santa Cruz, California
If you think the West Coast is the best coast, look no further than Santa Cruz. With the expansive Pacific Ocean on one side and two state parks on the other, it has everything you could wish from a college town. Renowned for research at both the undergraduate and graduate level, the University of California, Santa Cruz draws students from around the world. This diverse mix creates an interesting counter-culture vibe which shows in the city from the boardwalk to the bars. Because of this, Santa Cruz is definitely one of the best college towns in America.
Where to Eat: Chill Out Cafe – Known primarily for their breakfast burritos, this surf shack turned lunch spot has been around since 1997.
Where to Drink: Verve Coffee – With exposed bulbs and a minimalist aesthetic, you can only focus on one thing…the superb coffee.
Nicknamed ‘Live Music Central’, Athens is most famous for the international artists that call this town home. It’s also the location of The University of Georgia. Athens plays host to many theater, art, and music events throughout the year. One serious perk for students is that rent is typically below the national average. So, if you want the learn by day and listen by night, this may just be your nirvana.
Where to Eat: Mama’s Boy – You may have to wait in line but these buttery biscuits are truly worth it. Few things can’t be soothed with a bit of Southern comfort food…
Don’t Miss: AthFest – 3 days of non-stop music and art and the best part is, it’s free.
Regularly ranked as one of the best places to live, Tempe has a lively atmosphere. This is credited to the huge influx of students from Arizona State University. With such a wealth of qualified graduates, the area has become a bit of a champion of the industry, specifically in the aerospace and financial sectors. It’s not all math and science though–Tempe also has a great nightlife scene. Did we mention it’s sunny for over 325 days of the year?! With all that, Tempe is a no brainer as one of the best college towns.
Where to Eat: Culinary Dropout: The Yard – Whilst the gastropub eats are good, people really come here for the ping pong tables and backyard games.
Where to Drink: Pitchforks & Corks – Smack in the middle of the ASU campus, this bar gives you the chance to talk to your professors outside of the lecture hall (preferably during happy hour).
Not technically a town, it would be a waste not to include Cambridge, Massachusetts on this list. With both Harvard and MIT calling Cambridge home, we don’t need to sell you on the academic experience. Everything you could ever need is within walking distance. If you stroll along the Charles River you’ll surely see a few crew teams at practice. With Harvard Square and Fenway Park so close, you also have access to all sorts of cultural, athletic and historical excursions.
Where to Eat: Bondir – With only 26 seats it’s probably worth booking ahead. This farmhouse style bistro serves up seasonal dishes featuring fresh New England ingredients.
Where to Drink: Lord Hobo – Don’t let the name fool you, this unassuming bar is a mecca for beer lovers in the city.
Mountain views, famously liberal politics and of course the University of Colorado. With over 150 miles of hiking and biking trails, it’s no wonder that the city has almost as many cyclists as it does cars. Boulder also happens to be the home of IBM which is why many business and engineering students choose to live here. For active students with dreams to work in the business or engineering fields, Boulder is a definite contender as one of the best college towns in America.
Where to Eat: Half Fast Subs – A huge selection of sandwiches with a student friendly price tag. As a broke college kid, that alone could make a case for Boulder as one of the best college towns.
Don’t Miss: Shakespeare Festival – A far cry from high school English class, this annual festival gives you the chance to see incredible stories. Oh, and the Rocky Mountains are the backdrop. How cool?!
With a colonial charm steeped in history (founding fathers type of history), Charlottesville is home to the picturesque campus of the University of Virginia. It’s the sort of place where the university itself is part of the town’s appeal. Culinary exploits and local wines are just as important here as sports. You’ll be hard pressed to find a quiet spot on game night. Charlottesville also happens to have the state’s oldest independent bookshop, New Dominion.
Where to Eat: MAS – The perfect place to spend an evening sipping sangria and sampling the delicious tapas menu.
Where to Drink: Boylan Heights – Although not technically a watering-hole, it is still the best place to grab a drink and hunker down to watch the game.
Ithaca, New York
Amidst the waterfalls, gorges and top-notch wineries in New York state is the urban town of Ithaca. In residence are both Ithaca College and Cornell University. Cornell is known as the most educationally diverse of the notorious Ivy Leagues. An abundance of restaurants means that competition is fierce (bad for business, good for you). To top it all off, Ithaca inhabitants have a perfect blend of intelligence and artistic inclinations. There’s no shortage of activities to be had in this laid back yet lively town.
Where to Eat: Le Café Cent-Dix – Rustic French charm with flavors to boot. This delightful bistro can be found on the infamous Restaurant Row.
Don’t Miss: The Gorges – From t-shirts to bumper stickers. If you leave Ithaca without a ubiquitous ‘Ithaca is Gorges’ item you’ll have missed out.
Best known for its prominent music scene Austin, Texas is also considered one of the most liberal cities in America. From its environmental policies to the infamous Sixth Street, the unofficial epithet is ‘Keep Austin Weird’. With the University of Texas at Austin at its center, there’s a unique dynamism to the place. The rapidly growing business community is full of start-ups and art establishments. There’s also a myriad of music venues, bars and restaurants. With Austin offering such a wide range of features, it’s a great fit for lots of different people. If you’re looking for a diverse and unique place, then Austin, Texas is sure to be one of the best college towns for you.
Where to Eat: Ah Sing Den – There are tons of good restaurants in Austin so it’s best to focus on the new. Sing Den serves up Asian inspired cuisine within the setting of a Victorian-era opium den.
Don’t Miss: SXSW – Global artists from around the world flock to this renowned music festival every year. It showcases talents from a diverse mix of genres.
In terms of the best college towns, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are many more exceptional cities in America, many of which are also home to great colleges. While at school or visiting a college town, be sure to take full advantage of the great grub and entertainment the city has to offer, and don’t forget to take advantage of our flight discounts to get you there!