Best College Towns in the USA to Visit

The arrival of autumn in the USA means different things to many people. For most, it signals the arrival of cooler temperatures, the foliage, and grape harvest. For younger people however, it means it’s time to go back to school.

Best US College Towns in the USA to Visit: Charlottesville
Historic Charlottesville

I personally enjoy visiting college towns particularly during the beginning and at the height of the USA school year. Not only are these small towns great travel and culinary destinations on their own, they also liven in ways other cities or towns can’t. So as we enter the fall season, let’s have a look at some of the best US college towns to visit.

Best US College Towns to Visit

Charlottesville, Virginia (VA)

Best US College Towns in the USA to Visit: University of Virginia
University of Virginia Main Campus

One of the most beautiful and exciting college towns is Charlottesville, VA, the home of the University of Virginia. The city has colonial roots and a stately background, thanks in part to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, two U.S. presidents who called Charlottesville home. When you walk along its brick-paved pedestrian mall downtown, you’ll come across a variety of local and boutique shops to eat, drink, and shop. Check out Blue Whale Books for used books and antique maps or catch a top-notched musical performance at the Paramount Theater.

When you venture outside of downtown Charlottesville, you’ll easily see why it ranks among the best US college towns to visit. Beautiful rolling hills, back-to-back vineyards and produce farms, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are all within an hour’s drive. Some of the best wines and craft beers produced in Virginia come from this region so if you have the time, check out one or two places on the Monticello Wine Trail or the Brew Ridge Trail.

Finally, a visit to Charlottesville is incomplete without touring both Monticello and the main campus of the University of Virginia. Marvel at the innovative and highly sophisticated designs crafted by Thomas Jefferson himself and see for yourself why he loved the area so much.

Savannah, Georgia (GA)

Best US College Towns in the USA to Visit: Forsyth Park
Forsyth Park

The city might look familiar to you especially if you’ve seen Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, or Magic Mike XXL. That city of course is Savannah, GA, home to smaller colleges and the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. Located on the coast near Tybee Island in Georgia and Hilton Head in South Carolina, it is a beautiful historic town with plenty of parks and restored 18th and 19th century homes that have been turned into classy hotels and charming inns.

If you’re interested in learning about Savannah’s colonial and revolutionary history, take one of the many walking tours offered by the likes of Savannah Dan or Explore Savannah. Guides will take you around the city’s many squares and tell you stories that will either make you laugh or cry. Savannah is also one of the most haunted cities in the United States so make sure you take in one of those spine-chilling tours.

Ithaca, New York (NY)

Best US College Towns in the USA to Visit: Cornell University Landscape
Cornell University Landscape

Located in upstate New York, at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is perhaps most famous as the home of Ivy League college Cornell University. Its beautiful campus that occupies over 2,000 acres of beautiful countryside is full of impressive Gothic, Victorian, and Neoclassical buildings. Despite many of its building’s longevity, the Ithaca campus of Cornell University rates as one of the most environment friendly, thanks in part to the sustainable technology applied and implemented all around campus. As a result of the carbon emission reduction, the air in its surroundings feels even fresher and cleaner.

Not that it really needed much help. Within minutes drive from the campus is the Finger Lakes region with hundreds of gorges and watering holes as well as state and national forests. Visitors will also enjoy visiting one of the wineries within the Cayuga Wine Trail. Plan your trip during the autumn season to experience both the foliage the annual grape harvest.

Berkeley, California (CA)

Best US College Towns in the USA to Visit: Berkeley at Sunset
Berkeley at Sunset by Joël Thai Photography

One might say that Berkeley is like a box of chocolates because you’ll never know what you’re going to get when you visit. There are so many facets to this progressive college town, home to the University of California – Berkeley. Location wise, it has the best of both worlds, with the San Francisco Bay on one side and leafy canyon of Wildcat on the other. Berkeley is also close to San Francisco and many of the smaller cities within Silicon Valley.

Best US College Towns in the USA to Visit: Cheese N'Stuff
Cheese N’Stuff

But unlike its more famous neighbor to the west, Berkeley has more of a small town feel. Budget gourmet food options like Top Dog or Cheese N’Stuff dominate the culinary scene while most shops feature works by local artists. There’s also a more prominent liberal ambiance, carried over from the enlightenment years of the 1960s and 70s plus over half the population is of a minority race. Who says you need a passport to acquaint yourself with the world?

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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