The Best College Towns in America

November 18, 2022
By AdmissionSight

The Best College Towns in America

What are the best college towns in America?

What are the best college towns in America? College campuses are important in terms of their aesthetic value, accessibility, and safety. But what happens when it’s time to leave college and go downtown for a meal? When you’re prepared for a weekend getaway from the classroom, what happens?

There are countless alternatives in the best college towns in America. In these fantastic locations, you may dine, drink, go sightseeing, be active, and embrace the local culture. Perhaps you’re looking for one of the most popular college cities in the United States.

A nice college town might be where you’re interested in relocating. In either case, take a look at these areas when looking for your ideal university.

Madison, Wisconsin

For those who enjoy the great outdoors, Madison is fantastic and among the best college towns in America. There are more than 200 kilometers of recreational paths throughout the city. The city is surrounded by five lakes.

You may engage in a variety of water sports, including swimming, kayaking, and ice fishing. In Madison, there are more than 270 parks and beaches. Family entertainment is seldom more than a 10-minute walk away.

aerial view of Madison, Wisconsin

Popular events include farmer’s markets and music festivals. Popular yearly events like the Art Fair on the Square and Great Taste of the Midwest are held in Madison. It is renowned for its homemade custard and creamy cheeses and also has a burgeoning craft beer sector. For people who appreciate food and drink, State Street and the Dane County Farmers’ Market are excellent locations.

The state capitol complex, a zoo, and botanical gardens are all located in Madison. This town offers every amenity a college town could ask for. The following are some of the top universities in the area:

Corvallis, Oregon

Corvallis, located in central western Oregon, is most known for being the city where Oregon State University is located. Corvallis is a beautiful college town. It has six breweries and is about a one-hour drive from twelve Willamette Valley wineries.

There are more than 60 miles of biking paths in Corvallis. For people who want to walk, run, or ride a bike, the city is safe and convenient. Located in a city with lots of breweries is the state college. Farmers’ markets, music festivals, and beer festivals are held in Corvalis. There is plenty of opportunity for amusement.

Manhattan, Kansas

Manhattan, Kansas is one of the best college towns in America and is far more quaint than the busy Big Apple. It serves as Kansas State University’s residence. Manhattan is proud of its history in the prairie. It features several museums dedicated to culture, history, and the environment.

Manhattan’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene is a favorite among college students. The Beach Museum of Fine Arts and the Flint Hills Discovery Center are two examples of this.

aerial view of Manhattan, Kansas

The fact that this little town is walkable and has convenient public transportation options helps, too. As one of the top college towns in the country, it frequently ranks with Lawrence, Kansas’s University of Kansas.

Boulder, Colorado

One of the best places to live is in Boulder, Colorado, which boasts a booming economy, a breathtaking mountain backdrop, and 300 days of sunshine annually. The University of Colorado at Boulder is a great place to attend school. Students can visit a historic college campus and a red-brick city. The institution has a thriving culture that values both sports and the arts.

aerial view of a college town in Boulder, Colorado

There are miles of hiking routes in the Flatirons, which are only a short drive from campus. In addition, Denver’s trendy district is only a 30-minute drive away.

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Fayetteville will surprise you. Arkansas might not be the top destination for college students looking for fun and excitement. You’ll discover a healthy amount of University of Arkansas school pride in this college town. Access to tranquil nature is another thing you’ll find. popular locations consist of:

  • Lake Fayetteville Park
  • Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
  • Kessler Mountain Regional Park

A fun way to see the city and sample regional ales is to follow the Fayetteville Ale Trail. This city is adored for its enduring locations that make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Drive-in theaters and Terra Studios are two well-liked attractions. The latter is a maze of sculptures made of pottery, glass, and rock.

Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia is among the best college towns in America. The academic community in Charlottesville, Virginia, has a long history, especially because the esteemed University of Virginia is located there. Students can explore the bustling downtown for pubs, restaurants, and shops that are open late.

skyline of a college town in Charlottesville, Virginia

Additionally, the renowned Blue Ridge Parkway, which falls foliage enthusiasts frequent, is close to Charlottesville. After a rigorous week of classes, days of adventure on the well-known Appalachian Trail are waiting for individuals interested in outdoor exploration. Another well-liked college town nearby is Blacksburg, Virginia.

Ames, Iowa

Beautiful Ames, Iowa is home to the expansive campus of Iowa State University. This tiny city has a lot to offer. It boasts cuisine and lodging of the highest caliber. The nightlife in Ames is breathtaking, and college students can’t get enough of it.

The campus at Iowa State University is sufficiently large to have a city-like atmosphere. You’ll get far more than you expected if you venture out into Ames.

Austin, Texas

The University of Texas at Austin is the most well-known landmark in Austin, Texas. It is also the home of Concordia University Texas and St. Edward’s University. Because Austin is so rich in culture and character, it is frequently rated as one of the top cities in Texas.

skyline view of Austin, Texas where its skyscrapers are visible

In Austin, there is no shortage of mouthwatering tacos. It’s simple to float through the scorching days in the Texas Hill Country thanks to the nearby watering holes. Austin is a relaxed city with lots of musicians and artists. In this unique metropolis, creative types will feel most at home. Street art and live music are abundant in Austin.

Ithaca, New York

It’s not surprising that Ithaca, New York, is frequently listed as one of the best college towns in America. Ithaca is a charming and beautiful city. It boasts many parks, great restaurants, and a maze of gorges and woods where you may swim and play.

Ithaca is very different from New York City. With so many farms and fields to admire, it is more like Pennsylvania or Minnesota. New York City is a four-hour drive away if you know you’d occasionally want a bigger city.

You won’t want to leave Cornell University‘s or Ithaca College’s stunning campuses in Ithaca. Both are prestigious universities.

Providence, Rhode Island

Providence is your best option if you’re looking for a college town in the northeast with a beach and history. prestigious universities like Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design are located there (RISD). The city of Providence has a long history as well as a contemporary feel.

There are plenty of dive bars, vegan restaurants, and beautiful libraries in Providence. Additionally, a weekend getaway to Newport Beach and the coast is ideal if you need to get away from the city.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tuscaloosa is a charming southern town with a wealth of lakes, state parks, and museums, making it an obvious choice for our list of the top college cities.

Students from Stillman College and the University of Alabama can take advantage of the recently restored city, which features a vibrant downtown, unique boutiques, and top-notch restaurants and bars to keep you energized during your studies.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Did you know that the first public university in America was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill? Chapel Hill is one of the best college towns in America and has a competitive admission rate, which is indicative of its strong past. For those that enter, Chapel Hill offers what they need.

Aerial view of Chapel Hill, North Carolina

It has a downtown strip that invites a stroll on Sundays and little traffic (except on Tar Heels game days). In this quaint East Coast village, you can anticipate an easygoing, tranquil way of life.

Gainesville, Florida

One of Florida’s best small cities in Gainesville. The University of Florida students concur. Gainesville is the ideal college town since it has everything you could desire and is just the right size to not be intimidating.

Gainesville has plenty to offer everyone, whether they want to sample vegan ice cream, sip a beer at a nearby brewery, explore local art galleries, or ride among moss-covered live oaks.

Berkeley, California

The San Francisco metropolitan area is home to the University of California at Berkeley. Everything you require is conveniently close by. Berkeley, though, is also a charming city on its own. It boasts a vibrant culture that was influenced by rock musicians of the 1970s and the Beat Generation.

Aerial view of Berkeley campus.

Berkeley is the ideal city for a student who enjoys spending the day curled up at a coffee shop and the evenings attending an underground poetry reading.

Tempe, Arizona

Arizona’s unassuming tiny town of Tempe is home to Arizona State University. Tempe is sometimes overlooked in favor of Phoenix or Flagstaff, yet it is a haven for those who enjoy the outdoors.

Tempe encourages citizens to venture outside and explore, whether they choose to go kayaking at Town Lake or hiking up Hayden Butte. There aren’t any schools or universities as there are in Boston, Massachusetts, which has dozens of them. With a reduced cost of living, Tempe offers all the outdoor activities you’d find in a state like Utah.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the University of Michigan is situated, is frequently named one of the greatest places to live and among the best college towns in America.

aerial view of Ann Arbor Michigan

Residents of Ann Arbor love the outdoors and good food, and the city’s eateries offer a well-balanced mix of pizza outlets serving beer and jazz lounges serving specialty cocktails.

Athens, Georgia

The University of Georgia is located in the vibrant metropolis of Athens, Georgia. This university takes considerable pride in its heritage, but not at the expense of education. Students in Athens can take part in cultural activities like festivals and live music. Athens is a cool and stimulating place to study because there are miles of undeveloped trails to discover and lakes to paddle in.

What makes a town a “college town”?

What makes a town a “college town”? A community is often described as a “college town” if it has a few distinguishing characteristics. These general recommendations can help you choose a college town.

Students make up the majority of the population.

The town population is one of the most important markers of a college town. In a college town, the bulk of the locals are either students themselves or closely related to them.

In college towns, the student population is typically greater than the local population. Imagine removing the whole student body. The town’s population would drastically decline in that scenario. The majority of people reside in the area only because they have ties to the institution. Few people reside there for reasons other than attending a nearby college or university.

Most of the town’s income comes from college.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the best college towns in America is that the majority of the local economy is generated by the academic institution. The town’s population depends on the jobs created by the college or institution to make a consistent life. For instance, the nearby institution or college might immediately produce job openings in the following industries:

Academic support, book sales, campus safety, clinical assistance, food service, housing, libraries, recreation scheduling, research assistance, instruction, and tutoring.

Front view of a building Brown University with people walking at the pavement in front

In actuality, the local academic institution has an impact on almost all elements of the local economy in a college town. As a result, if the college or institution were to suddenly close, the neighborhood would probably be left with no sense of economic security.

Infrastructure in education is dominant

The majority of the town’s infrastructure in a college town is also connected to the college or university there. But once more, this is because the municipality is dominated by the college campus.

In a college town, you most likely wouldn’t have any trouble seeing any of the following:

Dining facilities, residence halls, fraternity, and sorority homes, sports arenas, student unions, computer and printing labs, and undergraduate libraries are all on campus.

Apart from these academic buildings, college towns often do not have many additional attractions. Therefore, if the local community consists primarily of college and university facilities, it is likely that you are in a college town.

College as the center of the social scene

Social gatherings are another hallmark of a college town. You’ll observe that in college towns, the neighborhood college is the center of most social activity.

For instance, collegiate sporting events, whether they involve baseball, basketball, football, or another sport, are frequently the topic of college towns. Additionally, you’ll probably see a variety of college-hosted events like volunteer efforts, social gatherings, and music festivals. It may be difficult to locate social venues that are not connected to the local academic institution because of their potential for having such a significant impact on the neighborhood.

What should I look for in a college town?

What should I look for in a college town? Walking around the neighborhood or city around a college is almost as significant as visiting the institution itself. When visiting a college or university town, keep an eye out for the following.

Offers for students

The number of student discounts available in college or university towns may surprise you. Restaurants, hair salons, and other small businesses frequently give students’ ID holders discounts. By the time you graduate, going to these shops regularly could end up saving you hundreds of dollars. Watch for signs and flyers promoting these discounts.

Meeting places

Make sure there is an activity in the area unless you intend to attend school in or near a large metropolis. These kinds of events, whether they be sporadic festivals, farmers’ markets, races, or concerts, keep campus life interesting and provide an exciting diversion from daily living.

Parks are a great place for you and your friends to arrange pick-up games, outdoor study sessions, or picnics because they are spacious and ideal for such activities.

Social entertainment

Despite how fascinating colleges are, you might want to leave the school and visit a more exciting location. Check out the options when exploring a town or city. Another excellent technique to acquire a feel for the social environment is to inquire with existing students about their experiences off campus.

Inexpensive housing

All first-year students are frequently required to live in a residence hall by colleges and universities. Although living on campus and being close to the majority of the student body are important conveniences, there are advantages to renting an apartment or home. Living off campus increases independence and can be more cost-effective than living in a dorm.

View of individuals walking in the school campus.

Look around the neighborhood near the college to see what choices there are for low-cost accommodation. Making sure that the town or city has enough accommodation can help prevent future hassles as the majority of students do not live in dorms for the duration of their time in school.

Services and goods for consumers

Make sure the neighborhood has amenities like a grocery store, pharmacy, summer storage facilities, and dry cleaners. This is a more obvious concern. Given that practically every student uses them, it might be difficult to live in a town without one of these establishments.

At AdmissionSight, we have more than ten years of expertise assisting students in navigating the tough admissions process to the greatest colleges in the globe. Consult with AdmissionSight and see what we can offer to make sure that you are well-prepared and knowledgeable enough to enter your choice of school.


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