Set in Paradise: America’s Top 10 College Towns
Link Below (for entire Top 10 List)
We all wish for a trip back to college, especially if we were lucky enough to spend those years in a quintessential college town. Where are the best homes to colleges and universities around the country? We compiled a list based on equal parts weather, beauty, activities, social scene, integration with the local university and, of course, sports.
10. Athens, GA
In the heart of SEC country, Athens is home to the University of Georgia and fits in perfectly with the rabid fanbases in Gainseville, Baton Rouge and Tuscalossa. The difference? It’s more than beer-guzzlers stumbling around on Saturday afternoon. There’s that sweet Southern hospitality, great for drinking lemonade on a porch. Athens also offers the 40 Watt Club, which has given a start to some of music’s biggest acts. But it’s biggest attraction is Sanford Stadium, a cozy venue tucked into the center of campus, where fans can watch the Bulldogs play between the hedges in the Georgia sun. Athens is a college town that welcomes all comers. Oh, and the girls who attend UGA may or may not be the best looking in the country. That never hurts.
9. Princeton, NJ
Sure, Princeton can’t match the sports scene of schools from BCS conferences, but it has its own charm. A classic Ivy League locale, its a town that’s home to some of the nation’s foremost thinkers. But if you want to get away from the books, Nassau Street offers a picturesque main commercial area that also is home to part of Princeton University’s main campus. The town is located midway between New York and Philadelphia, allowing students and residents easy access to both cities for work and play. The only downside? It’s located in New Jersey.
8. Charlottesville, VA
This is what the founding fathers had in mind for a classic American college town. No, really, Charlottesville was designed by Thomas Jefferson, and it was home to Jefferson and former Presidents James Madison and James Monroe. It offers a great convergence of commerce, culture and student life. Charlottesville is home to the Downtown Mall, one of the largest in the country, multiple theaters and a popular outdoor concert venue. It has also a pedestrian-friendly downtown, which features The Corner, an area with bars, restaurants and shops that borders the University of Virginia campus. We don’t want to be the Grinch of Hoo-ville, but it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. Charlottesville is located over two hours from Washington D.C and over an hour from Richmond. The good news is students rarely want to leave campus.
7. Madison, WI
According to Sports Illustrated, there was a message on local television screens on September 11, 2001 that sums up this great college town: Airport closed…state capitol closed…no word yet on Badgers game. There were much more important things going on that day but that’s Madison for you, a place that lives and dies with all matters University of Wisconsin. If you are a party kid, UW is annually one of the nation’s top party schools. If you don’t count calories, it’s also the spot for you. Brats, cheese and beer – or more specifically, brats with cheese on them and many, many beers – are the town’s holy trinity. With a great music and arts scene plus plenty of outdoor activities, it is regularly listed among the best places to live in the United States. If only the weather wasn’t so lousy for so much of the year.
6. Berkeley, CA
While Madison is Middle America, Berkeley is a classic liberal city on the left coast. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area bordering Oakland, Berkeley is home to the University of California-Berkeley – the oldest of the state’s universities – and still sports that 1960s revolutionary spirit. You never know what you might see when you’re walking down the street, but it never seems to come as much of a shock. And that’s what’s special about it. You can still see the high-level Football and basketball from the Bears, who play in the newly expanded Pac-12. It may not remind you of an SEC or Big Ten town, but Berkeley has a little something for everybody – especially if you’re up for a rousing protest through downtown.
5. Ann Arbor, MI
If you’ve ever been to Ann Arbor, you know this town absolutely loves the university and its sports programs, as Michigan flags and paraphernalia are everywhere. The Diag is beautiful and a great place for students to hang out while the law quad’s Gothic architecture is breathtaking. Culturally, there is also plenty to do. The campus has ample bars, restaurants and shops for undergrads and Main Street has a distinct feel for grad students and older town residents. Plus, it’s under an hour to Detroit sports and Windsor casinos. On beautiful days, this campus can’t be beat. The only problem? Michigan winters are brutal and students don’t get to experience the best part of the state: Mild summer temperatures.
4. Boulder, CO
Boulder is the beautiful home to the University of Colorado and, like all of the state’s resort towns, it’s great during the summer and winter. That’s because there are tons of activities (hiking when warm, skiing when cold), and it’s just 30 miles northwest of Denver. It offers the decorated University of Colorado football program, which has a wide fanbase. But Boulder is known as a haven for alternative outdoor sports, including rock climbing and biking. It’s not a place for couch potatoes – unless you are watching a new flick at one of its many film festivals and music venues. Boulder is truly a renaissance town for hippies at heart.
3. Palo Alto, CA
Here’s the thing about Palo Alto – it’s hard to find a downside. You want an Ivy League-like education without living in a dreary East Coast location? Stanford can provide that. When you are done, you’ll have tons of awesome tech companies like Facebook where you can find yourself a great job. Palo Alto is located within the San Francisco Bay Area and the aforementioned tech-happy Silicon Valley, a glorious happy medium for its residents. If you want outdoor activities, take a walk through some famous oak forests in the California sun. This season, you can buy a ticket to watch the nation’s top quarterback, Andrew Luck, lead the Cardinal on the gridiron. Did we leave anything out? And along with UCLA, it might be the most beautiful campus in the country.
2. Chapel Hill, NC
Located famously on Tobacco Road, Chapel Hill is in the heart of college basketball country. The University of North Carolina’s basketball history is well-documented, and so is its rivalry with the Duke Blue Devils, whose campus is located about 11 miles away in neighboring Durham. Sure, Tar Heels and Blue Devils hate each other, but Chapel Hill is such a great locale that even Duke students hang out there. Chapel Hill has a hopping music scene that often hosts national acts in its local venues and an emerging restaurant scene. Those are all great things to do on this beautiful wooded campus, but nothing compares to cursing out Duke – or any opposing team – at the Dean Dome.
1. Austin, TX
Austin is not only the best college town in America, it might be the best town in the country – period. Aside from the summer, the weather is great. The town itself is gorgeous, has everything you need and a funky feel that is summed up perfectly with its slogan, “Keep Austin weird.” Activities? Not only is it a mecca for music (i.e. South by Southwest), it also has a booming tech scene and plenty of lakes and parks in the area for residents can frequent. Longhorn sports need no introduction and we hope you like burnt orange because the town is littered with that color and people giving the “Hook ‘em Horns” hand signal. No wonder Money Magazine once voted Austin the #1 Best Big City to live in.