10 of America’s Best Towns and Cities for College Students of All Kinds
Sure, the professors, courses, classmates, and extracurriculars are all important parts of the college experience—but if you’re not happy with where you are, then you probably won’t be happy, period.
No matter how much you love your school, you’ll be itching to get off campus every so often. So when you choose a school, you’ll want to think as much about what’s off campus as what’s on. After all, you’ll be spending four years there at minimum—don’t you want to make sure it feels like home?
We’ve rounded up 10 of the coolest college towns to fit any student’s interests. What’s the best fit for you? Here are some ideas to get you started.
. Home to Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and tons of other schools, Boston may well be the brainiest city in the nation. Taking the T makes it easy to scope out the entire city without a car, and there are ample opportunities for off-campus adventure: try checking out the vintage clothing stalls and cool shops on Newbury Street, chowing down on some clam chowder at Legal Seafood, or watching the Sox play at Fenway Park.
Beaches, redwood forests, and stunning mountains are just a stone’s throw away from University of California – Santa Cruz in this coastal California town. A perfect spot for the laid-back, liberal, and slightly quirky student, this gorgeous town boasts great Mexican food and world-class restaurants, a fun beachside boardwalk amusement park, an eclectic mix of independent shops, and beautiful weather all year round. Be warned: go to school here, and you’ll never want to leave.
The nation’s capital is home to great colleges including Georgetown University, George Washington University, and American University. Go to school here, and you’ll feel the pulse of history all around you, with ample opportunities to visit the Smithsonian Museums, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and countless other national landmarks. The city is home to all sorts of great cheap eats and shops, which are easily accessible by subway. Best of all, your educational opportunities are unlimited: you could land a prestigious internship with a Senator, a foreign ambassador, or even in the White House.
Home to colleges including Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh is a fun and budget-friendly alternative to more cosmopolitan cities. With a range of unique neighborhoods, Pittsburgh boasts extremely affordable housing, a mix of fascinating museums, and a killer football team.
Often referred to as the center of the universe, students at Columbia University, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, and others will enjoy the bustle of big city life in the Big Apple. Though New York living can be pricey, students have access to world-class museums and cultural events, an incredible range of dining and nightlife options, and fantastic internship opportunities in almost any field imaginable.
Just minutes from big-city Denver, the stunning town of Boulder, Colorado is home to a University of Colorado campus and the Buddhism-focused Naropa University. The town borders the Rocky Mountains, providing fantastic opportunities for mountain climbing, biking, and other outdoors activities, and green-living fanatics will feel right at home in this eco-focused enclave.
Home to the large University of Wisconsin – Madison campus, this small city offers great shops, dining, museums, and bike paths, all at a student-friendly price. Countless area farms sell their produce at the city’s famous farmers’ markets, and football fans will have a blast cheering on the college’s famous Badgers every game day.
Home to Middlebury College, this picturesque Vermont town is the perfect spot for budding poets and artists to get in touch with their muses. The New England winters may be cold, but you’ll find easy access to ski slopes and snowshoeing trails. If you choose to stay in town through the summer, you may have a chance to attend the world-famous Bread Loaf Writers Conference, which is led by some of the world’s best poets, authors, and memoirists; or to take part in one of ten summer language programs, in which you can take one full year’s worth of language classes in just seven or nine weeks.
Home to Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, and numerous other schools, this Northwestern city is a college student’s dream. Boasting fantastic independent shops (including world-famous Powell’s Books), great restaurants, a thriving indie music scene, and parks and bike paths galore, Portland is an ideal spot for the intellectual, creative, and eco-conscious student.
Home to the renowned University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, this small Southern city is a fun and friendly place, featuring a great music scene (bands like Ben Folds Five and Superchunk started out here), an impressive tech industry where you might land a prestigious internship, and impressive college basketball and women’s soccer teams. Chapel Hill hosts several annual festivals, such as October’s Festifall and a massive Halloween street party, which welcome students and townies alike. If you love Southern charm but crave urban sophistication, Chapel Hill could be the perfect fit.