The Best College Towns in America

  • Kirkland Hall entryway at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.

    Vanderbilt University

    About the University
    Named after Revolutionary War hero Francis Nash and known to many as Music City USA, Nashville is also home to Vanderbilt University. From its rich country music heritage (it’s home to both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry) to a plethora of sports options including Tennessee Titans football, Nashville Predators hockey, and the Vanderbilt Commodores athletics, Nashville has many entertainment options. Historical landmarks from the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, and other eras provide additional cultural experiences.

    A Nashville Mainstay
    25th Ave
    Nashville, TN 37203
    Located in Centennial Park, this full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon features a re-creation of the long-lost statue of Athena inside. It serves as an art museum, theater space, and tourist attraction. (more)

  • The Old Well, a symbol of UNC, stands at the heart of the university campus.

    University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

    About the University
    Home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this college town is located in the heart of North Carolina. While the UNC Tar Heels are a big part of the town’s culture, Chapel Hill is also known for its thriving culinary scene with a strong concentration of quality eateries. Many musical careers also began in Chapel Hill, including those of Ben Folds and Southern Culture on the Skids, and Halloween on Franklin Street has become one of the most elaborate seasonal parties around.

    A Chapel Hill Mainstay
    Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
    1305 E Franklin St
    Chapel Hill, NC 27514
    Located on the city’s most popular thoroughfare, this drive-through eatery cooks up fluffy buttermilk biscuits and fills them with fried chicken, country ham, and other Southern favorites.

  • The Memorial Union as seen from the Library Mall on the UW-Madison campus.

    University of Wisconsin - Madison

    About the University
    Consistently ranked as one of the top cities to live in in America, this home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison is known for a somewhat wholesome style of fun. It’s also one of the top sports cities in America, thanks mostly to the school’s various athletic teams. Madison has a thriving visual and performing arts scene but is best known for its musical contributions, including popular rock band Garbage, a variety of music festivals, and indie record label Crustacean Records.

    A Madison Mainstay
    High Noon Saloon
    701A E Washington Ave
    Madison, WI 53703
    After popular music spot O’Cayz Corral burned down, High Noon opened in 2004 to become one of the city’s most popular places to see emerging and established indie rock bands. (more)

  • Bronze statues by Auguste Rodin can be found on the Stanford campus at Palo Alto, CA.

    Stanford University

    About the University
    Science and technology are what this San Francisco Bay area town revolves around, and Stanford University is a big contributor to that. Aside from being the epicenter of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto is known for its nature preserves, lush parks, and hiking trails. And its close proximity to San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Jose promises plenty of dining and entertainment options.

    A Palo Alto Mainstay
    The Stanford Theatre
    221 University Ave
    Palo Alto, CA 94301
    Restored to its original 1925 splendor in 1987, this classic theater continues to show retro Hollywood silent favorites with a live soundtrack provided by a Wurlitzer organ. (more)

  • The University of Virginia Rotunda in Charlottesville was designed by Thomas Jefferson.

    University of Virginia

    About the University
    Located fairly close to Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA, Charlottesville has been home to many key figures and moments in American history. It’s also home to the University of Virginia, which is the source of much of its culture, sports, and entertainment. Having spawned many notable musicians, authors, actors, and other creative types, it’s no surprise that Charlottesville is rich in art, theater, film, and music events and destinations.

    A Charlottesville Mainstay
    Downtown Mall
    E Main St
    Charlottesville, VA 22902
    One of the longest pedestrian malls in the country, this downtown strip is home to the Paramount Theater, Jefferson Theater, and numerous shops, art galleries, and restaurants. (more)

  • Fountains in front of the chemistry building at the UMC courtyard at CU-Boulder.

    University of Colorado at Boulder

    About the University
    Home of both the University of Colorado and the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, the Zen-like atmosphere of Boulder features numerous hiking, bicycling, and rock-climbing opportunities. Outside of that, Boulder is known for its many film festivals, a music scene that includes genres such as orchestral, bluegrass, electro, and busking, and other social and cultural events. Among those is the annual Naked Pumpkin Run, where runners anonymously challenge authority by running down city streets with little more than pumpkins on their heads.

    A Boulder Mainstay
    Boulder Theater
    2032 14th St
    Boulder, CO
    Originally opened as an opera house in 1906, this venue has hosted legendary musical and comedy performances by the likes of Tori Amos, Johnny Cash, Charlie Murphy, and David Sedaris in recent years. (more)

  • View of downtown Austin from Main Mall of UT Austin.

    University of Texas at Austin

    About the University
    Known to many as the live music capital of the world, the capital of Texas prides itself on its eccentric and eclectic population. Annual music festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest attest to the city’s music scene, but the University of Texas at Austin provides the city’s main sports attractions and is one reason the city also fosters a thriving film community.

    An Austin Mainstay

    South Austin Museum of Popular Culture
    1516-B S Lamar Blvd
    Austin, TX 78704
    Celebrating Austin’s art and artists from the past 50 years, this museum is home to many of the things that keep the city proudly proclaiming its weirdness.

  • Michigan Union at UMich, Ann Arbor.

    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

    About the University
    The University of Michigan is not only at the center of Ann Arbor’s employment and economy but its culture and arts scenes as well. A majority of the city’s thriving museums and performing arts groups are affiliated with the university. The school is also home to the Wolverines athletic teams, which account for the city’s main sports events. Other local attractions include the Ann Arbor Art Fairs series, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Performance Network Theatre.

    An Ann Arbor Mainstay
    Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum
    220 E Ann St
    Ann Arbor, MI 48104
    Located in a historic firehouse, the Hands-On Museum features four floors that are home to more than 250 interactive exhibits on math, music, geology, and other educational subjects. (more)

  • Pathway at the University of Georgia that leads to the Arch and downtown Athens.

    University of Georgia

    About the University
    About an hour-and-a-half east of Atlanta, Athens is home to the University of Georgia and its Bulldogs. But this Southern college town also hosts one of the most thriving music scenes in the country, having spawned the likes of R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic, and Dead Confederate. From classic gridiron bouts at Sanford Stadium to legendary performances at the city’s many music venues, Athens has an even balance of Southern charm and creative spark.

    An Athens Mainstay
    40 Watt Club
    285 W Washington St
    Athens, GA 30601
    Seminal to the Athens music scene, this live performance venue remains a vital part of the city’s thriving entertainment options, having become legendary after decades of incredible shows and performers.

  • Coates Hall at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

    Louisiana State University

    About the University
    With Louisiana State University, Our Lady of the Lake College, Baton Rouge Community College, and Southern University all located in Baton Rouge, much of the city’s culture comes courtesy of the student population. In addition to numerous art galleries and theater groups, the LSU Tigers and Southern University Jaguars offer plenty of college football, basketball, baseball, and other sports. Traditionally European sports such as rugby and soccer are also popular here, and there’s a thriving film industry too.

    A Baton Rouge Mainstay
    Churchill’s Premium Cigars & Elixirs
    7949 Jefferson Hwy
    Baton Rouge, LA 70809
    This Old World-style cigar and wine bar offers manly luxuries such as big-screen TVs, hearty meals, and a huge collection of cigars, humidors, wines, and liquors. (more)

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