These college town hotels are in a class of their own

You'd be smart to book a stay

By Lois Alter Mark,

The best part about college these days just might be the new crop of hotels springing up on campuses around the country.

Joining some of the more traditional homes-away-from-home are brands like Graduate and Study, whose hotels pay homage to the colleges – and college towns – they serve.

Whether you’re reminiscing about your own glory days or touring potential schools for your kids, these university hotels get you into the spirit. They also offer much-welcome ease and convenience during a stressful time.

"Staying in a hotel right on campus allows students to explore the surrounding area that could be their home for the next four years," says Susan Lustbader, an educational consultant with SL College Consulting in Maryland, who visits dozens of colleges every year.

"It also provides a great opportunity to get a real feel for the school’s culture, and relieves worries about getting lost or stuck in traffic before an admissions interview."

These ten hotels, on or near college campuses, all make the grade. 

Graduate Minneapolis

Graduate Minneapolis, where everyone is a student of life — Photo courtesy of Graduate Hotels

Nestled between Coffman Memorial Union and the Golden Gophers stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, Graduate Minneapolis has a cozy lake house feeling, inspired by the city’s Norwegian influence and active lifestyle.  

Guests can gather by the fireplace in the lobby, under chandeliers made of vintage snow shoes and fishing flies, while food carts serve local fare like ‘sota stuffed burritos and all-star spirits. With a nod to hometown legend Prince, rooms are detailed with custom plum paisley and lamps are modeled after that legendary little red Corvette.

The Carolina Inn | UNC

Hill Courtyard at Carolina Inn — Photo courtesy of Carolina Inn

Built by alumnus John Sprunt Hill, this iconic hotel on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus has been hosting visitors, UNC families and special events like Tar Heel tailgates since 1924, with all profits benefiting the school’s library.

The Carolina Inn was originally modeled after George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the hotel is still making history, thanks to Chapel Hill alumnus and Michelin-starred chef Brandon Sharp who’s redefining Southern comfort food at Crossroads.

In fact, the hotel is so comfortable, The Carolina Inn is often referred to as "the university’s living room."

The Charles Hotel | Harvard

Fellows Suite at The Charles Hotel — Photo courtesy of The Charles Hotel

Located right next door to the Kennedy School of Government, let’s face it...The Charles Hotel may be the closest you get to Harvard

It’s home to the award-winning farm-to-table restaurant, Henrietta’s Table, as well as the famed Regattabar Jazz Club, lobby-level Noir Bar and fine dining restaurant, Benedetto, all of which give guests lots of opportunities to feel like Ivy Leaguers.

For those who do happen to have an undergraduate at the university, the Harvard Parents Club offers rewards for frequent stays and exclusive advance notice for Commencement reservations.

Boar’s Head Resort | UVA

You can take a hot air balloon ride at The Boar's Head — Photo courtesy of The Boar's Head

Owned by the University of Virginia Foundation, Boar’s Head is the school’s official hotel, offering special membership rates for staff, faculty, alumni and parents of current students.

But even if you have no affiliation with UVA, it’s worth staying at this luxury resort. Boar’s Head’s history goes back 300 years and can trace its roots to Thomas Jefferson, whose philosophy of healing through plants and herbs inspired many of the spa’s signature treatments.

The resort also offers activities like tennis, golf and hot air balloon rides, along with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a lesson in Southern hospitality.

Graduate Oxford

Take note of the Graduate Oxford — Photo courtesy of Graduate Hotels

Oozing Southern charm, Graduate Oxford is only about a mile from Ole Miss but, equipped with every modern convenience, it represents the best of the new Miss. 

The lobby is awash in preppy pink, seersucker and bookshelves stacked floor to ceiling, with one-of-a-kind commissioned pieces by local artists and writers reflecting the city’s rich culture. Enjoy some homemade fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits in the county fair-inspired Cabin 82 or settle in for a drink at The Coop, the hotel’s rooftop bar, where the view is as sweet as the tea. 

The Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point

General Patton's Tavern at The Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point is filled with sports memorabilia — Photo courtesy of The Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point

The Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point is located on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and offers high-tech luxury and commanding views along with 200 years of military history.

Each room is dedicated to a distinguished West Point graduate, with decor celebrating their accomplishments. Toast them at General Patton’s Tavern, where you can check out sports memorabilia like the football, above, signed by Heisman Trophy winners Pete Dawkins and Glen Davis who both graduated from West Point.

Morris Inn | Notre Dame

Wind Family Fireside Terrace at Morris Inn — Photo courtesy of Morris Inn

Named after Notre Dame alumnus Ernest M. Morris, who donated $1 million to the University years after the school president let him continue his education on credit – and also took care of his horse, Dexter – Morris Inn is a member of Historic Hotels of America.

Located in the heart of the campus, it’s steps from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the "Golden Dome," the Notre Dame Stadium and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Gather with friends on the Wind Family Fireside Terrace, celebrate special occasions at Sorin’s and order a "Dexter" at Rohr’s to drink to the horse that started it all.

The Study at University City

Painting by Sam Messer with quote from Drexel University President John A. Fry at The Study at University City — Photo courtesy of Study Hotels

Filled with books and art, The Study at University City in Philly is as vibrant and stimulating as Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania – its neighboring schools. Custom designed museum cases display artifacts from three local museums – Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, National Museum of American Jewish History and the Academy of Natural Sciences – encouraging curiosity and conversation.

Each guestroom features a leather reading chair and lamp, plus a signature seersucker robe and generous work surface to get comfy and get down to business. Nineteen "Study" rooms offer a separate area, which includes built-in shelves stocked with hand-selected books, and panoramic campus views. 

Hanover Inn | Dartmouth

The lobby of the Hanover Inn at Dartmouth — Photo courtesy of Hanover Inn

Once the home of General Ebenezer Brewster, who became Dartmouth College’s steward in 1769, the Hanover Inn has been welcoming guests to the campus for centuries.

Paying homage to The Big Green, the Inn features the school’s signature color on its walls, carpeting and in custom green-and-white "letter sweater" throws on the beds. The Inn is filled with memorabilia and class gifts, including a bookcase of yearbooks, a weather station and a board where alumni leave notes when they’re visiting to let others know they’re in town.

The Statler Hotel | Cornell

Students at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration help run The Statler Hotel — Photo courtesy of The Statler Hotel

The Ivy League’s only "teaching" hotel, The Statler is the showcase for Cornell University’s world-renowned School of Hotel Administration.

More than 200 students work alongside and under the guidance of seasoned professionals in all areas of the hotel, but make no mistake: this is an upscale AAA Four Diamond Award-winning property with impeccable service. These young leaders are the future of the hospitality industry, and you’ll likely give them the same high grades as their professors.