The 7 Best College Towns in America for an Awesome Collegiate Getaway

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Last Updated on: 11th April 2023, 12:25 pm

While most people looking for a quick weekend trip in the US will pick a historic city, a charming town, or a resort town, one classic American getaway you should consider is a weekend getaway to one of the best college towns in America. You can enjoy college sports, the local arts scene, and even go to a concert or show. 

The educational sector in the United States boasts a rich history and a lavish culture that attracts students from across the world. It is their ultimate destination for fulfilling their academic goals and living a fun-fueled, unbridled life of a casual college kid from the movies. You can relive this time in your life, whether you go back to your own college town for a trip or go somewhere you’ve never been before.

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The 7 Best College Towns in America for an Awesome Collegiate Getaway

My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2023

These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.

Protect Your Trip via Safety Wing

Find the best city tours, day tours, bus tours, & skip-the-line tickets on GetYourGuide and Viator.

Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on

For English-speaking private airport transfers, book through Welcome Pickups.

For road trips and independent travel, rent a car through Discover Cars.

Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.

For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.

Book an affordable family or romantic photography session on your trip through Flytographer (Use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 10% off your first photoshoot).

For travel guidebooks to have with you during your trip, I always pick one or two from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.

What Makes a Great American College Town?

In the US, college life is symbolized by stately, distinguished campuses located in the academic landmarks of the country – the renowned towns where America’s top colleges and universities are located. The US towns that house the country’s leading educational establishments are largely centered on serving the campuses, and because they tend to cater to academics and young adults, they are full of the kinds of arts, sports, and culture that aren’t easy to find anywhere else.

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Great college towns tend to have their own unique culture, easy access to sporting events, shopping, museums, and concert venues. They also tend to be very walkable or have great public transportation. Restaurants that cater to student budgets (and budget travelers) tend to be everywhere and excellent. Yet there are also restaurants that serve a more elite clientele as well. 

Finally, great college towns have great college bars, and usually quite a few of them!

The Best College Towns in America

In no particular order…

Berkeley, California

Sunset time Sather Tower at University of California, Berkeley campus, with Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Dubbed the most liberal college town in the United States, Berkeley amazes its residents, particularly those related to the educational sphere, with its democratic and “open-minded” lifestyle and municipality. In fact, Berkely is synonymous with liberal academia. One must-see for all visitors is the Berkely Art Museum.  So come for the relaxed vibe and see what “liberal Berkeley” is all about.

Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville, Florida, USA downtown at twilight.

The eighth-largest campus in the United States, Gainesville is referred to as one of the most attractive and significant college towns in the country. Aside from the academic significance that this town has, Gainesville has a lot of other attractions and perks to offer to students. Sports reign supreme at the University of Florida. Students will gladly pass over their studying duties to services like online essay writing services or make use of their nerdy friends to get out of their workload and go and enjoy themselves. 

Yes, the city is widely known for its sports facilities where college kids go bananas rooting for the home team. The town is acknowledged as the birthplace of the world-famous sports drink Gatorade, which the athletes use for recovery and the students use…well, for a different form of recovery. 

If you come to Gainesville to have a good time, make sure you don’t have too good of a time!

Long Beach, California

Long Beach golden sunset against the backdrop of palm trees and yachts

The city is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities on the West Coast and is also one of the most important educational hubs in the US. Long beach is widely known for its cultural diversity.

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The most famous university in California, California State University, belongs to the CSU system and is the second-largest educational institution in this system. The educational sector of Long Beach represents the cultural diversity of the area, as well – the university is the 5th most diverse educational establishment in the United States. 

Lawrence, Kansas

Biking on a Cold Winter Morning on the University of Kansas Campus in Lawrence, Kansas

This town is famous for college basketball. In fact, James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas! If you love college sports, this is the town for you.

Get tickets to a basketball game early, as Allen Fieldhouse sells out every game. It also holds the World Record for loudest indoor stadium, so come prepared to cheer out loud!

After the game, you can hang out on Mass Street, go to concerts since most indie bands will put Lawrence on their tour schedule, or enjoy a visit to one of the university’s great museums.

Durham, North Carolina

Duke University Chapel is located on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and seats 1800 people.

Housing legendary Duke University, Durham captivates both visitors and residents with the idiosyncratic combination of inspiring history and modern entertainment.

The city each year welcomes numerous music, film, and art festivals, providing active college kids with a plethora of opportunities for satisfying their needs! This makes it a great place to visit for a few days since there are always fabulous events going on in town.

Duke University, the main highlight of Durham, ranks in the top ten leading universities of the United States, and it is a prominent example of the strong development of the educational sector of the state. 

East Lansing, Michigan

Beaumont Tower, Michigan State University

With a population of more than 48,000 people, East Lansing still manages to rank among the leading college towns of the United States while at the same time supporting a small suburb. The university attracts students who are committed to their studying obligations and, at the same time, want to indulge in the coziness and comfort of the town’s quiet streets and lush greenery.

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The city is located quite close to the state’s capital city, which makes it an even more appealing destination for young people – its close proximity to Lansing gives you even more opportunities to expand your intellectual and cultural horizons by taking a trip to the heart of Michigan. 

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard in the spring

Sharing its grand name with the equally legendary city in the United Kingdom, the town is home to Harvard University. Yes, the Cambridge of the US doesn’t fall behind its eminent namesake thanks to the world-famous university that calls it home.

Of course, a trip here will highlight the best of American university experiences. This academic institution has made the city a true hub of both youth and scholarly culture. Even if you can’t get into Harvard, you can still have a great time here visiting!

Which One Would You Choose?

The United States is considered to be the mecca of the world’s modern academic culture.

Introducing young people to a wide array of educational opportunities and mediums for letting their guard down in between their studying days, the country is a top choice for aspiring college kids who want to receive a quality education while also enjoying the fun, unburdened life of an American student.

The cities we have covered in this article are academic sanctuaries within the USA, serving as a bright representation of the country’s powerful educational system. But they are great for more than just studying!

Which American college town will you choose to visit?

Tips for Visiting College Towns in the USA

Make sure to pick up a souvenir sweatshirt or t-shirt. College swag is some of the best souvenir and gift options for any trip!

Look to see if there are any Graduate hotels to stay in. If not, look for local hotel deals. Hotels near college campuses can get pricey!

Finally, make sure you know the campus’s major events schedule before booking your trip. We have run into huge crowds in Knoxville because of the University of Tennessee’s graduation schedule. Quelle nightmare!

See also
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More USA Trip Inspiration


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Are you still trying to figure out where to go in the US? Check out my guides on the best scenic drives in America, the best American small towns, and the best historic American cities. You can also check out the best East Coast lighthouses, the best West Coast lighthouses.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

Before you leave for your lighthouse road trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for Safety Wing and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be away for more than a few days. I

I have been a paying customer of Safety Wing for travel insurance for years.  If you get sick on the road or have a major travel incident, it’s good to have a policy that will have your back.


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The 7 Best College Towns in America for an Awesome Collegiate Getaway

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