What makes a college town something special? What makes it the kind of place you want to return to long after your college days are done? Is it the scenery? The sports? The best college towns offer lively local scenes with good, affordable restaurants, independent boutiques, and they often support the arts.
I just returned from a quick fill-my-soul visit to Athens, GA with all three kids in tow. You can never start too early indoctrinating your children with college propaganda (just kidding). Chances are there’s a great college town not too far from where you are. And, you don’t need the excuse of taking your teen on a college road trip to visit. So what are you waiting for? Book it to a college town near you!
Travel Smart Blog’s Top Picks For Visiting a College Town (Part 1):
Ann Arbor, MI – They say in Ann Arbor “every corner plays a new song”. And they must because Ann Arbor ranks high on every “best” list year after year. The fall is most memorable for University of Michigan fans. Sure it has a historically great football team, but Ann Arbor is also beautiful, easy to walk around and full of great restaurants.
- Extra Credit: Don’t miss Zingerman’s Bakehouse that keeps the locals licking their fingers. It just may be the reason you go back to this beloved city.
Athens, GA – Athens is home to the University of Georgia and one of the best music scenes in the US. A number of famous bands and recording artists have developed their sound here: Jennifer Nettles, R.E.M, Widespread Panic, The B-52s, Dave Matthews, Vic Chestnutt, and so many others.
- Extra Credit: Grab a table at Five & Ten, where chefs Chuck Ramsey and Hugh Acheson turn out seasonal dishes worthy of their own theme songs.
- Sure Beats the Dorm: The modern Hotel Indigo is perfectly situated in downtown Athens and offers free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, and a cozy bar/lounge.
Chapel Hill, NC – Nicknamed “the Southern Part of Heaven,” Chapel Hill is classic Americana with its outdoor cafes and public art murals to formal colonial residences fluttering Stars and Stripes. This University of North Carolina home boasts The FRANK (Franklin Street Arts Collective) and museums, a planetarium, sports memorabilia and performing arts—all within walking distance from one another on the Mile of Culture.
And, getting around Chapel Hill couldn’t be easier: Chapel Hill Transit services run approximately 25 miles throughout the Chapel Hill, UNC and Carrboro communities. And everyone rides free!
- Extra Credit: Satisfy your sweet tooth with a scoop of gelato–24 flavors, such as caramel fleur de sel–at the cheerful coed favorite Sugarland.
- Sure Beats the Dorm: A stay at the 185-room The Carolina Inn is like a night at a museum. Hand-painted French wallpaper adorns some first-floor walls.
Check back tomorrow (9/21) for part 2 of my favorite college towns!