As students pack their laptops and textbooks and return to universities across the country, you too can pack up your things (minus the assigned reading) for a weekend getaway to the best college towns that boast lively local scenes for all ages. Cities that manage to entertain energetic students outside of the hallowed halls can also be enjoyed by those without a student ID or any campus connection with their array of attractions. Whether it's outdoor activities, nightlife, history, or good food you're seeking, you'll find something you'll love in our list of five notable college towns with plenty of draw.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Located 45 miles west of Detroit and home to 40,000 University of Michigan students, Ann Arbor is a Midwestern hotspot for culture, arts, and entertainment. Visit the 123-acre Nichols Arboretum for gravel paths winding through vibrant gardens every color of the rainbow. Take an architecture tour or enjoy a guided art walk through the city's bustling downtown area, which includes shopping experiences from known retailers and local artisans alike.
Known for its diversity of tastes, pop into one of Ann Arbor's many restaurants - enjoy locally sourced food and award winning microbrews at the Arbor Brewing Company. And what would a trip to Ann Arbor be without a little college fun? Catch a football game and cheer on the Blue at Michigan Stadium, also known as "The Big House."
What you might think of as a typical southern school just happens to be tucked into a not-so-typical college town. Athens, home of the University of Georgia, has long fostered artists, hipsters, and musicians such as R.E.M. and B-52's, and its designated downtown area remains a major hub for a fertile music and culture scene to this day.
Take a stroll and explore the Five Points neighborhood to enjoy the architecture of Old Georgia mansions tucked among the frat houses, or admire the legendary Tree That Owns itself, a white oak that Colonel William Henry Jackson, who desired to protect the tree he garnered many cherished childhood memories from in the early 19th century, deeded to it the ownership of itself and its surrounding land.
This city is no stranger to 'healthiest cities in America' lists, and if outdoor adventure is calling your name, visit the home of the University of Colorado. Bike, hike, climb, run, fish, and golf in Boulder's 36,000 acres of open space parks situated in the foothills of the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.
If relaxation is what you crave, walk the peaceful Boulder Labyrinth and tour the popular tea manufacturer Celestial Seasonings' facilities for a taste of their herbal blends. Finally, visit Boulder's Pearl Street Mall for an excellent pedestrian shopping mall experience complete with family-friendly street performers and delicious dining.
The home of the University of Virginia is steeped in history as well as modern attractions. The campus was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 and Jefferson's home, Monticello, is a majestic tourist attraction. Also a hub for a vibrant music scene, Charlottesville boasts the iconic Paramount Theater, and is the birthplace of many-a-college-student's favorite, Dave Matthews Band. Here you'll find clubs featuring everything from Jazz and blues to country, rock, and jam bands.
For some outdoor fun, check out the scenic and well-kept Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia being just one of the 29 states the trail runs through) for incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Don't forget about the vineyards and orchards in the surrounding area - sip a local Nebbiolo at Barboursville Vineyards.
In the hometown of the University of Vermont, scenic, outdoor activity abounds in conjunction with a welcoming and lively local community. Enjoy a ride on the Burlington Bike Path, kayak on the beautiful Lake Champlain, or hike up Burrow's Trail to the summit of nearby Camel's Hump, whose bald-faced 4,083-foot summit offers living-map panoramas, or Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont with a summit that peaks at 4,393 feet.
You could also catch a late-season ballgame at Centennial Field, home to the minor league Vermont Lake Monsters team, and afterward grab a bite at one of Burlington's farm-to-table restaurants, a signifier of the town's vibrant local food movement. Then wash it all down at Magic Hat brewery - we highly recommend the #9 pale ale, or the spooky seasonal, Séance.