5 Amazing College Towns To Visit In 2020

Xceltrip|5 min read|Jan 15, 2020

The word “college” itself comprises community colleges, two-year schools, public and private four-year universities, and more — under those terms, LA could be a college town even though it encompasses more than 200 schools! So when looking at the best college towns in the U.S., we looked for two main criteria — first, a place that’s small enough to have a recognizable sense of community and identity, tied to but not limited to the campus (or campuses); and second, one that’s home to a variety of things to see and do there both on and beyond the campus. You’ll find plenty of the latter in our round-up — towns with outdoor adventure, great museums, diverse culinary scenes, football fandom, and more. Here are 5 amazing college towns to visit in 2020:

Ithaca, New York

Ithaca is a funky town that takes its local culture seriously. A couple of examples: its long-time fight against a proposed nearby highway to maintain the community culture, and its own currency, the Ithaca Hour, created with the purpose of supporting local businesses. Despite being home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and a community college, all of which double the town’s population during the school year, Ithaca manages to hold on to its unique personality that locals love and keeps alums coming back to visit. Ithaca is also surrounded by several hiking trails that lead to gorges (hence the punny motto “Ithaca is Gorges”); Buttermilk Falls and Six Mile Creek are favorites. Or take a day trip to nearby Watkins Glen State Park or Robert H. Treman State Park to find some beautiful waterfall hikes.

Berkeley, California

Berkeley may be just across the Oakland Bay Bridge from San Francisco, but this progressive city is a world unto itself, partially due to its legendarily left-learning university. In the 1960s, Berkeley gained worldwide recognition as the home of the student-led Free Speech Movement. Today it remains a symbol of counterculture that’s most apparent in the independent book and music stores and second-hand clothing shops along Telegraph Avenue, as well as its enticing Gourmet Ghetto (known as the birthplace of “California Cuisine”), where landmark restaurant Chez Panisse still thrives as the epicenter of farm-to-table fare.

St. Augustine, Florida

Whether you are moving your child in at Flagler College for the new school year or just visiting the nation’s oldest European settlement, you’ll find nonstop entertainment in St. Augustine. Not surprisingly, the city overflows with historical attractions including the Oldest Wooden SchoolHouse, Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, and the Castillo de San Marcos. You can even tour Flagler College, which was built as the Hotel Ponce de Leon in 1888 and features Tiffany windows and gorgeous murals. When you’re ready to satisfy your appetite, head to Columbia Restaurant for its famous “1905” Salad tossed tableside. For a sweet treat, select a gourmet popsicle (try the Elvis with peanut butter, banana and honey) from The Hyppo. At day’s end, head to your room at the Jaybird’s Inn just minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill, not to be confused with the neighboring cities of Raleigh and Durham (or collegiate rivals, depending on who you speak to), is widely known as home to the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its Tar Heels basketball team. Sports aside, it’s home to plenty of cultural activities, bars, and restaurants.

Check into The Franklin, a happening hotel situated on Franklin Street, directly in the heart of downtown, or opt for a more luxurious escape at Siena Hotel, which is inspired by a Tuscan villa and home to Il Palio, the state’s only AAA Four Diamond Italian restaurant. Then, pop over to the North Carolina Botanical Garden to scope out the beautiful display gardens and take a stroll through the Piedmont nature trails. A few minutes’ drive away, the Ackland Art Museum features an impressive collection of Asian and European art and North Carolina pottery. For spirits enthusiasts, stop by Top of the Hill Distillery for a tour and tasting of spirits exclusively crafted from North Carolina-grown wheat. When hunger strikes, there are many tempting options. There’s Mama Dip’s Kitchen, a true intro into Southern cuisine; Al’s Burger Shack; Crook’s Corner, a local’s hotspot for over three decades (shrimp and grits are not to miss); Lantern, for celebrated chef Andrea Reusing’s Asian-inspired menu with a focus on Southern ingredients; and Sutton’s Drug Store for no-frills deli sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and milkshakes; to name a few.

Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence may be best known as the home of the University of Kansas, but the Haskell Indian Nations University also resides here, energizing the town with a double dose of collegiate vitality. Bookended by the Kansas River (known as the Kaw) and the Wakarusa Rives, KU Jayhawks territory encourages active visitors to come out and play with hiking and biking trails, more than 50 public parks, the South Park gazebo concert stage and late summer fields full of sunflowers.

Populated with local shops, restaurants, and entertainment, Massachusetts Street (“Mass” for short) is the centerpiece of the historic downtown district. The town’s vibrant cultural offerings appeal to creative types through an expansive collection of museums, theaters, and performing arts venues.

Pick any of these 5 amazing college towns to visit in 2020 with XcelTrip to make memories that last a lifetime and feel young again while you party with the college crowd.


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