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30 Best College Towns in the US

Boulder, CO

Located at the foot of the Rockies, Boulder abounds in outdoor activities for students at the University of Colorado: rock climbing, skiing, hiking, camping. The environmental love also translates to numerous restaurants that are locally-sourced from sustainable practices. And don't even get us started on the weather! During the worst of the summer months, the average temperature for Boulder is a tolerable 87 degrees. Although, if you're not a big fan of snow, you may want to avoid the city—and large parts of Colorado in general! It isn't unusual to get snow in Colorado in May.

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Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan Stadium is the largest in the U.S. and second largest stadium in the world. Clearly Ann Arbor shows a lot of love for the University of Michigan by needing that many seats. Many restaurants near campus regularly stay open late for the college crowd, closing at 3 and 4 AM.

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Madison, WI

With a student union overlooking Lake Mendota, the University of Wisconsin takes full advantage of Madison’s beautiful setting. Plus there’s beers, brats, and cheese. This is Wisconsin, after all.

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Ithaca, NY

Ithaca is home to not one but two higher ed institutions: Cornell University and Ithaca College. When school is in session, students make up more than half of the city’s population. That young vibe brings plenty of bars and nightlife with it.

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Ames, IA

The students of Iowa State take over Ames every year with the largest student-run festival in the country (VEISHEA). Downtown’s Main Street also houses the perfect hole-in-the-wall eateries for students to grab some grub.

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Berkeley, CA

Berkeley is definitely is a bubble all its own, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want out of a college town. Also, everyone here is really darn smart. The sunny, 70-degree weather year-round also helps. 

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Chapel Hill, NC

Basketball is king at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. If you never go to a game, particularly one against Duke, you aren’t doing things right. Also, Franklin Street is the funkiest place to hang out, going back 200 years!

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State College, PA

Ask any Penn State alum what State College is known for, and it’s sticky buns and ice cream. The Phyrst also might just be the best college bar in the country for its table wars tradition.

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Corvallis, OR

Oregon State’s hometown is surrounded by rolling fields and beautiful scenery—perfect for biking or walking around. Nature is a great stress reliever in between exams. After graduation, students will also find a great job market in the city if they want to stick around.

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Gainesville, FL

Ginne Springs is real life lazy river that’s the perfect day drinking spot. Students from the University of Florida can often be seen relaxing in between study sessions. Also, at Satchel’s Pizza you can eat your meal in a renovated van. Case closed.

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Champaign-Urbana, IL

One college (the University of Illinois). Two cities. That gives students double the opportunity to explore off campus. Champaign is a smidge larger than the other and hosts the Roger Ebert Film Festival every year.

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Blacksburg, VA

Nestled at the foot of the Appalachians, students from Virginia Tech have ample opportunities for hiking and camping. All the outdoor activities help to burn off the calories from Benny’s—a pizza place with slices as big as your face.

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Hartford, CT

UConn might be 30 minutes away, but their new downtown Hartford campus is helping to turn the city into a college town. It’s not alone; the University of Hartford is in the northwestern part of the city. With new breweries and a burgeoning nightlife, you’re sure to see more students wandering downtown.

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Lexington, KY

Like other college towns, Lexington has an oversized arts and cultural scene relative to its size thanks to a nearby large university, the University of Kentucky. When school is in session, students make up 10% of the the city’s population, meaning all the goings-on have a youthful exuberance.

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Morgantown, WV

Morgantown’s Personal Rapid Transit trains quickly transport West Virginia University’s students across various parts of campus into downtown. That it travels along the Monongahela River offering beautiful views is just the icing on the cake.

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College Station, TX

Low taxes and a low cost of living are helpful for Texas A&M students who want to live off campus in College Station. The sprawling campus also has tons of green space for walking, frisbee, or sunbathing while you study.

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Fargo, ND

North Dakota State, as well as Minnesota State University Moorhead and Condrodia College just across the river, all call Fargo home. That’s around 25,000 students to keep happy during cold winter days. Thankfully the eclectic downtown was recently revamped and there are ample breweries dotting the cityscape.

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Burlington, VT

Ben & Jerry’s, bike paths, and breweries! We could go on but we ran out of B words. Burlington is fun, funky, and local, making it the perfect college town for University of Vermont and Champlain College students.

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Cambridge, MA

Cambridge might be America’s most high-class college town, thanks to its famous ivy-clad brick buildings, but that shouldn’t keep it from our list. The area’s large entrepreneurial network is due largely to the numerous graduates of nearby Harvard, MIT, and Lesley University.

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Lincoln, NE

Grab a runza (Russian-style sandwich) and take a stroll. The flat landscape of Lincoln means it’s an easily walkable city to explore. Plus, students at the University of Nebraska don’t have to worry about walking uphill to class...in the snow.
 

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Columbia, MO

Hip downtown pizza eateries and coffeehouses give off a progressive hipster vibe. Summer street fairs, art galleries, and gardens round out the whole affair for students at the University of Missouri (affectionately called Mizzou).

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Fayetteville, AR

Little Rock might be the most populous city in Arkansas, but Fayetteville is the caffeine capital of the state with a large crop of coffee shops from which to choose. It makes sense, as it's the home of the University of Arkansas and its large student population. Baristas from Onyx Coffee Lab won first and second place at the U.S. Coffee Championships for the past two years.

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Oxford, MS

Culture and hospitality are Oxford’s bread and butter. Whether it’s a festival or just an impromptu crowd, there’s always something happening on the Square. And trust us—you’ve never tailgated until you’ve tailgated in the Grove of Ole Miss.

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Lawrence, KS

Lawrence is basketball-obsessed, as the Kansas University Jayhawks are always in contention for a national championship. When students are catching a game, they’re also grabbing a cream cheese donut or taking advantage of dirt-cheap drink specials ($2.50 beers anyone?).

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Hanover, NH

There’s no missing Dartmouth in Hanover. The Dartmouth Green essentially forms the downtown area. Just south along Main Street is a drag of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that would make any city five times larger jealous.

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Norman, OK

The University of Oklahoma (oddly called OU) brings 30,000 students to Norman every fall. It’s no surprise, then, that Norman is the festival capital of Oklahoma. Plus, it has two world class museums: the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History & the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

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Athens, GA

Downtown Athens has more bars per capita than nearly any other area in the country (80 total, to be exact). You can bet with University of Georgia students aren’t studying, they’re enjoying the downtown nightlife.

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Tuscaloosa, AL

Tuscaloosa is the Deep South, so the southern cuisine is always on point. There’s nothing better than a large helping of comfort food after you didn’t quite nail an exam. When University of Alabama football isn’t on (or even when it is), the Strip is the place to see and be seen.

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Clemson, SC

With 18,000 students, Clemson University basically doubles the population of Clemson (the city) while school is in session. There’s also a large retirement community of boomers who love being near that youthful energy.

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Tempe, AZ

Constant sunshine. Palm trees. And only a 15 minute drive to downtown Phoenix, a city of over 1 million people. You could say that Arizona State is in the perfect location. The highly educated populace also draws numerous Fortune 500 companies to the area.

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