7 College Campuses That Are Actually Great to Visit

An elite few of America’s top schools have top attractions to match, combining architecture, landscapes and activities that are worth a visit.

Back to school season is almost upon us, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your travel plans as you head back to class or send your beloved students off to school. Some of America’s college and university campuses are destinations unto themselves.

We’ve rounded up the most notable campuses across the US, highlighting features like stunning architecture, diverse landscapes, and culture and activities for the whole family. Because, let’s face it, studying isn’t everything.

Flagler College, St. Augustine, FL

Imagine attending college in a luxury hotel? This opulent campus centers around the original Ponce de Leon Hotel and was built in 1867 by a New York oil tycoon in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style. The school is a National Historic Landmark once visited by distinguished guests like Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and Babe Ruth. Thomas Edison personally wired it for electricity and the world’s largest collection of Tiffany stained glass works resides inside.

In 2018, Flagler celebrated its 50th anniversary and Flagler Legacy Tours are offered from May to August.

Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

This National Historic Landmark overlooks the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains – spreading out over 540 acres. And though it dates to 1860, its architecture swings wildly from neoclassical to modern. With sweeping mansions now used as dorms, students and their families will appreciate the beauty of the Georgian revival Blithewood, the Collegiate Gothic Stine Row and Tudor revival Ward Manor.

But it’s the cutting-edge Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Frank Gehry’s first building constructed in the Northeast and open since 2003, which provides this campus a solid home for theater, music and adventurous performing arts, with over 200 events open to the public every year.

Rice-University.jpg?mtime=20190813115702#asset:106632 The main building of Rice University from inside the campus © Christian Offenberg / Dreamstime.com

Rice University, Houston, TX

Nestled in the museum district of this busy city, Rice University consists of about 50 buildings spread across 285 acres and boasts an oasis of green space – including the over 4000 trees and shrubs in the Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum. Of course, this is Texas, so football is a big part of campus life, and Rice Stadium, the site of Super Bowl VIII, can seat 47,000 fans and up to 70,000 people for other events.

Most of the architecture is uniform in its Mediterranean Revival-style, though older buildings like Lovett Hall, named after the university’s first president, preserves medieval elements and welcomes students and families alike with its iconic Sallyport arch. The more modern Twilight Epiphany Skyspace is also a draw, and the light show is open to the public six days a week.

De Pauw University, Greencastle, IN

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this Midwestern campus combines old world charm with a naturalist bent, boasting nine miles of trails in its 520-acre nature park – which encompasses fields, forests, waterfalls and even an abandoned limestone quarry.

It’s also closely integrated with the lively town of Greencastle, which offers a rotating roster of performing arts and community events as well as a safe, fun space to socialize. The university’s celebrated Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts hosts everything from musicals and theater productions to ensembles and chamber music concerts.

college-of-william-and-mary.jpg?mtime=20190813120139#asset:106633A small Japanese style bridge on the campus of College and William and Mary © Brian Cherry / Dreamstime.com

College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA

This campus is a bastion of history, housing the oldest collegiate building in the US, the Sir Christopher Wren Building. Named after the English royalty which chartered it in 1693, William III and Mary II, the college’s 1200 acres accommodates several other historic buildings used as both dorms and academic spaces, and the grassy Sunken Garden, best to visit in spring and fall, is a haven for students to relax, study and socialize.

The Duke of Gloucester Street also links the campus to Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstructed capital – allowing for a unique relationship to the past while retaining the student body’s robust modernity.

Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR

This Pacific Northwestern campus is named after renowned explorers Lewis and Clark and more importantly, is contiguous to the Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Though just over 130 acres, its location atop Portland’s Palatine Hill allows for stunning views of Mt. Hood and the over 100 types of trees that surround it.

Though beautiful to look at and explore, the college’s location also inspired its LEED-certified buildings, which uses 100 percent wind power to provide electricity. The Tudor-style Frank Manor House presides over the campus architecture and includes a conservatory, a rose garden and reflection pool.

Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA

Proudly towering over the City of Angels atop the Del Ray Hills bluffs, you’ll be bowled over by the striking views of the Pacific Ocean as well as the proximity of Los Angeles proper. Because of its Catholic roots, there are six chapels dotted inside campus, four of which are operated by its ministry.

The Spanish Gothic–style Sacred Heart Chapel is known for its intriguing and colorful stained-glass windows, while the post-modern Chapel of the Advocate designed by Frank Gehry includes a sunken entrance and an igloo-like structure with more impressionistic stained glass.

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