Choosing college is like choosing a house: location is key. While other factors must be considered–degree programs and cost, for instance–if you’re not happy in your space, other things will lose their magic. While no college town is a perfect fit for everyone, the following is a sample of great college towns that represent a diversity of sizes and vibes.
Best College Towns: Major Metro
Population: 616,627 (city); 3.5 million (metro area)
Seattle offers big-city living in a place that won’t swallow you whole. Although not the biggest, Seattle is filled with culture, entertainment, and great food. It’s a friendly city, too, making it a truly great college town. Seattle offers:
• 37 performing arts centers, 17 museums,and 30 public libraries
• A mild climate that rarely gets too hot or too cold
• Dozens of festivals a year
Best College Towns: Large City
Population 786,386 (city); 1.7 million (metro area)
While many cities offer lots to do, not all can pull off a small-town feel. But Austin’s cultural and entertainment scenes are far from small-town. Did you know the following about Austin?
• Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, is home to over 1,900 bands and performing artists
• Austin City Limits is the longest-running popular music series in American television history
• Designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by The League of American Bicyclists
Best College Town: Medium City
Cool medium-sized cities like Madison offer a high concentration of art, culture, and food. A regular on “Best College Towns” and “Best Places to Live” lists, Madison is a place that embraces:
• The arts: Municipally-funded Madison Arts Commission provides cultural funding and support.
• Public transportation: In addition to great city-wide public transportation, Wisconsin is building high-speed passenger rail service from Madison to Milwaukee.
• Parks and recreation: There are beaches, conservation parks, bike and walking paths, five area lakes, and hundreds of hiking miles.
Best College Town: Small City
A CNN Money “Best Places,” Missoula is a college town that perfectly blends hippies, artists, cowboys, and athletes. It’s also a place that embraces its landscape: hiking, biking, kayaking, fly-fishing, and skiing are popular here. What else makes it a top college town?
• Regular free outdoor festivals.
• Tailgating parties supporting the top-in-division University of Montana football team, The Griz.
• Rampant arts, including symphony concerts, an annual Jazz festival, and monthly First Friday art walks.
Best College Town: Small Town
Another CNN Money “Best Places,” Williamstown is as idyllic New England as you’ll find. Williams College is regularly named the #1 liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This may not be a place for those who want big lights and non-stop action, but small as it is Williamstown packs in a lot, including:
• The award-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival
• The exquisite Clark Art Museum, featuring exhibits, films, and opera.
• Endless outdoor recreation, including hiking, skiing, biking, and fishing.
Whether you’re looking for a small town or a big metropolis, finding the right college town for you can make your college experience truly great.