The 5 Best College Cities, and Where You’d Be Lucky to Attend

by Bobbie PrestonApril 30, 2015

Visit Our Nation’s Best Cities for Going to College

There are colleges just about everywhere, but the university experience isn’t just about the school itself. As most people would agree, it’s also about the entire lifestyle of the city that surrounds it. Let us be your guide to the top 5 best college cities in the country, and what makes them so special.

Boulder, Colorado

It’s easy to see why Boulder, Colorado is such a desirable city to live in. It’s a relatively small town, so you can walk or bike anywhere you need to go. It’s only a short drive from breathtaking natural landscapes, including the famed Flatirons, the iconic mountain range where you can hike and rock climb to your heart’s content. Boulder’s culinary scene is unbelievably diverse and delicious for a place of its size, and there’s far more culture here than in some cities ten times as populous.

Major schools here include University of Colorado, and Naropa University, the nation’s first institute of higher learning founded on Buddhist principles. The student population is just shy of 50,000, out of a total of around 100k, so students make up nearly half the local populace. Further, many of the locals are former students who loved it so much, they couldn’t bear to leave after graduation.

Ames, Iowa

Like Boulder, Ames Iowa is a college town, through and through. Iowa State University is situated in this small Iowa burg, and the 33,000 students who attend school here make up a substantial portion of the population. Unlike many university towns, housing is actually quite affordable in Ames, which makes it attractive for students on a budget.

Ames may be small, but there’s a lot going on. The town has an active nightlife, a wealth of quirky independent shops and coffeehouses, and more pastoral green spaces than you can shake a stick at. ISU Cyclones games are a popular event in Ames, as is the Ames Main Street Farmers Market.

Ann Arbor, MI

The winters may be harsh in Ann Arbor, but the locals don’t let a little cold weather stop them from having a good time. Football season is a big highlight around here, with throngs of students and locals getting decked out in Maize and Blue for home games. During the warmer months, students here take advantage of the many miles of hiking and biking trails, an eclectic assortment of top-notch nosh spots, and a vibrant collection of nighttime hotspots.

This is another place where students come for college and stay for the excellent livability and strong job market. Local employers include University of Michigan, Google, Toyota, and the EPA.

Oxford, Ohio

Miami University is considered one of the original “public ivies”: public schools where an Ivy League-quality education can be had without the astronomical price tag. Founded in 1810 through an act signed by George Washington, the university actually came before the city that surrounds it.

Why is Oxford, Ohio one of the best college towns in the country? Over the years, it’s grown to be a wonderful little city, with extremely low crime rates, great schools at every level, and a whimsical small-town charm that you just can’t get in places like NYC or nearby Cincinnati. Here, you’ll have no trouble finding a parking spot, unless there’s a football game going on. High Street is the local hangout, where students and longtime residents mingle in coffeehouses, pubs, and boutique shops.

Tempe, Arizona

Tempe is known for it’s year-round summer weather, but the home of the ASU Sun Devils has more than mere sunshine going for it. As part of the greater Phoenix metro area, Tempe offers residents easy access to all the amenities and attractions that have made the Valley of the Sun such a desirable place to live.

Tempe itself boasts more than 175 miles of bike paths and trails, pro-caliber golf courses, the lively nightlife scene of Mill Avenue, a world-class waterpark, and the excitement of the ever-popular Arizona Cardinals home games.

So Many Choices

These are a few of our picks for the best college towns in the country, but it wasn’t easy choosing just five. We didn’t even get to talk about Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, or Corvallis, Oregon. Oh well, maybe next time.

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Bobbie Preston