College towns are known for their broad range of activities, creative inspiration and outgoing residents. Here’s a look at some college towns that are fun at any age.
When we think about primo vacation spots in the United States, we often envision sandy beaches, powdery ski slopes, and major metropolitan cities. Places like Hawaii, Aspen, and New York City come to mind as some of the best vacation destinations in the country. However, there are numerous spots throughout the States that are absolutely worth a visit and have the potential to offer you a lot more than you might have originally thought. College towns are some of the most interesting and unique destinations around. There are many quirky college towns in the U.S. that go sadly overlooked as vacationing destinations. These three college towns offer drastically different sights and attractions and can each make for a wonderful family vacation or a personal retreat.
Lawrence, Kansas- University of Kansas
When we think vacation, Kansas isn’t necessarily the first state to come to mind. Many people flock to the major vacationing spots without considering some of the lesser known (or at least lesser visited) locations in the States. Kansas is full of rolling, impossibly green hills, endless blue skies, and trees filled with magical, twinkling fireflies at night. In many ways, Lawrence presents you with a mystical and whimsical atmosphere in one of the most welcoming and familiar settings you can imagine. Home to the Jayhawks, Lawrence is no doubt one of the cutest college towns in the U.S.
Students meander down Mass St., popping in and out of the mom and pop craft stores and cupcake shops. Whether you are there for a college visit with your high school senior or taking a unique vacation of your own, Lawrence has tons to offer. Take an art walk in Easy Lawrence to see unique lawn art on the houses and yards. These quirky artistic houses are scattered throughout Rhode Island Street between 7th and 8th, making for the perfect late morning bike ride destination. If you’re looking for a great place to eat, there are a number of fun little restaurants along the main drag. Visit Chef Michael Bear’s restaurant 715 located at 715 Massachusetts Street for artisanal pastas, pizzas, and meats. Or, if you’re looking to make a special dish of your own, travel to Au Marche the European grocery store, specializing in cheese, salami, pate, coffee, and chocolate. There are numerous outdoor adventures to embark on in the flat lands of Kansas. One of my favorites by far is the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center. Located on Kentucky Street, the outdoor aquatic center has fun water slides, toy features, sun bathing, and much more.
Though there are no peaks to climb or beaches to lounge on, Lawrence evokes an old-timey feeling that just warms your soul. Explore the green fields with dancing fireflies at dusk, the sunflower gardens filling the hillsides, or enjoy an amazing trip to one of the most celebrated Universities in the county.
Boulder, Colorado- University of Colorado
Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder has an abundance of beautiful views to offer its visitors and residents. At the risk of sounding like a sales pitch, Boulder offers some of the most spectacular views the Mountain West has to offer. A true college town, Boulder is almost nested away between mountain peaks and snow valleys. Perfect for any adventurous outdoors man, Boulder offers skiing, snow shoeing, hiking, rock climbing, river rafting, fly fishing, and much more all within a half and hours drive.
Looking to take the family on an enriching trip to interesting and unique museums in town, Boulder has plenty to offer. Check out Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art for a truly unique art experience with the whole family. This museum is filled with paintings and sculptures that represent the Old West. Pearl Street Mall is also one of the primo attractions in Boulder, situated in the heart of historic Downtown Boulder and offering colorful street performers and shops. For the more adventurous, the Flatirons are a major attraction to check out in Boulder. Jagged sandstone rock formations, create the distinctive Flatirons that symbolize the town itself. Situated only about a mile away from the center of town, the Flatirons provide beautiful sights and exciting hiking near the city. After a challenging hike, head to the award winning restaurant Jax Fish House for a delicious and refreshing meal. Though popular before the fact, head chef Hosea Rosenberg won the highly popular series Top Chef in 2009.
Boulder is home to the CU Buffs, the International Film Series, the Polar Bear Plunge, and many other fun traditions held by the University and locals. Boulder often achieves top rankings in health, well-being, and quality of life lists and surveys. With so much to do outdoors, it’s really no surprise that Boulder residents are among the healthiest in the country.
Austin, Texas- University of Texas
Known for its off-beat slogan “Keep Austin Weird”, Austin, Texas is a destination and homestead for numerous self-proclaimed weirdos. As the fourth largest city in the state of Texas and the 13th most populous city in the United States, people are flocking to this “college town” for more than just its off-beat charm. Austin is one of the most unique and quirky cities you can visit in the U.S. With over half a million people living there, it’s hard to classify this metropolis as a “college town”. However, with the University of Texas and all of its 50 thousand plus students making up a significant portion of the population, Austin is no question a college town in a big city.
When visiting Austin, there are a number of different destinations people will insist you must see. There is a wealth of little day trips to make and sights to see. However, the Congress Avenue bat colony is probably one of the best. This is the largest urban bat colony in North America and is a spectacle to see. Go to Congress Ave. at sunset April through October to see 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats depart into the night. If bats aren’t your cup of tea per se, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to see meadows of beautiful Texas wildflowers and exhibits dedicated to the preservation of native landscaping. Barton Springs Pool is one of the most unique places to visit in Austin, offering temperate waters of artesian spring-fed swimming. Also, of course, you cannot leave Texas without trying traditional Texas BBQ. Go to Stubbs Bar B Q for a live show and delicious Texas style barbeque.
With famous bat colonies, indie rock shows every night of the week, and endless fun traveling down 6th street near campus, Austin makes for a wonderful vacation for anyone looking to have a good time. While these attractions may not be exactly family friendly, there are plenty of other activities parents can do with their kids in the vast city.*******************************************
About The Author: Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.
Photo Credits – Flickr: #1 Justin Bugsy Sailor, #2 Alex Bonison, #3 Tom Patterson