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Fall foliage and stately buildings at Syracuse University in New York

California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania

7 Cool College Towns in the USA

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  • States:
    California
    Colorado
    Florida
    Massachusetts
    New York
    North Carolina
    Pennsylvania

No place does those memorable college years quite like the USA.

There is nowhere better to see everything in action than in these seven college towns, where the campuses are top draws, but the culture spills over into the communities surrounding them.

1. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is one of the best places to experience the collegiate atmosphere throughout every corner of the city. With over 30 colleges in the metropolitan area, Boston is a true college town masked as a major city. Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology stand boastfully across the Charles River in Cambridge, where geniuses past left their mark on these respected universities.

Major universities like Boston University and Northeastern epitomize what it means to have a campus feel in an urban setting. Smaller colleges, including Emerson, Berklee College of Music and Lesley University, enhance Boston’s cultural scene with acclaimed artistic and theatrical programs.

Socializing outdoors at the Harvard University campus in Boston

Socializing outdoors at the Harvard University campus in Boston
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2. State College, Pennsylvania

Centrally located in Pennsylvania, State College or “Happy Valley,” is regarded as one of the safest towns in the country due to its self-contained collegiate bubble. Penn State’s athletic teams are obviously the town’s lifeblood, but State College is not lacking for other entertainment. With an amazing music scene and nightlife, having a drink before the game at The Rathskeller or ending your night listening to local music at The Phyrst will quickly acclimate you to Penn State culture.

The historic Old Main building on the Penn State University campus

The historic Old Main building on the Penn State University campus
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3. Boulder, Colorado

Surrounded by some of the country’s most beautiful terrains, the high elevation of the city makes Boulder a cerebral and celestial destination. Walking around the University of Colorado, you’ll see backpacking, granola-eating students who are happy just to hike the Flatirons or chill on Pearl Street, the pedestrian mall downtown. Full of free-thinkers and naturists, Boulder’s avant-garde taste for healthy living and love for the outdoors add a distinct flavor to this college town.

Snowy day at the University of Colorado campus with the Rocky Mountains in the background

Snowy day at the University of Colorado campus with the Rocky Mountains in the background
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4. Syracuse, New York

Ignoring the harsh winters of upstate New York may seem impossible, but when in doubt, do as the natives do – party. Syracuse University provides a multitude of ways for students to express their school spirit in lieu of the bitter cold. The famous Faegan’s Café & Pub is always filled with enthusiastic students debating everything from politics to the recent SU basketball game.

Nighttime view of the Carrier Dome sports stadium at Syracuse University

Nighttime view of the Carrier Dome sports stadium at Syracuse University
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5. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Thirty-six murals adorn the walls of various establishments to both beautify and express the soul of Chapel Hill. Basking in greenery and history, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill excels in rankings, athletics and student life. Chapel Hill’s renowned cuisine, animated residents and loyalty to the winning Tar Heels teams are just a few of the reasons the town is known as “the southern part of heaven.”

Aerial night view of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus

Aerial night view of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus
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6. Berkeley, California

No town embodies revolution more than the coastal bay city of Berkeley. Progressive and radical in its history, nothing much has changed in this free-spirited and open-minded city. Take a hike up the emblematic Campanile or go to Sather Tower, where an amazing view of the San Francisco Bay area awaits you. Don't miss discovering Berkeley’s alternative culture on the historic Telegraph Street.

A view of the city from Grizzly Peak in the Berkeley Hills

A view of the city from Grizzly Peak in the Berkeley Hills
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7. Gainesville, Florida

Although the traditional ivy is absent from this city dotted with palm trees, Gainesville exemplifies the college good life in its own unique and tropical style. The University of Florida embodies a perfect mix of sun, fun and academics, although the latter might not stand out at first glance.

As the sun sets, the nightlife begins in downtown Gainesville

As the sun sets, the nightlife begins in downtown Gainesville
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