The Best College Town in Every State
Besides being filled with youthful energy made anew by each year's class of students, the best college town in every state is often filled with restaurants, shops and cultural attractions worth a visit.
The Best College Town in Every State
College towns make great places to live. Besides being filled with youthful energy made anew by each incoming class of students, they are often filled with restaurants, shops and cultural attractions that attract this younger population.
But their gain is ours as well. Live music, museums, theater and academic lectures are all offered in a setting straight out of a storybook. And let's not forget game days during basketball or football seasons when sports fans, decked out in school colors, take over to cheer on their favorite teams.
Numerous sources like to pick the best of these towns. Far & Wide combined lists from USA Today, College Ranker, Best College Reviews, Best Value Schools and others to highlight the best college town in every state that are all worth a visit.
Bottom Line: Tuscaloosa
One of the largest schools in the country, the University of Alabama, calls Tuscaloosa home. There are nearly 40,000 people enrolled in college here — nearly a quarter of the town's population!
Rated one of the most livable cities in the U.S., as well as one of the best places for young people, Tuscaloosa's population hovers near 100,000. And just watch out, come football season, when everyone takes to the streets in support of the town's beloved Crimson Tide.
Bottom Line: Fairbanks
The sense of community found in Fairbanks is so strong that Livability ranks it at No. 4 of all college towns. There are only 32,000 people in this northern town, with just over 8,300 of them attending the University of Alaska. The small population keeps its residents close-knit.
This is not a place for the weak: Temperatures can reach 40 degrees below zero — when you'll find students in their swimsuits taking photos in front of the weather sign.
Bottom Line: Tempe
There are more than 42,000 students residing in Tempe — one of the largest populations of students in the country. With 16 different colleges and universities in the area, including Arizona State University, it is easy to see why the median age here is 29.
Large employers in Tempe include State Farm, Wells Fargo and the university itself.
Bottom Line: Fayetteville
While the national average of adults holding a bachelor's degree is just over 30 percent, in Fayetteville, it is more than 48 percent!
Three colleges and universities are located in Fayetteville, including the University of Arkansas. This explains why there are twice as many bars and restaurants per person than the national average as well!
Bottom Line: Berkeley
Such a college town is Berkeley, you'll find that more than 72 percent of its residents have a bachelor's degree, and about 40,000 people are enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley — or one-third of the population! Of course, Berkeley is just across the Bay from Silicon Valley where some of the most sought-after jobs await.
But why not just stay here? Berkeley is home to not one but four movie theaters, most of which show independent, foreign and specialty films in a very Bay Area sort of way. And it's Greek Theatre attracts top-name acts to its historic outdoor amphitheater.
Home to: Naropa University, University of Colorado Boulder
Where to stay:Hotel Boulderado
Bottom Line: Boulder
Boulder is renowned for being an outdoor lover's dream, with hundreds of miles of bike paths and sidewalks beckoning people to abandon their cars and use their feet. The average residents in Boulder are only 28 years of age, according to USA Today, which is 10 years younger than the country's median age. Attribute the age to the fact that the town is home to six different colleges and universities, including the University of Colorado – Boulder.
Best College Reviews loves Boulder so much, it lands at No. 1 on its list of the 50 best college towns.
Home to: Trinity College, University of Hartford
Where to stay: The Goodwin Hotel
Bottom Line: Hartford
The capital of Connecticut is one of the oldest cities in the country as well as home to some excellent colleges. The University of Connecticut's law school, University of Hartford and Trinity College can be found here.
Feeling more like a small town that a city, the population of under 125,000 finds employment at healthcare and insurance companies, including Travelers, Aetna and The Hartford.
Bottom Line: Newark
Delaware is a small state filled with quaint towns, but Newark has the honor of being one of the most charming, according to Best Value Schools. As home to the University of Delaware, this college town is vibrant and energetic.
There are more than 33,000 residents in Newark, where the median age is a young 23.9 — a product of its students who flood the town year after year.
Bottom Line: Gainesville
Of the about 120,000 people living in this North Central Florida town, a large percentage of them are enrolled at one of four college and university campuses. And a majority of those students are attending one of the biggest and best universities in the country: the University of Florida. In fact, U.S. News & World Report recently named it the seventh-best public university in the U.S.
That might explain why Best College Reviews noted that Gainesville was the second fastest-growing city in America in recent years. Go Gators!
Home to: University of Georgia
Where to stay: Graduate Athens
Bottom Line: Athens
You'll find that nearly 33,000 of the adults in Athens are enrolled in one of the three schools here — the largest of which is the University of Georgia, which also happens to be the biggest in the state. The town is renowned for its music scene and birthed bands like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, the B52's and the Indigo Girls.
Another benefit of living in Athens is its close proximity to Atlanta, which offers large employers for employment as well entertainment, activities and attractions.
Bottom Line: Honolulu
Any town in Hawaii will feel like paradise, but Honolulu, the capital of the collective island state, earned a spot on Sunset magazine's top 10 college town list for more than its beaches, palm trees and surfing. One caveat: Honolulu categorizes as a city: There are nearly 350,000 people living here! But due to its remote location, it certainly provides a segregated town vibe.
Home to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and two community colleges, Honolulu is filled with students, along with plenty of entertainment, businesses and places to live after graduation.
Bottom Line: Rexburg
In Idaho, Boise often gets the praise, but a review of best college towns by Reviews.org determined Rexford is top-notch. Not only is the cost of living low and student employment high, it provides a small-town feel with less than 30,000 people and offers great employment options for students.
Just note: It's not a party town by any means, as it's home to Brigham Young University, a predominantly Mormon school.
Bottom Line: Champaign
Located in central Illinois, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the nation's largest schools. USA Today ranks Champaign one of the best college towns and found more than 30 percent of the residents are enrolled in school here.
Half of the 65,000 residents also are armed with bachelor's degrees, making this a well-educated town set against the farmland. And it's worth noting that Reviews.org named it the sixth-best college town for night life and fun.
Bottom Line: Bloomington
Indiana University, located in Bloomington, brings so many people to the town that more than 44 percent of the population is enrolled in college or university.
Residents in Bloomington average under 24, and many of those remain after school ends — with nearly 57 percent of residents having degrees.
Bottom Line: Ames
Landing as the No. 1 college town on USA Today's list (and No. 5 on the Best College Reviews ranking), Ames is home to Iowa State University. Nearly half of its young population — the median age is 23 — are enrolled in school.
Nearly 63 percent of the residents in Ames hold degrees. And, there are plenty of reasons to stay beyond graduation with employers including the USDA, 3M and the university itself as well as vibrant nightlife and a small-town community that makes you feel right at home.
Bottom Line: Lawrence
Lawrence is home to the University of Kansas, and more than a fourth of its population attends school here. Although the median age is well under the national average at 27.5, the adults who remain here are highly educated — more than half hold a bachelor's degree.
The town bleeds red and blue in support of the university's beloved Jayhawks that happen to always have one of the best college basketball teams in the country.
Home to: Transylvania University, University of Kentucky
Where to stay:Staybridge Suites Lexington
Bottom Line: Lexington
Louisville may be home to the Kentucky Derby, but when it comes to year-round fun in a college town, that honor was bestowed upon Lexington. Located in horse country, the town landed on both the Best College Reviews and Reviews.org lists, which highlighted that tech and government companies keep the economy stable for new grads.
It's bigger than most college towns on this list with a population of more than 308,000 — 30,000 of which attend the University of Kentucky.
Bottom Line: Monroe
Not only does the University of Louisiana provide a youthful energy to the city of Monroe, but its museums, garden and zoo are what make this college town a favorite of College Ranker.
Monroe, with a population of about 48,000, is home to companies like Chase and CenturyLink that provide job opportunities for graduates from the university, where pharmacy and business studies are prominent.
Bottom Line: Brunswick
New England is filled with towns that seem straight out of the movie, "Pleasantville," so picking the best may be tough. Unless you are New England Today, which proclaimed Brunswick to be one of the most picturesque college towns.
Brunswick, a town with less than 17,000 residents, is located on the rugged Atlantic Ocean coastline. Its main claim to fame is Bowdoin College, ranked a top liberal arts school, that dates all the way back to 1794.
Bottom Line: College Park
The University of Maryland's home base, College Park, is a small town with big-city amenities. Located within a commuter train ride from Washington, D.C., residents and students here enjoy cheaper housing than the nation's capital. The cheaper rent also attracts restauranteurs and boutiques ready to leave behind D.C.'s high prices.
Plus, there are only about 32,000 people residing in College Park, which means less traffic and a neighborhood environment.
Home to: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Where to stay:Hotel 1868
Bottom Line: Cambridge
Just across the Charles River from Boston is the largest concentration of degree-holders in the country. More than 75 percent of adult residents have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree.
These are the world's elite after all. Home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, more than a quarter of the adults here are enrolled in university or college.
Bottom Line: Ann Arbor
Just about one in three people living in Ann Arbor are enrolled in postsecondary school. There are four different schools here, including the University of Michigan, one of the largest universities in the country. Even more impressive are the number of bars and restaurants catering to the students — there are 362 per every 100,000 people!
With such a young, educated population, you'll find employers like Google, Toyota and the Environmental Protection Agency available to hire the best. This lands Ann Arbor at No. 2 on the Best College Reviews ranking.
Home to: The College of St. Scholastica, University of Minnesota Duluth
Where to stay:Fitger's Inn
Bottom Line: Duluth
With the waters of Lake Superior lapping against its shores, residents of Duluth can enjoy miles or trails along the waterfront as well as glacier-created forested hills. Home to a branch of the University of Minnesota, students and residents enjoy the best of both worlds: the energy and programs coming from the educational programs and a small-town environment to ensure the great outdoors don't get too crowded.
Duluth is Minnesota's fourth-largest city, with a population of about 85,000.
Home to: University of Mississippi
Where to stay:Chancellor's House
Bottom Line: Oxford
The University of Mississippi and its home town of Oxford are the quintessential Old South. Flowering trees, expansive campus yards and a small-town feel with less than 40,000 people, Oxford often gets credited as one of the most charming towns in the country.
Ranking on a number of best college town lists, Oxford is known for its significance in American history from the Civil War to the civil rights movement.
Bottom Line: Columbia
Home to the University of Missouri, Columbia College and Stephens College, 26 percent of residents in Columbia are students.
More than half of the adults living here have degrees and are just ripe for positions at local employers such as Carfax, Shelter Insurance and Columbia Insurance Group that make Columbia a work base.
Home to: Montana State University
Where to stay:RSVP Hotel
Bottom Line: Bozeman
It's Montana, so of course one would expect to enjoy the plentiful outdoor fun surrounding Bozeman. From skiing to fishing to hiking, the small town of less than 60,000 has much to offer outside of education.
Within hallowed halls, however, you'll discover Montana State University welcomes students who often graduate to work for the biotech companies that have set up shop in Bozeman.
Home to: Nebraska Wesleyan University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Where to stay: Graduate Lincoln
Bottom Line: Lincoln
The capital of Nebraska, Lincoln is certainly a city with 288,000 people. But don't let it fool you: There are 373 miles of trails to explore in this Midwestern community. The University of Nebraska is also surrounded by more than outdoor recreation, with ample entertainment, museums and gardens to enjoy.
As the capital, Lincoln also offers opportunities in numerous industries for working long after your own college days are over.
Home to: University of Nevada, Reno
Where to stay: Whitney Peak Hotel
Bottom Line: Reno
"The Biggest Little City in the World" (as Reno calls itself) lands in the top five on Reviews.org's best college towns for, what else? Bars! This casino town is more than its nightlife, however.
With a population of more than 250,000 (nearly three times smaller than Las Vegas), Reno is home to the University of Nevada as well as Truckee Meadows Community College. Students can also find plenty of work here during school and following graduation.
Bottom Line: Hanover
If the likes of Dartmouth College alumni such as Nelson Rockefeller and Robert Frost can call Hanover home for a spell, then surely the town caters to those with distinguished tastes.
The town of 11,500 people welcomes an elite, 6,000 students to its historic town, which dates back to 1761. Of course, Dartmouth College's offerings to its residents include cultural treats worthy of big cities in the heart of central New Hampshire.
New Jersey: Montclair
Home to: Montclair State University
Where to stay:The George
Bottom Line: Montclair
Just a 40-minute train ride to New York City, Montclair is an upscale suburban college town. The streets are filled with boutiques and restaurants worthy of Manhattan prices, yet with plenty of mom-and-pop feels.
Montclair State University brings in more than 20,000 students, which makes up more than half of the town's population.
Bottom Line: Las Cruces
Albuquerque gets praised for its university atmosphere, but when it comes to small-town places in New Mexico, Reviews.org gives Las Cruces a thumbs up. The cost of living is low, and students at New Mexico State University and Dona Ana Community College have low unemployment, making it easier for the kids to attend school.
Nearby, Lincoln National Forest provides outdoor fun, yet you can cross the nearby Texas border to enjoy "big city" fun in El Paso. Not that Las Cruces is tiny. The population here is near 100,000.
New York: Ithaca
Home to: Cornell University, Ithaca College
Where to stay: La Tourelle
Bottom Line: Ithaca
In Upstate New York, the quaint town of Ithaca is home to Ithaca College and Cornell University. It does get covered with snow — lots of it — which could explain why nearly half of the more than 67,000 people who live here are students!
While the people of Ithaca don't typically stick around after college, it is just 4 hours from New York City and its hundreds of employers.
North Carolina: Greenville
Home to: East Carolina University
Where to stay:Hilton Greenville
Bottom Line: Greenville
With the feel of a small town, Greenville actually has a population of more than 90,000. Yet nearly a third of this group is enrolled in school.
There are four colleges and universities here, including East Carolina University.
Bottom Line: Grand Forks
The University of North Dakota makes Grand Forks exactly what you expect from a college town: A small town with a low cost of living and strong economy.
Students make up less than a third of the 55,000 residents, who can find work at companies such as Amazon and Altru Health System.
Bottom Line: Athens
The second American city on this list to be named for the Greek town of Athens is so named because of its significance in higher education and learning. Here, Ohio University is settled into a gorgeous tree-lined city — the National Arbor Day Foundation named the town Tree City USA in 2016.
The university is of such importance to the town of fewer than 25,000 people that it also serves as its largest employer.
Bottom Line: Norman
Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma, and nearly a quarter of its residents are enrolled in school.
Those who stay often come from one of the three colleges and universities with more than 42 percent of the residents holding at least a bachelor's degree. (That's 11 percent higher than the national average.)
Bottom Line: Corvallis
Nestled midway in the Willamette Valley, you'll find Corvallis, one of the best places to live for outdoor lovers. And right in the heart of it is Oregon State University.
Companies like Hewlett-Packard and CH2M Hill are eager to snap up graduates in what Forbes once ranked one of the smartest towns in the country. With a population close to 60,000, Corvallis won't make you feel lost in the wilderness either.
Bottom Line: State College
Known by students at Penn State University as "Happy Valley," State College is centrally located between Pittsburgh to the west and Philadelphia to the east.
When students aren't in town, State College has a population of just under 42,000. But when the students descend — more than 45,000 of them — they make up the majority of the people roaming around the rolling hills and campus.
Rhode Island: Providence
Home to: Brown University, Rhode Island College
Where to stay: Christopher Dodge House
Bottom Line: Providence
The capital of Rhode Island feels like one giant college campus with the likes of Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence College, the University of Rhode Island and Johnson & Wales spread amongst this city of less than 180,000.
With some of the best chefs- and artists-in-training, the food and art scene in Providence is off the charts. And Brown, established in 1764, is one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
South Carolina: Beaufort
Home to: University of South Carolina
Where to stay: Cuthbert House Inn
Bottom Line: Beaufort
Just shy of picturesque vacation destination Hilton Head Island, Beaufort enjoys the same laidback, Palmetto-lined communities with warmer-than-average temperatures in the winter to make up for any hot and humid days that summer may bring.
The University of South Carolina's Beaufort location is ranked high amongst schools. And if you keep your eyes open, you'll spot scenes from the movie "Forrest Gump," shot here. This small town is home to less than 15,000 residents, so prepare to enjoy Southern Hospitality at its finest.
Bottom Line: Vermillion
Along the banks of the Missouri River, Vermillion and the University of South Dakota are found in the southeastern corner of the state. The town brings its community together with entertaining events and attractions, including its 34-acre park.
South Dakota is not home to very large towns, and as the 10-largest in the state, Vermillion only has 11,000 people. This is certainly a place where neighbors get to know one another.
Home to: Knoxville College, Johnson University, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Where to stay:The Oliver Hotel
Bottom Line: Knoxville
When it comes to the cost of living, Reviews.org loves Knoxville, home to the University of Tennessee, Johnson University, Knoxville College and more.
Located in eastern Tennessee, Knoxville has less than 190,000 people, who not only benefit from the multiple schools available for higher education, but also close proximity to the most popular national park in the country: Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Bottom Line: College Station
As its name implies, College Station is a small town with big aspirations. One of just three towns in USA Today's list to have more than 40 percent of its population enrolled in school, the median age of its citizens are under 23.
The largest of the two schools found in College Station is none other than Texas A&M University, which has a massive student population of almost 70,000, the biggest in the U.S.
Home to: Brigham Young University, Provo College
Where to stay:Hyatt Place Provo
Bottom Line: Provo
As USA Today pointed out, there are about one in three residents enrolled in college in this Utah town. Although there are eight different schools here, one of the largest private universities leads the charge: Brigham Young University.
One of the larger towns on this list — the population hovers near 120,000 — Provo's arts and culture scene attracts many graduates to stay after earning their degrees.
Home to: Champlain College, University of Vermont
Where to stay:Hotel Vermont
Bottom Line: Burlington
Located in northern Vermont, near the New York State border, Burlington was tagged more than a decade ago as a town to watch by AARP. The town quickly has risen on the hipster list with breweries, live music and a growing cultural scene.
The University of Vermont, Champlain College and Burlington College bring in thousands of college students — not to mention the etiquette classes held at the Emily Post Institute. There are just over 42,000 people in Burlington, with over 14,000 seeking degrees from its schools.
Home to: University of Virginia
Where to stay:Boar's Head Resort
Bottom Line: Charlottesville
A town that raised two U.S. Presidents — Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe — must have an excellent university system, not to mention charm. Charlottesville has it in spades.
Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is not only home to the University of Virginia, but it also houses Jefferson's former home of Monticello — both of which are deemed UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Home to: Northwest Indian College, Western Washington University
Where to stay: Fairhaven Village Inn
Bottom Line: Bellingham
Home to Western Washington University, Bellingham welcomes more than 17,000 students. There are forests and waterways that lead to the nearby Canadian border to provide Bellingham's 90,000 residents with an abundance of outdoor recreation.
Reviews.org selected Bellingham for having less than 250,000 people to give it a more small-town feel. Plus, the unemployment rate and low cost of living earned it a place in the ranking's top 10.
Bottom Line: Morgantown
Home to West Virginia University, this small town packs a big punch, Best Value Schools reports. Its population of fewer than 30,000 people creates one of the strongest economies found in the country!
Credited as one of America's best small towns, you'll find boutiques, restaurants and cultural finds in its historic downtown. Just how many rave about Morgantown? Southern Living named it one of the South's Best Small Towns, Money magazine named it the top place to live in the state, and Insurify named it the Most Educated City in West Virginia.
Home to: Edgewood College, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Where to stay:Hotel Ruby Marie
Bottom Line: Madison
Best College Reviews loves Madison's historic downtown, nestled between two lakes, so it named the Wisconsin capital its No. 3 best college town. Plus, with 15 colleges and universities in the area, Madison squeezed into the top 30 Best College Towns by USA Today.
The University of Wisconsin and other schools bring 50,000 students to this capital city every school year.
Home to: University of Wyoming, WyoTech
Where to stay: Vee Bar Guest Ranch
Bottom Line: Laramie
It's been a few years since Laramie has landed on a collective list of the best college towns, but it doesn't change the fact that it is the best college town in the state. Within the last five years, Forbes and College Values both named Laramie a top town, beating out places across the country.
Noted for having low taxes for its near 33,000 residents, Laramie has often been cited as a good retirement city, too. But don't tell that to the students of the University of Wyoming or WyoTech who may want to keep things a bit more lively.