College towns are at their finest in the fall. Students are fresh-faced, leaves are changing, there's football and beer, nostalgia and charm.
A quick trip to a college town is the perfect weekend getaway. From striking campus architecture to all-American tailgates to leaf-peeping ventures, there's a great college town for everyone to visit.
Check out our favorite college towns to visit in the fall below!
Princeton, New Jersey
Home to prestigious Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., is a college town with a charm and class. About an hour from both New York City and Philadelphia, Princeton makes a great stop along an East Coast road-trip and warrants a visit in its own right. Take a stroll around the University's open, park-like campus. Architecture nerds will delight in the array of building styles -- there's colonial, Collegiate Gothic, Italianate, Romanesque and modern.
Take a journey into history with a visit to Charlottesville -- home to the University of Virginia and former United States President Thomas Jefferson. In fact, the University was conceived and designed by Jefferson himself. Charlottesville is packed with things to do -- from hiking, to beer and wine tours to the notable indie rock scene -- and it's all gorgeous in autumn. Of course, a visit to Monticello is a given.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan's home, Ann Arbor, is nicknamed "Tree Town" -- so there's no question that it's probably at its finest in the fall, with all those leaves changing. Plus, there's the football. Ann Arbor is rife with densely-forested parks, so you'll have your pick of leaf-peeping opportunities, and if that's not enough you can check out the University of Michigan's Nichols Arboretum. If you can snag tickets to a Wolverine's football game, get ready for some excitement. There's nothing like a Big Ten game -- or the tailgate before it.
Want to visit a quaint New England town that is also home to a beautiful, old liberal arts college? Head to Williamstown, Mass., tucked away in the Berkshire Mountains, and pay a visit to Williams College. Outdoorsy types will fall in love with the scenery, while artistic travelers will adore the Clark Art Institute.
The University of Vermont's abbreviation, "UVM" stands for its Latin name, Universitas Viridis Montis. In English that's the University of the Green Mountains. And those mountains are really pretty in the fall. Burlington is heaven for lovers of the great outdoors -- the waterfront is perfect for hiking and biking and the lake is ideal for kayaking, sailing or fishing. The Burlington marketplace offers tons of boutiques and shops selling artisanal and organic products. Make sure you pick up some maple syrup while you're there!
The University of California, Berkeley -- aka "Cal" -- makes a great West Coast destination for an autumn escape. Cal's campus (the original campus of the University of California system) serves as Berkeley's unofficial Central Park, with celebrated architecture, picturesque scenery, and walking paths that connect the campus to Downtown Berkeley. Make sure to check out the campus' gorgeous botanical gardens. Downtown Berkeley offers fun for the whole family, with an abundance of shopping and a vibrant dining scene.
Athens, Ga., is the ultimate college town. The city was basically established around the University and still remains highly influenced by its collegian residents. At the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Athens is stunning in autumn. The University is known for its athletics, so try and catch a football game if you have the opportunity!
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<strong><a href="http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/slideshows/americas-best-small-towns/2" title="America's Best Small Towns">See more of America's Best Small Towns</a></strong> Although the stunning Takshanuk Mountains have drawn adventurers for decades, this former U.S. Army outpost, bordering 20 million acres of unprotected wilderness, has become popular in recent years among heli-skiers. If you prefer your feet on solid ground, plan a visit in November when the sky is crowded with American bald eagles. An <a href="http://www.baldeagles.org/festival" title="Haines, Alaska: Bald Eagle Festival" target="_blank">annual festival</a> draws the world's largest concentration of the majestic birds of prey, which swoop in to feast on the Chilkat River's last run of salmon. Because Haines limits passing cruise ships to one docking per week, it is rarely overrun with (wingless) guests, giving visitors plenty of time and space to get to know the locals. Pop in on <a href="http://www.tresham.com/" title="Haines, Alaska: Tresham Gregg" target="_blank">Tresham Gregg</a>, a legendary local artist who specializes in puppets—and impromptu puppet shows, at one of his three downtown galleries. Or check out Dave Pahl's quirky <a href="http://www.hammermuseum.org/" title="Haines, Alaska: Hammer Museum" target="_blank">Hammer Museum</a>. If local gossip is what you're after, plant yourself on a barstool at the Fogcutter (<em>907-766-2555</em>) on Main Street with a pint of Haines Brewery's Spruce Tip Ale. Cap your day off with an only-in-Alaska sighting on Third Street—impressive hoofprints left by a moose that couldn't be bothered to stay off wet cement as it dried. <em><a href="http://www.haines.ak.us" title="America's Best Small Towns: Haines, Alaska" target="_blank">haines.ak.us</a></em> <em>Photo © Tanya Carlson</em>
Spring Green, Wisconsin
<strong><a href="http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/slideshows/americas-best-small-towns/3" title="America's Best Small Towns">See more of America's Best Small Towns</a></strong> In 1979, the <a href="http://www.americanplayers.org/" title="Spring Green Wisconsin: American Players Theatre" target="_blank">American Players Theatre</a> set up shop on 110 acres of woods in Spring Green and quickly began drawing crowds to its 1,148-seat outdoor amphitheater with a Shakespeare-heavy repertoire. APT's Skippeth-Out-of-Work-Early Thursday Nights (June through October) are a nice way to start off a long weekend in town; musicians stroll the banks of the beautiful Wisconsin River, and gas grills are fired up before the evening's starlit performance. Another idea for midweek fun: The cheekily named <a href="http://www.shittybarnsessions.com/" title="Spring Green, Wisconsin: Sh*tty Barn" target="_blank">Sh*tty Barn</a> draws on Spring Green's central location between Chicago and Milwaukee to lure musicians into town for intimate shows. <a href="http://www.taliesinpreservation.org/" title="Spring Green, Wisconsin: Taliesin" target="_blank">Taliesin</a>, the summer home and school of Frank Lloyd Wright, is also a requisite visit. And for a different architectural experience, spend a few hours puzzling over the bizarre <a href="http://www.thehouseontherock.com/" title="Spring Green, Wisconsin: House on the Rock" target="_blank">House on the Rock</a>, an amalgam of buildings and kitsch that's also a resort. The grounds include a championship golf course, and it's just across the street from APT, "in a country sort of way," as the locals put it. In other words, it's about a mile down the road. <em><a href="http://www.springgreen.com" title="America's Best Small Towns: Spring Green, Wisconsin" target="_blank">springgreen.com</a></em> <em>Photo © Carissa Dixon</em>
<strong><a href="http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/slideshows/americas-best-small-towns/4" title="America's Best Small Towns">See more of America's Best Small Towns</a></strong> "The college came first and the community followed," fifth-generation Berean Belle Jackson says of her hometown. Founded in 1855, <a href="http://www.berea.edu/" title="Berea, Kentucky: Berea College" target="_blank">Berea College</a> was the only integrated and coeducational college in the South for nearly 40 years until Kentucky outlawed interracial education. The school then shifted its focus to low-income communities in the neighboring Appalachian Mountains, and still does today. None of the school's 1,500 full-time students pay tuition. Instead, they spend 10 to 15 hours a week plying traditional trades, such as woodworking and weaving, of the region. That commitment to arts and crafts has spilled over into the town, where you'll see purple "Artists at Work" icons on many doors, an unspoken invitation for visitors to come in and observe. The historic <a href="http://www.boonetavernhotel.com/" title="Berea, Kentucky: Boone Tavern Hotel" target="_blank">Boone Tavern Hotel</a>, decorated with furniture handcrafted by college students and alums, is also a great place to see how Berea is weaving the traditions of yesterday with savvy ideas for its future. A recent overhaul made it the only LEED Gold–certified hotel in Kentucky—there's even a charging station for electric cars out back. <em><a href="http://www.berea.com" title="America's Best Small Towns: Berea, Kentucky" target="_blank">berea.com</a></em> <em>Photo courtesy of Berea Tourism</em>
<strong><a href="http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/slideshows/americas-best-small-towns/5" title="America's Best Small Towns">See more of America's Best Small Towns</a></strong> Driving into Galena, it's easy to feel like you've exited the Midwest completely. Because it escaped glaciations, the area is punctuated with soaring hills, plunging valleys and dramatically rocky cliffs. The displaced feeling continues as you make your way into town, a facsimile of a 19th-century Main Street. Thanks to strict zoning restrictions, 85 percent of Galena is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Autumn is a great time to visit. You can check in to the <a href="http://www.desotohouse.com/" title="Galena, Illinois: DeSoto House Hotel" target="_blank">DeSoto House Hotel</a>, the oldest operating hotel in Illinois, which served as Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign headquarters back in the 1860s. Then, fill up on creamy Pecan Georgies at the <a href="http://www.galenaskandykitchen.com/" title="Galena, Illinois: Kandy Kitchen" target="_blank">Kandy Kitchen</a> downtown before heading to the new <a href="http://www.blaumbros.com/" title="Galena, Illinois: Blaum Bros. Distilling Company" target="_blank">Blaum Bros. Distilling Company</a>. Set to open its doors this fall, the upstart will source the grains for its vodka and gin from neighboring farms. The town also hosts a famous Halloween parade and annual Wiener Dog Race, a spectacle that's as timeless as they come. <em><a href="http://www.galena.org" title="America's Best Small Towns: Galena, Illinois" target="_blank">galena.org</a></em> <em>Photo © Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau</em>
Little Compton, Rhode Island
<strong><a href="http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/slideshows/americas-best-small-towns/6" title="America's Best Small Towns">See more of America's Best Small Towns</a></strong> Looking for the quintessential New England town? You can't get much closer than Little Compton, Rhode Island. Just a swim away from neighboring Massachusetts, the tiny village was settled back in the 17th century by folks from Plymouth Colony who wanted to expand their land holdings. History and architecture buffs won't want to miss the Wilbor House, built in 1692 and now home to the <a href="http://www.littlecompton.org/" title="Little Compton Historical Society" target="_blank">Little Compton Historical Society</a>. Be sure to explore the town commons too, one of only three in the state, the whole of which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Lloyd's Beach, where locals (and visitors in the know) go to swim, is just down the road. The entrance can be formidable, but battle valiantly past the rocks and a lovely swath of sand awaits your towel. End the day with a sea-to-table dinner at the <a href="http://www.sakonnetpointmarina.com/" title="Little Compton, Rhode Island: Sakonnet Point Marina" target="_blank">Sakonnet Point Marina</a>. Locally caught lobster and oysters pair perfectly with glasses of award-winning Gewürztraminer from <a href="http://www.sakonnetwine.com/" title="Little Compton, Rhode Island: Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyards" target="_blank">Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyards</a>. Better yet, stop by the winery for a tasting and a tour of the vine-covered grounds. <em><a href="http://www.little-compton.com" title="America's Best Small Towns: Little Compton, Rhode Island" target="_blank">little-compton.com</a></em> <em>Photo: courtesy of Little Compton Historical Society</em>
<strong><a href="http://www.executivetravelmagazine.com/slideshows/americas-best-small-towns/7" title="America's Best Small Towns">See more of America's Best Small Towns</a></strong> The rise of this former Gold Rush town is almost as well documented as the celebrities and jet-setters that now call Telluride home. The opening of its eponymous ski resort in 1972 was the beginning of a new chapter for this tiny Colorado village; nowadays, iconic cultural goings-on also vie for attention. Most famous among its many events is the <a href="http://www.telluridefilmfestival.org/" title="Telluride Film Festival" target="_blank">Telluride Film Festival</a>, which takes place over Labor Day weekend every year. But there's also the <a href="http://bluegrass.com/telluride" title="Telluride Bluegrass Festival" target="_blank">Telluride Bluegrass Festival</a>, which draws big names like Emmylou Harris and Feist. Smaller gatherings dot the calendar, too, like the annual Nothing Day Festival—created by a local who was fed up with all the festivals—celebrated with a slew of movie screenings and a naked bicycle ride through town. Speaking of movies, be sure to catch a flick at the <a href="http://www.nuggettheatre.com/" title="Telluride, Colorado: Nugget Theatre" target="_blank">Nugget Theatre</a>. Recently reopened after a round of renovations, the historic institution is housed in a beautiful old bank building on Colorado Avenue. If you've got time to kill before your show starts, dip into the <a href="http://www.newsheridan.com/" title="New Sheridan Telluride" target="_blank">New Sheridan Telluride</a>, where locals have gone to wet their whistle since 1895. <em><a href="http://www.telluride.com" title="America's Best Small Towns: Telluride, Colorado" target="_blank">telluride.com</a></em> <em>Photo courtesy of Ryan Bonneau / Property of the Telluride Tourism Board</em>