College is more than a place to party (er, study) for a few years: university campuses are part of a smart travel strategy. They’re found in a variety of cities, full of culture and populated with people eager to exchange ideas. And if a campus comprises an entire city—jackpot! The allure of college towns endures well past the age of 22, and many an IgoUgo member has a pick for the best cap-and-gown town. Follow in their footsteps now to wander a newly serene summer campus, or plan an autumn trip for a more lively experience—and maybe even some football.
Two new journals center on a pair of Europe’s oldest college towns: Padova, Italy, and St Andrews, Scotland. Liam Hetherington discovered that much of Padova is connected to the famous University of Padova, as it has been since the school’s official founding in 1222 and probably even before that. Among the sites affiliated with the university is the world’s first botanical garden, a UNESCO World Heritage site (much to the delight of this UNESCO pilgrim).
Further north, Red Mezz thinks a holiday weekend is the perfect time to skirt St Andrews’ crowds (visitors continue to flock here even after Prince William’s graduation from the University of St Andrews, proving that the area’s seaside and golf links are still draws in their own right). She loved the “laid-back vibe” and other college town hallmarks, including superior food options, saying that “if someone were to paint a picture of South St., it would include many pedestrians carrying and lovingly eating big ice cream cones.”
Then there are the IgoUgoers who double dip in academia, growing up in one college town and studying in another; their journals provide two-for-one comparative literature courses and multiple vacation options. Michigan native catronma writes about being a resident of Ann Arbor, where she lived across the street from the University of Michigan stadium, and about being a temporary denizen of East Lansing, the home of Michigan State University, which she calls “one of the best walking campuses” she’s seen.
Similarly, n2dwoods introduces us to Ithaca, New York, as a Cornell student, and Princeton, New Jersey, as a non-student. She describes Princeton as “a town with a college, not a college town,” but also writes that the university’s centrally located campus provides activities for the entire community—so we’re calling that debate a draw.
Even IgoUgo veteran and frequent traveler zabelle counts visiting college towns as one of her many passions. One recent jaunt took her to Austin, Texas, a college town, state capital, and live music hub. Just before that, she stayed at a B&B in Charlottesville, Virginia, down the road from Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia. It’s hard to tell who appreciated the school more: zabelle or Mr. Jefferson. But then, she has a history of love affairs with college towns, having fallen for Heidelberg, Germany, not long ago.
And who can blame her? These destinations, steeped in history yet bursting with the promise of the future, captivate the best of us (“fifth-year senior,” anyone?). Ishtar notes a fascinating dichotomy in her observation of America’s College Town: “The student population encourages Boston to be more cosmopolitan than perhaps it wants to be.” And that, as these members have already discovered, makes for an A-plus travel experience.