Bridge over river with picnic table on grass.
Get away from the stress of college by taking a book to Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

5 American College Towns with the Best Vibes

Live in a College Town That Reflects Your Tastes

Choosing which college to go to is a big decision. While liking your prospective campus and finding a program that’s right for you are important factors, they aren’t everything. A huge part of your college experience will come from the time you spend outside of class. Where will you go to study? How will you unwind? What new activities will you pick up?

This is where your educational trip should include a slight detour because exploring off campus is just as important. College towns often have a lot to offer, and this is your opportunity to live somewhere that will enrich your education and help you grow as a person. Plus, you want it to be fun. Here are five of the best college towns in America.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

As far as small towns go, University of Michigan students can find plenty to occupy themselves on and off campus.

  • Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum: Get away from the stress of dorm life by taking your books and snacks to this 300-acre garden. It has free parking and wonderful hiking trails to stay active on.
  • Kerrytown: This neighborhood is home to some of the best boutique shops and dining in Ann Arbor, plus has a great weekend farmers’ market for fresh produce.
  • The Creature Conservatory: Animals have a way of making us relax. When finals are freaking you out or your little brother is visiting with your parents, the animal ambassadors at the conservatory will definitely cheer everyone up.

River surrounded by greenery in Gainesville, FloridaThis medium-sized town is home to many colleges.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / MichaelWarrenPix

Gainesville, Florida

If you’re a lover of animals, Gainesville is really one of the best towns to go off to college to. This medium-sized town is home to many colleges, including Santa Fe College, the University of Florida and Warrington College of Business.

  • Florida Museum of Natural History: This free museum has something for everyone and, for a few bucks, you can visit the butterfly house, which is sure to ease some tension when all you seem to be doing is study.
  • University of Florida Bat House: You don’t even need to leave campus to marvel at some truly amazing animals. Visit quietly at dusk and watch the bats swarm out in search of food.
  • Sweetwater Wetlands Park: Get outside and get some exercise while also viewing local wildlife. Visitors often see gators, ducks, herons and storks, and the park is usually fairly quiet.
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A sail boat on a lake in Tempe, ArizonaFor students who love warm weather and the outdoors, Tempe, Arizona has a lot to offer.Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / EuToch

Tempe, Arizona

Outdoor enthusiasts can really find their groove in Tempe when attending Arizona State University, especially if they love warm weather.

  • Mill Avenue District: Find all the shopping, dining and nightlife you need outside of school here. It’s the perfect place to get away for a little me-time.
  • Tempe Beach Park: Pack a picnic, your swimsuit and sunscreen and hike or ride your bike around this lovely park that has a lake with water activities that suit everyone.
  • Big Surf Waterpark: Just because you’re in the middle of Arizona doesn’t mean there’s no water. Grab everyone for splashing fun, whether by hanging out in the world’s third-largest wave pool, learning to surf or enjoying 3,000 feet of water slides.
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