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The 7 College Towns You Should Visit This Fall

From the fish-filled rivers of Bozeman, Montana, to the idyllic Midwestern charms of Bloomington, Indiana, these are the campuses you should check out before winter


By Laura Ratliff, Architectural Digest

When the fall commences and the sweaters and light jackets come out from hibernation in your dresser, it’s easy to become nostalgic for those college days of varsity sweaters, mugs of hot coffee, and crunchy leaves underfoot on campus. (We’ll gladly skip the homework, though.) If you find yourself yearning for freshman year (or your fifth year), head to one of these hip yet charming college towns, where you’ll discover everything from world-class art to fly-fishing, wineries, award-winning cuisine, and more. But it's not just the activities you'll get to enjoy, it's also the stunning beauty of the surroundings. As the great Albert Camus once said, "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." These seven campuses are filled with so much fall foliage, their grounds will feel like gardens.


San Marcos, Texas

Just 30 minutes outside of Austin, San Marcos, home to Texas State University, feels like Austin before Austin became Austin. This hill-country respite is home to the crystal-clear San Marcos River—which, at 72 degrees almost year-round, is great for tubing—and has a laid-back, hippie vibe. The town is surrounded by the 53 wineries that make up the Texas Wine Trail and is just 17 miles from Lockhart, the state’s inimitable barbecue capital. True to its proximity to Austin, San Marcos also has its own thriving music scene; on any given night you can catch bands at Stonewall Warehouse (the city’s first gay bar) or the divey Green Parrot.


Berkeley, California

Few campuses merge nature and architecture like the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to the rich wetland bay on the western edge of campus, Berkeley is also home to an impressive botanical garden, divided by regions of the world, and home to the impressive Stephen T. Mather Redwood Grove. Stay at the Gothic Revival–style Berkeley City Club, built in 1929, and soak in the rest of this cool California city’s history on one of 41 different walking tours, all mapped out by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.


Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill, home to the University of North Carolina, is a great place to visit any time of year, but the town really shines in the fall. A popular destination for leaf-peepers, this pocket of North Carolina is also home to buzzy breweries, like Steel String, and hearty local fare, like The Pig, where UNC alum and chef Sam Suchoff uses humanely raised North Carolina hogs across his menu, cooking up everything from dry-rubbed, smoked ribs to a Vietnamese pork cheek sandwich.


Ann Arbor, Michigan

While winters in Ann Arbor can be brutally cold, fall is the ideal season for taking in the University of Michigan’s impressive collection of public art, which includes works by Mark di Suvero, Maya Lin, and others. But there’s more to this town than just visual art: Every December, the Hill Auditorium sets the stage for the University Musical Society’s awe-inspiring performance of Handel’s Messiah, a joy-inducing way to kick off the holiday season.


Bozeman, Montana

This rugged mountain town is home to Montana State University, a research university with an incredible museum dedicated to the region’s rich history. The Museum of the Rockies is home to the Siebel Dinosaur Complex, the country’s largest collection of North American dinosaur fossils, all of which were discovered in Montana. Fall in particular marks a great a season to visit Bozeman: Nearby Yellowstone National Park quiets down, brown trout begin spawning in the nearby rivers drawing in avid fly-fishers, and the town’s many art and cultural organizations, like the Bozeman Symphony, kick off their new seasons.


Aurora, New York

It’s likely that you’ve never heard of postage stamp-sized Aurora or its adjacent educational institution, Wells College. But this 700-person town has a rich history and a bright future, thanks to the massive investment by alumna and philanthropist Pleasant Rowland. Rowland has painstakingly restored many of Aurora’s once-dilapidated buildings, resulting in four quaint but high-design inns situated on the banks of Cayuga Lake. You can spend a restorative weekend just cozying up by the fire in Rowland House or explore adjacent Finger Lakes towns that are loaded with top-tier wineries.


Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana University’s parklike campus and adjacent Bloomington are awash in hues of red, orange, and gold in the fall, making the town an idyllic destination for lovers of the season. With a new Graduate Hotel opening next month, B-Town, as residents affectionately call it, gets a much-needed auberge upgrade, to match the city’s ├╝ber-cool restaurant and music scene. Have dinner and drinks at Cardinal Spirits, Bloomington’s only distillery, before catching a concert at The Bluebird.


See more at: Architectural Digest

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