The 10 Best College Towns in the US

7. Ames, IA

photo by Tim Kiser via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the embodiment of the picturesque midwest city, Ames’ population of 66,000 enjoy one of the most active & diverse college towns throughout the nation.

Ames frequently appears on numerous best-of lists, including CNN’s top-10 places to live in the US. In the last few years, Ames has also been recognized by 24/7 Wall Street as the nation’s top college town.

Many notable people grew up in Ames, including 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow, inventor George Washington Carver, Pulitzer-winning writer Jane Smiley, and numerous more.

Schools in Ames: Iowa State University


6. Auburn, AL

Alabama’s fastest-growing metropolitan area, Auburn is home to Auburn University, best known throughout America for their winning Tigers football culture.

With its favorable weather conditions, Auburn is a nature-lovers dream; home to Chewacla State Park, a 700-acre destination featuring a 26-acre lake as its centerpiece, Auburn has something for any outdoors type.

Auburn may be known for its college education, but don’t sleep on their public school system; Niche.com recently ranked the city among the top 5% nationwide in terms of public school quality

One of Auburn’s top cultural attractions includes the Julie Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, an impressive gallery with over 40,000 square feet of space housing work by seminal artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Henri Matisse, and even Pablo Picasso.

Schools in Auburn: Auburn University


5. Terre Haute, IN

Rose-Hulman – photo by Yipdw via Wikimedia Commons

Home to four institutions of higher education, including Indiana State University as well as the Rose-Hulman Institute, Terre Haute is designated as an official “Tree City USA,” with 1,000+ acres of golf courses, trails, parks, and outdoors recreation.

Terre Haute is the college town for the outdoors-oriented; one local favorite is the National Road Heritage Trail, a several-dozen mile trail with a portion in Terre Haute extending into other Indiana towns and counties.

Another international event held in Terre Haute is their air show, a spectacle with 55,000+ tickets sold in 2018.

The fabric of Terre Haute lies within its higher education institutions. Rose-Hulman is widely considered among the best independent engineering schools worldwide. Indiana State University, a rising public institution, is certified by the Carnegie Classification as a high research university, a designation given to less than 5% of all educational institutions nationwide.

Colleges in Terre Haute: Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Ivy Tech Community College


4. Burlington, VT

photo by Jared and Corin via Wikimedia Commons

One of America’s most forward-thinking college towns, in 2015 Burlington became the nation’s first city to be entirely powered by renewable energy.

However, what makes Burlington special is much more than its progressive stance on politics and technology; once you get to know Burlington, you realize it is undoubtedly one of America’s great hidden gem cities.

Local music & art is at the heart of the Burlington experience. A number of highly-publicized events occur annually in Burlington, including the South End Art Hop, a collaboration between artists and businesses displaying art and installations throughout the city.

Burlington has historically been home to a number of alternative rock bands, most notably Phish who formed in 1983 at the University of Vermont. Other well-known bands with roots and connections to the city include Vermont-formed Dispatch, Strangefolk, and electronic musician Greg Davis.

True to the spirit of Vermont, Burlington residents embrace the city’s nature offerings, including the historic Lake Champlain.

One of New England’s top universities, the University of Vermont is widely regarded a “public ivy,” a designation comparing its public education quality to that of an Ivy League university. 

Colleges in Burlington: University of Vermont, Champlain College

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