Fall is the perfect time of year to visit a college campus.
Come fall, I can’t help but remember those first few weeks at school. Anxiety about registering for classes, spending your life savings on text books, praying your new roommate wasn’t a total weirdo, and the excitement of living on your own for the first time. There are so many gorgeous universities in the states, but a few of them really shine come autumn.
Here’s a few you might want to check out, even if you’re past your college days.
University of Notre Dame
The view from I-90 though Indiana isn’t much to look at (sorry, Hoosiers, but you know it’s true). But just south of the freeway in South Bend, you’ll find one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Take a stroll around St Joseph’s Lake for beautiful views of the Golden Dome and Basilica of the Sacred Heart, surrounded by brilliant fall leaves. If you want the full Notre Dame experience, you have to go on a football weekend. Be sure to book your accommodations far in advance—fans of the Fighting Irish are serious about game day, and arrive in droves. If you can’t make it to a game, at least schedule a tour of Joyce Center. Snap a selfie with Touchdown Jesus– just ask, someone will show you what I’m talking about.
Other fun things to do in South Bend? Dinner and drinks at Crooked Ewe Brewery and Ale House, located on the picturesque St. Joseph River. Tour the Studebaker Museum, home to 120 vehicles spanning the 150-year-old automotive industry—including the carriage that carried President Lincoln to Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated.
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Located on an isthmus between Lake Menona and Lake Mendota, there’s no better time of year to pay a visit to Madtown. The Badgers didn’t earn the title of Best Party School for nothing—and if you visit on a football weekend, you’ll see why. There’s parties at nearly every house surrounding Camp Randall, and most college students are more than willing to extend an invitation to anyone.
For a little more grownup action, check out the Capitol Square. They host an epic farmers market every Saturday through September. There’s a slew of great restaurants, too. Try the Old Fashioned for a Wisconsin-style brunch; and Graft for a leisurely dinner paired with fantastic wines. A weekend here isn’t complete without sharing a pitcher (or two) of Spotted Cow on the Union Terrace, located on Lake Mendota behind the UW’s Memorial Union. Grab a seat on one of the iconic yellow, orange or green chairs, break out a deck of cards, and try to recapture some of your glory days.
When I think of back-to-school on campus, I always picture Cambridge. Founded in 1636 (what?!), Harvard is the nation’s oldest university. The school offers free, student-led walking tours from September through December. Registration begins one hour before depart time and is limited to 35 people. If the tour’s sold out or doesn’t work with your schedule, the school now offers an app, allowing for self-led tours through your smart phone or tablet. Be sure to allocate time to peruse the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the university’s more visited attraction. Their Africa exhibition is especially cool for kids—get up close and personal with mounted hippos, ostriches, rhinos and more.
If you’re Cambridge, remember that the MIT campus is just down the road, perfect for a two birds with one stone college campus trip. Visit the MIT Museum for science and art exhibits. For a needed break from academia, check out a show at ImprovBoston, New England’s leading comedy theater and school.
University of Colorado Boulder
It’s no wonder so many students want a degree from Boulder—even studying is more fun with the Rockies as your backdrop. Fall brings colorful leaves, fresh mountain air and lots of fun outdoor activities. There’s tons of places to hike near the university, with easy to quite challenging routes. The City of Boulder is a great resource for hiking suggestions and trail maps. Boulder is incredibly bike-friendly, with lots of allocated bike lanes and an extensive trail system. If you want to bum around town on two wheels, check out B-cycle, the city’s bike share program. For road and mountain bike rentals, check out Full Cycle Bikes.
If you can, try to peel yourself away from the great outdoors for a little bit to enjoy the Fiske Planetarium. Funded by Boulder alum Wallace Franz Fiske in 1975, this state of the art space hosts star talks, laser light shows and live events. In 2013, upgraded to an 8K SkyScan projection system, creating a theater similar to an IMAX experience, except that you’re fully surrounded. Who knew indoor stargazing could be so fun?
What are your favorite college campuses to visit in fall? Share in the comments!
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