College Town Cool

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda

Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda (Image: Wikipedia)

It’s nearly that time of year when new college students will load up their mini-fridges, laptops, backpacks, and bicycles and head for their new dorms or off-campus apartments. While their destinations vary, one thing is definite – they are headed for an adventure.

There’s just nothing quite like a college town. Students bring a youthful vigor to a community, and the businesses that crop up around the university tend to cater to students’ needs: bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, theaters, and nightclubs line the downtown streets. The towns are usually very pedestrian-friendly due to the number of students walking and bike riding. And at night, live music venues, night clubs, and theaters are hopping. Museums and student-based performances in theater, orchestra, and jazz provide a multitude of inexpensive (and sometimes free) things to do. And sports fans always have a game or match to attend.

Some college towns such as Oxford, Mississippi — home to the University of Mississippi – just ooze cool. In fact, Oxford made Travel and Leisure’s list of “America’s Coolest College Towns.” The University of Mississippi is the alma mater of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner, and an impressive campus library houses many of his rare books and other items.

Charlottesville, Virginia is another fantastic college town. How could it not be, with a history that dates back to 1762 and famous residents such as James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson? In fact, Jefferson’s home, Monticello, was built in 1772 and is Jefferson’s final resting place. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819, and the university is a World Heritage Site. As stunningly beautiful as the campus is, the town that surrounds it is equally amazing. Historic architecture prevails, and in addition to Monticello, tourists come to see Montpelier, the home of James and Dolly Madison, and to visit Shenandoah National Park, home to the scenic Skyline Drive.

But while the architecture, history, and landscape are awe-inspiring, don’t overlook the music scene in Charlottesville – Dave Matthews started out here, after all. Head to the idyllic downtown and you’ll discover amazing hidden locations for edgy performers crooning everything from jazz to rock.

Corvallis, Oregon isn’t just a great college town, it is an innovative one. It is one of the most environmentally responsible cities in the country, and it is easy to find farmer’s markets, organic produce, and unique shops. A great downtown area is filled with nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, book stores, and theaters. Corvallis is home to Oregon State University, a prestigious and highly-regarded research university. It is Oregon’s largest public university and it features top-rated programs in nuclear engineering, oceanography, and biochemistry. As a result, Corvallis has one of the most highly educated populations in Oregon. In Corvallis, you’ll need a bike – this city has the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the US. Corvallis is also home to wineries and amazing parks.

It isn’t just the cool and trendy that lures new residents (students and non students alike) to college towns. College towns tend to do better economically – they have a lower unemployment rate and better opportunities revolving around a highly-educated population. Apartments are often abundant and rents are less expensive, making college towns ideal for those who want to live in an active, exciting community without the high price tag.

Perhaps it is because of the financial security, the endless supply of things to do, the great shops and restaurants, and the pedestrian-friendly atmosphere that college towns consistently rank high on the overall happiness meter. Or, maybe it is all of that cheering during the fall football season. No matter what the cause, college towns can be a great place to find your next apartment, even if your college days are behind you. Just be prepared for some noisy evenings – especially on Game Night.