September signals the start of the school year and students returning to universities across the country. But amidst the books and keg parties, the college campus as legit travel option often gets overshadowed. From lovely grounds and historic architecture to budget-friendly nightlife, a campus vacation delivers—and you don’t have to be a student to enjoy them. Here are some cool college campuses to explore for weekend getaways:
Pomona College: Claremont, CA
Just named one of the top national liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. World News & Report, this 140-acre, Southern California campus is dotted with palm trees and landmark buildings. This leafy community 32 miles east of Los Angeles supplies a diverse range of activities on campus and in nearby areas.
Using charming Hotel Casa 425 as a base of exploration, start with a stroll through the shops and restaurants of Claremont Village and catch the village walking tour on the first Saturday of the month or the Art Mart every Friday evening.
On campus, head to the Pomona College Museum of Art and check out James Turrell’s “Skyspace,” a light show that highlights architecture, light and sky. Visit the 100-year-old Bridges Auditorium forlive performances. Watch a dorm competition of broomball or water polo or catch a Sagehens varsity game at Merritt Field.
Wander off campus for an essential fruit-stuffed doughnut at Donut Man (open 24-hours) and swing by In-N-Out Burger to order off the secret menu (try Animal Style fries). Take advantage of the campus location at the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley and hike or bike through the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. Top off your adventure with the ultimate Pomona College tradition of climbing to the top of Mount Baldy.
Spelman College: Atlanta, GA
Set on 39 lush acres just five minutes from downtown Atlanta, Spelman College delivers non-stop travel possibilities. A noted HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Spelman boasts several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Although it’s an all woman’s college, Spelman is part of the Atlanta University Center Consortium, which connects four HBCU’s and all their facilities. Popular hotels are the budget-friendly Castleberry Inn & Suites or the boutique Glenn Hotel.
Grab coffee at the Jazzman Cafe & Bakery and head to B.T. Harvey Stadium to catch the Morehouse House of Funk Marching Band, whose synchronized moves, colorguard and music rival Las Vegas shows.
Mingle with the Spelman student body at Market Fridays, a weekly festival of clothing, books and jewelry vendors with DJs spinning tunes in front of Manley Student Center. Catch poetry slams, Greek stepping shows and talent shows at the Center and also browse the Spelman Museum of Fine Art, the only museum in the country focusing on art by women of the African Diaspora—and don’t miss a performance by the renowned Spelman College Glee Club.
Dive into soul food dishes at nearby Paschal’s Restaurant (voted best fried chicken in Georgia) and visit Morehouse alumnus Dr. Martin Luther King’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Change.
Columbia University: New York, NY
New York’s Ivy League institution, Columbia University, lists it’s location as upper Manhattan, a.k.a, the historic and culturally rich Harlem. Skip Midtown’s expensive hotels and stay at a local B&B or at the budget-friendly Aloft Harlem.
Columbia’s location and star-studded alumni provide and endless array of free concerts and lectures on campus and Miller Theatre hosts regular performances, artist talks and interesting workshops. Take a self-guided audio tour of the campus which explores St. Paul’s Chapel, Low Library and plaza.
Nearby eateries favored by Columbia students include Kitchenette for brunch, Roti Roll Bombay Frankie forfor Indian food and Pisticci for casual Italian and don’t miss Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. Dive bar 1020 is a favorite for cheap drinks and pool. Venture off campus for a stroll through Morningside Park, a visit to the Museum of Modern Art or enjoy a historic walking tour with Taste Harlem.