For impressionable youths lucky enough to be receiving a secondary education, choosing the right place to call home for the next four years is a major decision. Since college is “the best four years of your life” students need to visit a number of possible candidate universities to see how they might fit in, and if they like the appearance. The people, the classes, the professors, the social life and the sporting events all can vault a college onto a short list – but it is the setting that leaves a lasting impression.
We’ve compiled a list of one college or university per state and the one attraction on campus (though there may have been many) that make that institution a must-see. It may be a historical building, an art gallery featuring student work, a particular monument with a memorable backstory, or simply a walk around campus with landscapes to take out a loan for. Whether you are a prospective student, the parent of a student, or a family planning your next trip – consider stopping by any of these fine universities to see their most defining features.
Alabama (Tuscaloosa): University of Alabama
University of Alabama Arboretum. The Arboretum’s primary emphasis is on Alabama’s native flora and fauna. It includes 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of walking trails through native piney woods and oak-hickory climax forest, a wildflower garden containing more than 250 species, ornamental plants, an experimental garden, a bog garden, an open-air pavilion, and a children’s garden. Two greenhouses contain collections of orchids, cacti, and tropical plants.
Alaska (Fairbanks): University of Alaska – Fairbanks
Museum of the North. Situated right on campus, this museum features prominent pieces of Alaskan and northern history including a frozen tissue collection.
Arizona (Tucson): University of Arizona
Biosphere 2. An Earth systems research facility the size of two football fields. Its scale alone is something to marvel at.
Arkansas (Batesville): Lyon College
Arkansas Scottish Festival. This festival happens every spring and celebrates Lyon College’s Scottish and Presbyterian roots with music, dancing, and culture.
California (Stanford): Stanford University
Outdoor Sculpture Walk. With 42 freestanding outdoor sculptures the outdoor sculpture walk at Stanford is a must-experience attraction on campus.
Colorado (Fort Collins): Colorado State University
Fort Collins. This lively college town has views of mountains as far as the eye can see and is fraught with energy from its young population.
Connecticut (Hartford): Trinity College
The Long Walk. Saunter through the heart of the Trinity College campus while viewing its most historic buildings in one fell swoop. Pray that you’re given a gorgeous Connecticut day for this.
Delaware (Newark): University of Delaware
High Performance Figure Skating Center. The High Performance Figure Skating Center (HPFSC) at the University of Delaware is one of the world’s leading training sites. The center is a year-round training facility designed to meet the needs of first-time competitors and champions alike.
Florida (Lakeland): Florida Southern College
Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture. FSU has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright structures gathered in one place.
Georgia (Atlanta): Georgia State University
Downtown Atlanta. Visit one of the biggest cities in the southeast while near campus.
Hawaii (Honolulu): University of Hawaii – Mamoa
Lyon Arboretum. From their website: “The University of Hawai‘i Lyon Arboretum and Botanical Garden is the only university botanical garden located in a tropical rainforest in the United States as well as the only easily accessible tropical rainforest on the island of O‘ahu. The arboretum consists of almost 200 acres at the top of the Manoa watershed with a set of small cottages and greenhouses used for research and community education about plants and the natural environments of Hawai‘i.”
Idaho (Caldwell): College of Idaho
Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History. The only natural history museum in the region encompassing southwestern Idaho, southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada, the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History is the premier resource for environmental and natural history education in the region.
Illinois (Chicago): University of Chicago
Rockefellar Chapel. A leading venue for choral arts on campus – be sure to catch a show!
Indiana (South Bend): Notre Dame
Rudy. Tour the famous sites from the famous movie that makes every man cry, every time.
Iowa (Iowa City): University of Iowa
University of Iowa Museum of Art. European paintings, African sculptures, American classics and many more art exhibits make this museum a can’t-miss.
Kansas (Lawrence): University of Kansas
Mount Oread. The Oregon Trail comes to life with this hill int he middle of campus – it was known as a major obstacle on the journey west.
Kentucky (Louisville): University of Louisville
Gheens Science Hall. The planetarium is fun for all ages with public events & shows daily not to mention summer camps.
Louisiana (New Orleans): Tulane University
Campus Rebuild. Tulane has always had an awe-inspiring, lush campus but the rebuild after Hurricane Katrina makes it even more impressive.
Maine (Orono): University of Maine
Campus Architecture. The campus plan was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City and the White House grounds in Washington, D.C.
Maryland (Baltimore): Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore Museum of Art. The Baltimore Museum of Art is home to an internationally renowned collection of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art.
Massachusetts (Cambridge): MIT
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The future is now. The smartest students in the world will amaze you with their creations. Don’t miss it.
Michigan (Ann Arbor): University of Michigan
Planetarium. Public shows and shows for school and community groups include seasonal star talks about the current night sky and programs on contemporary topics in astronomy.
Minnesota (Minneapolis): University of Minnesota
Knoll area. Many buildings in the Knoll area of campus are well over one hundred years old and it includes a 13-building group comprising the Old Campus Historic District that is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Mississippi (Oxford): University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)
Lyceum. The Lyceum was used as a hospital during the Civil War for both Union and Confederate soldiers, especially those who were wounded at the battle of Shiloh. Two hundred and fifty soldiers who died in the campus hospital were buried in a cemetery on the grounds of the university.
Missouri (St. Louis): Washington University in St. Louis
Kemper Art Museum. From their website: “The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum dates back to 1881 with the founding of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts at Washington University. Its collection was formed in large part by acquiring significant works by artists of the time, a legacy that continues today. Now one of the finest university collections in the United States, the Museum contains strong holdings of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century European and American paintings, sculptures, prints, installations, and photographs. The collection also includes some Egyptian and Greek antiquities and more than one hundred Old Master prints.”
Montana (Billings): Rocky Mountain College
Campus Views. Mountain vistas skirt the campus of this quaint northern school.
Nebraska (Lincoln): University of Nebraska
University of Nebraska State Museum. Nebraska’s largest natural history museum includes the world’s premier collection of fossil elephants, interactive paleontology exhibits, American Indian exhibits, walk-in wildlife dioramas, hands-on discovery room, planetarium with fulldome, and much more.
Nevada (Reno): University of Nevada
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. Completed in 2008, the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center is one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the country. The $75.3 million, 295,000-square-foot, five-story building represents the University’s most ambitious capital project.
New Hampshire (Hanover): Dartmouth College
Surrounding Nature. At Dartmouth, you’ll be wowed by the gorgeous scenery. The Appalachian Trail actually runs behind the freshman dorms.
New Jersey (Princeton): Princeton University
Prince University Art Museum. From the PU website: With origins dating to the 1750s, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the world’s leading university art museums with collections of more than 92,000 works of art that range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States and Latin America.
New Mexico (La Cruces): New Mexico State University
Zuhl Fossil Museum. Part art gallery, part natural history museum, the Zuhl Museum at NMSU is the home of the Zuhl Collection containing over 1,800 beautiful specimens of petrified wood, fossils and minerals.
New York (Ithaca): Cornell University
Architecture. Castles, natural gorges, and pristine gardens make the Cornell campus an absolute beauty.
North Carolina (Durham): Duke University
Sarah P. Duke Gardens. From their website: “More than 300,000 visitors from all over the world visit Sarah P. Duke Gardens annually, enjoying its 55 acres of specialized gardens in the heart of Duke University. Admission is free, and we are open from 8 a.m. to dusk 365 days a year.”
North Dakota (Fargo): North Dakota State University
Campus Seasons. Picturesque in autumn and right after a snowfall.
Ohio (Gambier): Kenyon College
Gund Gallery. The Gund Gallery is a dynamic, 31,000 square-foot space dedicated to expanding ways of seeing and learning.
Oklahoma (Stillwater): Oklahoma State University
Theta Pond. From the OSU website: “The pond used at the turn of the century to water the college work animals eventually took its name from the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, then located nearby. Theta Pond has witnessed many “memorable” moments. Freshmen were often thrown into the pond, as were students who became “pinned” or engaged. In the early years, classes and colleges held tug-of-war competitions across the pond, with the losers getting a dunking! Today, the beautiful pond offers the perfect setting for relaxing under a shady tree, talking with a friend,that perfect picture or watching the ducks.”
Oregon (Corvallis): Oregon State University
Campus Layout. A massive campus called by one TripAdvisor reviews as an “under-the-radar jewel.”
Pennsylvania (Indiana): Indiana University of Pennsylvania
John Sutton Hall. Constructed between 1873 and 1875, the building was the first constructed for the Indiana Normal School. In 1903, the building was named after John Sutton, the first president of the school’s Board of Trustees. Sutton Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Rhode Island (Providence): Rhode Island School of Design
RISD Museum. From the RISD website: “The RISD Museum is southeastern New England’s only comprehensive art museum, distinguished by its relationship to the world-renowned Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Founded alongside RISD in 1877, the Museum now welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year — inspiring lifelong relationships with art and design. The RISD Museum’s five interconnected buildings feature an encyclopedic collection of more than 91,000 objects, from antiquity to contemporary art. Highlights include one of the nation’s finest collections of costume and textiles; the world’s largest collection of Gorham silver, housed in the first museum wing devoted to American decorative arts; a monumental 12th-century seated Buddha; and significant collections of Impressionist paintings, contemporary British art, modern design, and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.“
South Carolina (Greenville): Furman University
Bell Tower. The Bell Tower is one of Furman University‘s most beloved landmarks. Furman’s original bell tower was built in 1854 on what used to be the men’s campus.
South Dakota (Vermillion): University of South Dakota
National Music Museum. The National Music Museum features world-reknowned collections of musical instruments and related materials in a museum and research center.
Tennessee (Sewanee): Sewanee: The University of the South
Gothic architecture. This one-of-a-kind campus features gothic architecture that is well worth the trip from Nashville or Chattanooga.
Texas (Austin): University of Texas at Austin
Harry Ransom Center. The Harry Ransom Center advances the study of the arts and humanities by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible original cultural materials. It also features the world’s oldest photograph!
Utah (Salt Lake City): University of Utah
Red Butte Garden. A non-profit botanical and ecological center provided by University of Utah.
Vermont (Burlington): University of Vermont
History. UVM is the 5th oldest university in New England.
Virginia (Williamsburg): The College of William and Mary
Christopher Wren building. This building is the oldest collegiate building in the United States.
Washington (Tacoma): University of Puget Sound
Alcorn Arboretum. The grounds of University of Puget Sound are designated an arboretum in honor of longtime biology professor Gordon Dee Alcorn, who was the unofficial landscape recorder during his tenure with the college.
West Virginia (Morgantown): West Virginia University
Campus Greenery. The greenery at WVU is unmatched and makes for a beautiful walk from start to finish.
Wisconsin (Milwaukee): Marquette University
Urban Campus. The urban atmosphere of Marquette campus makes for a great visit in Milwaukee.
Wyoming (Laramie): University of Wyoming
Historic Campus West. The area of carefully constructed and maintained buildings between 9th and 15th streets.