Editors' picks: Our top college towns

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12 best college towns
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12 best college towns
Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, was recently named one of National Geographic's 10 "World Wonders" thanks to Thomas Jefferson's design. Beyond the campus' Rotunda and nearby Monticello, the rolling hills and Blue Ridge mountains serve as a beautiful backdrop for the surrounding wineries and orchards. For its size, Charlottesville is incredibly well-read (it supports 2 weekly papers), has a plethora of art galleries, is overflowing with restaurants and attracts big-name talent to its open-air pavilion on the Downtown Mall.

Savannah, GA
Centered around an art school (SCAD), there's no question that Savannah is an eclectic town with a never-ending supply of culture. But aside from its rich Southern history and gorgeous antebellum architecture, its home to the (too?) rich home cooking of Paula Deen at The Lady & Sons, an ever-rotating selection of craft brews at The Distillery and the decadent pralines at River Street Sweets. And if that's not enough, the beach at Tybee Island is only 30 minutes away. 
Washington, DC
Washington isn’t all politics. With 9 colleges and universities, the capital is also a serious college town, with a seriously diverse range of neighborhoods. U Street beckons with Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Georgetown is a great place for a pre-exam sugar high, courtesy of Georgetown Cupcake. A sports fix is also within easy reach, thanks to DC’s major sports arenas: Verizon Center, Nationals Park, RFK Stadium and FedEx Field. But nothing beats the National Mall, the 2.5-mile-long stretch of green where you can enjoy everything from a game of soccer to an outdoor “screen on the green” movie.
Boston, MA
OK, so Boston isn’t exactly a “town” … but with an estimated 250,000 college students and some 80 colleges and universities, the city sometimes feels like one giant campus quad. Boston is a city with a lot of history and even more pride -– anyone who’s ever been to a Sox game can attest to that. Just be sure to avoid the city come September 1st … Boston’s notorious “moving day,” when a mass influx of students pick up the keys to their new apartments and head back to college.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
The Twin Cities is home to more than a half dozen colleges and universities, including the University of Minnesota’s main campus. Go Golden Gophers! There’s always something to do when studying isn’t a priority. Head to the Metrodome to catch a Gophers, Vikings or Twins game. Visit the Weisman Art Museum, West Bank Arts Quarter, Guthrie Theater and the Walker Art Center. Sample tasty cuisine at the hip Loring Pasta Bar and Annie’s Parlor in Dinkytown. And explore the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Falls and Lake Calhoun to witness the area’s natural beauty.
Chapel Hill, NC
Known as “The Southern Part of Heaven” and home to the University of North Carolina Tarheels, Chapel Hill’s main strip -- Franklin Street – is the place for tailgating after parties, first-date dinners at Top of the Hill, boutique shops and Sunday strolls. As the University continues to grow and expand, so does the surrounding area: adding new shops, delis and inns to the already popular downtown Chapel Hill.
Morgantown, WV
Nestled in the beautiful mountains of north-central West Virginia and along the banks of the Monongahela River, Morgantown is home to the West Virginia University (WVU) Mountaineers. Students and visitors enjoy outdoor adventure all year long with nearby rafting, hiking and skiing. Recently named “Best Party School in the United States” by the Princeton Review, WVU is infamous for its off-campus parties and post-game celebrations centered on Sunnyside’s Grant Avenue. A Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system connects the University’s 3 campuses and makes game-day tailgating at Mountaineer Field both easy and safe.
Boulder, CO
Where else can students wake up, go for a quick hike, stop by campus for a class, and hit the slopes by the afternoon? Even if outdoor activities aren’t your thing, there’s something for you: Go for a stroll down Pearl Street, a pedestrian mall lined with shops, world-class restaurants and fire-juggling street performers … all set against the stunning backdrop of the Colorado rockies.
Athens, GA
You may think of the University of Georgia as a typical southern school -- and in many ways it is -- but Athens, GA, isn't a typical college town. The historic downtown has fostered artists, hipsters and musicians such as R.E.M. and the B-52s. And if you look beyond the frat houses in the neighborhood of Five Points, you'll find old Georgia mansions and upscale restaurants.
Berkeley, CA
You gotta take in the view of the Bay Area from atop the 307-foot-tall Sather Tower, in the heart of Berkeley’s campus. Once you descend, your next mandatory stop is Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley’s lively commercial strip with local attractions like the historic Fox Oakland Theatre. Want to see an outdoor show? Head to the 8,500-seat Greek Theatre, and to keep the outdoor fun going -- pony and carousel rides, anyone? -- Tilden Regional Park is the place. Like any A-list college town, Berkeley’s big on sports, with nearly a dozen sports facilities that cater to track and field, soccer, field hockey, water polo and more. 
Madison, WI
Madison is Wisconsin’s capital city and it’s also the largest city in the Dairy State. According to Forbes magazine, Madison ranks 2nd in education and in 2003, it had the highest number of PH.D.s per capita among all US cities. The city is home to few colleges and 1 university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And aside from hitting the books, students and locals can enjoy fun, local activities, which includes checking out a concert on Capitol Square, taking a swim in Lake Mendota or visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.
Tempe, AZ
Located in the middle of 4 major cities in Arizona (Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix and Scottsdale), Tempe is known as one of the more diverse cities in the state. Step right out of the classroom into the beautiful Arizona sun -- the number of pools is endless, the sunbathing is top notch and the mountainous scenery with palm trees lining the streets isn't too shabby either. Arizona State's campus is highlighted by dozens of bars and restaurants that line Mill Avenue. And that's not all, a 5-minute ride down the road will land you right in the heart of downtown Scottsdale.

College towns can get a bad rep, but our staff's picks are rich in culture, entertainment and -- most importantly -- have food worth leaving campus for.

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