Here's where to find the best college town food in every state

Remember college? Yeah, we don't either. But amid fuzzy memories of late-night contemplations on Nietzsche and later-night sticky basement floors, there's one thing that stands out: the food we loved the most.

Best college town food in every state:

Here's where to find the best college town food in every state
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Here's where to find the best college town food in every state

Alabama: Momma Goldberg's Deli

Auburn University; Auburn, AL

The 40-plus year-old original location is the one that started it all for this Southeast chain, and we have the Momma's Love sandwich to thank for that. It's a meaty trifecta of roast beef, ham and smoked turkey, complete with the works, and it makes up 45 percent of sandwich sales. When you're done, stop at Toomer's Drugs for its famous lemonade to wash it all down.

Alaska: Lucky Wishbone

University of Alaska Anchorage; Anchorage, AK

If you think the South is home to the country's best fried chicken, prepare for culture shock about as far north as it gets. At Lucky Anchorage's Lucky Wishbone, the chicken is dipped in buttermilk, fried until crisp and crowned with a delicious corn muffin.

Arizona: The Chuckbox

Arizona State University; Tempe, AZ

The Over 278 Sold sign might be the humblest brag of all, as local character Big Juan has been slinging mesquite charcoal-grilled burgers for decades. Try the Tijuana Torpedo, which is two patties stuffed with jalapeño Jack cheese and topped with a green chile.

Arkansas: Hugo's

University of Arkansas; Fayetteville, AR

If there's one thing you learned in college, it's that dark, bar-lined basement hideaways can mean only good times ahead. Locals love the funky Bleu Moon Burger (a pun, not a typo; we are in a college town), but know to save room for the mint ice cream-stuffed grasshopper crepes.

California: Firestone Grill

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; San Luis Obispo, CA

Skipping out on a tri-tip sandwich as you pass through SLO would border on heretical. Students are known to take on the Tri-Tip Challenge, which involves hiking three popular peaks and celebrating the hard work with tender slices of beef piled high on a garlicky French roll. Speaking of tips, here's one from a student: Split your meal with a friend so you can also try the pulled pork.

Colorado: Boulder Baked

University of Colorado - Boulder; Boulder, CO

There are 420 delicious restaurants to choose from in town, but all roads lead back to the freshly baked cookies at this dessert haven, which was founded by a Boulder grad in 2003. But think carefully before you gloss over the grilled cheese—or, you know, get both. Stop in to the Pearl Street Mall bakery for a night of milkshakes and Jenga, or do as the kids do and get a box of cookies delivered, complete with milk or (and/or) ice cream.

Connecticut: Alpha Delta Pizza

Yale University; New Haven, CT

Don't be fooled by the name of this place. For the true Elm City experience, order yourself the monstrous Wenzel: a chicken, hot sauce, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo combo best consumed after midnight. It's the brainchild (and namesake) of a former student, who would sometimes eat the sandwich two or three times a day—a true champion in our eyes—and even has its own app.

Delaware: Newark Deli and Bagels

University of Delaware; Newark, DE

Most students are familiar with Slater races at Grotto, which one student describes as chugging "a condensed Long Island" in a tiny cup through a straw while racing your friends to finish first. But after a night of that, you'll find everyone doing damage control the next morning at this Main Street staple, where the bagels are hot, the bacon crispy and the cream cheese options plentiful.

Florida: Satchel's Pizza

University of Florida; Gainesville, FL

Head over and eat pizza in a Scooby-Doo-esque van, where you can have your pick from more than 30 toppings. Balance it with the giant salad, a colorful bowl of produce topped with almonds, sunflower seeds and "a walnut or pecan for good luck." Owner Satchel Raye tells us the salad is even more popular than the pizza—which likely has something to do with the secret salad dressing, whose first ingredient is "love." And in one further touch of throwback joy, the dessert menu actually comes on a View-Master.

Georgia: The World Famous

University of Georgia; Athens, GA

On top of its university, Athens is known for two things: music and food. It's home to Hugh Acheson's flagship restaurant, 5&10, and gave us both R.E.M. and The B-52s. This aptly named spot embodies the intersection of the two in full force. Because ordinary chicken and waffles just isn't enough, the concert venue-meets-restaurant adds bacon, tomato and Sriracha mayo for the club sandwich of Southern dreams.

Hawaii: Ono Seafood

University of Hawaii & Hawaii Pacific University; Honolulu, HI

In Honolulu, students are graced with full access to true Hawaiian classics, from Mana Bu's for Spam musubi to Waiola for shave ice. But at the top of everyone's list should be a trip to this no-frills poke joint, which you'll find either from the appropriately ocean-turquoise paint job or from the line busting out the door

Idaho: Moscow Alehouse

University of Idaho; Moscow, ID

It's daily specials like Monday Wing Night—150 pounds of wings by the bucket—and an all-day happy hour for students on Saturdays that lend to the laid-back vibe here. The wings are a local favorite (go for the house "voodoo" BBQ sauce), but the whole menu is full of reliable pub-style classics.

Illinois: Zorba's

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Champaign, IL

This Green Street standout bounced back stronger than ever after a ruinous 2011 fire and has now been wrapping beloved gyros for more than four decades. Make sure you get there for at least one Groovy Tuesday, when the classic gyro (the lamb-beef combo and the crowd favorite) is $1 off.

Indiana: Mother Bear's Pizza

Indiana University; Bloomington, IN

The place truly looks like a cabin that would actually house a fairy-tale bear, but don't worry: It's home only to the pizza that students perennially dub the best in Bloomington. And if you think you won't have room for a salad after your deep-dish deluxe pie, reconsider: It comes with Goldfish crackers on top for the most adorable croutons you'll encounter.

Iowa: Hamburg Inn No. 2

University of Iowa; Iowa City, IA

Former patrons of this storied greasy spoon include presidents from Reagan to Clinton, so you know it can cater to any taste. But even if it's 10 p.m., order breakfast: The cinnamon roll French toast and fluffy omelets are as comforting as it gets. Just don't skip a pie shake, the famous treat that blends soft-serve ice cream with a whole slice of pie.

Kansas: The Wagon Wheel

University of Kansas - Lawrence; Lawrence, KS

Everyone knows this hangout as simply The Wheel. Call it by its full name, and you'll look like a freshman as you're shoving down the Wang Burger, a bacon cheeseburger topped with a fried egg.  Beware: The game-day crowds are rowdy, which is understandable, considering KU's first college basketball team was coached by the man who invented the game.

Kentucky: Tolly-Ho

University of Kentucky - Lexington; Lexington, KY

Even though it moved to a location a bit farther from campus than the previous one, Tolly-Ho still lures students with its legendary burgers. It's open 24 hours, so no matter when your day begins (or ends), you can dig into a towering Mega-Ho, a triple-high burger dressed to the nines.

Louisiana: The Chimes

Louisiana State University; Baton Rouge, LA

Some people are perfectly satisfied sitting through Shakespeare 101 or intro to algebra. For others, Chimes offers Beer University, a hands-on malty education that replaced its previous Around the World beer challenge. And all the Louisiana staples are all there to help in your beer studies: Think BBQ shrimp po'boy, fried alligator and crawfish étouffée.

Maine: Libby's Market

Bowdoin; Brunswick, ME

You can't go to Maine and not seek out the best lobster rolls around, and locals will tell you that means a pilgrimage to this holy grail of small town convenience stores. Other nearby favorites include the glazed twist at Frosty's Donuts and anything on the menu at Wild Oats.

Maryland: Chick & Ruth's Delly

United States Naval Academy; Annapolis, MD

The family-owned, mom-and-pop shop has some impressive food challenges if you're into that sort of thing, but the everyday person knows to just get anything with crab in the title. There are handmade pies, patriotic vocal performances and, as if you need further charming, a whole website page showcasing people who have gotten engaged there.

Massachusetts: Antonio's Pizza

University of Massachusetts - Amherst; Amherst, MA

Though consistently voted among the country's top campus food, even the best dining halls get stale. That's where Antonio's comes in. It's a pizza joint that boasts such abundant and fresh toppings that its pies are like glorious open-faced pizza sandwiches. Chicken bacon ranch and Buffalo chicken are definite favorites, but the siren call of $1 "hot cheese up front" is a symphony to all.

Michigan: Fleetwood Diner

University of Michigan; Ann Arbor, MI

With its corner location, 1950s-style exterior and sticker-covered walls, this is about as classic as diners get. The hippie hash, a savory parfait of buttery hash browns, grilled vegetables and feta cheese, is hands down the dish to try. Luckily, Fleetwood is open all hours of the day, so you'll never have an excuse not to go.

Minnesota: Hogan Brothers

St. Olaf College & Carleton College; Northfield, MN

The town's motto is Cows, Colleges, and Contentment. The first explains its dairy-rich history, the second provides the population and the third is what you'll experience when biting into a fully loaded hoagie on homemade honey-cracked wheat at this beloved sandwich spot.

Mississippi: Ajax Diner

University of Mississippi; Oxford, MS

When you walk in, look up. The ceiling is lined with an upside-down garden of toothpicks from years of creative diners blowing their sandwich picks through a straw. In addition to local lore, there's reliable Southern food at this standby that's known to be one of Ole Miss alum Eli Manning's favorites. Bonus tip: In addition to his well-loved restaurants, local chef (and dedicated fan) John Currence caters football tailgates.

Missouri: Blueberry Hill

Washington University in St. Louis; St. Louis, MO

The walls are lined with collectors' items, the plates are filled with burgers and the Dart Room is bustling with students channeling their competitive spirits somewhere other than homework assignments. The late Chuck Berry played more than 200 shows here, further securing Blueberry Hill's place in local history.

Montana: Missoula Club

University of Montana; Missoula, MT

Let's drop the extra syllables: It's really called the Mo Club, and everyone's here for the burger. It's hand-patted with onions, cooked on a miniature flat-top grill behind the bar, and best topped with horseradish cheese and seriously spicy mustard. The place was recently purchased by an alum (and current NFL player), keeping it in the Grizzly family.

Nebraska: The Watering Hole

University of Nebraska; Lincoln, NE

When you think wings, you likely envision a deep-fried, sauce-laden happy mess waiting to happen. But the experience is one-upped here, where the expertly seasoned wings are then grilled before they're served. There's magic in those char marks, and generations of students know it.

Nevada: The Little Nugget

University of Nevada, Reno; Reno, NV

A large banner on the ceiling proudly proclaims "9 out of 10 vegetarians don't eat here." That's because of the Awful-Awful burger, a half-pound-of-steak burger on an onion bun with all the toppings and a hefty serving of fries. It's both awful big and awful good, and proof that good things can come out of the back of a casino.

New Hampshire: Lou's Restaurant & Bakery

Dartmouth College; Hanover, NH

Dartmouth students are known for taking the Lou's Challenge, which involves pulling an all-nighter from studying (or partying) and making it to Lou's for breakfast promptly at 6 a.m. when the place opens. The cruller French toast is an excellent choice, even if you're not in a delirious state. The mile-high apple pie, malted shakes and apple cider doughnuts are all contenders for dessert after "breakfast."

New Jersey: Hoagie Haven

Princeton University; Princeton, NJ

One student sums up the hoagies here to us as "super elaborate and unhealthy," which is basically everything an overworked Ivy Leaguer could want in a sandwich. Case in point: the Phat Lady, which is a cheesesteak with mozzarella sticks and fries. Perhaps the true testament to its legacy is that when a Subway branch opened down the street, it promptly went out of business three years later.

New Mexico: Frontier Restaurant

University of New Mexico; Albuquerque, NM

The sweet roll at this campus-adjacent icon is an irresistible plate-sized spiral of sugar, cinnamon and joy. But since one cannot live on dessert perfection alone, there are house-made tortillas (which you can buy to go) and plenty of dishes that use green chile, the hallmark of regional New Mexican cuisine.

New York: Main Street Bistro

State University of New York at New Paltz; New Paltz, NY

There's never not a line around the corner here. The atmosphere is always welcoming; there's rock music on full blast; and the food is excellent, comforting and inexpensive. None so much, though, as the $1.95 breakfast special, which gets you two eggs any style, home fries and whole-wheat toast.

North Carolina: Time-Out

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Chapel Hill, NC

Time-Out never actually takes a time-out, as it's open around the clock, which must be because students' love for the classic chicken cheddar biscuit knows no temporal boundaries. Consider it an edge that the Tar Heels will always have on their rivals over in Durham.

North Dakota: Sandy's Donuts

North Dakota State University; Fargo, ND

All that cold weather clearly drives a need to consume as many apple fritters and maple bacon doughnuts as possible for an extra layer of warmth. NDSU even has a Sandy's Donut Club, whose oath includes phrases such as "Let the light of donuts shine upon my allies and enemies alike" and "Changing the world, one donut at a time."

Ohio: Bagel & Deli Shop

Miami University; Oxford, OH

There's barely an inch of blank wall space here, thanks to the quirky framed posters that advertise the more than 90 steamed bagel sandwiches. One favorite is the Crunch 'N Munch, a turkey number with smoked cheddar, honey mustard, Parmesan peppercorn ranch dressing and nacho Doritos. There's also the Messy Katie, with which you'll get cream cheese, avocado, Colby and honey mustard all over your face, but it'll be more than worth it.

Oklahoma: Eskimo Joe's

Oklahoma State University; Stillwater, OK

There's a lot of character (and an equal amount of beer) that oozes out of this popular hangout spot. It's known for the cheese fries, but don't bother unless you're going to get them topped with sweet peppered bacon. And if you don't walk away with one of the famous T-shirts, did you even really go?

Oregon: The Dough Co.

University of Oregon; Eugene, OR

What screams college louder than a freshly baked three-cheese calzone delivered to your door at 3 a.m.? Getting that cheesy pocket of bliss with a side of oven-warm cookies, with milk. But should you operate on a more regular schedule, The Dough Co. offers a quality lunch special, and the 30-plus calzone options are all good choices.

Pennsylvania: Berkey Creamery

Pennsylvania State University; State College, PA

In case you needed any further excuse for an ice cream pit stop, consider that the namesakes behind Ben & Jerry's went to Penn State to learn how to make ice cream. It's home to the largest creamery in the country, which shouldn't be surprising given the more than 120 total flavors. Wave hello to the cows next door to thank them for your scoop of death by chocolate.

Rhode Island: Anthony's Italian Deli

Providence College; Providence, RI

The subs are lunchtime heroes. Especially the Chicken Italiano, laden with chicken, prosciutto, roasted red pepper, fresh mozzarella and balsamic: "I dream about it," one student confesses. The true specialty is the Godfather sandwich (or "sangwich," as it's called), a five-meat combo that's as Italian as its name.

South Carolina: Cafe Strudel

University of South Carolina; Columbia, SC

The hangover hash browns are the way to go, even if you're not cowering under the weight of an alcohol-induced headache. They'll leave you wishing everything came with banana peppers. And good news for people who can't decide between sweet and savory breakfasts: You can order a single cinnamon pancake, because decisions are overrated.

South Dakota: Phillips Avenue Diner

University of Sioux Falls, Augustana University; Sioux Falls, SD

You're close enough to Canada at this diner that you can trust that the poutine is on point (which it is), and the loaded milkshakes are as great as the plains that surround this picturesque city. Plus, it has the diner vibe perfected, Airstream trailer, linoleum tiles, aluminum counter stools and all.

Tennessee: Calhoun's

University of Tennessee; Knoxville, TN

You'll catch boaters from the Vol Navy docking up to this waterside restaurant on game day, as it's fully accessible by boat from the Tennessee River. The vibe is definitely what will attract you, but once you're there, you might as well polish off a rack of the signature hickory-smoked baby back ribs.

Texas: Fuego Tortilla Grill

Texas A&M University; College Station, TX

The Dixie Chicken, another legendary hangout, might house a live rattlesnake and be home to so-called Bottle Cap Alley, but it doesn't have 24/7 breakfast tacos. That's why the Texas crown goes to this beloved taco joint, which also puts fried chicken and gravy in a flour tortilla for the Southern Comfort and makes some of the best queso around.

Utah: Aggie Ice Cream

Utah State University; Logan, UT

You're practically not allowed to get your diploma until you have a scoop of Aggie blue mint, a school spirit-hued mint flavor with Oreos and white chocolate. Considering it's run by members of the university's food science program, maybe this is proof that ice cream really does make you smarter.

Vermont: Kountry Kart Deli

University of Vermont; Burlington, VT

One bite into a classic Shiner, and you'll be wondering why you haven't always put a slab of hash browns on every sandwich. Think bacon, egg and cheese but one giant step better, available until 3 a.m.—so technically two giant steps better.

Virginia: Bodo's Bagels

University of Virginia; Charlottesville, VA

The bagels at this local institution are boiled then baked, New York-style, satisfying even the toughest of NYC expat critics. And no matter how long you think the line is, it'll breeze by—partially because they refuse to toast bagels—just like a true New York establishment.

Washington: Ice-Burg Drive-In

Whitman College & Walla Walla University; Walla Walla, WA

Let the neon polar bear sign point you in the direction of the best burgers, fries and milkshakes around. Washington native Macklemore recently called its cheeseburger "the best burger ever" before launching into a performance of the ultimate food lover's song, so consider the secret out.

West Virginia: Tailpipes

West Virginia University; Morgantown, WV

The tiled floor and red-and-white checkered deli paper belie the fact that this place has been open only since 2010. But the signature burgers—like one topped with peanut butter, fried banana and smoked bacon that would make Elvis weak in the knees—will snap you back to modern times.

Wisconsin: The Old Fashioned

University of Wisconsin - Madison; Madison, WI

Don't even think about graduating without getting the cheese curds because, well, Wisconsin. For extra credit, order an old-fashioned—weird pairing, sure, but it's what the place was named after, and you have to put your ID to use somehow.

Wyoming: Born in a Barn

University of Wyoming; Laramie, WY

It may be a relative newcomer on the Laramie scene, but the two UW alums who started this wing- and burger-shaped hole in town are filling it in style. If you're the type who's bad with decisions, beware of the 16 wing sauce options—or just embrace the wing flights (ha), which let you sample six at a time.


Whether you're heading off to college for the first time or just looking for a delicious road trip, be sure to study up on the classics. Think places with signs that read Since [insert year your parents were born here]!, landmark ice cream shops and sandwich joints that will fill you up for days.

Here's your guide to eating in some of the most iconic college towns in America, where there are quiet streets, loud football stadiums, a disproportionate ratio of school affiliates to everyone else or all of the above. Get ready to give these spots the old college try.

Related: Best beach in every state

Best Beach in Every State
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Best Beach in Every State

Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach

Families flock to Alabama’s Gulf Shores, just an hour south of Mobile, to escape the heat of Bama summer. This public, white sand beach offers activity for the whole clan, from volleyball and boarding to deep sea fishing tours.

Image credit: John Tuggle/Flickr

Alaska: Black Sand Beach

OK, you probably didn’t travel to Alaska to swim. But this stunning black sand beach with sweeping glacier views in Prince William Sound is a popular spot for kayaking and simply taking in the view.

Image credit: David Ellis/Flickr

Arizona: Lake Havasu State Park

On Arizona’s west coast you’ll find Lake Havasu’s famed hidden coves. The most popular spot is “The Sandbar,” where families gather to wade in the ankle-deep water.


Arkansas: Norfork Lake Beaches

Norfork Lake, in the Ozark Mountains, is known for quiet crowds, sloping shores and naturally white “sugar sands.”

California: Coronado Beach

The 1.5-mile stretch of sand just across the bay from San Diego sparkles in the California sunshine and is blessed with Mediterranean-like weather. The water is ideal for surfing and swimming.

Image credit: SDDirk/Flickr

Colorado: Medano Creek

Each spring, Medano Creek in Great Sand Dunes National Park fills with water flowing from the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, perfect for activities like skim boarding and tubing. But act fast; come August, the creek dries up until the next year.

Image credit: Great Sand Dunes NPP/Flickr

Connecticut: Ocean Beach

This might be the most family-friendly summer spot in all of New England. Think raucous boardwalk, public pool and mini-golf courses galore.

Image Credit: Davies/Flickr

Delaware: Rehoboth Beach

Set in a quintessential beach town with an old-fashioned feel, Rehoboth is peaceful and clean yet active and amenity-laden (and a far cry from party-heavy nearby Dewey).

Image credit: jimmywayne/Flickr

Florida: Siesta Beach

This barrier island set between Roberts Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is home to three popular beaches. The best, Siesta Beach, boasts turquoise waters and quartz sand. 

Image credit: Jeffrey Pott/Flickr

Georgia: Sea Camp Beach

Just north of the Florida state line sits Sea Camp, one of two beaches on Cumberland Island National Seashore known for its pristine marshes and roaming wild horses.

Hawaii: Lanikai Beach

Choosing the best beach in Hawaii is no small feat, but we’ll give it a go. Located in Oahu, Lanikai means “heavenly sea,” and it's easy to see why thanks to crystal blue water, soft sand, coral reefs and a protected lagoon that’s basically a swimmer’s paradise.

Image credit: Brian Hancock/Flickr

Idaho: Bear Lake State Park

Bear Lake, set on the border of Idaho and Utah, is known as “The Caribbean of the Rockies” for its gleaming turquoise waters. On the northern and eastern shores you’ll find the state park, a popular spot for water sports and camping.

Image credit: Ken Lund/Flickr

Illinois: Oak Street Beach

Who says you can’t find tranquility in the middle of the city? Just steps from Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Oak Street Beach is surrounded by bars and restaurants, a running and biking path and a panoramic view of the downtown skyscrapers.

Image credit: Shutter Runner/Flickr

Indiana: Indiana Dunes State Park

That said, if you do want a respite from Chicago, head to this state park about an hour east of the city. Here, the rugged dunes, quiet hiking trails and tranquil shores are the perfect counter to a bustling urban lifestyle.

Image credit: Michael Kappel/Flickr

Iowa: Lake Red Rock

Hello, classic lake vacation. Cabin rentals surround this reservoir on the Des Moines River. Outdoor activities are endless, but the real reason to come is for the fishing. Rent a boat for the day and cast a line for bluegill, crappie and bass.

Image credit: Carl Wycoff/Flickr

Kansas: Lake Scott

This freshwater lake is surrounded by the Ogallala rock formation, making it one of the most interesting landscapes in a state known for, well, flatness.

Image credit: Kansas Tourism/Flickr

Kentucky: Barren River Lake

Sure, this state park in south-central Kentucky offers great swimming, but it’s best known for fishing. During the daytime, locals cast their lines off the marina to catch local bass, bluegill and catfish--then by night they camp out and cook their haul.

Image credit: LouisvilleUSACE/Flickr

Louisiana: Rutherford Beach

Along Louisiana’s 26 miles of Gulf Coast beaches, Rutherford stands out for its shallow waters and undeveloped shoreline dotted with beach comb trees, driftwood and seashells.

Maine: Sand Beach

Sunbathers, this one’s for you. The water in this stunning cove on the Atlantic Ocean hardly ever rises above 60 degrees, even in the warmest summer months. In other words, you probably don’t want to venture in the water.

Image credit: Abhishek Srivastava/Flickr

Maryland: South Ocean Beach

This unspoiled beach on Assateague Island feels like a throwback to another era: The landscape is rugged, the buildings are scarce and wild ponies wander from the forest to the shores.

Image credit: Meghan Hess/Flickr

Massachusetts: Cisco Beach

Many of Nantucket’s beaches are overcrowded with summer jet-setters, but not Cisco, the widest spot on the island. On your way, stop by nearby Bartlett's Farm to pack a lobster roll picnic lunch.

Image credit: Holly Ladd/Flickr

Michigan: Glen Haven Beach

You’ll find a handful of beaches along the coastline of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, but none quite like Glen Haven, known for windswept dunes, turquoise water and quaint, nearby fishing villages.

Image credit: Josh Kellogg/Flickr

Minnesota: Lake Nokomis Main Beach

There’s no shortage of swimming holes in the state dubbed "Land of 10,000 Lakes" but this one in Minneapolis has it all: Canoes and kayaks for rent, running and biking paths galore and calm water perfect for swimming.

Image credit: Joe Passe/Flickr

Mississippi: Long Beach

Long Beach, located along Mississippi’s 26 miles of Gulf Coast, is a laid-back, Southern getaway just west of the popular vacation town Biloxi. Families bike to the public beach with picnic baskets and colorful kites in hand.


Missouri: Osage Beach

Lake of the Ozarks National Park has lots of beaches, but this lively enclave stands out. Home to the renowned “party cove,” Osage is a haven for rowdy boaters looking to drink, swim and otherwise get down.
Montana: City Beach

Along a seven-mile glacial lake in Whitefish sits the picturesque City Beach. With a roped-off swimming area, day boat rentals, lifeguards on duty, gazebos and picnic tables, it’s the perfect escape for the whole fam.

Nebraska: Lake McConaughy

This reservoir on the North Platte River is seriously awesome if you’re into water sports. (Think: sailboating, waterskiing and scuba diving.)

Image credit: Janet/Flickr

Nevada: Sand Harbor

On the east side of Lake Tahoe, Sand Harbor is a jewel in the Sierra Nevadas, thanks to glistening water surrounded by round boulders and a stunning view of the distant snowcapped mountains.

Image credit: Don Graham/Flickr

New Hampshire: Hampton Beach

This state park, an hour north of Boston, is a New England favorite. Think: sandy dunes, an active boardwalk and sweeping shores along the pristine Atlantic Ocean. It also boasts an annual sand sculpture contest and fireworks every Wednesday night throughout the summer.

New Jersey: Cove Beach

Of all the beaches that make up Cape May’s shore, Cove Beach is definitely the best. When you need a break from the sun, climb to the top of the famous Cape May Lighthouse for a panoramic view of the peninsula.


New Mexico: Cochiti Lake

Cool off from the hot, arid weather at Cochiti Lake, a manmade beach on the Río Grande between Albuquerque and Santa Fe--and a total hot spot for camping and barbecuing.


New York: Ditch Plains Beach

This refreshingly laid-back enclave in Montauk is a far cry from the glitzy beaches of East Hampton. Come for the iconic lighthouse and scenic cliffs. Stay for the stellar surfing and a pressed sandwich from Ditch Witch food truck.

Image credit: Michael Galpert/Flickr

North Carolina: Cape Hatteras National Seashore

This barrier island stretches for about 70 miles on Carolina’s outer banks. The coast is lined with picturesque sandy dunes and ends at the lovely Bodie lighthouse.

North Dakota: Lake Renwick

Head to Icelandic State Park to relax on this mile-long sandy beach with a designated swimming area and adorable cabins for rent.

Image credit: ND Parks and Recreation/Flickr

Ohio: East Harbor State Park

Set on the shores of Lake Erie, East Harbor State Park in Marblehead is a popular spot for boating, camping and swimming throughout the summer months. The lake is perfect for children since the water stays shallow far beyond the shoreline.
Oklahoma: Keystone State Park

Calling all teetotalers. Keystone Lake, found on the Arkansas River just 15 miles from Tulsa, contains three alcohol-free beaches. The most popular, Keystone State Park is great for families or couples looking for a low-key getaway.

Oregon: Cannon Beach

On Oregon’s northern coast, about 80 miles from Portland, stretches romantic Cannon Beach. Its most notable feature is the 235-foot Haystack Rock rising out of the water.

Image credit: Chedder/Flickr

Pennsylvania: Presque Isle State Park

This sandy peninsula that extends into Lake Erie contains about a dozen small and secluded beaches that open between Memorial Day and Labor Day.


Rhode Island: Fred Benson Town Beach

Fred Benson Town Beach, or Crescent Beach, as the locals call it, is the most spectacular part of Block Island’s 17-mile coastline. With lifeguards on duty and cabanas, umbrellas and boogie boards for rent, it’s one of New England’s best summer spots. 

Image credit: Block Island Organics/Flickr

South Carolina: Kiawah Beachwalker Park

This windswept haven is only a short drive from Charleston, but feels a world away. Plus, while most beaches on Kiawah Island are private and accessible only if you’re staying at a resort this one is open to any and everyone.

South Dakota: Angostura Reservoir

This lake in the southern Black Hills is known for crystal-clear waters and 36 miles of flat, sandy coastline.

Tennessee: Percy Priest Lake Swimming Beach

Its convenient location, just ten miles from downtown Nashville, makes Percy Priest Lake a popular summer escape. Kayak to Luau Island, a secret spot in the middle, for a picnic lunch. Or if you’re a daredevil, try cliff jumping from the towering rocks. 

Image credit: Denise Mattox/Flickr

Texas: Malaquite Beach

Unlike the beaches of South Padre Island, which are filled with rowdy spring breakers, Malaquite Beach on North Padre Island is rarely crowded. Visit during nesting season, from April to July, and you could see hundreds of baby sea turtles break out from the sand and run toward the sea.

Image credit: Terry Ross/Flickr

Utah: Wahweap Marina

One of the most popular swimming areas in Lake Powell, Wahweap Marina boasts cobalt blue waters surrounded by luminescent red stone.


Vermont: Sand Bar State Park

Vermont has a handful of picturesque beaches on the shore of Lake Champlain, but most have awfully rocky terrains. The beach at Sand Bar State Park in Milton, however, is sandy, shallow and great for kids.
Virginia: Chincoteague Island Shoreline

Chincoteague, a small barrier island off Virginia’s coast, is known for its oyster beds, clam shoals and 14,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge. You won’t find any boardwalks, beaches or crowds--just miles of sprawling, clean coastline.

Wisconsin: Big Bay State Park

This 1.5-mile expanse of sandy shoreline on Madeline Island, the largest on Wisconsin’s 22 Apostle Islands, offers gorgeous views of Lake Superior and a rugged backdrop of sandstone bluffs.

Image credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr

Washington: Ruby Beach

A popular spot along the southern coastline of Olympic National Park, Ruby Beach is known for its picturesque sea stacks and shores lined with driftwood. When the sun goes down, campers pitch tents and light fires on the sand.

Image credit: Ralph Arvesen/Flickr

West Virginia: Summersville Beach

Sandstone cliffs, clean water and about 60 miles of shoreline are what you’ll find at West Virginia’s largest lake. Summersville Beach is also situated right on the dam of the Gauley River, home to some of the country’s best white-water rafting.

Image credit: Facebook

Wyoming: Firehole River Swimming Area

When you think of Yellowstone, you probably think of geysers and hot springs. But America’s favorite national park has some awesome swimming holes, too. We love Firehole River, a deep pool surrounded by indigenous rock.

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