The Most Beautiful College Campuses You Can Visit in the U.S.
Are you planning a vacation? Maybe you’re helping your child decide where to go for college? Either way, a university with a gorgeous campus probably sounds like a great destination. Some college towns are more picturesque than others, but many American campuses make the grade. When you visit one of the nation’s most beautiful universities, you can expect to see awe-inspiring architecture, gorgeous greens, idyllic views, and intriguing surroundings.
Condé Nast Traveler reports that some of the most beautiful American college campuses are built in the classic collegiate Gothic style. Other universities have chosen a more contemporary architectural style. On the other hand, Travel + Leisure notes that the way a campus is landscaped is just as important as the architecture itself.
Read on to check out the most beautiful university campuses in the United States.
1. Bard College
Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, has a rural campus. That makes it a destination in and of itself, since the college showcases a unique range of architectural styles. Travel + Leisure reports that Frank Gehry’s Fisher Center exemplifies the contemporary end of that range. It has an eye-catching exterior of glass and brushed stainless steel. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find Blithewood Mansion. It dates back to the 19th century and has a beautiful Italian lawn. When on campus, students and visitors also enjoy the views of the beautiful Catskill Mountains in the distance.
Next: Berry College in Georgia
2. Berry College
Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, has the world’s largest contiguous college campus. In fact, Travel + Leisure reports that the college spans more than 27,000 acres. The campus includes fields, lakes, forests, and mountains. Plus, the architecture of many of the college’s buildings showcases the English Gothic style. Those buildings exist thanks to the college’s largest benefactor, Henry Ford. And gorgeous landscaping — including reflecting pools and fountains — provides the perfect counterpoint to the beautiful architecture and idyllic setting.
Next: Brigham Young University in Hawaii
3. Brigham Young University
The Laie, Hawaii, campus of Brigham Young University is on the northern Oahu coast. And, as you might expect, the university has the gorgeous scenery to match. According to Condé Nast Traveler, the Polynesian Cultural Center on campus has become one of the most popular museums in Hawaii. Tourists also visit the nearby Laie Hawaii Temple. The structure features crushed lava rock and coral, plus a design reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s right-angled Prairie style.
Next: Colgate University in New York
4. Colgate University
Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, features an abundance of beautiful Federalist and Romanesque style buildings. The upstate New York campus comprises 575 acres and has 2,300 trees. Many are sugar maples, which show off spectacular colors each fall. That makes for beautiful views before the long winters set in. The campus features historic architecture, too. West Hall, the oldest building on campus, dates back to 1827. Interestingly enough, both students and faculty helped to build it using stone mined from Colgate’s own quarry.
Next: Dartmouth College in New Hampshire
5. Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, is an Ivy League university, and it looks the part. The campus was designed around a five-acre green, and it features a few buildings that date to the 1820s. But Condé Nast Traveler reports that the campus also features a few more modern buildings, including the modernist Hopkins Center. This performing arts center was designed by Wallace Harrison, who also served as the architect of Lincoln Center and the United Nations Building in New York City.
Next: Duke University in North Carolina
6. Duke University
Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, features numerous collegiate Gothic buildings. One of the most famous (and most photographed) is the 210-foot Duke Chapel. However, Condé Nast reports that there’s more to this gorgeous university campus than its buildings. Duke also boasts a 700-acre forest. And students and visitors alike enjoy the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which American landscape designer Ellen Biddle Shipman designed. Plus, Travel + Leisure reports that Julian Abele, one of the country’s first prominent African-American architects, designed much of the campus.
Next: Florida Southern College
7. Florida Southern College
Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, makes a great destination for fans of modern architecture. As Travel + Leisure reports, the campus has the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. (Wright himself even characterized Florida Southern as the “first uniquely American campus.”) And you won’t want to miss the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, either. The structure features gorgeous colored glass and a wrought-iron tower.
Florida Southern places on the list of the World Monument Fund’s endangered cultural sites, since preserving Wright’s historic buildings poses some technical challenges. The campus also earned the title of a National Historic Landmark.
Next: Indiana University
8. Indiana University
Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, features many buildings in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles. Condé Nast Traveler reports that most of the oldest structures on campus were built by the post-Depression Works Progress Administration, using locally quarried limestone.
And if gorgeous architecture isn’t enough to convince you to visit, the university also makes a great destination for outdoorsy types. In fact, the campus and the town surrounding it boast almost 1,200 miles of biking and running trails. Those trails make it even easier to enjoy this gorgeous university campus.
Next: Kenyon College in Ohio
9. Kenyon College
Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, boasts what Travel + Leisure characterizes as one of the most idyllic campus walks. The 10-foot wide Middle Path actually stretches the entire length of the college’s campus, and you can even follow it into town. The path is also shaded by tall trees that show off spectacular colors in the fall. Other notable landmarks on campus? Ascension Hall and Rosse Hall. The former features a castle-like, Victorian Gothic exterior. And the latter has a Greek Revival exterior with beautiful columns.
Next: Lewis & Clark College in Oregon
10. Lewis & Clark College
Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, has a campus that feels a lot like a park. Travel + Leisure reports that the 137-acre campus features forests, pathways, and stone walls. One of the college’s most impressive features is a tree walk planted with native species. In fact, all of those species would have been encountered by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the college’s namesakes. The walk leads to the 35-room Frank Manor House. In addition, the estate gardens surrounding the mansion include a terraced reflecting pool, a wall of wisteria, and beautiful views of Mount Hood.
Next: Pepperdine University in California
11. Pepperdine University
Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, has a pretty unbeatable location. (Condé Nast Traveler reports that students and tourists visiting campus can expect 80-degree days and “unrivaled” views of the Pacific. That sounds pretty idyllic to us!) The palm trees that you’ll see everywhere on campus make the location feel tropical. Meanwhile, the buildings — primarily designed in the Mediterranean Revival style with whitewashed stucco and red tile roofs — make the university feel a little European.
Next: Princeton University in New Jersey
12. Princeton University
Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, is part of the Ivy League, so you probably don’t find it too surprising that it has one of the most gorgeous campuses in the United States. Many of the university’s original buildings feature a collegiate Gothic style. However, Condé Nast Traveler reports that some of the greatest architects of the 20th century, including Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, and Rafael Viñoly, “also put more modern styles on display.” Travel + Leisure notes that even the landscaping amplifies the beauty of the campus’s buildings. Students and visitors alike enjoy courtyards, greens, and footpaths around the university.
Next: Stanford University in California
13. Stanford University
Stanford University in Stanford, California, is worth a visit for students and tourists alike. Condé Nast Traveler reports that the college was built in 1885. However, the 1906 earthquake destroyed many of its original Spanish colonial buildings. Fortunately, Stanford “stayed loyal” to the campus’s original design when rebuilding. Dramatic trees and huge lawns, put in place by one of the co-creators of New York’s Central Park, add visual drama to the campus. According to Travel + Leisure, the entryway to the 8,180-acre campus — a mile-long, tree-lined Palm Drive — may be the “grandest of any college campus.”
Next: Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania
14. Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, makes a great destination for people who love to spend their time outdoors. The college’s Scott Arboretum features beautiful gardens with hydrangeas, lilacs, and tree peonies. The campus also has a courtyard for fragrant trees and shrubs. In addition, Swarthmore has its own rose garden, with more than 200 varieties of roses. But one of the college’s most beloved features is its outdoor amphitheater. The structure features lawn-covered stone tiers and is surrounded by the Crum Woods.
Next: University of California
15. University of California Los Angeles
The University of California’s Los Angeles 419-acre campus, located in the Westwood neighborhood, earns its stripes as one of the most beautiful urban university campuses in the nation. The campus features beautiful greens and Romanesque Revival architecture. A few renowned buildings on campus include the Powell Library and Royce Hall. Both were modeled after Milan’s Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio. If you visit, you also shouldn’t miss the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, which houses more than 70 works of art.
Next: University of Chicago in Illinois
16. University of Chicago
The University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, features a design largely inspired by the looks of Oxford University. The university is located in the Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods of the city, both of which are beautiful areas to spend your time. Condé Nast Traveler reports that many of the university’s older structures, like the Hitchcock Hall dormitory built in 1902, have earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Next: University of Cincinnati in Ohio
17. University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio, has a distinctively modern look. That means that it breaks ranks with the brick and ivy aesthetic of many of the other beautiful campuses across the country. In fact, Travel + Leisure reports that numerous notable architects, including Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, Frank Gehry, and Peter Eisenman, “have each made their mark on the campus.” Fans of modern architecture, this midwestern campus is the perfect destination for you.
Next: University of North Carolina
18. University of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, may be the most gorgeous college campus in the U.S. for plant lovers. In addition to the designated botanical garden, the university has also planted copious amounts of flowers and other ornamental plants around campus. Condé Nast Traveler reports that another beloved part of the campus is the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower. The tower was dedicated in 1931, and it’s a tradition for graduating seniors to climb to the top of the 172-foot structure a few days before graduation.
Next: University of Notre Dame in Indiana
19. University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, is positioned between two lakes. You’ll see St. Mary’s Lake to the west and St. Joseph’s to the east. This Catholic university prizes its golden-domed Main Building, its statue of the Virgin Mary blessing the Grotto, and its Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Condé Nast Traveler reports that Notre Dame’s chapel actually ranks as the tallest university chapel in the U.S., at 218 feet high. And according to Travel + Leisure, visitors and students also enjoy lush quads and the campus’s sculpture park. Plus, crowds flock to the football stadium.
Next: University of San Diego in California
20. University of San Diego
The University of San Diego in San Diego, California, sticks to one gorgeous style of architecture: Spanish Renaissance. Travel + Leisure notes that the campus features “elaborate façades, delicate ironwork, and carved woodwork.” And you can’t forget about the ocean views or the palm-tree-lined courtyards. Also of note? The Garden of the Sea. There, you can enjoy a reflecting pool, plus gardens that overlook Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Notably, it’s not just students and faculty who appreciate the beautiful buildings on campus; the blue dome of the Immaculata Chapel is visible from much of the surrounding city.
Next: University of the South in Tennessee
21. University of the South
The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, has some gorgeous scenery thanks to its position in Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau. One of the most beloved structures on the 13,000-acre campus is the All Saints’ Chapel. The chapel, according to Condé Nast Traveler, features a rose window that’s actually based on one in the south transept of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Also, Travel + Leisure reports that the campus features beautiful surroundings. Those include beautiful forests, lakefront bluffs, and a garden ravine that follows a stream through campus.
Next: University of Virginia
22. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, has a very famous founder: Thomas Jefferson. According to Condé Nast Traveler, Jefferson referred to establishing the university as one of his proudest accomplishments. In fact, Jefferson himself designed the campus’s often-copied layout, Travel + Leisure reports. He also hired its initial faculty and planned the university’s curriculum. The Rotunda, built in 1826, is still the heart of the campus. (It has grown to 1,682 acres since the university’s founding.) In fact, the Rotunda is a UNESCO World Heritage site, just like Jefferson’s home at Monticello.
Next: Wellesley College in Massachusetts
23. Wellesley College
Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, is just 12 miles from Boston, but Travel + Leisure reports that the campus feels like a completely separate world. The 500-acre campus features pathways, meadows, groves of conifers and hardwoods, and a tranquil lake. The college also has an abundance of beautiful 19th-century brick buildings. Even better? Its 16 greenhouses are packed with tropical, subtropical, and desert plantings that stay lush even through the long New England winters.
Next: Yale University in Connecticut
24. Yale University
Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. You can almost feel that history when you walk onto the campus. According to Condé Nast Traveler, the campus dates to 1701 but can sometimes feel even older. However, not all of the buildings feel historical. Condé Nast notes that visitors can also check out some more modern architecture, including Eero Saarinen’s Ingalls Rink, Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building, and Louis Kahn’s Yale Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art.
Read more: The 16 Most Expensive Colleges in the U.S.