5 College-Town Trips

Embarking on campus tours with your teen? Seeing the school is just a small part of the fun in these cities full of sights.

Burlington, VT.

Schools to see: Champlain College, University of Vermont

Around town: This bustling college town is nestled on the shores of beautiful Lake Champlain. But let’s get real: The best reason to head this far north in Vermont is to see how ice cream is made and sample fun flavors at the Ben & Jerry’s factory, a quick 30-minute drive east in Waterbury. (The first Ben & Jerry’s shop was in a renovated gas station on the corner of St. Paul and College Street in Burlington. Sadly, it’s no longer there.) But there’s more beyond ice cream. The Church Street Marketplace is a pedestrian mall with historic buildings, interesting shops, cafés and craft vendors. It’s a great place to people-watch and soak up the city’s artsy vibe. Another popular spot is the Burlington Farmers’ Market, held in City Hall Park during warm weather and indoors on St. Paul Street in the colder months. Stock up on locally made treats from Vermont farmers, cheese makers, bread bakers and more. Walk off all that food at the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont, which, incidentally, is one of the nation’s oldest universities, having been chartered in 1791. The museum features more than 20,000 objects that span the history of civilization. Another interesting stop is the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, an aquarium and science center located right on the water. Pop into the café for a break if you’re on the Burlington Bike Path, which meanders along the shores of the lake. After all that exercise, you’ve earned a cold drink. A myriad of local bars serve top Vermont brews, or go straight to the source(s) on a brewery tour. Hungry? Grab dinner at Farmhouse Tap & Grill, a farm-to-table gastropub famous for its craft beers, burgers and entrees like the bourbon- braised Adams Farm chicken and polenta.

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Schools to see: University of North Carolina, Duke University (Durham)

Around town: The city was actually created to serve the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was established in 1793 as the first state university in the country. The historic charm can still be felt in the winding streets, stone walls and small shops that surround the school. On bustling Franklin Street, more than 200 restaurants, bars and shops serve the multicultural population. Called “America’s Foodiest Small Town” by Bon Appetit, Chapel Hill is a culinary delight. For a memorable BLT, try Merrit’s Store & Grill. For classic Southern dishes, you can’t go wrong at Crook’s Corner, and for upscale Asian food, try Lantern. Work off your meal by taking a stroll around the North Carolina Botanical Garden, a free popular spot to enjoy the outdoors. The life-size chessboard is a hit with kids. Then take a tour of the Top of the Hill Distillery, which uses local ingredients to make organic spirits. Tar Heels (and college hoops fans in general) won’t want to miss the Carolina Basketball Museum, full of video clips, game balls, uniforms and more. Dare we mention Duke in this paragraph? UNC’s archrival is a mere 20 minutes away, so head to Durham if you’d like to visit the home of the Blue Devils.

State College, PA “We kept running into smiling faces in the downtown area. Everywhere we went people wanted our experience to be great! For restaurants, we loved American Ale House and Otto’s Pub and Brewery. They are casual with great food that’s well-priced. We also loved the Berkey Creamery for ice cream and visiting The Arboretum at Penn State.” —Pamela Etzin, Hillsdale

Berkeley, Calif.

Schools to see: UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University (San Francisco)

Around town: Enjoy the sunshine when visiting the University of California, Berkeley. Stroll down Telegraph Avenue to take in the hippie vibe while checking out the eclectic mix of stores, cafés and street vendors. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, after all. Tilden Regional Park is the perfect place to go for a hike. Nature fans will also enjoy the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, a tranquil 34-acre gem located above the main campus in Strawberry Canyon. Also in the hills is the Lawrence Hall of Science, a great place to take curious children. Worn out from all that walking? Take a load off in one of Berkeley’s many coffee shops. Try the Guerilla Café, a cozy spot on Shattuck Ave. in the Gourmet Ghetto. Yes, you read that right. The North Berkeley neighborhood was given that nickname in the late 1970s and is anchored by Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, the farm-to-table restaurant at the epicenter of the local food movement. Before you leave town, take in the sweeping views from the 307-foot Sather Tower (commonly known as the Campanile) on campus, which is the third-tallest bell and clock tower in the world.

Boston, Mass. “I was charmed by Boston’s immigrant trails, especially the history of fellow Italians, who had settled in the city. In the North End, I enjoyed touring Italian restaurants and pastry shops. It was a delicious journey that I fondly remember. I also recommend trying New England clam chowder. But what really won me over was the city’s history. South of Boston at Plymouth Rock, I lived out a day in the life of the Pilgrims when they first settled. It was replete with a typical dinner and candle and soap making. And who could forget Paul Revere’s house? Boston has it all.” —Francesca Di Meglio, Fort Lee

Burlington, VT. “It’s a wonderful place to visit. My kids love visiting the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Riding the bike path is a gorgeous way to spend the afternoon. End the day with a cocktail at Splash at the Boathouse while watching the sunset. And take a quick trip 15 minutes south to Shelburne Farms—kids can learn about how to milk a cow, collect eggs and brush a sheep.” —Allison Brown, Ridgewood

Syracuse, N.Y. “It’s such a fun town and it was a great place to explore. Hit up Destiny USA, an awesome mall even to this Jersey girl, or Armory Square, which boasts restaurants, bars, coffee shops, boutiques and other spots.” —Stacey Feintuch, Township of Washington

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Schools to see: University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti)

Around town: Taking in a game at Michigan Stadium (the largest stadium in the U.S. and aptly nicknamed The Big House) should be your first priority if it’s football season, but there are plenty of other things do while in Ann Arbor. Grab a local treat for breakfast at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, open Saturdays year round, then wander the brick streets of historic Kerrytown (named after County Kerry in Ireland) and peruse the locally owned shops selling everything from clothing to handmade art. Once you’ve worked up an appetite for lunch, pop into Zingerman’s Deli for one of its famous gigantic sandwiches. Don’t miss Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor for more unique boutiques, bookstores, cafes and great people watching. Feeling adventurous? Rent a kayak or canoe and paddle down the Huron River. Or enjoy the outdoors in a more relaxed fashion by strolling through the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum on the U of M campus. By now, you’re probably exhausted, so head to the Michigan Theater and enjoy an independent or classic film while marveling at the historic building, which opened in 1928.

Austin, Texas

Schools to see: University of Texas, St. Edward’s University

Around town: Have you heard the saying “Keep Austin Weird”? Well, get ready to experience what the weird is all about. This quirky, liberal town is unlike the rest of Texas, even though it’s the capital of the Lone Star State. Music reigns here (and not just during the South by Southwest music festival), so make seeing some live music your No. 1 to- do. Walk along Red River Street or 6th Street for lots of options, but never fear, live music can be found in dive bars and other venues all over town. The other must-do while in Austin is to eat barbeque. There are countless meat meccas in town, but standouts include Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue, Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q and Freedmen’s. When you’ve had your fill, wipe that sauce off your hands and get shopping. Some spots to check out include Uncommon Objects, an antiques store in South Austin that sells everything from vintage jewelry to oddities like skulls, and I Luv Video, the “oldest and largest video store in the world.” If the Texas heat is getting to you, take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool, a 1,000-foot long limestone pool fed by several underground springs. Fun fact: A young Robert Redford learned to swim there when he was visiting family in Austin. The pool is within Zilker Park, which is a great place for a picnic or to take a bike ride (you can rent wheels).

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