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Going on College Visits This Spring? Top Ten Vacation-Worthy Campuses

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Planning college visits for this spring or summer? Why not build in some tourism? Here is a list of 10 campuses that are worth visiting for their architectural interest and scenic beauty alone.


College of the Atlantic

College of the Atlantic
Bar Harbor, Maine
This tiny college focuses entirely on human ecology—the study of the relationship between humans and their natural and social environments—and its 35-acre campus is well suited to the task. Located on the island of Mount Desert, along the dramatic Maine coast and adjacent to the magnificent Acadia National Park, the campus is covered in lush flowers, vegetable gardens and lawns. An environmentalist paradise.


Duke University


Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
Duke’s campus, carved out of 8,300 acres of lush forest of the North Carolina Piedmont, offers enough open space to satisfy even the most diehard outdoors enthusiast. West Campus, the hub of the university, is dominated by the impressive Gothic chapel and boasts dozens of Collegiate Gothic residential and classroom quads. It is connected to the original East Campus, consisting primarily of Georgian redbrick buildings, by wooded Campus Drive.


Florida Southern College


Florida Southern College
Lakeland, Florida
If the sign did not say “college,” you might think you had wondered into a Frank Lloyd Wright architectural museum. Situated on 100 sloping acres overlooking pristine Lake Hollingsworth, Southern features the world’s largest concentration of buildings designed by famed architect, with ten buildings, a 45-foot-high water dome, and a 1.5-mile network of covered walkways connecting the buildings. The Annie Pfeiffer Chapel is a highlight.


Furman University


Furman University
Greenville, South Carolina
Furman University has been called the “Country Club of the South” and has gorgeous 750-acre campus to match—with tree-lined malls, fountains, a formal rose garden and Japanese garden, and a 30-acre lake filled with swans and ducks. Flowering shrubs dot the well-kept lawns, which surround buildings in the classical revival, Colonial Williamsburg, and modern architectural styles. Many have porches, pediments, and other Southern touches, such as handmade Virginia brick.


Pepperdine University


Pepperdine University
Malibu, California
Pepperdine’s picturesque location high in the Santa Monica Mountains makes it a favorite location for filmmakers. The 830-acre campus overlooks the Pacific Ocean and features fountains, hillside gardens, mountain trails, and a 20-minute walk to the beach. Cream-colored, Mediterranean-style buildings topped with red terra cotta roofs dot the landscape. A 125-foot-tall white stucco cross reminds visitors of the school’s affiliation with the Churches of Christ.


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Princeton University


Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton’s architectural trademark is Gothic, from the cavernous and ornate university chapel to the four-pronged Cleveland Tower rising majestically above the treetops. Interspersed among the Gothic are examples of Colonial architecture, most notably historic Nassau Hall, which served as the temporary home of the Continental Congress in 1783 and has defined elegance in academic architecture ever since. Princeton’s only really ugly building houses the School of Architecture.


Stanford University


Stanford University
Palo Alto, California
The Stanford campus stretches from the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the edge of Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley. Unlike the self-contained ivy-covered courtyards of the older Ivy League universities, Stanford’s mission-style buildings look outward to the world at large. Although Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s Central Park, planned many of the buildings, some architectural cynics say the campus looks like the world’s biggest Mexican restaurant.


University of Virginia


University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia
Located just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, UVA’s campus is a World Heritage Site—dotted with historic buildings designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. At the core is Jefferson’s “academical village,” with majestic white pillars, serpentine walls, and extensive brickwork. The village rises around a rectangular terraced green, known as the Lawn, which is flanked by two rows of identical one-story rooms reserved for undergraduate student leaders.




Wellesley College
Wellesley, Massachusetts
Wellesley’s suburban campus sits among 500 rolling acres of cultivated and natural areas notable for their magnificent trees. Buildings range in architectural style from Gothic (with stone towers and brick quadrangles) to state-of-the-art science and arts facilities. The campus includes a 22-acre arboretum as well as a botanical garden. Visitors can join students in strolling around Lake Waban.


William and Mary


William & Mary
Williamsburg, Virginia
A profusion of azaleas and crape myrtle adds splashes of color to William & Mary’s finely manicured campus, which boasts Lake Matoaka, the oldest man-made lake in Virginia, and a wooded wildlife preserve. The Ancient Campus is a grouping of three Colonial structures, the oldest being the Sir Christopher Wren Building, completed in 1700 and now the oldest college building in the country in continuous use. It is arguably the most beautiful building in U.S. higher education.


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Edward B. Fiske served for 17 years as education editor of the New York Times, where he realized that college-bound students and their families needed better information on which to base their educational choices. He is the author of the bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges, the Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College, and many other great books to help students find and get into colleges. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

See all of Fiske’s books in the College Countdown bookstore.