The Best Hotels and Inns in 30 Top College and University Towns
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Whether you’re planning a college tour, returning to campus for a big reunion or The Big Game, or even taking a business trip or a getaway vacation, the choices for chic hotels in college and university towns have never been better. Here’s our list of the best hotels and inns in college and university towns in the U.S. and UK, including 21c Museum hotels and Graduate hotels.
The Best Hotels and Inns in 30 Top College and University Towns
We really love college towns, so we’re particularly delighted that thanks to a new cadre of innovative entrepreneurs, the choices for chic hotels in college and university towns have never been better.
There’s nothing wrong with the global brands that you’ll find in every college or university town in America. We’ve spent many happy nights at Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn properties. But sometimes you want something more special than that.
When you’re ready for something unique, with a real sense of place, check into one of these properties for a transporting experience.
We’ve listed or picks of the best hotels in college and university towns in alphabetical order, according to the name of the college or university.
We know feelings about this run strongly, and we promise we didn’t favor our own alma maters. Apologies in advance if we left yours out.
1 & 2. Amherst College + Williams College.
The Lord Jeffrey Inn, Amherst, Massachusetts. This charming historic inn has been a landmark in Western Massachusetts since 1926, and as a result, “The Jeff” is the lodging of choice for returning Five Colleges alumni and visiting parents. Each of the 49 guest rooms are unique, and its full-service restaurant, 30Boltwood, features farm-to-table cuisine and craft cocktails.
3. Brown University.
The Dean Hotel. This smart boutique hotel was built around the history and culture of Providence. Its filled with custom furniture, works from local artists and “found objects from Europe and beyond.” The 52-room property is in the heart of the Downcity historic district. The Classmates room features bunk beds, and is perfectly sized for a group of four. With Matouk linens, a rainfall shower, and custom-scented toiletries, this is the college dorm room of our dreams.
4. California Institute of Technology.
The 5-star Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena has 379 rooms, suites, and cottages. Each is designed to reflect a classic Southern California vibe. The property provides expansive views of the surrounding landscape and nearby mountains from almost every room. There are lots of dining options: steaks at The Royce; a bistro-style menu at The Terrace; tea at the Lobby Lounge, and pub food in the Tap Room.
5. Columbia University.
Aloft Harlem. Located in the heart of Harlem at the corner of Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 124th Street, this 124-room property (owned by the Marriott corporation) was the first new hotel to open in Harlem in over 40 years. It offers an urban-influenced, modern, open design and it’s within walking distance to the Columbia campus. The re:mix lounge and W xyz bar add to the groove.
The Statler Hotel. Students at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration help run this 153-room property, so you can be certain that it’s infused with the spirit of Cornell. Overlooking downtown Ithaca and Cayuga Lake, and set right on campus, the property was established in 1950 as an experiment in hotel education. There are three restaurants, including the Tuscan Taverna Banfi and the Regent Lounge.
The Hanover Inn. Located in the former home of General Ebenezer Brewster, Dartmouth College’s steward starting in 1769, this has been the hotel of choice for Dartmouth visitors for centuries. Dartmouth green is everywhere – walls, carpet and throw pillows – and there is school memorabilia galore. There’s also a community board where visitors can alert others that they’re in town.
8. Duke University.
The 21c Museum Hotel, Durham. The last time we were in Durham we stayed here, and we really loved it. The combination art space and boutique hotel has more than 10,500 square feet of art-filled exhibition space as well as the lively Counting House restaurant. It’s only a mile from Duke’s campus, located in the atmospheric Hill Building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The vibe is quirky and fun, and the rotating exhibits are always interesting. And if you sense that you’re being watched by a fuschia penguin? You’re right.
9. Emory University.
The Emory Conference Center Hotel boasts a Frank Lloyd Wright design. Nestled next to Hahn Woods, a peaceful 26-acre nature preserve, it’s actually right in the middle of Atlanta and pretty close to the university. Some rooms feature large balconies with sweeping views of the nature preserve. The property has two restaurants, a fitness center and an indoor pool. There’s also a Garden Courtyard, outdoor fire pit, and easy access to nearby hiking and bike trails.
10. Georgetown + American University + GW University
The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. This distinctive property with 86 guest rooms and suites is housed in a converted industrial building with a soaring brick smokestack. We stayed there last year and found the vibe and the easy proximity to the charms of the Georgetown neighborhood unbeatable. The common areas, particularly the gorgeous Living Room, are warm and cozy. The Living Room itself features exposed brick, a dramatic wood burning fireplace, lounge seating, and chic décor. For dining, there’s Degrees Bistro, and there’s also a spa.
11. Harvard University.
The Charles Hotel. We love the Charles Hotel for all kinds of reasons: the witty and sleek design, the farm-to-table Henrietta’s Kitchen, its charming courtyard (which is lit with fairy lights every evening), and the fact that there are books everywhere (plus fresh red apples for the taking at check-in). It’s a short stroll to the Charles River and Harvard Yard, and just steps away from the Kennedy School of Government and JFK Park.
12. Johns Hopkins
The Ivy Hotel. This member of Relais & Chateux is located in a historic Mount Vernon mansion in Baltimore. The intimate property has only 18 guest rooms and suites, along with charming public spaces, a small luxury spa, and Magdalena, Baltimore’s best restaurant. It’s not far from the university, and it’s a good spot from which to explore the city: the charming streets of Mount Vernon, the vibrant waterfront, boutiques, galleries, theaters and coffee shops.
13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The Kendall Hotel. Located just steps from the Kendall Square subway stop, and ideally situated on MIT’s campus, the property sits right at the intersection of Cambridge and Boston. It has Queen Anne-style architecture (it’s one of the area’s only 19th century buildings and a member of Historic Hotels of America). The hotel’s Black Sheep Restaurant serves classic American cuisine. A highlight? The Rooftop Retreat features skyline views, a 24-hour business center, and a nightly hosted Wine Hour.
14. Middlebury College
The Middlebury Inn. A charming and historic bed-and-breakfast in the center of Middlebury, Vermont, the Middlebury Inn has a front porch that looks out over the town green. The inn opened in 1827, and is now a full service hotel with 71 guestrooms, a restaurant and bar.
15 & 16. Morehouse + Spelman.
The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta. Located only 2.3 miles away from the Morehouse and Spelman campuses, and also an easy walk from the Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium, the Ritz is a 5-star hotel with all the amenities you’d expect. Its luxury hotel rooms and suites overlook the Atlanta skyline. The property’s AG steakhouse is Southern-inspired, and when the weather is fine, there’s elegant outdoor seating available. And there’s also an outpost of the renowned Athens, Georgia coffee shop Jittery Joe’s.
17. New York University
The Walker Hotel. A charming boutique hotel with 113 accommodations in Greenwich Village, the Walker is so discreet that you could walk right past it, assuming it was a gracious private home. The building has copper clad bay windows, cast stone trim and restoration antique glass illuminated by gas lanterns. The rooms feature Art-Deco inspired furnishings. The baths have decorative elements like black and white subway tiles. Bath and body products are from C.O. Bigelow, New York’s oldest apothecary. And the beds are dressed in Italian Frette linens. But our favorite amenity is the wonderful parlor, with a working fireplace and a curated library featuring classic New York-themed books, including early editions by authors who call, or have called, Greenwich Village home.
18. Princeton University.
The Nassau Inn. The charming Nassau Inn has been a fixture in Princeton for generations. It feels like a part of the university, with its orange and black memorabilia on the walls, and warm personal service. It’s a 2-minute walk to campus, and the property is surrounded by shopping, restaurants, a bookstore, and a small garden square just out front.
19. Rice University
Hotel ZaZa Houston Museum District. Seriously, how could you not want to stay at a hotel called ZaZa? This boutique 4-star property is only a mile away from the campus of Rice. Situated in the heart of the Museum District, near shopping, the Texas Medical Center and the downtown central business district. The hotel restaurant is the Monarch Bistro, and there’s a day spa onsite.
20. Stanford University.
The Stanford Park Hotel. There are lots of options for 4-star hotels within walking distance of the Stanford campus. Our personal favorite is the Stanford Park Hotel. On a recent visit there, we were treated to complimentary bikes, rides in the hotel’s Tesla, lunch in its charming courtyard, and snacks by the fire pits at the end of the day. There’s a pool, ample common areas, and a really nice vibe. Plus free fresh-from-the oven cookies every night. Yas!
21. University of California – Berkeley.
The Graduate Hotel, Berkeley is located in the historic former Hotel Durant. Just a five-minute walk to campus and steps from the Telegraph Avenue shops, this member of the Graduate group prides itself on being “a postcard of Bohemian chic, collegiate plaids and game day gold.” Henry’s serves pre- and post-game bites and brews, as well as farm-to-table food all week long.
22. University of Cambridge, UK.
The University Arms. This 192-room Autograph Collection hotel started life as a couching inn in 1834. It reopened last year after a 4-year renovation. The artwork is a carefully curated collection with a deep sense of place: vintage maps, prints of iconic Cambridge landmarks, and portraits of famous Cambridge academics. The show-stopper is the library, which is complete with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with titles curated by London bookstore Heywood Hill. The sound-track in the public washrooms is the voice of Alan Bennett reading from The Wind in the Willows. It doesn’t get any more civilized than that.
23. University of Chicago.
The Hyatt Place Chicago South. Visitors to the University of Chicago can opt to stay in downtown Chicago, where there are dozens of lodging choices. If you choose to stay in Hyde Park, though, the best choice is the Hyatt Place Chicago South. Located off of 53rd Street, a thoroughfare filled with shops, galleries, and restaurants, the hotel offers a shuttle service within Hyde Park. It’s a 15-minute bus ride from campus. You can also walk to Promontory Point, where you’ll find wonderful views of the city. Also close-by, Jackson Park is the home of the coming Obama Presidential Center. The Museum of Science and Industry is also a short walk away.
24. University of Michigan.
The Graduate Hotel Ann Arbor. This recently-opened 204-room hotel is at Huron and State, right across the street from the university. It’s also within easy walking distance to Ann Arbor’s restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The vibe is “cozy club,” with lots of art (including graffiti) and nods to the Maize and Blue. Food and drink options include Poindexter Coffee and the Allen Rumsey Cocktail Lounge.
25. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
The Carolina Inn. This 4-star property, established in 1924, is located right on campus. The lovely 185-room hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. its owned by UNC and its revenues are used to support the North Carolina Collection at the Wilson Library. The Crossroads restaurant, helmed by Michelin-starred chef and North Carolina native Brandon Sharp, offers Sunday brunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The adjoining bar has comfortable seating, flat-screen TVs, artwork and university memorabilia.
26. University of Pennsylvania.
The Inn at Penn is a Hilton hotel in University City with 245 rooms and suites. The Living Room is a common area with comfortable, overstuffed armchairs, wood paneling, and traditional colors where small plates and premium-brand drinks are served near the warmth of two fireplaces.
27. University of Virginia (UVA).
The Graduate, Charlottesville. Located across the street from the University of Virginia Grounds and steps away from The Rotunda and The Lawn, this boutique hotel is right in the middle of everything. It sits on historic Main Street overlooking The Corner, a charming downtown stretch of restored and renovated restaurants, galleries and shops. Rose, blue, and emerald green decor complements the views of the surrounding landscape. Dining options include the rooftop Camp Ten Four and the lobby-level eatery the Sheepdog Café.
28. University of Wisconsin, Madison.
HotelRed in Madison. The self-proclaimed first boutique hotel in the city is centered in Madison’s sports and shopping districts. The interior is all about Madison; The Wise Restaurant & Bar specializes in “Elevated Comfort Food.”
29. West Point, the US Military Academy.
The Thayer Hotel. With its commanding views of the Hudson River and the United States Military Academy, the Thayer has been a magnificent destination since it opened in 1926. The property features 151 guestrooms and suites, including two Presidential Suites and 22 Executive Suites. Dining options include MacArthur’s Riverview Restaurant and the Zulu Time Rooftop Bar and Lounge, the only rooftop bar between New York City and Albany.
30. Yale University.
The Study at Yale is a 124-room property, located in the heart of the university’s vibrant Arts Campus, that’s part of the Study Hotels group. Guest rooms feature a leather chair, reading lamp, work surfaces, and exceptional task lighting. There’s a fitness center, a lobby cafe featuring Illy coffee, and the full-service Heirloom Restaurant & Lounge.
Best Hotels and Inns in 30 Top College and University Towns
That’s our take on the best hotels and inns in 30 top college and university towns in the U.S. and U.K., including the cool-kid chains 21c Museum Hotels and Graduate Hotels.
What did we miss? Share your picks for the best hotels in college and university towns, and we’ll check them out. In the meantime, safe and happy travels.
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Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. A Detroit native, she has 3 Harvard degrees and has written 3 mystery novels published by Simon & Schuster. After serving as a senior corporate executive, CEO of CNBC and partner at McKinsey, she now serves on the boards of several tech companies. She loves fashion, Paris, New York, books, contemporary art, running, skiing, coffee, Corgis and violets.