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6 U.S. College Towns That You Don't Need to Be in School to Love

There's something for everybody whether you're into outdoorsy fun or shopping till you drop.

When you think of a college town, a place overrun with football games, bar crawls, and twenty-somethings who don't know how to handle their alcohol may come to mind. However, some of these collegiate enclaves stand out for things beyond beautiful campuses and all-night parties. Those who've long-earned their degrees can still revel in all that these cities have to offer from amazing museums and restaurants to local festivals and outdoor activities. Read on to discover the six college towns you don't need to be in school to love, according to travel experts.

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San Marcos, Texas

San Marcos, Texas
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San Marcos is a wonderful city that lies between San Antonio and Austin. It may be home to Texas State University, but if offers plenty of fun visitors of all ages. From hanging out on the river that runs through town to visiting the local art center and shopping boutiques, you won't run out of things to do in this charming city besides studying.

"Tourists enjoy floating down the San Marcos river in tubes, and the charming downtown square boasts a variety of bars and restaurants," says Joshua Nelson, an avid traveler and entrepreneur who owns Allstate Bail Bonds.

"There is also a unique collection of mermaid statues placed throughout the town that have been painted and decorated by local artists. San Marcos also boasts a robust economy that is anchored by tourism, manufacturing, retail and, of course, the university."

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Anne Arbor Michigan downtown scene.
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Ann Arbor, a bustling city just west of Detroit and home to University of Michigan, was just ranked the number one best place to live for families in Fortune.

"Located in the heart of the Great Lakes region, Ann Arbor is known for its diverse community, excellent food and drink scene, and beautiful parks and green spaces," says Nelson.

No matter what activities you like to do or if you want to just relax instead, Ann Arbor has it all. Tourists will have access to over 100 parks where you can walk along the stunning Huron River.

"The city offers an array of outdoor activities like kayaking, fishing and golfing. With its vibrant culture and stunning views, Ann Arbor is a great place to explore" says Fred Hoffman, founder of the travel blog, True Wilderness.

This progressive city also has an active LGBTQ community, providing an inclusive and safe environment for residents and tourists alike.

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Ithaca, New York

Ithaca New York college town
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When you visit Ithaca, home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, you'll come to the realize that it's not your just another college town.

"Located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Ithaca is known for its natural beauty, with gorges and waterfalls within walking distance of the downtown area," says Nelson.

Beyond the stunning scenery, Ithaca showcases a vibrant downtown area with plenty of restaurants and over 100 shops to peruse. It hosts an apple harvest festival in the fall and an ice and lights festival every winter. And if you're up for an adventure, there's a plethora of activities you can take part in, such as hiking, kayaking and wine tasting.

Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville, VA
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Charlottesville is a charming city with both an urban atmosphere with a small-town feel, says Balaram Thapa, a travel advisor for the Nepal Hiking Team.

With stunning views of mountains and a romantic downtown area full of great restaurants, boutiques, and cafes, we can see why this city isn't just loved by the University of Virginia students.

You won't be hungry after visiting Charlottesville thanks to its thriving food and bar scene. We promise you, no boring dorm food here. And if you like wine, you're in luck, you're be in the very heart of Virginia's prominent wine country.

"This college town is known for its historical significance and beautiful setting in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains," says Nelson. "It is also home to a thriving food and drink scene and a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities."

Lawrence, Kansas

Aerial View of Lawrence, Kansas and its State University
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Lawrence, a quaint city located in northeast Kansas and home to the University of Kansas, gives travelers and residents ample activities to enjoy besides studying for exams.

This city has an incredibly rich history that everyone will be able to enjoy. Why not go to the KU Natural History Museum that showcases hundreds of fossils from dinosaurs , honeybee colonies, and even some live insects? After this, you can head down to the Booth Family Hall of Athletics that highlights Kansas's basketball history. Finally, you can head to the downtown area that will be sure to blow you away with the many restaurant and bar options.

"With its vibrant music and art scenes, outdoor activities like hiking along the Kaw River and biking trails, plus a plethora of delicious restaurants to sample from, Lawrence is a great place to visit whether you're a student or not," says Joshua Haley, a travel expert and founder of Moving Astute.

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Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisonsin
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Madison makes a name for itself without needing to rely on the University of Wisconsin to define this lively city. The capital of Wisconsin and features incredible historical museums, art and music festivals, and fun shopping opportunities.

"Home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this college town is renowned for its lively culture and beauty," says Haley. "Boasting a vibrant music and art scene as well as plenty of fun outdoor activities like biking along Lake Mendota and picnicking in one of the city's many parks, Madison offers something for everyone. Plus, there are plenty of amazing restaurants to sample from and exciting nightlife spots to explore."

If you're looking for a little culture, there's plenty of museums to choose from whether you want to have fun at the National Mustard Museum or embrace your inner artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Lauren Jarvis-Gibson
Lauren Jarvis-Gibson is an Associate Editor at Best Life. Her work has been published in Teen Vogue, Allure, HuffPost, and more. Read more
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