Of course, I am biased towards Berkeley. After all, I went there as both an undergrad, and for graduate school. Berkeley itself, has changed about 180 degrees since then. In 1964, the area around campus was almost “Ivy League” in appearance, with preppy men’s stores, book stores, Fraser’s (an upscale home and designer store), and the usual assortment of college related businesses.
Today, it is a mess. Many of the locally owned stores are gone. It is a quagmire of retail, some bookstores, and total junk. The college atmosphere I enjoyed is long gone. The only attraction for me, around campus, are the many great restaurants, such as Chez Panisse, Great China, and Gather.
I visited another of my alma maters, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill just last year. I would say, at first glance, it has retained more of the old college vibe, with many local eateries, bookstores, and college related businesses. And it seems relatively clean and safe. The idea of a central business district serves them well.
One of the best college towns I have visited is Boulder, Colorado, home to the University of Colorado. It is known as an outdoor sports capital, and revels in that title. The entire downtown mall seems to cater to college students. When I visit Denver, I always try to drive over to Boulder, for the great college atmosphere. The bars are low key and fun, but the food is rather “college boy” if you know what I mean.
One of my dream college towns is perhaps the most famous, Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT. When I was younger, I enjoyed all the preppy stores. But today, it is the Harvard Bookstore that brings me back on each visit to Boston. I could spend half a day there, just browsing the books. Most of the food choices are rather simple, except for a country French place, and the usual hodge podge of coffee, sandwich, and quasi-ethnic joints. But the atmosphere is great.
We are blessed with many pretty college “towns” here in the west. I attended the beautiful campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, with its tree lined streets reminiscent of Ivy league schools back eat. But I consider Stockton to be an armpit. Up north, I like the Cal State campus at Chico. And on the ocean, how can UC Santa Barbara be any better for sun worshippers and surfers.
I have visited two of our three military academies. The chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is spectacular (pictured above). But the Naval Academy (Don’t Give Up the Ship!) in Annapolis, Maryland is both classic and beautiful. The city of Annapolis fits perfectly.
I almost got stuck in two inner city universities, when I was applying for grad school. I don’t think Columbia in NYC or Johns Hopkins in downtown Baltimore would quality as my kind of college town (city).
I have visited many nice campuses over the years: Tulane, San Diego State, Michigan, Ohio State, Montana, Oregon, Georgetown, and Hawaii.
I am certain each of you has a favorite, or most beautiful. What are my requirements: classic architecture and tree lined streets. And lots of brick! I would love to hear your choices.
Photos above: Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, UC Berkeley, and Trinity University.