Fun Ways to Turn a Campus Tour Into a Mini Vacation

Turn your college visit into a well-rounded stay when you drop in at these college towns

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, features more than 50,000 plant displays. Credit: Desert Botanical Garden


Where has the time gone? How is it possible you've been out of college so long that your children are now figuring out where they want to study? Whether you’re feeling nostalgic about your past or jazzed about their (and your) impending freedom, there’s much to be gained from family college visits.

Before you set out to explore your teen’s college bucket list, plan an itinerary that goes beyond dorm rooms and campus buildings. Check out our recommendations for five great towns where you can turn college visits into something more.

Take a literary tour of Savannah

Stop by the historic and supposedly haunted Mercer Williams House when in Savannah, Georgia.

Your creative kid is curious about the esteemed Savannah College of Art and Design, so, lo and behold, you're planning a trip to Savannah for a college campus tour. Your research should include picking up John Berendt's scandalous nonfiction classic, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. You can seek out some of the sights and locales from the 1994 bestseller, including the Mercer Williams House Museum, where Clint Eastwood’s movie adaptation was filmed.

Catch some music in Austin

Live music is everywhere in Austin—you may even be greeted by it in the airport. It is a city that is truly music-rich year-round. It’s the home and namesake of the Austin City Limits TV show, after all. So if your college-bound kid is considering the University of Texas at Austin, don't let him or her hog the nightlife; check out some of the city's more than 250 live music venues for yourself!

Hit the surf in Virginia Beach

Take a break from college tours by hanging ten at Virginia Beach, Virginia.

You can get from Norfolk State University to Virginia Beach quickly—a less-than-30-minute drive takes you straight to the coast. And as you’re facing an empty nest in your near future, time for new hobbies is right around the corner. So why not kick the adventure up a notch and learn to surf? There are a few surfing schools in Virginia Beach, such as VB Surf Sessions and WRV Surf Camp.

Chill out in Columbia

Take a short walk from the University of South Carolina to Five Points, and you’ll find a sweet little shopping district with all the essentials. Want to improve your wardrobe? Five Points has a plethora of retail options. Hungry for breakfast and seriously good espresso? Five Points boasts Drip, one of the city’s best coffee shops, which offers its inventive breakfast menu all day. Looking for a true college town hallmark? The independent record store Papa Jazz will rock your world.

If you end up spending the weekend in Columbia, schedule time for the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden or the Columbia Museum of Art, where admission is free on the second Sunday of the month.

Explore the Arizona desert

No trip to Phoenix is complete without a desert experience. Visitors flock to the Valley of the Sun for its sunny weather, booming downtown arts scene and culinary variety. If you have an undergrad considering Arizona State University, why not also stop by the Desert Botanical Garden? Or you can escape the city on a desert drive. We love the Apache Trail National Scenic Byway; the 40-mile, mountainous drive runs from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Dam.


Ready to travel? Find hotels in Savannah, Austin, Virginia Beach, Columbia, Phoenix.



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