Scouted Destinations: College Towns with Serious Spirit

Whether you’re a college sports fan, a parent or student checking out higher education options, or simply on the hunt for a lively town to explore, these Scouted cities have plenty to offer. Beyond their reputations as academic hubs, you’ll find these dynamic towns brimming with world-class culture, beautiful scenery, and a thriving small-business scene that make them a worthwhile trip all on their own. So pack your bags, wear the school colors, and go ahead and root for the home team!


Fearrington Village, hotel, flowers and a white building
Photography courtesy of Fearrington Village.

This bustling area known as Triangle has more than enough to keep visitors busy. Thanks to multiple colleges and universities in a relatively small area, sports fans, brewery aficionados, and foodies have options galore only a short distance away. “Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill are chalk full of local small business gems,” Hopie Avery, editor of The Scout Guide Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill, touts. “The amazing foodie culture, family-friendly activities, and thriving art scene, are a few of the many reasons this area brings students, visitors and those looking to make a move.”

Both Duke University, a private research college, and NCCU, a historically black university, sit within the city limits of Durham. The dining scene offers a little bit of everything thanks to the diverse population of the area. Have a meal at Foster’s Market or Guglhupf—to experience some local favorites. Avery warns that the lines at these happening establishments may be long but move fast and are beloved by students and beyond. Other standout options include Ekhaya, which offers elevated Bantu cuisine, Dain’s Place for burgers, or The Chicken Hut for first-rate fried chicken. After you’ve filled your stomach, boogie to live music at Motorco Music Hall or get a drink on Ninth Street, a popular district for fun. The chic 21c Durham is perfect for an immersive downtown Durham experience, while those with coveted basketball tickets to cheer on the Blue Devils at the famed Cameron Stadium may prefer on campus accommodations at the JB Duke Hotel.

Just southwest of Durham sits Chapel Hill, home to the oldest public university in the United States, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For luxe accommodations while visiting, The Fearrington House Inn is an excellent option. A historic property a short drive south from Chapel Hill, the rolling hills and perfectly manicured grounds will make you feel as if you are at a countryside retreat. Get in some retail therapy at Julian’s, and ogle their fabulous Carolina memorabilia. You may even catch a glimpse of famed menswear designer Alexander Julian, who designed UNC’s basketball uniforms. After shopping, stay in the UNC spirit with a visit to the campus’s basketball museum or art museum, followed by wine tasting at D.B. Sutton, a wine store hidden within a hair salon.

North Carolina’s capital city Raleigh houses both NC State University and Meredith College. If you’re coming to check out NC State, Avery suggests a stay at the Aloft Raleigh, which boasts the best views of NC State’s Belltower, and easy access to sporting events, the JC Raulston Arboretum and the beloved North Carolina Museum of Art. The AC Hotel Raleigh Downtown is another splendid option, close to restaurants and bars, including local favorites like Char-Grill, a hopping burger joint, Snoopy’s, a Raleigh institution since 19878, and comparative newcomers Jolie, Death & Taxes, and Bida Manda. For dessert: Howling Cow, location on campus is a must. Other can’t miss attractions include The Raleigh Market, North Carolina’s largest flea market, held every Saturday and Sunday at the NC State Fairgrounds, and a visit to the elegant spa at The Umstead.

To plan your Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill getaway, check out the Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill Dining Guide, Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill Shopping Guide, and Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill, follow The Scout Guide Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill.


Photography by C. Roberton/iStock.

While Louisiana’s capital has much to offer, it’s no secret that its hometown school, Louisiana State University, is a major point of pride for students and locals alike. “Baton Rouge is not your typical college town,” Kaleigh Porcelli, editor of The Scout Guide Baton Rouge, explains. “It’s a place for students to grow outside of their studies and immerse themselves in a region rich in culture and history.” Thanks to a robust small business scene and welcoming residents, it’s no wonder students, their families, and visitors tend to return and even settle down in this riverside city.

LSU helps provide for the city in numerous ways with the places it has to offer on and off campus. For nature lovers, explore the Burden Garden Center, an extension of the LSU Agriculture Center, which houses brilliant flowers, wildlife, and birds. The LSU Observatory is a special place where you can enjoy a movie under the stars or take a look at the constellations through a telescope. To beat the Louisiana heat, take a stroll through the LSU Art Museum downtown. 

While all of LSU’s athletics have a loyal fanbase, the football team in particular is known to draw enormous crowds on game day. “Cheering on the LSU Tigers isn’t just a Saturday tradition in the fall, it’s a way of life that brings the city together year round,” Porcelli shares. Locals know it’s best to arrive a few hours ahead of the game to soak up all the sights and traditions, including one of the most well-sourced tailgate experiences offered in the world of college athletics. Highlights include meeting LSU’s mascot and actual tiger, Mike the Tiger, or participating in the “Victory Hill March,” a pregame tradition where fans cheer on LSU’s Golden Band, Golden Girls, football team, coaches and staff, as they march down Victory Hill. For a more mobile tailgating experience you can book a PedalPub Game Day tour, a wonderful way to see more of the campus.

No trip is complete without some local shopping, and Baton Rouge is filled to the brim with excellent boutiques. Located near campus you’ll find two of our favorite shops: The Keeping Room and Edit by LBP. Corporate Blvd. is another area worth visiting for some of the best shopping in town. These shops are all within minutes of each other and offer something for everyone. Be sure to stop by Aria, LOVE, NK  The Queen Bee, and Carriages Fine Clothier for the guys.

If you want to explore the area more, St. Francisville is a small, picturesque town just outside of Baton Rouge, a favorite escape for locals. Spend a night at the boutique bed and breakfast The St. Francisville Inn to fully immerse yourself in the slow, southern lifestyle of this charming region.The Inn’s restaurant, The Saint, is rated one of the best dining experiences in all of Louisiana and was recently named as one of America’s top 100 restaurants. There are several boutiques in the downtown area worth exploring, Sage Hill, NK St. Francisville, The Corbel, and Barlow Fashion are just a few of our favorites! There is even a free trolly available for visitors to utilize in order to easily bounce around from shop to shop.

To plan your Baton Rouge getaway, check out the LSU Insider Guide, the Baton Rouge Dining Guide, Baton Rouge Shopping Guide, and Baton Rouge Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Baton Rouge, follow The Scout Guide Baton Rouge on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Baton Rouge website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Baton Rouge.


Photography by Amy Sparwasser/iStock.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The University of Virginia in Charlottesville is regarded as one of the most beautiful universities in the country. “Not only is UVa an excellent school, Charlottesville is also an extraordinary place to visit,” Antje Lemoine, editor of The Scout Guide Charlottesville, shares. “It has a small town feel with a rich cultural scene, stunning surroundings, fantastic food, and really interesting people.”

Those looking for a more indepth look at the University and the history of Charlottesville should schedule a tour with the University Guide Service, for an informative (and often humorous) introduction to UVa’s campus, referred to as “Grounds.” Begin your tour at the Rotunda at the north end of the Lawn, a grassy area designed by Thomas Jefferson to be the center of the university. The Lawn is surrounded by academic and residential buildings dating back to the early 1800s. Afterwards, head to The Corner and grab a bagel from Bodo’s Bagels, a Charlottesville institution known for its bagels that are so fresh they don’t need toasting. 

While the University of Virginia is central to the history and culture of Charlottesville, the city has much to offer beyond the University. “From the resplendent vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a growing wine industry, progressive arts scene, and farm-to-table restaurants rivaling some of the best in the world, you will find yourself looking to return to Charlottesville time and time again,” Lemoine reports.

To plan the UVA stop along your college tour, check out the UVA Insider Guide, Charlottesville Lodging Guide, Charlottesville Shopping Guide, and Charlottesville Dining Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Charlottesville follow The Scout Guide Charlottesville on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Charlottesville website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Charlottesville.


Photography courtesy of University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

Ann Arbor, colloquially referred to as A2, is a unique place with a palpable pride for the University of Michigan, as well as the town as a whole. Known as the most educated city in America, it’s no secret why prospective students, curious parents, and interested visitors flock to see what’s so special about this super smart locale. “It has all the conveniences a city could offer—cozy coffee shops, tons of bookstores, gorgeous art galleries, and eclectic dining options—all while still feeling safe, clean, and like you’re part of a community,” Lori Lorenz, editor of The Scout Guide Ann Arbor, explains. “It’s that little big town feel.”

When picking a homebase for your visit, Lorenz recommends a stay at the college-themed Graduate Hotel, for a good dose of nostalgia and easy access to everything Ann Arbor has to offer. Just steps away from the grounds of University of Michigan, this is the prime location for exploring the mesmerizing architecture on campus as well as the tempting dining options adjacent. A few local foodie favorites include The Produce Station, just south of campus, which boasts a top-notch salad bar ideal for lunch, as well as the cute coffee shop meets upscale grocery, the Venue Market & Cafe

Even the most casual of sports fans would be remiss not to add a U-M football game to their agenda. Get geared up at the M Den, and then prepare for an experience like no other. Michigan Stadium, nicknamed “The BIG House,” is the largest stadium in the United States with a fanbase to match. If you miss football season, cheering on the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Crisler Center can be an equally entertaining event. 

Once you’ve lost your voice from cheering and sponged off that blue face paint, you can take in a bit of culture at the University of Michigan Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History, or catch a performance at the Power Center. Those lucky enough to experience an Ann Arbor summer should mark their calendars for the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair, the largest juried art fair in the nation. 
To plan your Ann Arbor getaway, check out the Ann Arbor Dining Guide, Ann Arbor Shopping Guide, and Ann Arbor Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Ann Arbor, follow The Scout Guide Ann Arbor on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Ann Arbor website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Ann Arbor.


Photography courtesy of Overton Hotel.

Often referred to as ‘The Friendly State,’ the residents of Lubbock, Texas, take that moniker to heart. “Lubbockites will hold doors for you, pull over to help you change a tire, and you’ll almost always get a ‘hello’ as someone passes,” Audra Opperman, editor of The Scout Guide Lubbock, shares. “It’s the Texas way, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!” Home to Texas Tech University, and one of the fastest growing cities in the state, this west Texas town is lovely year round but can feel especially festive in the fall, as the weather cools, students return, and football season kicks off.

College football game days in Lubbock are a big deal. Walking distance to the stadium, the Overton Hotel & Conference Center is a popular choice for fans looking to be close to the action. Whether you’re tailgating on campus at Raider Alley or hanging at local pre-game hotspot Chimy’s, expect a spirited atmosphere. Broadway is the place to be post-game, offering fun bars, delicious restaurants, and the sound of the Victory Bells tolling. Try the patio at Miguel’s for great Mexican food and margaritas or Dirk’s Signature Chicken & Bar, known for their chicken and waffles, as well as a collection of local legend Dirk West’s art. After a long night of celebrating, Opperman advises mornings spent at Monomyth Coffee, to put the pep back in your step. 

To plan your Lubbock getaway, check out the Texas Tech Game Day Guide, the Lubbock Dining Guide, Lubbock Shopping Guide, and Lubbock Lodging Guide. And for additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Lubbock, follow The Scout Guide Lubbock on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Lubbock website, where you can browse or buy the latest volume of The Scout Guide Lubbock.