August 31, 2007

Get smart: Travel to college towns

Our first-born went off to college yesterday. We moved Adam into his dorm at one of Boston's biggest urban universities, and, while it was emotional, it was also exciting. The campus is in the heart of Boston, and Adam's world ballooned overnight from quiet, middle class suburb to a vibrant, diverse city that offers endless opportunities. When we drove away we knew he was in a good place.

Some of my favorite travel destinations have been cities with large universities. A big, busy, engaged student population makes a place pop, and everything -- shops, restaurants, streets, parks, architecture, cultural offerings, people watching -- is interesting, eclectic, electric. The atmosphere buzzes. I always pick a hotel near the university epicenter so I'm near the action.

I especially love European college towns because they often boast centuries-old universities with rich histories. The schools often sit in the city's ancient quarter or occupy dramatic settings atop hills or beside wide, tree-lined rivers.

The photos above show a few of my favorite university cities: from top to bottom, Oxford, England; Heidelberg, Germany; Coimbra, Portugal.

Next time you travel, add a university town to your itinerary. Smart move.