Whether searching for the perfect place to continue your education, or simply looking for a pretty spot to visit for the afternoon, visiting a campus known for its physical splendor (and not just its academic might) is a great way to get a sense of the area in which the school is located. Wander through masterfully constructed historical buildings, curated gardens, and glimpse incredible mountain and ocean views. Here are 15 of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States that are worth experiencing for yourself.
University of California, Santa Cruz
The location of the University of California, Santa Cruz was selected not for its practicality, but for the beauty of the rolling hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean near the town of Santa Cruz. The campus is famous for its incredible outdoor spaces, including a large open field known as the Great Meadow, groves of redwood trees, caves and other naturally occurring wonders, such as its Mima Mounds.
That a university located in downtown Houston is on this list may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the aesthetics of Houston’s Museum District. The beautifully kept campus and extensive grounds at Rice University are in close proximity to Houston’s many museums. The architecture on campus has largely Byzantine influences, with pink brickwork, large archways and columns.
A small liberal arts college in Williamstown, Mass., Williams College is located in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains. The campus is absolutely breathtaking in autumn when the foliage changes to vivid yellows, oranges and reds.
Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the campus at the University of Virginia is famous for its magnificent Jeffersonian architecture. The main building on campus, the Rotunda, was constructed to resemble the Pantheon in Rome and is half its size. The campus, in addition to Jefferson’s home at Monticello, is one of only several World Heritage Sites in the United States.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, Calif., Pepperdine University offers students and visitors dramatic natural vistas of the coast. Take classes inside romantic Mediterranean Revival-style buildings with red tiled roofs and stuccoed walls while gazing out past palm trees to the Pacific.
As the second oldest college in the country, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., is known for its early architecture, including the Georgian and Anglo-Dutch styles. Surrounded by forests and bordered by Lake Matoaka, the campus offers a magnificent combination of historical and natural beauty.
Located in Gambier, Ohio, Kenyon College is a small liberal arts college featuring Gothic-inspired edifices between large greens surrounded by forest. The magnificent architecture and pastoral environment charm many prospective students into pursuing their studies at Kenyon College.
This Jesuit and Marymount university in Los Angeles sits atop the Del Rey Hills Bluffs with incredible vistas of the Los Angeles Basin, Marina del Rey, Playa Vista, Playa del Rey and the Pacific Ocean. The architecture of the Loyola Marymount University campus blends Spanish colonial influences with modern design, and the campus lawns are artfully manicured and dotted with palm trees.
Tucked away in rural Hanover, N.H., prestigious Dartmouth College is known around the world for its Georgian-American colonial-style buildings and large landholdings in the wilds of New Hampshire. The campus also features world-renowned décor, including original murals by Jose Clemente Orozco.
One of the most prestigious institutions on this list, Duke University is located in Durham, N.C. Campus buildings represent Gothic and Georgian-style architecture that was designed primarily by Julian Abele, a prominent African-American architect of the early 20th century. The campus also includes more than 7,000 acres designated as a research forest, the spectacular Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the Duke Lemur Center.
Middlebury College is located off Route 7 in rural Vermont, nestled between rolling mountains in the Champlain Valley. Whether viewed in winter, autumn or summer, the red brick colonial-style campus architecture is beautifully enhanced by its gorgeous pastoral surroundings.
Sewanee is an Episcopal liberal arts college in Sewanee, Tenn. Its 13,000 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau boasts views of forested mountains. The Gothic Revival architecture and the college’s natural surroundings consistently place Sewanee on lists of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.
The 540-acre campus at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson is gorgeous. Picture lunch on the rolling lawns facing the Hudson with views of the Catskill Mountains. The campus architecture includes early examples of collegiate Gothic buildings, as well as modern structures by prominent architects.
This women’s college in Sweet Briar, Virginia, is set on an enormous 3,250-acre tract of land at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ralph Adams Cram designed Sweet Briar College in the colonial revival style, featuring red brick buildings with white columns and balconies.
Located in North Carolina, this liberal arts school has been ranked the No. 1 most beautiful college campus in the United States by the Princeton Review and the New York Times. Many gardens and fountains adorn the Elon University campus greens that surround the beautifully maintained historical red brick buildings.