The 15 Most Beautiful College Campuses In The United States

University of Virginia amphitheatre and Minor Hall, Charlottesville, Virginia
University of Virginia amphitheatre and Minor Hall, Charlottesville, Virginia | © Washington Imaging / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Cecilia Ackerman
11 March 2021

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 school’s area.

Wander through masterfully constructed historical buildings, pristine gardens and take in the 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

University
Map View
A sign for the University of California Santa Cruz
University of California Santa Cruz | © California Dreamin / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Rice University

Museum, University
Map View
Rice University, Houston, Texas
Rice University, Houston, Texas | © StarCollection / Alamy Stock Photo
A university in downtown Houston making it on to 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.

Williams College

Museum
Map View
Students walk down a tree-lined path towards a building on the Williams College campus, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Students walk down a tree-lined path towards a building on the Williams College campus, Williamstown | © Susan Pease / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

University of Virginia

Building, University
Map View
The Rotunda, The Lawn, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
The Rotunda, The Lawn, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia | © Mark Summerfield / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Pepperdine University

University
Map View
Alumni Park, with the Pacific Ocean in the background, on the Campus of Pepperdine University, Malibu California
Alumni Park, with the Pacific Ocean in the background, on the Campus of Pepperdine University, Malibu, California | © Elissa Hofelt / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

College of William & Mary

Building, School, University, Historical Landmark
Map View
Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg, 18th-century America, College of William & Mary, university, historic campus, Wren building, Lord Botetourt, statue,
College of William & Mary, Wren building, Lord Botetourt, statue | © Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 3+ / Alamy Stock Photo

The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. is the second oldest in the country. It is known for its early architecture, including the Georgian and Anglo-Dutch styles. The campus is surrounded by forests and bordered by Lake Matoaka, meaning the site offers a magnificent combination of historical and natural beauty.

Kenyon College

Forest, University
Map View
Kenyon College campus, Gambier, OH. Church of the Holy Spirit. Image shot 10/2013. Exact date unknown.
Kenyon College campus, Gambier, OH | © Mark J. Barrett / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Sewanee, The University of the South

University
Map View
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.

Loyola Marymount University

University
Map View
McCarthy Hall on campus student housing at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California, USA
McCarthy Hall on campus student housing at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California | © David L. Moore - CA / Alamy Stock Photo
This Jesuit and Marymount university in Los Angeles can be found on the top of Del Rey Hills Bluffs. There are 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.

Dartmouth College

Building, School, University, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Hanover, New Hampshire. Tuck Drive, Dartmouth College.
Hanover, New Hampshire. Tuck Drive, Dartmouth College | © Charles O. Cecil / Alamy Stock Photo

Tucked away in rural Hanover, N.H. is the prestigious Dartmouth College – 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.

Duke University

Forest, University
Map View
A long expanse of grass in front of the Davison Quad building at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
A long expanse of grass in front of the Davison Quad building at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina | © Tracy Immordino / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the most prestigious institutions on this list is the Duke University in Durham, N.C. Its Gothic and Georgian-style architecture 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

Building, School, University, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Le Chateau, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, USA
Le Chateau, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont | © Glasshouse Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Middlebury College is located off Route 7 in rural Vermont 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.

Bard College

School, University, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY USA  - JULY 3,2017:  Blythewood Manor Italian Garden, on the Bard College campus in the Hudson Valley.
Blythewood Manor Italian Garden, on the Bard College campus in the Hudson Valley | © Nancy Kennedy / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Sweet Briar College

School, University, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Sweet Briar College, Chapel Road, Sweet Briar, Virginia
Sweet Briar College, Chapel Road, Sweet Briar, Virginia | © Mark Summerfield / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Elon University

Building, Church, School, University
Map View
McEwen Building, School of  Communications at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina.  Built in 1968.
McEwen Building, School of Communications at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina | © Bryan Pollard / Alamy Stock Photo
This liberal arts school in North Carolina 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.
These recommendations were updated on March 11, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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