Congratulations! You’ve got a high-achieving kid who’s thinking Ivy. Gird yourself, because the college application process is torturous. But the campus visits? A piece of cake, especially with our tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to do while you’re soaking up the atmosphere on site.
Brown University (Providence, R.I.)
Where to Stay: Designed by the same team that built NYC’s Grand Central Station, the Providence Biltmore is located in the heart of downtown, plus they have a beautiful spa as well.
Where to Eat: Of course, you can always head to Federal Hill for Italian food (like everyone else), or you can take the road less traveled (and infinitely more tasty) at The Dorrance, where the young (James Beard Award-nominated) chef Benjamin Sukle is making magic. For seafood lovers, check out the local catch at Hemenway’s Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar, where Quahog clams are a must.
What to Do: The nearby Rhode Island School Of Design’s Museum of Art has an awe-inspiring collection if you get the chance, or check out the Westminster Street shopping area.
Columbia University (New York, N.Y.)
Where to Stay: NYC can be prohibitively expensive, which is why it’s nice to know that you can get special Columbia Visitors’ Rates at the Aloft Harlem or the Hotel Beacon NYC, located on the Upper West Side.
Where to Eat: For an only-in-NYC experience, check out Barney Greengrass, the “Sturgeon King,” a venerable smoked-fish deli on the Upper West Side. Closer to campus, there’s Kitchenette Uptown, where you’ll find delishy sandwiches, lumberjack breakfasts and the best milkshakes around.
What to Do: What can’t you do in NYC, the city that never sleeps? Broadway, Central Park, Lincoln Center, Empire State Building, the Village…take your pick. But definitely make it your business to take the subway for a dose of reality. Life in the big city!
Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.)
Where to Stay: Oddly, there’s a luxury hotel located in the middle of the Cornell Campus. But don’t second guess it—The Statler Hotel is run by the world-famous Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and it’s close to downtown Ithaca, the wineries of Cayuga Lake and the gorgeous Finger Lakes region, and ten minutes from the Ithaca Airport.
Where to Eat: For brunch, look no further than the Carriage House Café and their Brie-Stuffed French Toast. They serve brunch six days a week, so that’s kind of awesome. Parents of a certain age will want to check out the famous Moosewood Restaurant, where the famous Moosewood Cookbook was born. Largely vegetarian, they’ve got some great vegan options as well. As a side note, supposedly Ithaca is the birthplace of the ice cream sundae. Do with that info what you will.
What to Do: Since their unofficial motto is “Ithaca is Gorges,” you’re pretty much obligated to visit the scenic waterfalls and gorges in the area. It’s time well spent.
Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.)
Where to Stay: The Hanover Inn Dartmouth was a tavern back in the 18th century. Now, the Hotel, expanded and refurbished over the years, has an environmental commitment to local food sourcing, waste reduction and eco-friendliness. So you can feel good about staying here.
Where to Eat: Pine, the restaurant located in the Hanover Inn Dartmouth, serves farm-to-table fare that wouldn’t be out of place in a hip urban restaurant. Candela Tapas Lounge is another fun spot. But it’s Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery where you’ll find the locals on a daily basis.
What to Do: Check out the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Gallery, which feature both traditional and modern fine crafts created by talented New Hampshire artists, from jewelry to woodcarving, furniture to sculpture.
Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
Where to Stay: The Charles Hotel in Harvard Square bills itself as “the smart place to stay” (get it?) and it’s in a great location near the heart of the action. Plus, Barbra Streisand has stayed here. And you KNOW how picky she is.
Where to Eat: Alden & Harlow has been getting a ton of press recently, and justifiably so. But no trip is complete without a pilgrimage to L.A. Burdick for handmade chocolates, great coffee drinks and patisserie.
What to Do: Walk the African American Heritage Trail to discover one of America’s oldest African-American communities. Or if you’re feeling “ART”-y, check out the American Repertory Theater.
Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
Where to Stay: The historic Nassau Inn has nearly 200 guest rooms, but it still feels charming.
Where to Eat: If you’re a seafood fan, check out the Blue Point Grill. For more adventurous eaters, the Mediterra Restaurant and Taverna may be the ticket.
What to Do: Palmer Square has some great shopping and restaurants and is just steps from the Princeton campus.
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Where to Stay: The modern and luxurious Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel is easily walkable from the campus, and filled with amenities.
Where to Eat: Cheesesteaks, obviously (many great ones, but try Campo’s Deli). But Pod, a hip Asian-Fusion joint run by celebrity chef Stephen Starr, is worth a detour from that well worn path. Man does not live by Cheez Whiz alone.
What to Do: Reading Terminal Market, America’s oldest farmer’s market, is a must for any foodie, but the Liberty Bell Center will make the patriot in you feel nice and warm inside.
Yale University (New Haven, Conn.)
Where to Stay: The Study at Yale is a boutique lifestyle hotel located close to campus and definitely your first choice for accommodations. Great service and amenities, fabulous food. If they are full, opt for the New Haven Hotel or the Omni Hotel.
Where to Eat: Welcome to Louis’ Lunch the birthplace of the juiciest hamburger ever; if you’re a pizza lover, you must visit Sally’s Apizza in Wooster Square, a New Haven tradition since 1938. And farm to table doesn’t get much better than Heirloom, located in The Study. Locally sourced food, prepared lovingly with a side order of craft cocktails. You’ll need one when you see the tuition bill.
What to Do: Yale has an incredible art collection on view at the Yale Art Gallery, recently refurbished and expanded; true book lovers should look no further than the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where the “windows” are made of translucent marble. Don’t miss the Grove Street Cemetery Tour if you have time; it’s both creepy and fascinating.
This article is part of our College Town Tours series. Find more here: