Connecticut is a state known for its schools. From its prestigious prep schools to its consistently-high ranking in public education, Connecticut’s leafy corners are brimming with exceptional classrooms. And for the third-smallest state in the union, Connecticut truly punches far above its tiny size when it comes to higher ed. Connecticut’s colleges make for excellent day trips. Between the stunning sites and bopping night-life, these towns are more than worth the drive. Below is our guide to three of Connecticut’s best college towns.
New Haven is perhaps best known for its famous elms, earning it the moniker “The Elm City.” It is also, incidentally, the home of Yale University. Ok, so it’s probably slightly better known for its world-class Ivy League research university that counts George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Lupita Nyong’o, and Meryl Streep among its alumni. Yale is a huge draw, but don’t leave out the many other pleasures New Haven has to offer.
Spend the morning taking a tour of Yale. Yale is known for its famous “College Gothic” architecture, and tours are available at the visitors’ center. Then, spend the afternoon at Yale’s renowned art gallery. From Leonardo da Vinci to Sol LeWitt, you can see millenia of art in a single afternoon.
All of the pictures you take of this super-scenic university may drain your phone, but if you stop by one of the AT&T stores in Connecticut, you can pick up an external battery to be sure that your phone can keep pace with your lifestyle. And you will want to keep the battery charged for the various adventures you will find along the way, including finding the best place to grab a bite to eat.
New Haven is said to have the best pizza in the world (sorry, Chicago — our apologies, New York). New Haven “apizza,” as it is known, is hot, crispy, and charred; decked out with toppings; and made with dough fermented overnight for a chewy crust. Forty-five minutes down the Amtrak corridor in the Big Apple, talking about New Haven pizza may earn you a side-eye, but while you’re in the Elm City be sure to have this authentic Connecticut experience.
That night, catch a show at Toad’s Place. Toad’s Place is a staple of New Haven’s live music scene. With an intimate set-up and décor that hasn’t lost touch with its roots, Toad’s is comfortable enough to feel homey but edgy enough to feel hip. Name a legend and they have probably played on their stage. Billy Joel? Yup. Talking Heads? David Bowie? The Mars Volta? Absolutely. U2? Their eighth show in the United States was at Toad’s.
Storrs is a village in the town of Mansfield, but don’t let that charming designation fool you. Storrs is dominated by The University of Connecticut, known as UConn. UConn is one of the Top 20 public universities in the nation. If you’re going to visit, UConn hosts all kinds of quirky sites worth your time and attention, such as the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History. You can spend an entire day exploring UConn’s many corners.
UConn is also an athletic powerhouse. They are best known for their women’s basketball program, which is considered the best in the nation. Between 2013 and 2016, the women’s basketball team won four consecutive NCAA Division I titles. If you’re there during the season, make sure you snatch a ticket to see the Huskies play.
Middletown, Connecticut is a quiet community that sits on the Connecticut River, just south of the state capital, with fewer than 50,000 residents. Wesleyan University has fewer than 3,000 undergraduate students, but alumni include Lin Manuel Miranda and director Joss Whedon. Like the rest of the small state, Middletown and Weslyan punch above their weight class.
Take a stroll down Main Street and you will quickly see why Middletown has a reputation as the quintessential college town. O’Rourkes Diner serves an incredible plate of stuffed french toast, Krust dishes out pizzas from a traditional wood-fired brick oven, and Luce is famous for its wine bar. Just off of Main Street is the Kid City Museum (if you’re visiting with young ones), and next to the Mansfield House, the refurbished home of a Civil War general that now serves as the headquarters of the Middlesex County historical society.
Just two blocks from Main Street, you’ll find Wesleyan University. Wesleyan is known for its Film Studies department, and their state-of-the-art Center for Film Studies is open for tours, as well as occasional screenings and special events. The Wesleyan University Center for the Arts regularly hosts performing and musical artists from across the globe, often at a discounted price, and often for free.
There is more to Connecticut than just it’s schools but stopping to visit the towns they are in will ensure a fun-filled way to fill up that scrapbook with photos and memories from your visit.