Travel Tips for College Trips
Posted on March 3, 2017
Spring visits to college campuses are a rite of passage for many high school students. If your teen is ready to start checking out the options, you might want to include blocks of family time between campus tours. A bike ride, sightseeing, and a great meal are ways to relieve the stress of thinking about their big decision. Planned breaks are also an opportunity for relaxed parent-child connections. In addition, it’s wise to plan for “adult time” — those hours when your son or daughter is on a student-led tour. (Schedule these ahead of time on the school’s Web site.) Here are some places to stay and play near a few favorite universities.
A consummate college town, Cambridge is home to Ivy League mainstay Harvard University, and MIT, the science and technology powerhouse. In addition, great train service from Cambridge makes it easy to visit other Boston area schools, including Boston College, Wellesley College, Tufts University, and Boston University.
In Cambridge, the best place to stay is The Charles Hotel, ideally located near Harvard Yard. I love the warm colors and user-friendly furnishings that make this hotel feel homier than most. My husband and I had good meals in Henrietta’s Kitchen, where large wooden tables accommodate professorial types who cluster with their laptops. The Henrietta’s menu includes New England regional cuisine, such as Yankee pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. charleshotel.com
We also enjoyed the exotic Eastern Mediterranean flavors at Oleana, just ten minutes by car from The Charles. Outstanding choices include the lamb and grape leaf tart and the moussaka with mint and yellow wax beans. Reserve well ahead and request one of the tables with a view of the open kitchen or on the leafy patio. oleanarestaurant.com
For family fun on the Harvard campus, try the Hahvahd Tour, led by students with a good sense of humor. And don’t miss the incredible Glass Flowers collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. In 1886, the university commissioned German artisans to create glass models of plants for teaching botany. Over the next 50 years, they developed a collection of more than 4,200 remarkably accurate botanical masterpieces. trademarktours.com/harvard-tour, hmnh.harvard.edu/glass-flowers
Saratoga Springs, New York
This historic community in Upstate New York is home to Skidmore College and within driving range of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY; Williams College in Williamstown, MA; and Bennington College in Bennington, VT.
The place to stay here is the Saratoga Arms, a charming boutique hotel that dates from 1870. I love the picturesque veranda and the elegant parlors with their period furnishings. saratogaarms.com
Saratoga is best known as the home of the Saratoga Race Course, America’s oldest horse racing track. Saratoga and our own Del Mar are often described as the country’s “two great summer tracks.”
If you tour Williams College, a top-ranked liberal arts college, be sure to visit The Clark Art Institute, an outstanding art museum with excellent collections of French Impressionist, Old Master, and American artists.
Nestled in the Connecticut River Valley, 90 miles west of Boston, Amherst is home to three of the five schools in the Five College Consortium: Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The other two, Smith College and Mount Holyoke, are within 12 miles. Buses link the five campuses. Students enrolled at one school can take classes at all the others.
My very favorite place to stay in Amherst is The Lord Jeffery Inn on the campus of Amherst College. Built in 1926, “The Jeff” has a charming historic ambience throughout the public spaces and their 49 guest rooms. If you stay here, I recommend the ricotta blueberry pancakes, but everything we tried in the hotel’s restaurant, 30Boltwood, was very good. lordjefferyinn.com
We walked off the pancakes on the Amherst College Sanctuary Trail System, a network of scenic paths in a 500-acre wildlife sanctuary. Mt. Holyoke and Smith (both private women’s colleges) also have beautiful places to walk along rivers with towering trees overhead.
These five New England colleges feel a little like country clubs. Mt. Holyoke has a first-class equestrian center that is home to the school’s riding team and dressage team. Other Mt. Holyoke facilities include a boathouse, tennis courts, and access to an 18-hole championship golf course. For an adult time option, the course is open to college guests, including prospective families.
The grounds at Smith College were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Manhattan’s Central Park, and the campus is an accredited arboretum. The gardens and greenhouses are open to the public year-round.
In case of inclement weather, head to Springfield, 26 miles south of Amherst, home of the Springfield Museums complex. These focus on fine art, Civil War history, science, and early American industrialization (think Springfield rifles and Indian motorcycles). springfieldmuseums.org
And what do Springfield and San Diego have in common? Ted Geisel — yes, Dr. Seuss — was born in Springfield and spent most of his life in La Jolla. That might remind your offspring of another rite of passage: learning to read The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum is scheduled to open in Springfield in June 2017. Elizabeth Hansen
Photography courtesy of Adams/Hansen Stock Photos