10 Most Beautiful College Campuses In America

Written by Beth Hering
Published on April 24, 2023 · Updated on May 7, 2023

10 Most Beautiful College Campuses In America

Written by Beth Hering
Published on April 24, 2023 · Updated on May 7, 2023

Assuming the John Keats adage “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” holds true, students from these 10 universities will remain happy with their choice of school long after graduation. We’ve examined factors such as architecture, landscape, layout, views, and unique qualities to arrive at a list of breathtaking campuses. Bet their brochures get plenty of second looks!

Rank University/College Place
1 University of Virginia Charlottesville/VA
2 Rhodes College Memphis/TN
3 Pepperdine University Malibu/CA
4 Florida Southern College Lakeland/FL
5 Scripps College Claremont/CA
6 Kenyon College Gambier/OH
7 Lewis and Clark College Portland/OR
8 Sweet Briar College Sweet Briar/VA
9 Florida State University Tallahassee/FL
10 Stanford University Stanford/CA

10. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)

Stanford University
Stanford University by brando.n 

If the academic opportunities at this top-notch university aren’t enough of a lure, one visit to campus could seal the deal. The Hoover Tower’s observation platform provides the best overall view of “The Farm” (so-named because of the campus’s history as a horse farm belonging to Jane and Leland Stanford). Rumor has it you can see all the way to San Francisco on a clear day. Rodin’s Gates of Hell highlights a spectacular outdoor sculpture garden outside of the Cantor Arts Center. And no tour of campus would be complete without taking in the grand mosaics and architectural wonders of Memorial Church.

9. Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)

Florida State University
Florida State University by swatjester 

Look at the majestic courtyard containing the Westcott Fountain lit up at night to see why this school made the list. Surrounding benches and plenty of greenery encourage students to chill there between classes. Then there’s the collegiate Gothic architecture that dominates at FSU. Impressive example Dodd Hall features an elaborate stained-glass window depicting the university’s four best-known buildings.

8. Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, VA)

Sweet Briar College by Elwsbc 

Some of the earliest examples of architect Ralph Adams Cram’s work can be found at this women’s college in Central Virginia. Twenty-one buildings have made it onto the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the stately structures feature limestone trim and classical decoration on both the interior and the exterior. An abundance of woods and grass serve as a perfect contrast to the red-brick buildings.  Lakes, streams, gardens, horse trails (the college offers an equine studies certificate), and meadows add to the beauty of the 3,250-acre campus. Oh, and did we mention the school sits in the foothills of the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains?

7. Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR)

Lewis and Clark College
Lewis and Clark College by Jeremy McWilliams 

We dare you to put your camera down at this park-like campus. Nature meets history on the tree walk, which includes native species namesakes Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encountered on their journey west. Then there’s the Tudor-style Frank Manor House. Originally a 35-room private mansion, it now serves as a welcoming spot for visitors. And everybody makes a stop at the Estate Gardens to enjoy the wisteria and the reflecting pool. Adding to the setting—awesome views of snow-capped Mount Hood in the distance.

6. Kenyon College (Gambier, OH)

Kenyon College
Kenyon College by Curt Smith 

Forget cookie-cutter cafeterias. Students at Kenyon eat their meals in the Great Hall, an iconic structure that includes wood paneling, lofty carved rafters, and stained-glass windows depicting scenes from literary classics. Other campus highlights include the beautiful Greek Revival Rosse Hall (renovated to include a 650-seat concert hall), the charming Cromwell Cottage where the college’s president lives, and the castle-like Ransom Hall with its unique sculpted crows on the roof. But to truly make your jaw drop, walk Middle Path through campus on an autumn day as foliage bursts yellow, red, and orange.

5. Scripps College (Claremont, CA)

Scripps College

Want to pick a rose on the way back to your dorm to brighten up your room? Or you could grab a succulent orange or a ripe olive, if you prefer. Bountiful trees and flowers help give this women’s college a lush atmosphere. Don’t miss the walled, serene Margaret Fowler Memorial Garden. Among its stone walkways and enormous wisteria vines, you’ll find statues, stained-glass windows, and plenty of murals by artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez. Even residence halls have a special feel. How many people can say they lived in a place featuring terra cotta medallions of Greek gods and goddesses?

4. Florida Southern College (Lakeland, FL)

Florida Southern College
Florida Southern College by VisitCentralFL 

Frank Lloyd Wright called Florida Southern “the first uniquely American campus.” Today, we could call it an architectural wonderland. The college serves as the world’s largest single-site collection of Wright’s buildings, and painstaking restorations aim to preserve his vision. With its colored pieces of glass and wrought-iron tower, the geometric Annie Pfeiffer Chapel stands out. The school’s location in an orange grove overlooking Lake Hollingsworth further adds to its appeal.

3. Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)

Pepperdine University
Pepperdine University by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner 

Those who long for an ocean view won’t be disappointed at Pepperdine, which overlooks the Pacific. Located in the rolling foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, campus designers specifically aimed to blend Pepperdine’s buildings into the natural surroundings. And most visitors will agree that the Mediterranean-style architecture does just that. However, the slender but highly noticeable Phillips Theme Tower and its 25-foot-cross reminds everyone of the university’s Christian heritage. Likewise, Stauffer Chapel visually stuns with its vaulted coffered ceilings, white ash wood pews, and giant tree-of-life stained glass window

2. Rhodes College (Memphis, TN)

Rhodes College

If being on a campus inspired by an English Gothic village sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll love Rhodes. Palmer Hall and Kennedy Hall, both designed by architect Henry Hibbs in 1925, hold spots on the National Register of Historic Places. But the splendid brickwork isn’t limited to academic facilities. Students still live in Hibbs’s Robb and White dormitories, where Gothic charm blends seamlessly with modern amenities. Majestic oak trees grown from seedlings taken from the school’s original location in Clarksville fittingly unify the layout.

1. University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)

University of Virginia
University of Virginia by Karen Blaha 

When Thomas Jefferson founded UVA, he not only helped the young nation with its educational development, he set the standard for how such institutions should be designed. Other U.S. schools may have copied his layout, but UVA remains the only one designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So what makes this place special? Well, let’s start with that iconic red-brick, domed Rotunda modeled after the Roman Pantheon. No longer a library, it still serves as the focal point of campus. Outstretched to the east and west, stately pavilions hold classrooms. Italian marble, Chinese trellis railings, a French-influenced half-domed doorway, Tuscan columns—each pavilion contains unique architectural wonders. Gardens behind the buildings likewise display individual personalities, from azaleas and sweetgum trees to magnolias and pecan trees. But perhaps the highlight of campus is one of its more simple treasures—The Lawn. The long, lush stretch of grass outside the pavilions calls out for students and faculty to linger together, just like Jefferson wanted.

If you’re looking for other beautiful college campus’s, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!