Your kid’s future alma mater isn’t cookie-cutter, so why should your college tour accommodations be? Sure, you can stay in some boilerplate roadside franchise, but if you’re used to traveling with flair and want to experience the most welcoming aspects of your chosen college towns, stay in these one-of-a-kind hotels, inns and B&B’s. (For more ideas, check out this Huffington Post piece).
University of Rochester, Rochester NY – Ellwanger Estate
The handsome Ellwanger Estate, former home of Rochester socialite Helen Ellwanger, wife of horticulturist George Ellwanger, sits in an historic and wealthy section of Rochester. First built as a farmhouse in 1817, and then purchased and enlarged by Ellwanger (co owner of Ellwanger and Barry Nurseries) in 1867 and 1910, staying here is an immersion into the wealthy lifestyle of the Victorian Age. The gardens, as one would imagine, are beautiful. Owner, Rosemary Janofsky, purchased the estate in 2006 (it was already operating as an inn), and has lovingly preserved it. In 2008, as a “Design House” fundraiser for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, guest rooms were used as fresh canvasses for interior designers, so each offers a unique and posh experience. Who stays here? Business travelers, honeymooners, romantic couples, parents visiting U of Rochester students, and anyone who favors sleeping on firm organic mattresses. And, if a television film crew is in town, chances are they choose to stay here.
Cornell University, Ithaca College; Ithaca NY – Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons
There’s a new boutique-like hotel in town, right on Ithaca Commons, an up-and-comer where rooms and common areas appeal to style-seeking travelers. Not your standard issue corporate Marriott, the smallish lobby encompasses a two-person reception area, one wall fashioned like a library with stocked bookshelves, some seating, and a larger restaurant area where on any given night you might find a raging game of Trivial Pursuits or a Wine or Food tasting event. It’s a happy, happening place, and a great center of town option for a mid-high-end stay.
Syracuse University, Syracuse NY – Jefferson Clinton Hotel
If you want to feel cared for in the cozy, elegant ambiance of years gone by, the Jefferson Clinton, a Historic Hotel of America, is your best bet in Syracuse. Wonderfully situated on Armory Square, the Jefferson Clinton is known for its genuinely good-natured service. In the morning, during a complimentary (with room) breakfast, the exceptionally friendly omelet chef executes each order quickly, and even brings plates to the guests with a smile.
West Chester University, West Chester PA – Faunbrook B&B
When visiting your student at West Chester University in West Chester PA, check out Faunbrook B&B. Why settle for a franchise hotel when you can stay in the charmer of a Bed and Breakfast built in 1860 by PA Congressman and oil and banking tycoon, Smedley Darlington, a name that conjures up the hero (or villain) of a Victorian melodrama. The brick mansion, with black shutters and filigreed wrought iron adorning a wrap-around porch, would look right at home in New Orleans. Inside, common rooms, the essence of Victorian-era finery, have been arranged much as they would have looked when the Darlington’s lived there. In fact, some of the furniture is original to the Darlington Family, left when the home was converted into a B&B in the 1980’s, and restored by innkeeper, Lori Zytkowicz.
Penn State, State College PA – Penn Stater Hotel
This State College stalwart welcomes you with a mid-century modern living room – complete with roaring gas fireplace – as soon as you walk through the door. It’s a charming first impression of the place where many Penn State parents, prospective students, and visitors to the area stay when they want to feel at home in the land of the Blue and White. Walk around, and you’ll see Nittany Lions everywhere. Two restaurants on site: the rah-rah (or should I say, “roar!”) sports-bar, Legends, and finer “The Gardens.”
Georgetown, George Washington University, American University, DC – Watergate Hotel
Standing in the lobby of this newly renovated icon of American History is like being at the center of a shimmering golden Slinky. Such is the emphasis on 50’s modern glitz here. Whether you’re looking at Georgetown, GW or American University, a stay here sparks conversations about past political scandals and how they measure up to today’s.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Richmond – The Commonwealth Hotel
Once the hotel of choice for government officials, The Commonwealth Hotel within steps (and with great views) of the Virginia State Capitol, has been newly renovated and updated as a cute artsy boutique for trendy college-bound travelers as well. Joining the growing number of boutique hotels in Richmond VA (Quirk, and Graduate Richmond), The Commonwealth is attracting a growing number of non-elected officials from all over the world. It’s location – with unobstructed views of the Virginia State House – is unparalleled.
Washington & Lee University, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington – The Georges and Hampton Inn Col Alto Hotel
This is not your average “Hampton by Hilton” hotel, steeped as it is in local history. On eight landscaped acres, you can choose to stay in the original 1827 Manor House (where guests check in, and where the daily complimentary breakfast is served) or in a modern hotel room. The Manor House, which in its day hosted Governors and Statesmen, features ten luxury rooms in period décor, with in-room breakfast, turndown service, and in some cases, a fireplace. Rooms in the newest part of the hotel have been refreshed – and are modern, clean, and comfy. Breakfast, with hot eggs, bacon, potatoes, and make your own waffles is a communal affair in the Manor House. For a more boutique experience, stay at The Georges. This in-town charmer occupies both sides of Main St. Named after George Washington and George Marshall (architect of the post WWII Marshall Plan), the renovated, plush inn, with distinctive, luxe rooms, is a tony addition to downtown Lexington.
University of Virginia, Charlottesville – Graduate Hotel Charlottesville
Nearly abutting college campuses, the well-located, “thoughtfully crafted” Graduate Hotels are sprouting up in many University towns throughout the USA, and offer a quirky, fun, boutique alternative to other stuffy, corporate competitors. To whit, Charlottesville: where The Graduate Charlottesville, across from UVA campus and a 10 minute walk from the Downtown Mall, has a 40’s-era College-Meets-Summer-Camp vibe, and guest rooms sport a “dorm room” motif of a simpler era. Of course, with all the modern amenities of a luxury hotel, and a knock-out rooftop restaurant/bar.