Charming College Towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Providence | Image credit: Nils Huenerfuerst

New England is famed for housing some of the United States’ most prestigious and historic educational institutions. The region is filled with students, academics, and sprawling campuses. Colleges in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are crucial contributors to the states’ cultures, and each state boasts college towns that promote lively lifestyles and provide picturesque settings.

The many college towns across this region offer a young local population, plenty of employment and educational opportunities, bustling downtowns with ample dining and shopping spots, and scenic campuses with public museums to enjoy. Let’s look at some of the most attractive college towns across Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

Wellesley, MA

Wellesley is a charming and historic Boston suburb known for its architecture and natural beauty, as well as its two superb higher education institutions. Wellesley College is a premier women’s educational institution and Babson College is a university centered on business and entrepreneurship. Students benefit from Wellesley’s many public parks, scenic buildings, and historical sites to explore.

Cambridge, MA

Cambridge is one of the most famous college towns in America, housing two of the most prestigious universities in the country. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are a big contributor to this town’s appeal. Exploring the campuses and their museums, including the renowned Harvard Art Museums, is one of the best ways to enjoy a day in Cambridge.

Harvard University | Image credit: Emily Karakis

Providence, RI

Providence, Rhode Island’s biggest city, is a bustling community with historic architecture and a vibrant downtown. This is the home of Brown University, an Ivy League institution with a history dating back to the 18th century. Also housing Providence College and the Rhode Island School of Design, the city’s many bars and restaurants benefit from the large student populations. 

Brown University | Image credit: Keming Tan

Lowell, MA

Lowell is a busy city with a unique history as a manufacturing hotspot throughout the development of the United States. It has a significant student population due to the presence of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, with more than 17,000 enrolled students. It is known for its active campus and excellent education. Lowell has a lively nightlife and vibrant downtown filled with students. 

Amherst, MA

Amherst is a quaint community with a historic charm that residents adore. This is the site of Amherst College, a prestigious liberal arts college with a small student body. It is also the site of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which boasts a large student population nearly three-quarters of the size of Amherst’s, meaning many in the city either study or work at one of the schools.

Amherst | Image credit: Jonathan Ng

Northampton, MA

Northampton is a pleasant city known for its college town atmosphere. It has plenty of restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, and it houses one of the state’s best schools. Smith College is a liberal arts women’s college that has educated prominent women from Gloria Steinem to Sylvia Plath. Much of Northampton’s amenities are geared toward the town’s large student population. 

Waltham, MA

Waltham is a picturesque community with an important industrial history. This thriving city includes two major higher education institutions: Bentley University, a school focused on business and finance, and Brandeis University, a school with a strong liberal arts focus. These campuses take up hundreds of acres in and around the city and have beautiful architecture and immaculate landscaping.

Waltham | Image credit: Henry Dixon
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