Tips for Finding Good Food and Local Hot Spots on College Tours

Question: Hi: I am traveling with my family in two weeks and plan to stop and visit several colleges along the way. Is there any resource that provides insight into favorite places for students to eat or visit while on the campuses? I want them to get a true insight and experience what life is like beyond the classroom. Thanks for any suggestions you can provide.

If the “college towns" you're visiting are major tourist destinations (New York, New Orleans, San Francisco … ), you can turn to the Usual Suspects (such as Trip Advisor and Yelp) for tips on where to eat and stay and what to do. But if you're taking a road less traveled … or, especially, if you hope to find the local hot spots that the college students frequent wherever you are, there's a Web site just for you: “College Scoops."

College Scoops offers insider advice from “student ambassadors" representing over 100 colleges and universities. So when you want to grab a cup of coffee with Colby kids or hit the ski slopes nearby, College Scoops has recommendations. The site is a work in progress—with more colleges (and advice) being added regularly. But its current list of schools includes not only the predictable places that are popular on College Confidential (Harvard and Hamilton; Dartmouth and Duke) but also other options--from Endicott College to the University of North Dakota--that don't get as much buzz on CC or on other college forums. (The next time I'm in Grand Forks, I'm definitely checking out Sickies Garage Burgers and Brews! )

Since I live in Northampton, MA—home to Smith College—when I first discovered College Scoops I was eager to see what the Smith “ambassador" suggested, and I thought she was spot-on. Likewise, I looked up neighboring Amherst College and agreed with the advice there, too. On a recent trip through Virginia ... although not a college reconnaissance mission ... I turned to the U. of Richmond ambassador who directed me to Carytown, an area that is rife with shops, cappuccino joints, and hip restaurants.

College Scoops is a spin-off of the broader Web site, “Sweet Travels," which offers ideas for food (especially desserts :-) ) and other tourist imperatives in a variety of destinations. But if you have limited time for your college visits and/or you want to rub elbows with students off-campus as well as on, then College Scoops (which includes a small but growing prep-school section as well) takes you straight to the undergrad action.

Of course, we at College Confidential feature a helpful “Campus Vibe' section with reports from CC families who provide reflections on tours, interviews, food, hotels, and attractions. (See ) Campus Vibe comments tend to focus more heavily on the college itself rather than on adjacent amenities. And the advice on the latter comes from those who are only staying briefly--not from students who actually live there--but a wide range of colleges is represented (wider than College Scoops, at least so far)--so it's worth your while to look at both sites when you make your plans.

College touring can be a wonderful way to travel with a teenager, so try to build in ample time to look beyond the campus gates. By adding fun food stops and other cool (but not necessarily collegiate) activities to the itinerary, you'll get a stronger sense of the place where a student may be spending four (or more?) years than you would if you jam too many school stops into just a handful of days. And fond memories of these expeditions might actually spur your child to agree to travel with you again, even after college has begun. ;-)

(posted 3/12/2018)