Passion Points: Learning
For teenagers, making it to college means freedom and all the glory it entails (eg. sleeping on dorm room futons and eating ramen). But on college tours, and later, when visiting their collegiate children, parents need not partake in sub-par lodging and dining. We have compiled an insider Cheat Sheet for the best hotels, as well as dinner and brunch/lunch options for the college towns we’re most frequently asked about, including several Ivy Leagues, Seven Sisters, Indagare staff’s alma maters and even some schools abroad in the U.K. Contact Indagare to book these or any hotels during college visits. This is only Part I of our College Tours series, so please submit a postcard to send us your suggestions or to propose other locations where you would like advice.
- BROWN UNIVERSITY (Providence, Rhode Island)
Stay: Providence Biltmore (11 Dorrance Street; 800-294-7709) is Brown’s landmark hotel but some argue it is in need of a sprucing-up. Equally close to campus but more updated and comfortable is The Westin (1 West Exchange Street; 401-598-8000)
Eat Lunch: A quick walk from campus, Rue de l’Espoir is a casual spot serving soups, salads and grilled sandwiches. Farmstead embraces the farm-to-table movement, serving local meats, cheeses and produce in a cozy and bustling atmosphere about a mile east of campus.
Eat Dinner: Classic, old-school pan-European cuisine with a formal flair (think tuxedoed waiters and tableside flambés) can be found at Capriccio, just a five- or ten-minute walk from the Biltmore or Westin hotels. Sitting between campus and the recommended hotels, Mills Tavern embodies the rustic, New England sense of an old lodge, and features a stunning raw bar.
- DARTMOUTH (Hanover, New Hampshire)
Stay: The tiny town of Hanover is so synonymous with Dartmouth, it comes as no surprise that students and locals wear t-shirts not with the university’s name but merely the word, “college.” The Hanover Inn (2 South Main Street; 603-643-4300) is the classic place to stay but spartan in a charming, New England way. Alternately, Six South Street Hotel (6 South Street; 603-643-0600) is a new and trendy spot on campus.
Eat Breakfast: For warm donuts, look no further than Lou’s and head to Dirt Cowboy for coffee.
Eat Lunch: Molly’s is the classic restaurant and bar serving casual food and gives Dartmouth applicants a great sense of the town’s atmosphere.
Eat Dinner: Canoe Club offers casual dining with a sophisticated menu and occasionally features live music.
- HARVARD (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
Stay: Located on Harvard Square, The Charles (1 Bennett Street; 800-882-1818) is the place to stay on campus. Its updated rooms feature a mix of antique and modern decoration.
Eat Lunch: Darwin’s makes delicious sandwiches that Harvard kids swear by, and the Moroccan cuisine at Café Algiers is a no-brainer.
Get Hot Chocolate: at the Cambridge gem, L. A. Burdick.
Eat Dinner: The elegant Craigie on Main serves local and seasonal ingredients (the chef even does his own butchering) in a new and novel way. They are proud to be long-time locavores, stating “First we find the ingredients, then we create the menu.”
- MIDDLEBURY (Middlebury, Vermont)
Stay: In town, the classic Middlebury Inn (14 Court Square; 800-842-4666) is the go-to for visiting parents. There is also the smaller Swift House Inn (25 Stewart Lane; 866-388-9925), each with unique rooms and a traditional b&b vibe. If you don’t mind a drive, in the summer, Basin Harbour (4800 Basin Harbor Road, Vergennes, VT; 800-622-4000) is thirty minutes from campus or Mountain Top Inn (195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden, VT; 802-483-2311) is an hour away.
Eat Lunch: Housed in a beautiful stone building by a river, Storm Café is ideal particularly in the summer when outdoor seating is available, but the food is consistently delicious year-round.
Eat Dinner: Two Brothers Tavern has a lively bar side and a quieter, casual restaurant side, both featuring great bar-style food. Fire & Ice is filled with quirky Americana and knick-knacks and serves the classic comfort foods.
- PRINCETON (Princeton, New Jersey)
Stay: The Nassau Inn (10 Palmer Square East; 609-921-7500) is very centrally located in Palmer Square, within steps of campus and all of the restaurants mentioned below. While the rooms feel shabby and the whole hotel is in need of more than a mere sprucing up, it is where everyone stays. An appealing alternative is the recently renovated boutique Peacock Inn (20 Bayard Lane, 609-924-1707), which is charming and well appointed, but books up quickly.
Eat Lunch: Teresa Caffe is a Princeton classic serving sophisticated Italian comfort food.
Afternoon Break: Ice cream lovers can choose between the old-fashioned favorite Halo Pub and the innovative Bent Spoon, where seasonal flavors are made with local ingredients. A recent autumn visit was rewarded with ricotta pistachio, roasted pumpkin mascarpone, honey sage, and brown sugar clove.
Eat Dinner: The outdoor patio at Mediterra is delightful for a spot-on Mediterranean meal. If, after pizza and pasta at Teresa’s, something totally different is in order, Witherspoon Grill, a contemporary steakhouse, serves a satisfying burger with delicious sharable sides.
- UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Stay: Just a quick taxi ride across the bridge from University City, the Rittenhouse Hotel (210 West Rittenhouse Square; 205-546-9000) is located on one of Center City Philadelphia’s loveliest urban parks.
Eat Lunch: White Dog Café, which has been open for almost thirty years, is located in the heart of University City. The cuisine is contemporary American, and the sustainable ingredients are sourced from local farms.
Eat Dinner: Audrey Claire, a darling BYOB serving Mediterranean mezze and flatbreads, is located on one of the neighborhood’s prettiest corners (20th and Spruce). If there’s a long wait, Twenty Manning Grill, one block to the north, is just as enchanting. For al fresco dining on the square, Stephen Starr’s breezy French bistro, Parc, is ideal.
- VASSAR (Poughkeepsie, New York)
Stay: Short of Vassar’s Alumni House, where rooms are basic but comfortable and right across from campus, there are not many options in Poughkeepsie. Troutbeck (515 Leedsville Road, Amenia, NY; 800-978-7688) is a historic inn, nestled in some forty acres, which is a 40-minute drive to Vassar. Rhinebeck’s Beekman Arms Hotel (6387 Mill Street; 845-876-7077) is about a thirty-minute drive from campus and is America’s oldest hotel.
Eat Lunch: Eveready Diner is your classic American diner in the town of Hyde Park (home of the former Franklin D. Roosevelt estate), a fifteen-minute drive to campus.
Eat Dinner: The Tavern at The Beekman Arms is a beautiful, serene restaurant in Rhinebeck’s Beekman Arms Hotel that books way in advance during graduation time. About a thirty-minute drive from campus.
If Time: Visit the nearby Dia Beacon
- WILLIAMS (Williamstown, Massachusetts)
Stay: Well-liked by Williams parents and alumni, the peaceful and pleasant Orchards Hotel (222 Adams Road; 413-458-9611) is located blocks from the Williams College Quad. The general manager, a former Williams parent, himself, is always happy to answer questions and offer advice to prospective Williams families.
Eat Lunch: Pappa Charlie’s is an old-fashioned deli in the middle of town where all of the sandwiches on the menu are named for the celebrities (some more illustrious than others), who created them. The Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, is a breadless eggplant parmigiana, while the Bo Derek is composed of sautéed peppers and onions, mushrooms, melted provolone, sprouts, and tomatoes. The offerings are extensive, but those who can’t commit can choose ingredients according to their whim by ordering the Politician.
Eat Dinner: The menu at Williamstown’s beloved Mezze Bistro, just outside of town, changes daily based on arrivals from independent farmers and local food artisans. Chef Joji Sumi’s intimate knowledge of French and Asian cooking artfully informs his creative New American cuisine.
- YALE (New Haven, Connecticut)
Stay: The Study at Yale (1157 Chapel Street; 203-503-3900), located right on Chapel Street, is a minimalist but comfortable hotel.
Eat Lunch: Café Atticus is casual and gives a good sense of the college experience, while Bar is the spot for great and convenient pizza. Louis’ Lunch claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger and theirs are exceptional. A healthier option frequented by students is Claire’s Corner Copia with its extensive vegetarian menu.
Eat Dinner: Union League is the fancy and classic dinner spot in New Haven, Barcelona and Ibiza both serve delicious Spanish tapas in a hip atmosphere, many claim Pepe’s to be the best pizza in the U.S., and Caseus has recently emerged as a delightful fromagerie and bistro centrally located on the corner of Whitney and Trumbull.
- GEORGETOWN (Washington, DC)
Stay: Hotel Monticello (1075 Thomas Jefferson Street NW; 800-388-2410) isn’t going to revolutionize the hospitality industry, but the oversized rooms are a good value, and an unbeatable location just off of M Street makes it the obvious choice for easygoing visitors who prefer to be in the middle of all the action. Travelers who appreciate more predictability in the way of service and amenities will be relieved to hear that the Four Seasons is only a few blocks further down the road (2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; 202-342-0444). The stylish Hay-Adams (800 16th Street NW; 202-638-6600), with its knock-out view of the White House, is the best option for families hoping to parlay their Georgetown visit into some cultural exposure. Within easy walking distance of monuments and museums, the Hay-Adams is about a ten-minute drive from the university.
Eat Lunch: The Peacock Café manages to feel festive and trendy even though it’s been around for years. The fresh juices and smoothies are a highlight, but the diplomatic menu aims to please all palates. This is definitely Georgetown’s favorite brunch venue, and in sunny weather swarms of students hover on the sidewalk in hopes of scoring a spot on the patio.
Eat Dinner: Decent Italian food can be found at Café Milano, which has developed a reputation as a dinner destination for powerful politicos and socialites. Some say the food is better at kitschy Filomena’s, where the portions are overwhelmingly generous and Italian grannies can be seen cutting homemade pasta in the window. At historic Martin’s Tavern, which opened the day after Prohibition ended in 1933, dinner tastes better when enjoyed in the booth where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie. Clyde’s is yet another Georgetown institution; the popular saloon chain’s M Street location is the distinguished original.
- DUKE (Durham, North Carolina) & UNC-CHAPEL-HILL (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Stay: Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill’s campuses are so close (a twenty-minute drive), prospective students looking for a southern college experience might as well see both schools. The Washington Duke Inn (3001 Cameron Boulevard, Durham; 919-490-0999), situated on beautiful grounds and boasting southern charm in both its décor and service, is a solid choice for a hub.
Eat Lunch: The Bull Durham Bar at Washington Duke Inn (known to students as WaDuke) is comfortable, and the location and views can’t be beat. Q Shack, in Raleigh, is the place for Carolina bar-b-que. Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill is a lively sports bar and will be a guaranteed hit with any teenage boys in tow.
Eat Dinner: Magnolia Grill, with innovative cuisine (think blue cheese cheesecake) and an elegant ambience (though you wouldn’t know it from the exterior), is sure to please in Durham. Four Square, located in a Victorian house in town and serving seasonal ingredient-driven meals is delightful, particularly on the screened-in porch. In Chapel Hill, The Lantern, is run by a James Beard Award-winning chef and offers modern Asian-inspired cuisine in an chic and contemporary setting.
- UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND (Richmond, Virginia)
Stay: The historical and unique Jefferson Hotel (101 West Franklin Street; 804-649-4750) is a twenty-minute drive from campus. Closer to the college but with less local charm is The Westin (6631 West Broad Street; 804-282-8444).
Eat Brunch: Water Grill makes a mean crab cake benedict and the French toast isn’t bad either.
Eat Lunch: Café Caturra on Grove Avenue, is about five minutes from campus and is a great spot for pizza, salads, soups and small plates.
Eat Dinner: Can Can Brasserie offers delicious French brasserie food in a fun and elegant setting and is just ten minutes from campus.
- UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Stay: Approximately five minutes west of town is the serene and genteel Boar’s Head Inn (200 Ednam Drive; 800-476-1988). Hopefully there will be time in between campus tours and information sessions for a round of golf at Birdwood or a relaxing massage at the hotel’s gracious spa. On weekends, brunch at the Old Mill Room is not to be missed. About twenty minutes outside of town is the stunningly beautiful and peaceful Keswick Hall (701 Club Drive, Keswick; 434-979-3440), which would provide a welcome respite for weary parents.
Eat Lunch: Feast!, a seasonal market and café between “grounds” (as prospective Wahoos will quickly learn to call UVA’s campus) and the Downtown Mall, is a friendly haven for local food fiends. While making up their minds, indecisive patrons ogle picture perfect heirloom produce and indulge in beautiful cheese boards paired with specialty mustards. The samples are irresistible, but the grilled cheese sandwich with roasted tomatoes and sweet onion jam is worth saving room for. The White Spot serves greasy diner food but (or maybe as a result) is highly popular with students, particularly late-night.
Eat Dinner: C&O, inconspicuously situated on an un-trafficked corner of the Downtown Mall, is an excellent choice for dinner, especially if there’s a slight chill in the air. The restaurant’s unpredictably apportioned rooms are all warm and dark and full of character, particularly the cozy bar in the basement. An insider favorite.
- VANDERBILT (Nashville, Tennessee)
Stay: The classic choice in Nashville is the Hutton Hotel (1808 West End Avenue; 615-340-9333) and is just four blocks from campus.
Eat Lunch: Less than a five-minute drive from the Hutton Hotel, Watermark Restaurant serves delicious food in a chic but relaxed setting.
Eat Dinner: In the Hutton Hotel is 1808 Grille, serving sophisticated comfort food in a refined atmosphere.
- NORTHWESTERN (Evanston, Illinois)
Stay: Campus is only a twenty-minute drive from the Peninsula (108 East Superior Street; 312-337-2888) in downtown Chicago.
Eat Dinner: Between Evanston and downtown Chicago, sits the North Pond Restaurant, a beautiful institution of a restaurant with spectacular views and enjoyable fare.
- UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-ANN ARBOR (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Stay: Dahlmann Campus Inn is the best option in town and is just across the street from campus. (615 East Huron Street; 734-769-2200)
Eat Lunch: Zingerman’s Delicatessen is so famously delicious, people send their food (including meats, cheeses and their famous sour cream coffeecake) all over the world.
Eat Dinner: Chop House is your classic Midwestern steakhouse, a quick walk from the hotel. Gandy Dancer is located in a 19th-century train depot and is the first choice for post-graduation dinners.
- WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS (St. Louis, Missouri)
Stay: The Ritz-Carlton (100 Ritz Carlton Drive; 314-426-2585) is the nicest hotel available and is just ten minutes from the airport and campus.
Eat Lunch: Blueberry Hill, near St. Louis’s The Loop, is a casual eatery filled with kitschy Americana décor.
Eat Dinner: The Sidney Street Café serves farm-fresh food in a casual but rustic setting. Niche offers unique and exciting food in the historic section of St. Louis.
- STANFORD (Stanford, California)
Stay: The contemporary and minimalist Four Seasons East Palo Alto (2050 University Avenue; 650-566-1221), caters to Silicon Valley executives and is about a fifteen-minute drive from campus. Rosewood Sand Hill (2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park; 650-561-1500) sits just a few minute drive away from Stanford and features stunning views of the bay area.
Eat Lunch: Pluto’s, on University Avenue in Palo Alto serves delicious and healthy sandwiches and salads. Creamery is your timeless diner serving delicious comfort food all day.
Eat Dinner: Three Seasons and Tamarine serving Vietnamese cuisine, are both in downtown Palo Alto, and Fuki Sushi is an easy choice for a light meal. Sundance Steakhouse and Flemings Steakhouse never fail to please those looking for a heartier dinner.
- UCLA (Los Angeles, California)
Stay: Westwood, UCLA’s neighborhood in LA, doesn’t have much in the ways of lodging, but the W Los Angeles-Westwood (930 Hilgard Avenue; 310-208-8765) is the best option in terms of convenience. Alternately, the newly renovated Hotel Bel-Air (701 Stone Canyon Road; 310-208-8765) is about a seven-minute drive from campus.
Eat Lunch: Napa Valley Grille serves such delicious lunch dishes such as the harvest platter with marinated beets, goat cheese, sweet onion and fennel compote and marinated baby artichokes, and is located right across the street from campus. For a fast-food option, you can’t go wrong with a double-double “animal style” at In-N-Out Burger.
Eat Dinner: The local’s favorite for Italian is Toscana, where the service is perfect and the food is fresh and tasty.
- UC-BERKELEY (Berkeley, California)
Stay: The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa (41 Tunnel Road; 800-551-7266) is just eight minutes from campus and offers a relaxing oasis in the city.
Eat Lunch: Alice Water’s Café Fanny benefits from sitting in the middle of Berkeley, between Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant and Acme Bread Co., and serves products from each of these purveyors (as well as coffees, salads and snacks) at its stand-up European-style bar.
Eat Dinner: Alice Water’s formal restaurant, Chez Panisse serves an incredible and different price-fixed dinner menu Monday through Saturday nights.
- OXFORD UNIVERSITY (Oxford, England)
Stay: In the heart of Oxford is the Old Bank Hotel (92-94 High Street; 44 (0)1865 799 599) which has superb service.
Eat Lunch: The Quod, located in Old Bank Hotel, is best in colder weather while The Turf, ideal in spring and summer with a beautiful outdoor seating area, is set in a 13th-century ale house with great pub food and a fun vibe. The Trout is a twenty-minute walk from town through parks and beautiful countryside and has great drinks and fish and chips in a pretty riverside setting.
Eat Dinner: The Old Parsonage is quintessentially Oxford with a very cozy and lovely atmosphere and fabulous food.
- UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS (St Andrews, Scotland)
Stay: The elegant mainstay in town is the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel (Pilmour Links, 44 (0)1334 474 321), but a ten-minute walk from town is the more contemporary Old Course Hotel (Old Station Road; 44 (0)1334 468025), which most notably caters to visiting golfers.
Eat Lunch: The cozy North Point Café is your spot for lunch, serving soups, sandwiches and scones. Not too many salads on offer: after all, this is Scotland.
Eat Dinner: Arguably the best restaurant in Scotland, The Peat Inn is housed in a farmhouse about a twenty-minute drive from town, but the ambience and incredible food make it worth the trip. Overlooking—and overhanging—the sea, sits The Seafood Restaurant. On the top floor of The Old Course Hotel is the elegant and formal Road Hole Bar. The adjoining bar serves an impressive menu of whiskey in a room that looks and feels like your grandfather’s den.
~Amelia Osborne with Cabell Belk
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