#8. Durham, NC
Why It’s a Great Place to Go to College: Duke University in Durham, NC, is a world-renowned institution best known for its rigorous academic standards (the school accepted just 8.3 percent of applicants this year). It’s a private school with a historic affiliation to the United Methodist Church where more than 6,500 undergraduate and 8,600 graduate and professional students learn about everything from medicine to public policy. But just because it’s known for its academics, Duke is no slouch when it comes to sports — its Division I athletic teams play in the Atlantic Coastal Conference and have racked up a huge number of championship wins. Durham is also home to North Carolina Central University, the nation’s first public liberal arts college for African Americans.
Why It’s a Great Place to Live (Even If You’re Not a Student): From museums to arts and culture to outdoor recreation, Durham, aka the Bull City, is an eclectic community with more than 250,000 residents. It’s got historic Southern charm coupled with an innovative and modern spirit when it comes to food, art, music, craft beverages and culture.
What Sets It Apart From Other College Towns: Durham’s past is ever-present throughout the city in the form of repurposed and renovated tobacco and textile factories, a 1920s-era downtown theatre and historic sites that acknowledge the region’s role in the Civil War — it’s far from a cookie-cutter city. Plus, when you go to school here, you’re basically getting four cities for the price of one, as neighboring Cary, Chapel Hill and Raleigh are also fun to explore.
Iconic Pizza Place: Enzo’s Pizza
Brunch Spot: Grub Durham
Tailgating Must-Have: Royal blue body paint to cheer on the Duke Blue Devils. The Blue Devils take basketball very seriously, often participating in Krzyzewskiville, or K-ville for short, by camping out over night to get access to major men’s basketball games.
Shopping Street: Ninth Street
Best Place to Grab a Cheap Beer: Dain’s Place
Local Dream Job: Studio artist at Golden Belt, a renovated textile mill that once made pouches for a tobacco company. Today, it’s home to apartments, art studios, gallery space, offices, restaurants and more.