The list first, and then commentary.
10. College Station, TX
9. Fayetteville, AR
8. Madison, WI
7. Missoula, MT
6. Iowa City, IA
5. Lexington, KY
4. Columbia, MO
3. Gainesville, FL
2. Ann Arbor, MI
1. Boulder, CO
This list is, uh, odd. There are some usual suspects on here, some deserving candidates who anyone could make a really solid argument for, and then some absolutely mind boggling picks. Obviously, no matter how the list shaped up, people are going to argue over it. Regardless of the bickering, however, there are still some glaring omissions, first and foremost being Athens, GA. I will grant that I’ve never been to Athens, but it sounds like heaven, or at least 100x better than Missoula. Rankings like these are pretty arbitrary, so I won’t get into who deserves to be where on the list. In truth I have no problem with Boulder at #1. As much as the TFM readers may despise that town for its obscene liberalness, it is by all accounts an incredibly fun and ridiculously picturesque setting. Boulder deserves to be on the list.
Really, we should start with who doesn’t deserve to be on the list, and we find our first candidate at the very top. College Station, despite having the word “college” in its name, is NOT a great college town. I’ve been there. I won’t say it sucks, but it’s a hard “meh.” Hell, even Johnny Football can’t wait to leave, and he’d rather party in Austin. Austin, by the way, does not deserve to be on this list either, and I’m glad it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Austin is a glorious city, one of the five or six best in the country, hands down, but it’s too big to be considered a college town anymore. Austin is a full on city. Missoula, Lexington, and Gainesville also seem like odd members of this list. Missoula is, at best, a poor man’s Boulder, and since we already have Boulder on the list, get the fuck out of here, Missoula. Lexington is a fine city — I’ve spent a few days there, but it doesn’t crack the top 10. Gainesville, I have never visited, but from everything I’ve read and heard, it isn’t exactly a premier destination (aside from The Swamp) if you’re planning an SEC college town tour. Off the top of my head, I think I’d rather head to Columbia, SC, Athens, GA, or Knoxville, TN. And that’s just in the SEC.
I’m not surprised to see the B1G so well represented, as I believe they have almost as good of a collection of college towns as the SEC. Madison, Iowa City, and Ann Arbor are all places I’ve heard wonderful things about. I’m also okay with Fayetteville and Columbia. Obviously, I have a massive bias towards Columbia, being a Mizzou alum, but it IS a gorgeous and prototypical college town, and it’s also a lot of fun, and has possibly the cheapest drinks in America. If you have a five dollar bill you can blackout at a bar in Columbia, no problem. In fact, last year when Mizzou hosted Georgia in football, many Bulldog fans told my friends and I that Columbia reminded them of Athens, which by the way I may have mentioned this, but HOW IS ATHENS NOT ON THE LIST!?!?! Columbia and Fayetteville are both debatable, but legitimate choices.
That’s my two cents, please argue with each other and tell me how stupid I am in the comments.