It's rare to hear someone say their favorite time of year is winter. Spring is often praised for signaling the end of winter, autumn is always picturesque, and of course summer is always a hit with students. But a blanket of snow and some fading winter light on a building can be all that are necessary to transform a plain-Jane campus into a collegiate postcard. Remembering beauty is in the eye of the beholder, here are our choices for the 10 most lovely college campuses to be on this winter.
University of Colorado, Boulder:
In the winter, CU Boulder from far away looks exactly like a snow globe at rest. The majestic Flatirons stand watch over the chilly campus, the brown rocks long since changed to the color of arctic silver by the ice. Everyone files past each other on the shoveled sidewalks, taking in the Christmasy, evergreen Douglas firs, Colorado blue spruces, and Eastern white pines. Please don't make us pick whether the Varsity Bridge looks better in winter or fall. You wouldn't do that, would you?
University of San Diego:
Know what the average mean temperature is in San Diego in January? Fifty-seven degrees. That means that in the winter, the question isn't snowshoes or boots, it's flip-flops or TOMS. USD is universally praised for having a beautiful campus, and with 300 days of sunshine a year, winter is as good a time as any for appreciating the Spanish Renaissance architecture, abundant palm trees, and views of the Pacific Ocean. It would be difficult to find a more magnificent place to attend a Christmas mass than the Immaculata Chapel.
Virginia's campus generally gets more love in lists like these, but for our money Tech has more of a hauntingly beautiful feel; poetic, right? It's the way the snow gathers in little clumps on The Pylons, and the look of the quiet gazebo or a lonely bench by the duck pond. Even in the dead of winter, you can still find a few willow or oak trees sporting the home colors of burnt orange with its leaves, and if you don't have your own Christmas tree, find a white or Douglas fir and make it (metaphorically) your own.
Although it has a relatively small campus, Cornell has some prime real estate on a hilltop in central New York State, with Cayuga Lake and two large gorges surrounding it. In the bitter cold of winter, the Fall Creek that bounds campus to the north gains an eerie calm broken only by the sounds of the slowly flowing icy water. The architecture shines as well this time of year. The auspicious spires of impressive Sage Hall freckled with snow, and in a snowstorm, the already-unique Johnson Museum of Art looks like an incredible alien pod that suddenly materialized onto campus.
Regardless of the time of year, Chapel Drive is one of this campus' most iconic and scenic vistas. But with the light from the street lamps glimmering off a freshly fallen snow, and it becomes a breathtaking vision of winter. The white stuff seems to be just what the Duke grounds need to soften the harshness of its regal Gothic architecture, while its softer spots become all the prettier. Case in point: the Blomquist Gate House provides a cozy, scenic respite from the weather, while the Duke Gardens become a photographer's dream.
Campuses don't get more, well, campus-y than Miami University, and in the winter it looks straight out of a movie. (George Clooney agrees. He shot The Ides of March there.) The 2,000-acre campus in Oxford, Ohio is home to quintessential college buildings like the red-bricked Bachelor Hall and McGuffey Hall, which stand invitingly amidst the icicled trees, beckoning frosty students in from the cold. A walk through west campus on a winter's day, under the footbridge, and a quick stop at Clawson Hall to take in the giant fir tree provide just enough exercise and fresh air to drive away the winter blues.
Rhema Bible Training College:
If you happen to be one of the few hundred or so students of this Bible college in Broken Arrow, Okla., we hope you're enjoying the $2,850 yearly tuition; that must be nice. No doubt when winter rolls around, you'll also be enjoying one of the biggest Christmas lights displays in Oklahoma. The campus becomes the destination of choice for 200,000 people in the holiday spirit from miles around, and for good reason. The school has ramped up the number of lights over the years from 60,000 in 1982 to 2 million today. The Rhema Park Bridge will be dazzling with 90,000 lights by itself, and 100,000 moving lights will sync up to Christmas music. The scene is far from natural beauty, but there's no denying this little school is a sight to behold in winter.
University of Virginia:
We said we weren't going to include UVA on this list, dang it. The Thomas Jefferson-crafted campus gets too much praise the rest of the year; do we have to laud them for winter beauty, too? In a word, yes. We blame the Rotunda; it's just so stately, especially when it's snowing. With the white columns, white roof, white trim, everything's white. Of course, the same could be said about the Academical Village. Throw in the quaint chapel tucked away among the tall trees and the 10 or so gardens, and there's no other way to describe this place in winter: beautiful.
During the rest of the year, College Walk is a functional byway for scurrying students and political protests. But winter time signals a shift to more aesthetic enjoyment of the street and one of students' favorite campus activities of the year: the Tree Lighting Ceremony. Lions sip hot chocolate and listen to live music while the dark winter night is lit up with lights in the trees along the road that will stay illuminated until the end of February. Once the ice begins to accumulate and reflect the light better, the area becomes a serene place for students to escape their studies for a moment.
University of Utah:
Apparently we have a thing for bodies of water in winter; but take one look at Red Butte Creek in January and tell us that's not a winter wonderland. And that giant thing there to the south? That's just the incredible heights of Mount Olympus. No doubt the athletes who stayed here during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games fell in love with the amazing views and plentiful Aspen trees. And speaking of skiing, another beautiful feature of this campus? Seven ski resorts all lie within a 40-minute drive.