College is football tailgates, spring day parties, and sleepless all-nighters pulled in cold libraries. Yes?
Nope. College also can extend to the summer, thank Belushi, where the magic of summer sessions and part-time jobs ensures you never have to go home again. Pulling the "super semester" is a tradition practiced by tens of thousands of kids each year, and few ever come away regretting the decision to extend the lease till August. Except for those who don't have AC.
But which college towns do summer right? We looked for location (proximity to beaches or other notable geographic points were a must), nightlife NOT reliant on college being in session, and a city's general reputation for fun in making these highly debatable rankings. We picked 25 cities because this is the Internet. And, on a final note, sorry, Fargo. Maybe next year.
25. Honolulu; University of Hawaii
If you're already going to the University of Hawaii, you're living an experience so far beyond anything we mere mortals—especially those of us who winter in, say, Ithaca—might expect out of college. You can tell this by just your vocabulary. On the shores of Honolulu, common phrases like "It's cold," "I might be depressed," and "No more Mai Tais" are never spoken, replaced instead by "It's perfect," "I'm never sad," and "I can't get enough of these Mai Tais." While it isn't fair to say that going to the University of Hawaii isn't a real college experience, you have to admit that it's a very unique, very sweet deal.
So if you choose to spend your summer here, remember that you're in Hawaii, it's the summer, and it almost never rains. (June to August is the dry season, lucky bastards.) But also remember that... uh... there are too many opportunities to get sick off Mai Tais?
Actually, the major downside is that summer in Hawaii is just another season in paradise. And for that, we can't place it higher than 25th.
24. Memphis; University of Memphis
The music. The bars. The BBQ. Oh, man. Oh, God. Oh, sweet finger-licking, napkin-placed-on-his-tunic, rib-lovin' Jesus, the BBQ. A summer in Memphis is a time when you should branch out, explore the city, and really look into trying every BBQ place in town. Your friends will be genuinely concerned about your appearance in the fall! You'll have your first stent implanted at age 21!
And you'll have earned it, champ.
23. Phoenix; Arizona State
Not Phoenix, University of (although living in your parents' basement has its benefits), but Phoenix, City of. A good chunk of the enormous Arizona State population stays behind each summer to continue the constant white t-shirt contest that is education at this school, and odds are good that you'll have a friend among the 72,254 undergrads. Wake up each day with a beer and a hit from your outdoor bong, cleverly disguised as an indigenous cactus. What class?
As for the heat? It's a dry heat. You'll live.
22. Las Vegas; UNLV
We do not know if UNLV offers a competitive summer program. We do know that you will be attending fewer classes than normal, while residing in a city with 24/7 gambling, legal prostitution, and roughly half-a-million dealers who aren't serving blackjacks.
You may not survive July.
21. Charlottesville; University of Virginia
It's within driving distance to the beach, the mountains, and D.C., and we have it on good authority that the summer session-ers are more of the Dave Matthews School of Thought than Thomas Jefferson's. (Wahoo fish, drinking ability, and all that.) Plus, if we can set aside our red solo cups and step away from the party for a bit, the town and campus are amazing—ripped from a movie that is set at, like, "The University of Northeastern West." There are worse places to explore during the freedom that summer gives.
20. Wilmington, NC; University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Wilmington is located on the coast of North Carolina, minutes from Wrightsville Beach and in close proximity to the dozens of other small beach towns that make up the N.C. shoreline. In fact, more than a few UNCW students live in actual beachfront homes during the fall and spring semesters.
If you choose to snag one during the summer, you'll be in ample company with new friends—thousands of college kids flock each year to part-time jobs at the area's surf shops, bars, and restaurants. Just, please, don't be that guy who greets his co-workers at 11 a.m. with a shaka and a "Yeah brah, I just had to catch some early morning waves before coming in." Everyone surfs. You're not special, chum.
19. Palo Alto, California; Stanford
We're not saying every idea is worth turning into a start-up. We're not. Seriously. (Please stop pitching us your Kickstarters.) If, however, you think you've got something good, and you want to build up an app or online business or whatever, you can do worse than a summer in the city that spawned a million Social Network quotes: Palo Alto.
You'll never live a better time to smartly or stupidly chase the dream, and it doesn't hurt that Palo Alto (or San Francisco, if you choose to go a bit further north) is a young, energetic, and fun city packed with thousands of Eduardo Saverins who you can Zuckerberg out of your life in a few years. A guy can dream.
18. Madison; University of Wisconsin
Scott Van Pelt calls it the greatest college town in the United States. The size of the university ensures the summer session—and Kollege Klub—will both packed with coeds. But the biggest incentive for spending May through August in Madison? It's warm! You can swim! After a long and awful winter, the locals are practically running around outdoors like Andy Samberg in "Great Day." Join them! But stock up on aloe. Pale Midwesterns are getting burnt.
NOTE: The above also applies to Minneapolis and Ann Arbor.