The Best Places To Stay In The South's College Towns

Hotel ELEO exterior
Photo: Kevin Ruck

College towns are near and dear to our Southern hearts. Maybe it's the deep rooted traditions associated with each school, or perhaps it's the ornate architecture that calls to us. In the fall, it's likely a day of tailgating, camaraderie, and good old fashioned rivalry. Sometimes, it's the deluge of inspiring museums, top tier restaurants, and imaginative arts. Regardless of the reason, we are often pulled towards these charming cities. Whether you're in town for a game or just a nostalgic visit, the South's college towns know how to show off with stylish, hospitable accommodations.

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ATH|BNB in Athens, Georgia

ATHBNB bedroom
Ali Harper Photography; styled by Veronica Rogers

Everyone is talking about ATH|BNB, The Rushmore in the Classic City. The boutique bed and breakfast is housed in a 1918 Georgian home in the city's Five Points neighborhood and is owned by Athens natives and University of Georgia alumni, Cameron and Candice Treadway. Each suite has Peacock Alley sheets and a Smeg mini-fridge and is outfitted in contemporary furnishings, wallcoverings, and artwork. No detail is left unturned. Thanks to its bustling location, guests can be at the front gates of Sanford Stadium or one of Athens' top restaurants like Chef Mimi Maumus's Sidecar in minutes.

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The Laurel in Auburn, Alabama

The Laurel pooldeck
Courtesy The Laurel

The Laurel Hotel and Spa opened with great fanfare late summer 2022. With just 26 rooms in which to lay your head, the new boutique hotel is the place to stay this football season. Each room has a deluxe king bed with views of one of the South's top college towns. Guests can enjoy a spa treatment, relax in the state-of-the-art common areas, or dine at several eateries including a fine dining experience at 1856, a rooftop lounge, a micro coffee roastery, a food hall, and eventually, a microbrewery. Even more unique is that the hotel is an immersive training opportunity for Auburn's hospitality students. Students enrolled at The School of Hospitality Management will receive hands-on experience at The Laurel.

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Watermark Hotel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Watermark Hotel
Courtesy Watermark Hotel

If you've spent a game day at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you are definitely going to need a good night's sleep. After all, the stadium gets its nickname Death Valley, thanks to its roaring 102,321 fans that flock to its stands each home game. The Watermark will be a welcome respite for both your feet and your ears. Once the city's first skyscraper and the headquarters of Louisiana Trust and Savings Bank, the renovated building has art deco-inspired interiors and several on-site restaurants.

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Quirk Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia

Hotel bathtub
Courtesy Quirk Hotel Charlottesville

Inspired by the Quirk Gallery, a leading gallery in Richmond, Quirk Hotel in Charlottesville is the first boutique art hotel in the city's historic downtown. Housed in a 1916 building, the hotel's contemporary interiors are juxtaposed with its historic exterior. In keeping with its artistic roots, local art abounds within the hotel's walls, including hand-painted headboards by local abstract artist Kiki Slaughter. Be sure to take in sweeping views of Charlottesville at the rooftop bar. As a bonus, Scott stadium is just over a mile from the hotel!

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The George in College Station, Texas

The George
Courtesy The George

162 glorious hotel rooms await at the 4-star luxury hotel The George in College Station. The hotel offers loads of onsite amenities including a pool, complimentary bicycles, and the 1791 Whiskey Bar, but guests are also treated to special offerings around town. Just present your hotel key for extra discounts at area restaurants and retailers. For Aggies fans, it's a quick 25-minute walk to Kyle Stadium, or as a guest of the hotel, you can catch the complimentary shuttle which runs continuously three hours prior to kickoff with the last drop-off an hour and a half post-game.

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The Graduate in Columbia, South Carolina

The Graduate Hotel lobby
David Mitchell

We would be remiss not to include one of The Graduate's impeccably on-theme hotels on our list. Now over 25 college towns are home to a Graduate hotel. The Graduate in Columbia, South Carolina, is the former Inn at USC, an iconic hotel for both the University of South Carolina and the city of Columbia. The hotel is outfitted in cheeky gamecock motifs, and the school's colors, garnet and black, appear regularly amid other complimentary hues like hot pink. Don't miss having coffee in the Lobby Lounge just outside of the Trophy Room restaurant and bar. It's a peaceful, sun-drenched spot. See how many roosters—err gamecocks—you can find.

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Inn at Carnall Hall in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Inn at Carnall Hall, Fayetteville, AR
Joe Vaughn

It's not too often that you'll find a swanky hotel on a college campus, but that's exactly what's waiting for you at Inn at Carnall Hall. Not only does the hotel sit on the grounds of the University of Arkansas, but it is quite literally a former dormitory, the first women's dorm in the state of Arkansas. After a stint as a fraternity house and later classrooms and offices, it eventually opened as a hotel first in 2003 and underwent renovations again in 2018. The hotel is within walking distance to Razorback stadium and has two restaurants on-site.

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Hotel Eleo in Gainesville, Florida

Hotel ELEO exterior
Kevin Ruck

With 173-rooms, there is plenty of space for Gator fans and friends to stay overnight at Hotel Eleo. The hotel sits on the University of Florida's campus, nearby both the university and UF Health Shands Hospital. It curves along Lake Rush and features a walking path towards the hospital as well as campus itself. Rooms have L'Occitane En Provence bath products and Scandinavian design attributes. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as simply "the Swamp," is an easy walk, and since it's so close to campus, there are plenty of things to do and sites to see.

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The Oliver in Knoxville, Tennessee

The Oliver lobby
Courtesy The Oliver

Market Square is the heart of Knoxville. Well, besides the university itself. Located just steps from Market Square and minutes from Neyland Stadium, The Oliver is a 28-room boutique hotel situated inside an 1876 building. The rooms are quaint but well-appointed. Each one features handcrafted furniture, local art, and high-quality bath products. There are a few restaurants including Tupelo Honey Cafe and Oliver Royale, but the real treat is Knoxville's only speakeasy, The Peter Kern Library located just behind the hotel lobby.

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Chancellor's House in Oxford, Mississippi

Chancellor's House
Courtesy Chancellor's House

Just down the street from famed Square Books and minutes from the University of Mississippi campus, Chancellor's House has 13 suites and 18 rooms. The decor is simple yet elegant and (bonus!) offers pet-friendly accommodations. The hotel is described as being the gateway to Oxford's historic square. Classic cocktails are served at the bar, and in true Oxford fashion, there is a cozy library for reading or catching up with friends. The hotel was recently purchased by Oliver Hospitality, the same group as The Oliver in Knoxville, and renovations will be underway come 2023.

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The Alamite in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Forté at The Alamite
Stephen DeVries, Eleven Productions

Both of Alabama's major college towns received a new boutique hotel in 2022. The Alamite in Tuscaloosa has 112 guest rooms and is within walking distance of Bryant-Denny Stadium. It's named after the university's former live-elephant resident who lived on campus in the 1940s. What's more, the hotel has two restaurants on-site. Forté: Cuts & Cocktails, a French brasserie and steakhouse helmed by chef Jacob Stull, and Roll Call, a highly anticipated rooftop bar with elevated pub fare such as woodfired pizzas and sliders. Oh, and the hotel is backed in part by the Sabans. Roll Tide, y'all.

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