Six great Northeast college towns

Providence has great shopping and restaurants in historic buildings within walking distance of RISD and Brown — Photo courtesy of Hal Barth

Since the practical thing to do is to see several schools in one off-Island jaunt at a time, it makes sense to stay over a weekend – and turn it into a mini-vacation. Most Islanders are familiar with Boston and the five-college Amherst/Northampton area, so we rounded up a few other great college towns in the Northeast, with some help from expert local sources, including parents of current college kids and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School guidance counselor Mary MacDonald, who says she’s probably seen 40 schools with her own three children and as a scout for the high school.Burlington, VermontDriving time from Woods Hole: under five hoursLocal school: UVM Nearby school: Middlebury, St. Michael’s, Johnson StateWhere to eat where students eat: Penny Cluse CafeWhere to eat for a treat: The Farmhouse, farm-to-table, local, organic, affordable; everything from hamburgers to salmon to kale salad.Don’t miss: Tamara Weiss says there’s a huge farmer’s market in the spring – “a fun place to see UVM graduates and students selling their own hot sauces, or muffins.”For more info:, New York Driving time from Woods Hole: About four hoursLocal school: BardNearby school: Skidmore (and the five-college Amherst/Northampton area is right on the way), VassarWhere to eat where students eat: The Diner in Red Hook for breakfastWhere to eat for a treat: Mercato, Red HookWhere to stay for a treat: The Madalin Hotel, in the village of TivoliDon’t miss: Nearby villages of Red Hook, Tivoli, and Rhinebeck are packed with a variety of restaurants, inns and interesting shops and galleries; hikes in Ferncliff Forest, Rhinebeck.For more info:, New YorkDrive time from Woods Hole: Just over six hoursLocal schools: Ithaca College, Cornell UniversityNearby schools: Hobart and William Smith, Wells College, SUNY Cortland, Keuka CollegeSyracuse, SUNY Binghamton, Colgate, Skidmore, Rensselaer, SUNY AlbanyHow you know you’re in a college town: There are almost as many students (about 25,000) in Ithaca as there are residents (30,000).Where to eat where students eat: Collegetown BagelsWhere to eat for a treat: The Moosewood Cookbook was hatched at the Moosewood Restaurant, founded by Cornell and Ithaca graduates and still serving a great vegetarian (and fish) menu downtown.Where to stay for a treat: La Tournelle, a resort overlooking Lake Cayuga just outside town, has suites suitable for families, great food, and massage services perfect for post-college tour fatigue.Don’t miss: Beautiful local scenery (“Ithaca is Gorges!”), great hiking trails and Finger Lakes wineries.For more info: London, ConnecticutDrive time from Woods Hole: Just over two hoursLocal schools: Connecticut College, The Coast Guard Academy, Mitchell CollegeNearby schools: Yale, Eastern Connecticut State, Trinity, Wesleyan, Southern Connecticut State, Albertus MagnusHow you know you’re in a college town: “Coasties” in uniform, and Conn students carrying rowing shells down to the Thames River.Where to eat where students eat: The Yolk, a great breakfast spot, “owned by a woman who does all the cooking herself while shooting marshmallows at her customers.”Where to eat for a treat: On the WaterfrontDon’t miss: Mystic Seaport; the Arboretum at Connecticut College – a botanical refuge with miles of trails; soccer games at the Coast Guard Academy field, right on the river. For more info:, New HampshireDrive time from Woods Hole: Three hoursLocal schools: Keene State College, AntiochNearby schools: Dartmouth Where to eat where students eat: Zorn Dining Common at Keene State (good food, too!)Where to eat for a treat: Nicola’s in town, or Elm City Brewery, just outside town.Where to stay for a treat: The Lane Hotel, on Keene’s eclectic Main Street.Don’t miss: Hiking on Mt. Monadnock and downtown Keene’s classic New England downtown, with students and professors mingling in coffeehouses and galleries.For more info:, Rhode IslandDrive time from Woods Hole: Just over an hourLocal schools: Brown, RISD, Johnson and Wales, Providence CollegeNearby schools: URIWhere to eat where students eat: La Creperie, on College HillWhere to eat for a treat: Al Forno Where to stay for a treat: The Old Court Bed and Breakfast on Benefit St.Don’t miss: Stroll along Hope Street, near Brown, for interesting shops (vintage jewelry, etc), cool restaurants and parks; the RISD Museum on Benefit Street has a vast collection, including French Impressionist paintings. For more info: