College Visits for Families

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Fall’s back-to-school means a lot more to families with older children. For high schoolers, fall is filled with college applications and lining up visits to visit campuses of potential universities. For college-aged children, fall is when the kids head off to school to get away from us after a summer at home. For parents, both provide an opportunity to travel. Whether we are visiting our college-aged children or taking our high schoolers around the country to find the right school, these trips are an opportunity to explore new destinations with our children. The best part is now they are old enough to enjoy some of the sites and attractions we are most interested in seeing. Fall is also filled with hotel deals, so make your college visit a mini-vacation in some of these great college towns.

Home to the one of the nation’s first colleges, Harvard University, Boston remains a top educational city with schools like Boston College, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Berklee College of Music, Northeastern, Emerson College and even more outstanding schools welcoming students. Take the time to explore Back Bay and Newbury Street, walk through the Boston Common and Public Garden, and visit one of the city’s numerous museums, such as the Museum of Fine Art or the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum.

The Hotel Commonwealth offers an Explore Your School package with a backpack with campus maps and brochures, student information and a map of Boston, tickets for Boston Trolley tours, and breakfast for two at the hotel’s Eastern Standard Restaurant.

Visit any number of the schools in the “University City” Philadelphia area — including Drexel, University of Pennsylvania, and Penn State — and stay at the centrally located Sheraton Philadelphia for its Philly Loves You Back package. Stay two nights and receive free parking and discounted stays as low as $157 per night.

During your visit, you can take in the nation’s history at Independence Hall, the Franklin Institute and the Betsy Ross House, as well as visit the free Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And don’t forget to grab a Philadelphia cheese steak to truly feel like a local.

No visit to the Midwest for a college tour would be complete without a stop in Chicago. The metropolitan Chicago area is host to an array of top-ranked universities and colleges, such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois. During a visit to the city and the surrounding areas, take time to visit Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile and Museum Campus for a glimpse at the Chicago’s best offerings from shopping to art to history to the Windy City’s gorgeous view of Lake Michigan.

When staying in Chicago, the Meet the Parents package at Hotel Blake gives Midwest campus visitors 15 percent off its best available rates, a free hotel room upgrade, free breakfast, free Internet and 50 percent off parking.

Washington, D.C.
Exploring Washington, D.C., is a jam-packed vacation even without visits to renowned universities like George Washington University, Howard University, American University and Georgetown University. Choose from 19 Smithsonian museums — all free — for a look at America’s past, and see the many monuments and memorials dedicated to our nation’s leaders, the largest centered on the Washington Mall, an expansive park in the heart of D.C.

A stay at the boutique all-suite River Inn is already a win due to its affordable prices, but choose the Be DC package for free breakfast for two, half-priced valet parking, two Metro passes, information on local attractions, a disposable camera, and two tickets to one of the area’s sightseeing tour companies.

San Diego
With San Diego’s sunny and year-round warm weather, it’s no wonder its universities are popular, including University of San Diego, San Diego State, San Diego Mesa College and more. While visiting the schools, schedule some time to visit San Diego’s best attractions, such as the 1,400-acre, museum-filled Balboa Park, the city’s many beaches, SeaWorld and the Navy Ship tours of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier.

The city’s renowned red-roofed Hotel Del Coronado is offering a “College Weekend Family Gathering” for family visits. Stay two nights and get 50 percent off the second night, plus free parking through October 31. Stay for three nights and the third night is free and breakfast for two is included daily.

North Carolina
North Carolina’s triangle, a growing area connecting Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, is not just home to new businesses but Duke University, North Carolina State and University of North Carolina. The small towns offer a wealth for visitors to enjoy as well, including historic sites and landmarks, museums, sporting events and outdoor adventures such as hiking and biking in the nearby Appalachian Mountains.

When it comes to deals, it’s hard to beat the Holiday Inn. Its Carolina Preferred Parents are rewarded when visiting Carolina schools when staying at the Holiday Inn Chapel Hill. Guests receive 10 percent off hotel rates, $20 breakfast vouchers, and 15 percent off lunch and dinner at its Time-Out Sports Bar.

When hitting up schools in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, such as Brown University, Johnson & Wales, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design and more, take advantage of the Providence College Visit package at the Marriott Providence Downtown. The package includes discounted rates, breakfast for two a half bottle of wine for parents, and a Survival Kit with treats from Rhode Island and area information.

Be sure to rent a car and enjoy both the spoils of the rejuvenated downtown and river area of Providence, including outstanding restaurants courtesy of the city’s fantastic cooking school, and be sure to head over to Newport to tour the stately Newport Mansions and stroll the seaport’s cobblestone streets lined with shops.

The sprawling hills of Virginia are home to a number of top-rated universities, including the University of Virginia. For history buffs, the Charlottesville area was home to Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison, which is why the Omni Hotel is providing a Presidents/Monticello package that will give your family a glimpse into the life of the country’s first presidents. The package include rooms starting at $201 per night, breakfast for two daily, and two Presidents passes to the Tour Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home), Ash Lawn-Highland (James Monroe’s home), and Michie Tavern. Head further down the road to Montpelier, which James and Dolley Madison called home.

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the area also affords great opportunities for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

New York
Upstate New York is home to some of the country’s best schools, but also a beautiful destination. The Adirondack and Catskill Mountains, the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes — the entire area is awash in color during fantastic falls filled with red, orange and yellow hues. In the early winter, area ski slopes begin making snow and families can fit in some early skiing while visiting the schools.

Families visiting upstate New York schools such as Syracuse and Ithaca may want to check into Syracuse’s SpringHill Suites for its Essential College Visitor’s package. Valid through May, rates are as low as $139 per night and families receive free breakfast and soup or salad lunches at the neighboring cafe, a goodie bag that includes an area map and visitor’s guide, and a $10 Visa gift card.

The San Francisco/Berkeley area is home to top-notch colleges and universities, including many of which are part of the University of California state program. For alumni of the University of California, the grand Claremont Hotel Club & Spa in Berkeley offers its Cal Alumni specials. Alumni receive 10 percent off of room rates, spa services and retail, as well as dinner specials at the hotel’s Paradon Bar & Cafe Bar.

While visiting the area, hop on a Cable Car to the Fisherman’s Wharf, catch a ferry to Alcatraz, shop infamous Union Square, and drive up to nearby Napa for some special time exploring wine country.

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