New York state is home to over 300 colleges and universities. To compile this list of the 30 most beautiful college campuses, each institution was carefully evaluated. Architecture, design, the inclusion of open spaces and access to natural landscapes were all considered.
Most Beautiful College Campuses in New York
1. Brooklyn College – New York City, NY
Established in 1935, architect Randolph Evans designed Brooklyn College with impressive brick buildings in the neo-Georgian style. The iconic gold and white bell tower of the library is the centerpiece of the campus; in fact, the campus design draws inspiration from Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia. The grounds include a lush garden area and 26-acre lily pond lined with cherry trees that bloom in the springtime.
2. Hamilton College – Clinton, NY
Founded in 1793, Hamilton College is a 1,350-acre hilltop campus that overlooks the village of Clinton, New York. The College Chapel, built in 1827, is the College’s most famous landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Also notable is the campus arboretum, Root Glen, which contains many varieties of trees and plants – including a 120-foot Norway Spruce, declared the tallest of its kind.
3. Union College – Schenectady, NY
This small liberal arts college, founded in 1795, sits upon 130 acres in downtown Schenectady. The college was designed by Joseph Ramée, a French architect and landscape expert. The most prominent campus feature is a 16-sided hand-hued stone building, known as the Nott Memorial. The structure, which is a registered National Historic Landmark, took more than 21 years to complete.
4. Fordham University – New York City, NY
Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus sprawls 85 acres and incorporates open spaces and impressive architecture. An expansive lawn provides a perfect spot for lounging on warm summer days. Built in Neo-Gothic style, spectacular Keating Hall may be the university’s most notable landmark. The striking central clock tower appears medieval but was constructed in the mid-1930s.
5. Wagner College – New York City, NY
Wagner College is a liberal arts college that was established in 1883 and originally located in Rochester. It moved to its current location at Staten Island in 1918. The 110-acre campus has stunning panoramic views of New York Harbor that include the skyline of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The pastoral grounds have been designed to include many open spaces. The Main Hall is the most prominent building on campus. It is an impressive turreted structure built in collegiate Gothic style during 1930. Also, a noteworthy structure is the striking Cunard Hall, a charming three-story brick 1850s Italianate villa property.
6. Bard College – Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Bard College spans 1,000 acres and blends old and new architecture. Examples of Gothic Revival, Tudor Revival, and Postmodern architecture are intermingled throughout campus. Located along the east shore of the Hudson River, the college is within the Hudson River Historic District. Nearly all campus buildings built prior to 1950 are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The sprawling grounds include gardens, walking paths, fountains, and a spectacular view of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains.
7. Vassar College – Poughkeepsie, NY
Vassar College was founded in 1861 and sits on 1,000 beautiful acres. The Thompson Memorial Library is perhaps the most well-known building. The castle-like structure was designed in the Perpendicular Gothic style and completed in 1905. The Main Building, built in 1861, is one of the earliest and most significant examples of Second Empire architecture in the United States. The campus landscape features an arboretum, formal gardens, manicured lawns as well as meadows and woodlands.
8. Colgate University – Hamilton Village, NY
Colgate University is a liberal arts college residing on 575 picturesque acres. It is a remote campus surrounded by hills, lakes, and woods. Students can enjoy miles of walkways lined with sugar maple and red oak trees. The beautiful Taylor Lake is a popular campus attraction and provides inviting spots for relaxation. Many of the buildings on campus are made of stone and date back to 1827. Old Biology Hall is an impressive example of Romanesque style architecture and was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1973.
9. Binghamton University – Binghamton, NY
Binghamton University is situated on 930 acres above the Susquehanna River. There are 120 campus buildings, most built with modern appeal. The campus is also home to a beautiful 182-acre Nature Preserve that includes protected forests, wetlands, and a six-acre pond. Trails are maintained for for hiking, biking, and running. A wooden footbridge adds charm to the environment. A diverse population of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles resides here. Impressively, over 200 different species of bird have been sighted.
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10. Lehman College – New York City, NY
First constructed in 1931 as a branch of Hunter College, the branch campus and buildings were later established as Lehman College in 1968. Comprised of a modest 37-acres, the tree-lined campus houses a wide variety of architectural styles. Some early structures reflect Tudor-Gothic style which are sharply contrasted by newer, modern structures. The campus is located in a residential section of the Bronx along the Jerome Park Reservoir. Its’ wide brick walkways, plazas, vibrant green spaces and onsite art gallery are all open to the public.
11. Elmira College – Elmira, NY
Elmira College, founded in 1855, sits upon 80 acres in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The college flower is the Iris which is planted throughout the campus and along the winding brick walkways. Many campus buildings are constructed in the Victorian and Collegiate Gothic architectural styles. Mark Twain famously summered in the town of Elmira, and a notable campus feature is a small octagonal dwelling where the author wrote his most famous works. Known as Mark Twain’s Study, the space contains a brick fireplace and Twain’s own writing desk. It remains a source of fascination and inspiration to students and visitors.
12. The College of New Rochelle - New Rochelle, NY
Founded in 1904, The College of New Rochelle is a small Catholic college and set on 20 suburban acres. The tree-lined campus consists of sprawling green lawns and more than 20 buildings, many designed in the Gothic Revival style. The crown jewel of the campus is Leland Castle which was originally built as the home of Simeon Leland, a wealthy New York hotel proprietor in the 1850s. The castle was constructed of local granite and still retains many of its original features including two fireplaces, intricate stained glass windows, and blue and gold tiles in the entrance hall. Leland Castle was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
13. Pratt Institute – Brooklyn, NY
Pratt Institute is a 25-acre school that focuses on art, design and architecture. The historic Clinton Hill campus in Brooklyn functions as an open park space and welcomes the public during the daytime. Meandering pathways are complemented with mature trees, expansive lawns and terraced gardens. The library is a three story brick building that was designed in a Renaissance Revival style. Tiffany Glass and Decorations Company designed and fabricated the impressive interior, including the book stacks made of glass and oak and secured with copper plated iron supports. With its many contemporary sculptures displayed throughout campus, Pratt Institute houses the largest sculpture park in New York City. It has also been recognized by Public Art Review as having one of the nation’s best college and university art collections.
14. Sarah Lawrence College – Bronxville, NY
Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence College is situated on 41 wooded acres along the banks of the Bronx River. Many of the buildings are designed in the Tudor Revival style. The natural landscape is impressive with exposed bedrock outcroppings and mature oak and elm trees. Today the century-old ivy covered mansions are used as dormitories. With the nearby Catskill Mountains and many state parks in the area, students at Sara Lawrence have many options for outdoor activities.
15. Syracuse University – Syracuse, NY
Founded in 1831, Syracuse University spans 270 acres and features an eclectic assortment of buildings. Nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival structures mingle with newer contemporary buildings. The Hall of Languages is the University’s most iconic structure. It was the first building constructed on the Syracuse University campus and was built in the Second Empire architectural style. Overlooking downtown Syracuse, the campus is comprised of landscaped walkways, historic sculptures, and sprawling green spaces. The campus also boasts an impressive art collection with works from Picasso, Rembrandt, Hopper and others.
16. University of Rochester – Rochester, NY
The University of Rochester was founded in 1850, and many of the original Greek Revival style buildings are still in use, today. The landmark Rush Rhees Library, which opened in 1930, has served as an unofficial symbol of the college. It's dominant feature is a 186-foot tower that houses the largest musical instrument in New York City - the Hopeman Memorial Carillon. Trees play an important role in the campus landscape and design. Two notable trees reside on campus - a weeping willow and a ponderosa pine which are the largest known examples of their species in New York state.
17. Webb Institute – Glen Cove, NY
Originally located in the Bronx, Webb Institute relocated to its current spot in Glen Cove in 1947. Webb Institute offers only one highly specialized area of study – a dual degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. The institute is also unique in that every student who is admitted is given a scholarship for free tuition. The 26-acre campus is located along Long Island Sound and has a private beach, perfect for kayaking or sailing. Stevenson Taylor Hall is the campus’ main building. The distinctively H-shaped building is so impressive that it was used for the exterior shots of Wayne Manor in the Batman films from the 1990s.
18. Wells College – Aurora, NY
Wells College is situated on 360 acres overlooking Cayuga Lake in the small village of Aurora. Founded by Henry Wells in 1868, the college is made up of beautiful buildings of diverse styles. The Glen Park Mansion, originally the founder’s home, is perhaps the most iconic structure on campus. Built in Tuscan Village style, it is today used as a dormitory. Also notable is the Pettibone House, a Gothic Revival stone structure built in 1858. Originally a private residence, it now houses the Wells College Alumnae and Alumni Office.
19. Rockefeller University – New York City, NY
Founded in 1901, Rockefeller University is a modest 14-acre campus located in Manhattan that blends old and new architectural styles. The urban campus maintains a lush landscape with native plantings. Pathways constructed of marble-slab lead to peaceful gardens and water fountains. A central lawn is lined by trees and walkways. A new river campus project was just recently initiated; the plan for the campus is pictured above.
20. Alfred University – Alfred, NY
Alfred University, founded in 1836, is situated on a beautiful 232 acres. Another 400 acres of nearby land houses the school’s equestrian center and is also accessible for recreational purposes. Built in 1852, Alumni Hall was designed with Greek Revival features and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cupola is an example of 19th-century American architecture and the one-of-the-kind weathervane is shaped like a quill pen. The most notable structure on campus is the Allen Steinheim Museum. Resembling a castle, the structure was originally built to house the school’s mineral and geological assets. Over 700 samples of wood and 8,000 rock specimens were combined to form the structure’s unique framework and walls.
21. SUNY Oswego – Oswego, NY
The State University of New York, Oswego is situated on 690 lakeside acres. The University was founded in 1861 and moved to its current location in 1913. The most impressive building on campus is Sheldon Hall. The Neo-classical two story structure was built in 1911 and features a copper clock tower and belfry. Rice Creek Field Station is located one-mile south of the main campus and provides an opportunity to explore nature. The facility is used for biology and earth science research and teaching. Located on 300 acres of fields, forests, and streams, there are four nature trails that are open to the public and used for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.
22. Long Island University Post - Greenvale, NY
Established in 1954, Long Island University Post is the largest campus of the Long Island University system. It is located on 307 acres and includes a 40-acre arboretum, rolling lawns, formal gardens, manicured courtyards, natural wooded areas and horseback riding trails. There is plenty of open space for lounging. Three historic mansions are also located on campus, including one built in the Tudor style that was once the home of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.
23. St. Lawrence University – Canton, NY
St. Lawrence University resides on a sprawling 1,100-acre rural campus. The location is perfect for outdoor exploration and recreation. The Outing Club at St. Lawrence is noted to be the second oldest in the country next to Dartmouth. The Club organizes weekly student-led trips to explore the area’s abundant natural spaces. The campus is thoughtfully designed and includes student built permaculture and Zen gardens. Many of the campus structures are listed on the register of National Historic Places. The most impressive building is perhaps Herring-Cole Hall which was used as the University’s fist library. Built in 1870, the hall was constructed of Potsdam sandstone which was locally quarried. The interior is adorned with ornate wooden details.
24. Manhattanville College – Purchase, NY
Manhattanville College was founded in 1841 and moved to its current location in 1952. Set on 100 acres, the centerpiece of the campus is Reid Hall, a six-story granite castle. Built in 1864 in a Norman-esque style, the castle overlooks a sprawling lawn designed by the same architect who designed Central Park - Frederick Law Olmsted. The campus is also home to several other historic buildings such as the President’s Cottage and Lady Chapel; the castle however is the most impressive.
25. Marist College - Poughkeepsie, NY
Marist College was founded in 1929 and is situated on 210 acres. To the west, it is bordered by the Hudson River, and to the north, it is bordered by a 15-acre arboretum with hiking trails. The Poughkeepsie campus is also minutes away from outdoor recreation in the beautiful Catskill Mountains. The campus is designed to be pedestrian-friendly and includes open green spaces for gathering and relaxing. There are also several historic buildings on its campus. The most notable is known as Greystone. The two-story, Gothic-style, stone carriage house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and currently houses the Admissions Office.
26. Mount Saint Mary College - Newburgh, NY
Founded in 1960, Mount Saint Mary College is located on 60 suburban acres overlooking the Hudson River. Trees, walkways, and open green spaces are incorporated into the campus landscape. Only an hour from New York City, the college is located near many mountains, rivers, and forests that are perfect for outdoor recreation. The college’s buildings range from 19th-century to modern day architectural styles. The Villa is one of the oldest buildings on campus. This beautiful Victorian building that was built in the 1840s, today houses the Admissions Office.
27. Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Geneva, NY
Hobart and William Smith Colleges were originally founded as two separate colleges. Hobart College was established in 1822 and William Smith College in 1908. The campus occupies 320 acres on the shore of Lake Seneca in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The landscape includes over 1,800 established trees including a rare variety of orange tree and a 200-year-old red oak tree. The campus also has many historic buildings. Coxe Hall built in 1901 is the campus’ most iconic building. Its’ arched entryway and openwork parapet make it a beautiful example of Jacobean architecture.
28. Clarkson University – Potsdam, NY
Founded in 1896, Clarkson University occupies 640 acres in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. The campus is designed to include lots of open space as lawns, fields and plazas. Original buildings are still in use however most campus buildings are modern. The highlight of the campus is three miles of trails that meander through woods and wetlands. The trails are used for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. Clarkson also has a canoe house on the Raquette River, where students are able to canoe, swim, and fish. It is conveniently located within walking distance from the dormitories.
29. Skidmore College – Saratoga Springs, NY
Skidmore College was founded in 1903 and is located on 950 acres in Saratoga Springs, New York. The campus has several modern buildings like the music center and dining hall. The campus landscape includes plenty of open green spaces. A 250-acre parcel of woods, wetlands, ponds and fields known as North Woods, provides easy access to hiking trails.
30. College of Mount St. Vincent – Bronx, New York
The College of Mount St. Vincent is set upon an urban 70 acres that overlooks the Hudson River. The campus landscape is designed with rolling lawns and wooded areas. Founded in 1847, the campus is home to several buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The most impressive is the Fonthill Castle built in Gothic Revival style and consisting of six octagonal stone towers of varying heights.
All images for this study were pulled from school websites, the Princeton Review website, the Britannica website, or Wikimedia commons.