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Making the Most of Your Local College Campus

college campuses often offer great resources that local families can take advantage of!

Have you taken your kids to your local college campus yet? Colleges often have a lot to offer families, and usually at very affordable (often free!) prices! College campuses are designed to withstand the antics of college students, and that tends to make them pretty kid-friendly – although I have noticed that railings aren’t necessarily toddler-proof.

Here are a few resources I have discovered at the various universities we have hung out with our kids over the years:

Free museums

These tend to be traditional rather than hands-on museums, but the exhibits can be very interesting. Some offer family programs that are specifically geared towards young children, many of which are free!

Beautiful gardens

Emma and I spent a LOT of time in Cambridge University’s beautiful Botanic Garden during the three months we spent in England when she was a baby. Stanford is in the wrong climate for that type of garden, but they do have lots of interesting plants, and they have entire site dedicated to trees of Stanford (perhaps not coincidentally, Stanford’s mascot is a tree).

Interesting Architecture

I picked Stanford as my undergraduate campus in part because I liked the architecture (based on brochures; I had not actually seen any of the schools I was deciding between in person), so it’s not a big surprise that this made my list. Because campuses frequently expand their buildings as people donate money, you get to see a wide variety of architectural styles within a single college campus! The college campuses we have spent time on with our kids – the University of Edinburgh, Cambridge University, MIT, and Stanford University – are all home to a wide range of architectural styles (some more attractive than others, in my opinion).


College sports games can be a lot of fun to watch, and they are typically less expensive to watch than professional sports. Sometimes games are completely free! College campuses also often host sports camps for kids that get good reviews.

Promote Education

I have saved the best for last, really! Visiting a college campus are a great way to get kids interested in academics! They get to see energetic young adults spending their days learning because they want to! Your local college may have concerts that cater specifically to kids, as well as theater productions and displays of student projects that your kids will find interesting and inspiring like this exhibit about extinct birds. Just remember that college students are adults, and so you may want to research the content before taking your kids to an exhibition (just as you would for any public event generally targeting adults).

College campuses often host academically-themed camps for kids during the summer; having worked at these both as an educator and a counselor, I find that the camp quality can vary quite a bit even within a single college campus (or a single program spread across campuses), and so I recommend getting personal recommendations for programs from other parents before signing your child up for the summer.

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MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

14 thoughts on “Making the Most of Your Local College Campus”

  1. That’s such great advice about local college sports. They are FREE (mostly) and the seating is usually great! My kids have loved going to our local college, Boston College, and watching soccer, hockey and volleyball. I guess only football is really hard to get tickets too but we are not really into college football :).

  2. How fun that you picked Stanford partly based on architecture! :) Our nearest university offers free classical concerts from the music department each Thursday, and they have things like writers’ festivals as well, for a fee. I haven’t made the effort to get out there for events yet, though we do go whenever the kids have a music exam. One of my favourite features of campuses with kids is the availability of open grassy green spaces.

    1. Oh yes! Open grassy green spaces are one of the things we love about going on Stanford’s campus here. They also have a beach volleyball pit full of GORGEOUS sand that doesn’t stick to skin(!) that my kids love to play in when the college students aren’t using it.

  3. We live driving distance to FOUR campuses :) So we have no excuse haha. We visit them often, for the reasons you mentioned above, as well as festivals, kid events, concerts, fountains, the store, food court, everything. And yeah, they’re usually free, or you just have to pay for parking, so it’s a great outing for kids.

  4. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    I agree – visiting local colleges as kids can make the desire to go to college one day a lot more concrete. We should visit Stanford campus one of these days :)

  5. Thanks for the great reminder that college isn’t just for college aged kids! We’re so close to a campus, we definitely need to spend more time there. Thanks for including our party slime too!

  6. We’ve gone to my college campus and they’ve added several statues in the last few years, so it’s been a fun bit of art study to look at them.

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