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Georgia's Graduate Athens hotel offers a retro vibe. (Photograph by Christian Horan Photography)

Boutique Hotels in Classic College Towns

The summer break is winding down, which only means one thing: School is back in session. From moving day to parents weekend, this roster of grade-A boutique hotels has you covered.

> Stone Porch by the Lake (Evanston, Illinois)

Thirty minutes from downtown Chicago, this restored 1889 Tudor mansion across from Lake Michigan is the first boutique lodging in Northwestern University’s hometown of Evanston.

The inn features geothermal power and guest rooms outfitted with organic mattresses, linens, and sea-inspired toiletries. Rent a sailboat or paddleboard at the university’s new Wildcat sailing center for an alternative to the many cultural offerings on campus.

> Hotel Casa 425 (Claremont, California)

Soak in the SoCal lifestyle at this modern hacienda-style hotel (35 miles east of L.A.) built around a courtyard in artsy Claremont, home to the Claremont Colleges (aka 7Cs) three blocks away.

The 28 spacious rooms, with soaking tubs and outdoor patios, echo the overall glossy white theme. Bonus: Complimentary bicycles and “Vino & Vinyasa” yoga and wine tastings on select Sunday afternoons in the Casa courtyard.

> Graduate Athens (Athens, Georgia)

Homey charm is enhanced with touches like University of Georgia bulldog desk lamps and chalkboards in each of the 122 rooms. Guests mingle in the hotel’s living-room reception area, fueled by locally roasted coffee and complimentary jelly beans.

Athens was founded on cotton wealth; today, it’s a haven for music lovers. Music historian Paul Butchart leads tours highlighting hangouts of groups with roots here, like R.E.M. and the B-52s.

This piece, reported by Ceil Miller Bouchet, appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.