Back-to-School: The Graduate Hotels Line Offers Luxury + Nostalgia in College Towns

Visiting your alma mater? Stay at one of these boutique hotels that feature collegiate and eccentric designs.

The first few years after graduation, returning to your college town for football games, alumni events, graduations and weddings usually entails crashing with friends who stayed around for graduate school and still live in the area. Crashing with friends doesn’t seem like a big deal when years of living with roommates in small spaces is in your not-so-distant past. It’s probably even a little nostalgic.

But as your age and income (hopefully) rise, crashing on a friend’s couch sounds less appealing. So where can you have comfort and luxury while still getting a dose of nostalgia? Say hello to Graduate Hotels.

Graduate Madison Lobby

Graduate Madison Lobby

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Madison, Wisconsin. The lobby features a unique collection of art and decor, including canoe light fixtures.

Photo by: Christian Horan Photography

Christian Horan Photography

Founded in 2014, Graduate Hotels has locations in six university towns across the country, with four more opening in 2017 and three more in 2018. Existing locations include Athens, Georgia; Madison, Wisconsin; Charlottesville, Virginia; Tempe, Arizona; Oxford, Mississippi and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Room rates start at $150-$200, depending on market and the time of year.

And no two hotels are the same. The interior design is at the forefront of what makes each location special and unlike any other lodging option in these university towns. Tim Franzen, President of Graduate Hotels, says their in-house design team spends a great deal of time researching the special and distinctive stories, places and people that make each community and school so different from any other. “From imaginative guest rooms to locally sourced art collections, the design elements of the property pay homage to the heritage of each community,” he says. “We offer bold colors, fearless and eccentric patterns and design informed by decades of nostalgia.”

Graduate Athens Lobby

Graduate Athens Lobby

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Athens, Georgia. The lobby features boldly-colored furniture and a gallery wall of mirrors in different shapes and sizes.

Photo by: Christian Horan Photography

Christian Horan Photography

At the Madison, Wisconsin location, your bed might feature a pillow with “curd” or “brat” stitched on it to remind you you’re in the state nicknamed “America’s Dairyland” where cheese curds and bratwursts are popular foods.

Graduate Madison

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Graduate Madison Lobby

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Madison, Wisconsin. The lobby's design features bold colors, plaid patterns and a case of trophies.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

Graduate Madison Bedroom

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Madison, Wisconsin. This bedroom features a pillow with the word "curd" stitched on it, referring to cheese curds, a popular food in the state that is sometimes called "America's Dairyland".

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

Graduate Madison Bedroom

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns, has a location in Madison, Wisconsin. This is a sitting area in one of the bedrooms.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

Graduate Madison Lobby

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Madison, Wisconsin. The lobby features a unique collection of art and decor, including canoe light fixtures.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

At the Athens, Georgia location, you’ll find art and furniture that reflect the University of Georgia’s school colors of red and black and their mascot, a bulldog.

Graduate Athens

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Graduate Athens Lobby

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Athens, Georgia. The lobby features boldly-colored furniture and a gallery wall of mirrors in different shapes and sizes.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

Graduate Athens Bedroom

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Athens, Georgia. The bedroom features bold colors, plaid fabrics and decor that subtly nods to the University of Georgia.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

Graduate Athens Bathroom

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Athens, Georgia. The bathroom features clean, modern design and glass shower.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

Graduate Athens Room

Graduate Athens, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Athens, Georgia. Some of the rooms feature black and red decor, a nod to the University of Georgia's school colors.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

Graduate Athens Bedroom

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Athens, Georgia. The bedrooms feature bold colors and plaid fabrics.

Photo By: Christian Horan Photography

The Graduate Athens hotel lobby is adjacent to Iron Works Coffee, which is open to non-hotel guests as well. All of their hotels offer food and beverage programs that focus on coffee, lively bars and locally-inspired food.

Graduate Athens Coffee Shop

Graduate Athens Coffee Shop

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns across the country, has a location in Athens, Georgia. The hotel is adjacent to a coffee shop that features a colorful gallery wall.

Photo by: Christian Horan Photography

Christian Horan Photography

If you’re traveling to Berkeley, Lincoln, Richmond or Minneapolis this year, you’ll soon be able to stay in a Graduate Hotel, too. Franzen says travelers can expect locally-inspired designs at the upcoming locations as well. For example, the Richmond location will take inspiration from the legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe, who grew up in the city. Their Berkeley location will feature a wall of bookcases behind the front desk filled with more than 8,900 National Geographic magazines, since their yellow bindings are the same Pantone color as Cal Berkeley’s yellow.

Rendering of Graduate Berkeley

Rendering of Graduate Berkeley

Graduate Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels in college towns, opens a Berkeley location in April 2017. This is a rendering of the exterior of the building.

Photo by: Courtesy of Graduate Hotels

Courtesy of Graduate Hotels

Look for the Berkeley location (pictured) opening in April, Richmond and Lincoln in June and Minneapolis later this winter.

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