Six Great New College-Town Hotels

Elevate your game-day weekend at these stylish Southern spots

Photo: Courtesy of The Tennessean

With twelve glorious weeks of regular-season college football stretching out in front of you (and the belief that your alma mater could go all the way still intact), it’s back-to-school time for fans. And while there are plenty of things to be nostalgic for about college, dorm life isn’t one of them. Book a room at one of these stylish new boutique hotels and you can leave the shower shoes at home.

 The Tennessean Hotel
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee

From the Drawing Room, the bar and restaurant at the swank Tennessean Hotel, you can see all the way to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, on a clear day. Perhaps even better, you’ve also got a great view of Neyland Stadium. And beginning this fall, the eighty-one-room hotel invites Volunteer fans to join them in the Sky Box at the Drawing Room. On Friday evening, mingle with former players and get a jump on tailgating with off-the-grill snacks. Saturday’s Bloody Mary bar marks the game’s real kickoff. And Sunday recovery cocktails polish off the weekend.

Chancellor’s House
University of Mississippi
Oxford, Mississippi

Good service is hospitality 101, but the Chancellor’s House team—and its fleet of on-call butlers—takes customer care to the next level. Management at the just-off-the-Square property maintains they’ll fulfill any request (of the legal variety). They even pamper your pooch. Your Boykin’s mahogany kennel comes outfitted with Ralph Lauren bedding and a custom brass name tag. After a day tailgating in the Grove, toast an Ole Miss win at the hotel’s rooftop lounge or numb the pain of a loss with an in-room nightcap.

Austin Motel
University of Texas
Austin, Texas

Thanks to the Midas touch of Texas hotelier Liz Lambert—who has five more properties in her portfolio and another Austin project in the works—this beloved South Congress motor court, which dates to the 1930s, is looking better than ever. The revamp preserves the property’s funky spirit—the classic kidney-shaped pool remains, as does the iconic red-and-white sign—but the room rates won’t make your bank account weep. For Longhorn fans, you’re only a three-and-a-half-mile Uber ride from Texas Memorial Stadium.

Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Houston-based architecture firm Gensler helped bring this 1920s skyscraper back to life. But to infuse the historic downtown structure with local soul, the group tapped two LSU graduates, Greg Lacour and Douglas Detiveaux, to play up the building’s Greek Revival history and add midcentury touches. Baton Rouge gallery owner Ann Connelly is responsible for the art that hangs in guestrooms and hotel common areas, including two restaurants—The Gregory, which serves up Louisiana’s finest, and Milford’s on Third, a kosher deli.

Clemson University
Clemson, South Carolina

Just in time to celebrate the Tigers’ season opening as reigning national champs, Clemson is taking its hotel game to the next level. The forty-one-room Abernathy, named for the Upstate South Carolina town’s longtime mayor, is no more than a five-minute walk from Death Valley or downtown. On game day, grab breakfast in the lobby café or a bracing Bloody at the bar before making the tailgate rounds or popping over to the Esso Club to catch an earlier game on television or a plate of fried pickles.

Graduate Hotels

University of Georgia; University of Virginia; Virginia Commonwealth University; and University of Mississippi
Athens, Georgia; Charlottesville, Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Oxford, Mississippi

Seeing an underserved market with a built-in clientele (everyone from football fans to doting parents to visiting professors), this boutique lodging company opened its first two university-town hotels in Tempe, Arizona, and Athens, Georgia, in 2014 and has since rolled out seven more, including three in Southern academic hubs. Don’t expect spaces plastered with college logos and colors. An in-house design team works to layer in stylish design notes that reference local and school traditions without hitting you over the head with team spirit.