For some students, a winter devoid of frigid temperatures and deep snow would be unbearable. Others, however, prefer sunshine, mild seasons and plenty of outdoor activities. Although any list containing the word “best” in the title is subjective to some degree, when factors such as the number of sunny days (as measured by the National Weather Service), temperature extremes and recreational activities on or near the campus are weighed, 25 campuses stand out as having the best weather.
25. Rice University
Rice University in Houston encompasses almost 300 acres, most of it heavily wooded land or open green space. Houston’s mild winters ensure that students will have plenty of warm days to enjoy the campus — the area is normally free of frost between February 14 and December 11, averaging just 18 days per year with temperatures reaching the freezing mark or below. Located in Houston’s museum district, students can walk or bike to an excellent selection of galleries, museums and entertainment venues.
24. Georgia Southern University
With an average of 212 sunny days each year and an average low in January of just 38.7 degrees, Georgia Southern University in Statesboro offers a variety of outdoor activities. The 18-acre Center for Wildlife Education offers visitors a chance to see raptors in flight or waterfowl at home in their native habitats. A bandshell, added in 2006, hosts nationally known artists on tour as well as local and student performances. Woodland trails, a botanical garden and the school’s recreation center give students a choice of activities.
23. California — Santa Cruz
The University of California at Santa Cruz is located near the coast approximately 80 miles from San Francisco. The campus overlooks Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, encompassing more than 2,000 acres of wooded, rolling hills. Outdoor enthusiasts can stroll along the numerous creeks on campus, visit the Porter Caves or relax among redwood trees. On average, Santa Cruz has 262 sunny days each year, with an average low in January of 39.2 and an average high in July of 74 degrees.
22. Texas A&M — Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi is located in South Texas on the Gulf of Mexico and encompasses part of Padre Island, renowned for its white-sand beaches and nature preserve. The Corpus Christi campus of Texas A&M University is situated on Oso Island, giving it the nickname of “The Island University.” Although the campus itself offers limited opportunities for students to enjoy the balmy weather, Padre Island and Corpus Christi have ample outdoor activities. Whether strolling the beaches, surfing, or visiting one of the area’s many nature preserves, residents have an average of 223 days of sunshine each year to spend outdoors. Due to the wind speeds common in Corpus Christi, wind sports, including wind surfing, sailing and kite boarding are extremely popular in the area.
21. San Francisco State University
With its urban setting and relatively small campus size of just under 142 acres, San Francisco State University has little room available for outdoor activities on campus. However, it is located in San Francisco, after all, and it is hard to find any area that offers better weather. With average temperatures ranging from a low of 42.4 degrees to a high of 71 degrees, temperatures are consistently mild, allowing area residents to enjoy the 259 days of sunshine the area averages annually. Students can relax in Golden Gate Park, take a streetcar through the city’s rolling hills or tour Fisherman’s Wharf. On campus, there are numerous sporting events to attend year-round as the university fields baseball, soccer, cross-county, track and field, softball, basketball and wrestling teams.
20. University of West Florida
The University of West Florida is located on Pensacola Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. The university owns part of Pensacola Beach and allows students to use the property for recreation and research projects. Much of the UWF campus lies within a wilderness preserve, and the school provides kayaks and canoes for students to rent and use on the Escambia River. Mountain bike and hiking trails are also available on campus. Summers in Pensacola can be hot and humid, but the average winter low is just 42.8 degrees. Rain falls an average of 110 days per year, primarily during late afternoon or evening hours.
19. University of Arizona
Tucson, home of the University of Arizona, is surrounded by mountains on all sides, including the Santa Catalina Mountains, which feature the southernmost ski resort in the lower 48 states. Tucson’s mild climate allows a variety of outdoor festivals, such as the Fourth Avenue Street Fairs, the Rodeo Parade and the Tucson Folk Festival. On campus, Arizona Stadium seats more than 56,000 people for the university’s football games, and a large portion of the campus is devoted to an arboretum. Summers are usually hot during the day, but temperatures drop rapidly after sundown. The area averages 286 sunny days per year.
18. The University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico is located near downtown Albuquerque. Albuquerque is located on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, which offers opportunities to explore desert life. However, the ski resorts of Taos lie a short distance north of Albuquerque, while the Sandia Mountains on Albuquerque’s northeast side has a ski area as well. The historic town of Santa Fe is also a short drive away. During the summer months, there are biking, hiking and backpacking trails to explore. Albuquerque proper averages 280 sunny days each year with a temperature range of 26.1 to 89 degrees.
17. University of Utah
The University of Utah occupies a campus in the heart of Salt Lake City, so opportunities for on-campus activities are limited. However, the Salt Lake City area has a strong industry based on outdoor recreational activities, particularly skiing. The city hosts free outdoor concerts in Pioneer Park every summer, and many activities happen year-round in Temple Square. The area experiences some cold winter days and hot summer days, but neither are extreme and Salt Lake City averages 222 sunny days annually.
16. University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ climate reflects its location in the Mojave Desert, with hot, dry summers and mild, short winters. The area sees an average of only 26.5 days of precipitation per year, almost all of which falls as rain. Although Las Vegas is best known for its casinos and glitzy shows, both the city and the UNLV campus offer many other options for those who want to enjoy the great outdoors. On campus, the 184,000 square foot recreation center offers both indoor and outdoor sports facilities and equipment rentals for outdoor adventure activities. Golf, water skiing, tennis, boating, swimming and biking are just a few of the activities. Other popular adventures include horseback riding, hiking and rock climbing.
15. Florida Institute of Technology
Outdoor activities on the Florida Institute of Technology’s campus in Melbourne are in line with the area’s tropical climate. Students can play volleyball at a sand court, swim in one of the school’s two outdoor pools or play tennis on one of the lighted courts. Although the area receives more rain than some other school homes, winter temperatures seldom dip below 50 degrees, and summer temperatures rarely exceed 90 degrees. Melbourne hosts a number of outdoor festivals, such as Oktoberfest, the Main Street Fall Festival and Summer Friday Fest Family Street Party. There are also miles of public beaches nearby to sunbathe, snorkel or sail.
14. BYU — Hawai’i
The Brigham Young University’s Hawaii campus is located in Laie, approximately 35 miles from Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Laie has an average of 269 sunny days per year, but it receives almost 49 inches of rain annually. However, the average low in January is 65.7 degrees, while the average high in July is 83 degrees. With temperatures like that and miles of beaches, surfing, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and diving are popular activities in the area. On-campus facilities include an Olympic-sized pool and fitness center
13. Florida International University
When it comes to nice weather, it is hard to beat the climate in the greater Miami area, the home of Florida International University. Temperatures during the coldest month of the year average 59.5 degrees, and the average during the hottest month of the year is a balmy 90 degrees. Miami residents can enjoy the many miles of public beaches and all that the ocean has to offer, such as diving, boating, fishing and sailing. Students at Florida International University can also avail themselves of a variety of on-campus activities. The school operates two campuses in Miami, University Park, which is the main campus, and the Biscayne Bay campus, which adjoins the Oleta River State Park. The main campus features heavy, lush vegetation, numerous lakes, an arboretum and several nature preserves. The Biscayne Bay campus is located on the bay and is home to the school’s aquatic center.
12. University of Texas, El Paso
El Paso is situated on the Rio Grande, the river forming the border with Mexico, in West Texas. The area has an average of 297 sunny days per year and average temperatures ranging from 31.3 degrees in the winter to 95 degrees in the summer. The sprawling UTEP campus offers a variety of venues and activities, including the Sun Bowl Stadium, which can seat 51,500 for football games, and the Student Recreation Center, which offers the Outdoor Adventure Program. There are many bike and walking trails on campus also. The city of El Paso completely encompasses Franklin Mountains State Park, a popular area for hiking. The KLAQ Great River Raft Race, the Neon Desert Music Festival and the El Paso Downtown Street Festival are just a few of the special events held annually in and around the city.
11. Texas A&M – Galveston
The Galveston campus of Texas A&M University offers programs that are largely related to ocean and maritime sciences. The campus is home to the Texas Maritime Academy, and the school sponsors both rowing and sailing teams. Although smaller than the main A&M campus in College Station in terms of student population as well as land size, the school’s location on Galveston Island gives students the chance to explore the island’s beaches and fish, boat or sail in the Gulf of Mexico. The city of Galveston is home to an annual Mardi Gras festival, a Christmas festival with a Victorian theme that pays homage to the works of author Charles Dickens and a jazz and blues festival. The teeming metropolis of Houston is a short drive away for those seeking even more entertainment choices. The climate is mild, with an average of 203 sunny days per year, and the average temperatures range from a low of 48.1 in January to a high of 88 degrees in July.
10. University of Tampa
Students at the University of Tampa can find numerous on-campus facilities, including an aquatic center, both outdoor and indoor basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, softball fields, tennis courts and a running track. The facilities geared toward outdoor activities reflects the climate in the Tampa area, which boasts an average of 246 sunny days and an average low of 50.8 degrees in January. Students can stroll around a campus that has banana trees dotting the landscape as well as stately oak trees or enjoy the many activities offered in Tampa. In 2008, “Forbes” ranked Tampa as fifth on the magazine’s list of best outdoor cities. The city’s many public beaches and parks encompass more than 2,285 acres just within the city limits. Special events, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival and the Florida State Fair, attract visitors from throughout the region.
9. University of Puerto Rico
When it comes to great weather, it is difficult to beat an island in the Caribbean. Temperatures average just over 82 degrees year-round, with a range of approximately 67 to 85 degrees and little seasonal fluctuation. Puerto Rico’s miles of coastline, 17 manmade lakes and more than 50 rivers offer opportunities for various water sports. The University of Puerto Rico is comprised of 11 campuses, with the main campus in San Juan.
8. Arizona State University
Located in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, Arizona State University sprawls over 642 acres surrounded entirely by an arboretum. ASU teams have garnered 23 national championships in baseball, golf, softball, track, wresting and gymnastics, and the football team, the Sun Devils, competes in the NCAA’s Pac-12 Conference, and although the national title has thus far proved elusive, the team has won numerous championships at the conference level and appeared in more than two dozen bowl games. With an average of 300 sunny days per year and an average low of 33.8 during the winter’s coldest month — January — ASU students never need to worry about deep snow making it difficult to get around the campus. However, summer temperatures can top 100 degrees during the hottest part of the day.
7. University of Miami
The University of Miami enjoys the same weather as 13th place Florida International University, but UM takes a higher ranking due to the number and quality of on-campus facilities and attractions. These include an arboretum and botanical garden, a campus theater, a library system housing a combined total of more than three million volumes and athletic teams that are frequently ranked high in the national standings. The Student Center Complex has an outdoor pool as well as retail stores and a study room, and the center is also home to the Rathskeller, a live entertainment venue and restaurant that features an outdoor bar overlooking Lake Osceola.
6. San Diego State University
Southern California has some of the best weather in the nation, and San Diego is no exception. During January, lows average 48 degrees, while in July, highs average a comfortable 75 degrees. Taking advantage of the area’s climate, San Diego State University constructed the Open Air Theater in 1941, with extensive renovations completed during the 1980s. The university fields water polo, football, ice hockey, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball and swimming teams, so students can find a sporting event to attend regardless of the season. For those who prefer professional sports, San Diego is home to the NFL’s Chargers and MLB’s Padres. The city also has a diverse arts culture, including a symphony, repertory theater and several museums of art.
5. University of Hawai’i
The University of Hawai’i consists of 11 campuses located on the islands of Oahu, Hawai’I, Maui and Kauai. The flagship campus is at Manoa on the island of Hawai’I, near Honolulu. The island is also home to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which includes the active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and offers unique camping and hiking experiences. The university system features an arboretum, three observatories and an aquarium. Surfing, sailing, fishing, boating and swimming are a few of the many choices available to students. As for the weather, average temperatures in Honolulu range from a low of approximately 66 degrees in the winter to about 83 degrees in the summer.
4. University of California — Santa Barbara
Students looking for a quality education at a university that boasts its own lagoon and beach can end their search with the University of California at Santa Barbara. Situated on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by water on three sides, UCSB features miles of bike and walking paths, park-like quads and an extensive coastline. Summers are typically cool, with an average high of 76 degrees during the hottest month, and temperatures during January, the coldest month of the year, average almost 43 degrees. With an average of 283 sunny days per year, San Diego residents have ample opportunities to explore outdoor activities.
3. University of Southern California
Located in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California is known for its athletic teams as well as its academics. The school’s drama department presents performances five different theaters, and the school of music offers symphony, jazz and opera performances. The USC Fisher Museum of Art houses approximately 1,800 items, including works by old masters and contemporary artists. Los Angeles weather is mild, with winter lows averaging almost 50 degrees and summer highs around 77 degrees. Surfing is a popular activity on the nearby beaches, which enjoy an average of 284 sunny days annually.
2. University of California — Los Angeles
The University of California’s Los Angeles campus enjoys the same weather and public attractions as its rival, USC, but UCLA ranks slightly higher in the area of on-campus facilities and activities. The UCLA Marina Aquatic Center offers students the opportunity to participate in such sports as surfing, sailing, rowing, windsurfing and kayaking. An annual dance marathon, lasting 26 hours, raises money for several different AIDS/HIV support organizations. The JazzReggae Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend, typically draws a crowd of more than 20,000. On-campus swimming pools, tennis courts and basketball courts offer students the opportunity to engage in some stress-relieving exercise.
1. Pepperdine University
Mention the name “Malibu” and many people instantly have visions of miles of pristine sandy beaches, surfers and scenic canyons. The image is justified. Numerous television shows and movies, such as “Gidget” and several of the Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello “beach party” flicks, were filmed on Malibu beaches. Temperatures range from an average low of approximately 50 degrees in the winter to an average high of 70 degrees during July. Pepperdine University is located near Malibu on 830 acres that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Although Pepperdine consistently ranks well on various lists of “top” schools for academics, of special interest is its garnering first place on list published by “The Princeton Review” of the most beautiful campuses. An on-campus recreation center provides students with a variety of options ranging from aerobics to weight training, and the university hosts several special events annually. The nearby Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a sprawling 154,095 acres comprised of numerous preserves and individual parks, including Malibu Creek State Park, formerly a location site owned by 20th Century Fox. Horseback riding, biking, hiking and camping are some of the more popular recreational activities in the SMMNRA, and six state beaches lie within the area or border it.