10 Most Beautiful Colleges in the Southwest

The 10 colleges on this list have been chosen as some of the most beautiful campuses in the country, and the most beautiful in the American Southwest, which includes Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Though there are surely more than 10 beautiful Southwestern colleges, the following schools were chosen and ranked based on the following criteria:


Awards & Recognition (2 points for an international accolade; 1 point for an American accolade; 1 for appearing on the National Register of Historic Places): Whether a national award or an honor bestowed by a group or organization, any recognition a campus has received played a large part in the placement of a school on this list. Generally speaking, the larger and more recent the honor, the higher the college was placed.

Student Enjoyment (1 point per notable feature): While most of the features described in this article can be appreciated visually by both students and visitors, those campuses with features that can be physically enjoyed by the school's student body (such as botanical gardens or hiking trails) were given higher priority.

Number of Notable Features (1 point for each notable feature): Campuses with more than one significant or celebrated building or feature were ranked higher than those with a single notable feature.

Other (1 point each): Those campuses with other notable characteristics, such as historical significance or environmental friendliness, were also considered.

In the event of a tie, the higher-ranking campus was chosen by the author based on characteristics such as natural terrain and climate, historical significance, or academic reputation.

Ranking the Best Colleges in the Southwest for Campus Beauty

10. Baylor University

(10 points)

Waco, Texas

The 1,000-acres comprising Baylor University are dotted with beautiful sights both natural and man-made. The centerpiece of the campus is Burleson Quadrangle. Created in 1886, the Quad is hugely popular among students and visitors alike. Plus, sitting in the Quad gives one spectacular views of some of the campus’ most beautiful buildings, the most notable of which is Old Main. Constructed in 1887, Old Main combines Italianate and American Victorian features.

9. University of Arizona

(11 points)

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona isn’t exactly known for its natural beauty, but University of Arizona has done an admirable job accentuating on its campus the natural Southwestern landscape. Many of the campus’ 179 buildings are from the early 20th century, including the main library, the Arizona State Museum, and Centennial Hall, the latter of which was designed by prominent Tucson architect Roy Place. Like most of the more modern buildings, these originals have been built using red brick that gives a decidedly collegiate air to the desert location. The campus is divided into four quadrants, the north and south sides of which are delineated by a massive grassy expanse appropriately known as The Mall.

8. Texas A&M, Corpus Christi

(12 points)

Corpus Christi, Texas

Nicknamed “The Island University” because it’s situated on South Texas’s Oso Island near the Gulf of Mexico, Texas A&M--Corpus Christi is the perfect school for anyone in love with water sports. In fact, much of the campus encompasses part of Padre Island which is well-known for its white-sand beaches and resident nature preserve. As if the average 223 days of sunshine weren’t awesome enough, high wind speeds are very common in the Corpus Christi area, making it perfect for anyone whose day isn’t complete before a round of wind surfing, sailing, or kite boarding, all of which are extremely popular. The campus’s myriad nearby beaches are also perfect for surfing, swimming, boating, or just hanging out in the sunshine.

7. University of Houston

(14 points)

Houston, Texas

University of Houston’s 667-acre campus has been wowing students and visitors since its founding in 1927. The campus is full of verdant trees and sculptures. The gem of the campus is the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building, which was completed in 1950 in the Art Deco style. Nearby sits the Cullen Family Plaza, a beautiful outdoor space designed by Texas architect Alfred C. Finn. Also worth mentioning is the bronze and copper sculpture AA, Jim Sanborn’s gorgeous sculpture which features fragments of literature in various languages. Appropriately, the sculpture sits adjacent to the impressive M.D. Anderson Library.

6. Southern Methodist University

(17 points)

Dallas, Texas

Dallas’s Southern Methodist University is 164 acres of “suburban tranquility,” complete with Neo-Georgian architecture, spacious lawns, and tree-lined walkways. The campus’s most magnificent building is arguably Dallas Hall, which was constructed in 1915, the same year the University received its charter. Designed by Boston-based architects Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, Dallas Hall is a beautiful example of historic grand Georgian style, and remains one of the school’s principal landmarks.

5. LeTourneau University

(17 points)

Longview, Texas

Originally a World War II-era military hospital, the 162-acre campus that is LeTourneau University is one of the most historically significant in the country. Though LeTourneau gained official university status in 1989, it has retained many of the original buildings, including the Speer Chapel. The picturesque chapel opened in 1943 and still has its original wooden sash windows, gabled roof, and towering steeple. However, the centerpiece of the campus, the Jeanette S. Belcher Memorial Bell Tower, is much newer. Completed in 1990, the bell tower towers over the lawns and walkways of the pretty main quad area.

4. Howard Payne University

(19 points)

Brownwood, Texas

The 80-acre campus of Howard Payne University is full of vibrant green spaces on which students can study and socialize. The most beautiful building on campus is the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom. Constructed in 1890 and extensively renovated in the 1960s, the Academy of Freedom looks like something out of a fairy tale. The sandstone building is topped with a spire, and graced with a shining glass frontage unlike anything else on this list. Students and visitors alike stand in awe of the building, which houses a library, classrooms, and some faculty offices.

3. Houston Baptist College

(21 points)

Houston, Texas

One of the most picturesque college campuses in Texas, Houston Baptist College offers students and visitors a peaceful escape from the busy Houston atmosphere. Tree-lined walking paths, shady copses, peaceful fountains and gardens, and multiple greens provide students with plenty of options for studying or socializing. Academic buildings on campus are a fine mix of traditional and modern, including the popular Dunham Bible Museum which houses one of the world’s most expansive collections of rare bibles.

2. Arizona State University

(22 points)

Tempe, Arizona

Despite its urban location, Arizona State University’s main Tempe campus is a beautiful location and a pedestrian’s paradise. Approximately 640 acres in size, ASU’s campus consists of myriad walkways and grassy areas that are  surrounded by an impressive arboretum. Though the University has multiple campuses, Tempe is its original, and Old Main, the inaugural building, still stands today as the focal point. Other iconic and beautifully constructed buildings include Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium,  designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; the Palm Walk, which is lined with over 100 palm trees; University Bridge; the Margaret Gisolo Dance Theatre, and the University Club Building. Interestingly, the campus also has an extensive collection of public art displays, which has been called one of the 10 best of its kind by Public Art Review.

1. Rice University

(24 points)

Houston, Texas

Rice University has long prided itself on being an environmentally responsible campus, though it hasn’t sacrificed any of its beauty to achieve that. Despite its location in downtown Houston’s Museum District, the campus provides plenty of green space for its students. Two of the newer residential dorms, McMurtry College and Duncan College, are LEED Gold certified, while Duncan Hall, the Math and Science Center, is high tech and one of the more popular buildings on campus. Fortunately, Rice hasn’t sacrificed any of its beauty for its environmental friendliness. Nearly every building on campus was designed in the Byzantine style and features beige brick buildings, large archways, and colonnade walkways.

GCD Staff, November 2016


This concludes our coverage of the best colleges in the Southwest by campus beauty.