Bar Harbor, Maine
On the forested College of the Atlantic campus, tucked into 37 acres on Mount Desert Island, a cracked seaside terrace or the stone foundation for a vanished porch whisper of long-gone summer homes where wealthy families once "rusticated" to escape the heat of the city. But a bit of Gilded Age glory survives: The Turrets, a slate-roofed stone castle built in 1895, now stands as the private college's signature building; a few humbler dwellings have become residence halls.
The 350-plus liberal arts students consider the island's Acadia National Park their backyard and research lab. For a taste of the college life, families can enroll in the annual summer Nature Camp, staying in the dorms and exploring Acadia's tide pools and beaches with college professionals.
And the town of Bar Harbor is a hub of activity—lighthouse tours, sailing classes, aviation adventures, and coastal bike trips keep the community buzzing year-round. Bonus: May through October brings pods of beautiful humpback whales to the waters around town.
STAY: Along the shoreline in Bar Harbor, another century-old structure has found a new calling as the unpretentiously elegant Balance Rock Inn, named for a seemingly teetering boulder at the foot of the gracious lawn. Rates start at $155; 207-288-2610 or balancerockinn.com.