Erase your image of the pristine New England college town. Even though the prestigious liberal arts school Bowdoin anchors Brunswick, it has co-existed with an equally powerful institution, the Brunswick Naval Air Station, which keeps the town from becoming too precious.
Recently the Pentagon dealt this town a difficult blow, however, when it declared the naval station to be closed in 2011. Town fathers have vowed to use the opportunity to reinvent Brunswick, highlighting attractions that include historic churches and homes, along with the gorgeous campus of the college.
A similar tension between art and industry informs Bath, the next town up the coast. Here, it’s the vast shipbuilding complex of Bath Iron Works that has launched destroyers into the ocean, at the same time lending a solid base to the economy. The picturesque downtown may, in fact, be more your conception of college life.
Over the years, Bath has gained a reputation for attracting artists and liberal types, so that workmen’s bars sit cheek-and-jowl with funky art galleries and vegetarian cafés.