Most Beautiful High School Campuses in the U.S.
Every community has a beloved high school, but not every community turns those high schools into works of art. Yet across the United States, some high schools have become more than a place to get a diploma, thanks to stunning architecture, amazing natural landscapes and one-of-a-kind locations.
But what are the best and most beautiful high school campuses in the country? We found the answer — based on aesthetics, ambiance, campus coolness and what it would be like to go to school there.
These are the best high school campuses in the U.S.
30. City High School
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Bottom Line: City High School
Built under the Public Works Project brought about by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s, Iowa City High School is known just as City High to locals.
It's hard not to be drawn to City High because of its location. Perched on a hill on the east side of Iowa City, it is a striking architectural landmark in an otherwise bleak, flat landscape.
Since the school was first built, six additional buildings have been added onto City High, which also has some of the best high school journalism programs in the country.
City High School Notable Alumni: Tim Dwight
City High grad Tim Dwight was a two-time All-American at the University of Iowa and played 10 seasons in the NFL.
He scored a touchdown on a 94-yard kickoff return for the Atlanta Falcons against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
29. Gulf Breeze High School
Location: Gulf Breeze, Florida
Bottom Line: Gulf Breeze High School
Few high schools in the United States can boast the natural amenities offered by Gulf Breeze High School, located in the middle of a bucolic suburb just three miles from Pensacola, Florida.
The open-air campus has a statue of its mascot, the dolphin, and connects across U.S. Highway 98 to its football and baseball stadiums via a sky walkway.
Its biggest draw is its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The campus is just one mile south of Pensacola Beach.
Gulf Breeze High School Notable Alumni: Abigail Spencer
The daughter of legendary surfer Yancy Spencer, Gulf Breeze High grad Abigail Spencer had recurring roles on several hit television shows, including "Mad Men," before finding her own breakout role in the acclaimed drama series "Rectify."
28. Wichita East High School
Location: Wichita, Kansas
Bottom Line: Wichita East High School
There's gothic, and there's Wichita East High School. Located almost in the middle of Wichita, Kansas, this Collegiate Gothic-style structure has to be seen to be believed.
One walk through the school's hallways and around its campus can make you feel like you've stepped into a time machine, although a new gym addition was added to replace its legendary basketball gymnasium in 2013.
East has staked its reputation on being one of the top schools in the Midwest for athletics and academics. It is home to a prestigious International Baccalaureate program.
Wichita East High School Notable Alumni: Joe Walsh
Joe Walsh was born in Wichita, and though he didn't graduate from Wichita East High (he attended Montclair High School in New Jersey), they should give him an honorary degree.
The rock legend has been a guitarist for The Eagles since 1975 and has his own solo career to point at as well, with hits like "Life's Been Good To Me," and "Rocky Mountain High."
27. Montgomery Central High School
Location: Cunningham, Tennessee
Bottom Line: Montgomery Central High School
Part of embracing the beauty of different high school campuses across the United States is searching for outliers. Give us a campus and architecture that's thinking outside of the box, and we're in.
Nowhere is that more evident than at Montgomery Central High, where the school is made up of a series of concrete shell structures, including several that stretch out over a man-made lake.
Nothing warms the heart more than a community that sees beauty in its midst and takes care of it, which has happened in the last decade with renovations and upkeep to Montgomery Central.
Montgomery Central High School Notable Alumni: Alec Mills
Montgomery Central High's Alec Mills went from walk-on at Tennessee-Martin to being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2012.
He made it to the majors in 2016 with the Royals and now plays for the Chicago Cubs.
26. Asheville School
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Bottom Line: Asheville School
Spread across 300 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains and with an enrollment of just 295, that's an average of just over one acre per student at the Asheville School.
What makes the campus so unique is the architecture of the buildings is done in the Tudor style – unlike many of the Collegiate Gothic and modern designs of other schools on this list.
What you get is a school that reflects a more European sensibility. It's more like walking through Elizabethan England than North Carolina.
Asheville School Notable Alumni: Bellamy Young
Bellamy Young shot to fame on the hit television show "Scandal" and won the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2014.
She's currently starring on the show "Prodigal Son" — another hit.
25. Academy of the Sacred Heart
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Bottom Line: Academy of the Sacred Heart
It's going to be difficult to find more unique locations than Academy of the Sacred Heart, a private, all-girls school located smack dab in the middle of New Orleans' historic district.
The campus itself rounds the experience into sight. There's a 1,200-seat auditorium/fine arts center, and the school has recently added a STEM wing, which signals a move toward the future.
Walk out the gates of the school, and experience New Orleans. Is there a better selling point for a school?
Academy of the Sacred Heart Notable Alumni: Cokie Roberts
Cokie Roberts was one of the most well-known and influential journalists of the 1980s and 1990s working for NPR first, then ABC News.
She won the Edward R. Murrow Award and an Emmy Award in 1991.
Roberts died of cancer in 2019.
24. Mountain Academy of Teton Science Schools
Location: Jackson, Wyoming
Enrollment: 197 (grades K-12)
Bottom Line: Mountain Academy of Teton Science Schools
Formerly known as Journey Schools, Mountain Academy of Teton Science has run in coordination with the Grand Teton National Park since its inception.
Located just two miles outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Mountain Academy's campus design stays true to its name.
The Mithun architecture firm out of Seattle was able to create a unique blend of modern and old Western architecture — specifically cabins — in creating Mountain Academy's campus. The mix of glass, wood and steel is truly special.
Mountain Academy of Teton Science Schools Notable Alumni: Harrison Ford
No, Harrison Ford didn't graduate from Mountain Academy of Teton Science Schools, but he's the most famous resident of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, so that will have to do.
23. Grosse Pointe South High School
Location: Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan
Bottom Line: Grosse Pointe South High School
Grosse Pointe South High School was the original Grosse Pointe High School but changed its name in 1968 when Grosse Pointe North High opened.
The main building at Grosse Pointe South is truly breathtaking — a Georgian Revival design from architect George Haas that seems to fly in the face of some of the great Collegiate Gothic designs.
Just a shout from the shores of Lake St. Clair, Grosse Pointe South High is also known for having meticulously manicured grounds.
Grosse Pointe South High School Notable Alumni: Edward Herrmann
Grosse Pointe South grad Edward Herrmann was a fantastic character actor for decades but is most well known for his role as the video-store owning vampire Max in the 1987 Joel Schumacher film "The Lost Boys."
Herrmann, who won a Tony Award and was nominated for several Emmy Awards, died in 2014 at 71 years old.
22. Kodiak High School
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Opened: 2015 (expansion completed)
Bottom Line: Kodiak High School
No school on this list can compete with the sheer remoteness of Kodiak High School, located on Kodiak Island on the fringes of the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean and only accessible by boat or plane.
Kodiak High's facelift to a modern, sleek marvel was completed when the school expanded in 2015. Glass, steel and wood on the front-facing entrance welcome students, and inside it's an array of interactive classrooms and commons areas.
The school's expansion didn't come cheap. It was completed at a price tag of approximately $81 million.
Kodiak High School Notable Alumni: Darby Stanchfield
It's not totally clear if Darby Stanchfield graduated from Kodiak High before her family moved to the Pacific Northwest, but it's slim pickings with well-known alums so she gets the nod.
Stanchfield has found starring roles on hit shows like "Jericho" and "Mad Men" over the years but is best known for her role on "Scandal."
21. Baltimore City College
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Bottom Line: Baltimore City College
The hilltop campus of Baltimore City College in northeast Baltimore has a confusing name, but it's definitely a high school and not a college.
BCC is also known by Baltimore residents as "The Castle on the Hill," and when it opened in 1839, it was just called "The High School" and nothing else.
The signature of the campus is a 200-foot tall Gothic tower right in the middle of campus that's registered as a National Historic Landmark.
Baltimore City College Notable Alumni: Carroll Rosenbloom
Carroll Rosenbloom was one of the most powerful men in the NFL for three decades, first as owner of the Baltimore Colts, then as owner of the Los Angeles Rams.
No owner in NFL history has had a better winning percentage (.660) than Rosenbloom, who died in 1979.
20. The International Preparatory School
Location: Buffalo, New York
Enrollment: 800 (grades 5-12)
Bottom Line: The International Preparatory School
There might not be a more amazing place to experience high school life in the entire country than The International Preparatory School on Buffalo's west side, where the student body speaks up to 40 different languages.
We're a sucker for lawns and big, ominous structures. This one is made all the more pleasing to the eye with a sharp, brick-and-white-paint building surrounding a sleek, slim tower in the middle.
While TIPS has been the sole occupant for less than a decade, the building spent most of its life as Grover Cleveland High School, which once housed TIPS as a "school within a school" and closed in 2011.
The International Preparatory School Notable Alumni: Steven Means
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Steven Means actually graduated from The International Preparatory School when it was still called Grover Cleveland High School.
He played for the University of Buffalo and has been in the NFL since 2013.
19. Cascia Hall Preparatory School
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Bottom Line: Cascia Hall Preparatory School
You might not think the middle of Oklahoma would be somewhere to find transportive, European-style architecture, but take a walk around Tulsa's Cascia Hall Prep and avail yourself of some new opinions.
The school's architecture is French Norman style — not far off the classic Tudor style — and original buildings like a monastery and dormitories are seamlessly blended with new ones like a football stadium and cutting-edge media center.
Even with an impressive list of governors, mayors, judges and professional athletes among its alumni, the most famous graduate will be hard to ever catch up with. It's former "Saturday Night Live" star and Emmy Award-winning actor/comedian Bill Hader.
Cascia Hall Preparatory Notable Alumni: Bill Hader
Cascia Hall Prep grad Bill Hader is one of the most well-known actor/comedians working today.
Hader shot to fame on "Saturday Night Live," then won acclaim for his starring role on the hit HBO series "Barry."
18. St. Albans School
Location: Washington, D.C.
Enrollment: 590 (grades 4-12)
Bottom Line: St. Albans School
If you're looking for a deep dive into American history, take a visit to St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. — it's adjacent to the Washington National Cathedral, National Mall and overlooks the rest of the nation's capital.
Architect Philip Sawyer's original design in 1907 has been the template that further builders have adhered to in design, creating a classical aesthetic that seems perfectly set for the city.
To be totally clear, there is probably no more elite high school in the United States than St. Albans, which has produced two presidential nominees in the last two decades with Al Gore and John Kerry.
St. Albans School Notable Alumni: Gore Vidal
It comes down to two Gores for St. Albans School notable grads — former Vice President Al Gore and famous writer Gore Vidal.
Vidal was one of the most well-known writers of the 20th century.
17. Emma Willard School
Location: Troy, New York
Bottom Line: Emma Willard School
One of the most common styles of architecture we see spread across the schools with beautiful campuses is Collegiate Gothic, and nowhere is that done better than at The Emma Willard School.
The elite, all-girls school in Upstate New York has been open for 200 years and now has 30 buildings on its campus, where founder Emma Willard envisioned a haven for females to receive educations that weren't being offered to them anywhere else.
The school's location, just a stone's throw from the Hudson River, helps to make it as unique a campus as there is.
Emma Willard School Notable Alumni: Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is one of the most famous actresses to grace the silver screen.
The Emma Willard School grad and daughter of actor Henry Fonda won two Academy Awards for Best Actress for her roles in "Klute" and "Coming Home."
16. Seabury Hall
Location: Makawao, Hawaii
Bottom Line: Seabury Hall
If you stumble upon the campus of Seabury Hall in Hawaii, you couldn't be blamed for thinking you'd found some sort of secret, exclusive resort with its signature, villa-style buildings.
Perched high on the slopes of Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the eastern part of Maui, Seabury Hall's campus has views that are breathtaking with the Pacific Ocean and the rest of Maui at your feet.
If you're ever lucky enough to find yourself in Maui during the spring, please be sure to make a trip to the Seabury Craft Fair.
Seabury Hall Notable Alumni: Alex Chiarella
Seabury Hall grad Alex Chiarella won the Leth PC Open on the PGA Tour Canada in 2019 and was leading the Korn Ferry Open Tour for parts of 2020.
He's won three PGA events in the last two years.
15. Murphy High School
Location: Mobile, Alabama
Bottom Line: Murphy High School
One of the great things about nice high school campuses is the different kinds of amazing architecture we get to experience on our virtual tour. In this case, it's Spanish Revival style at Murphy High School in Mobile.
Architecture often doesn't really hold up over the years because it tries too hard to get in line with modern ideas of style. The builders of Murphy High did such a great job in their construction that this was never a problem.
In another testament to what the school has meant to Mobile over the years, after it was severely damaged in a tornado in 2012, it was rebuilt while retaining much of the old aesthetic.
Murphy High School Notable Alumni: Keith McCants
Murphy High's Keith McCants was the No. 4 overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft out of the University of Alabama and played six seasons in the NFL.
McCants was profiled on the ESPN "30 for 30" episode "Broke," which set an all-time ESPN record for viewership.
14. Santa Catalina School
Location: Monterey, California
Bottom Line: Santa Catalina School
The campus at Santa Catalina School can best be described as transportive — as in taking it all in can make you feel like you've been transported to some rustic villa in Italy.
That's fitting because the school is located in the heart of wine country. The Catholic school founded by a nun sits on 36 acres, is designed completely in a hacienda style, and will also run you about $60,000 per year for the all-girls Upper School.
The school's alumni represent some of the most rich and powerful families in California, if not the entire country.
Santa Catalina School Notable Alumni: Patty Hearst
Santa Catalina's famous graduates have a dark legacy.
Newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role robbing banks with the Symbionese Liberation Army. She later had her sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter after seven years, then was granted a pardon by President Bill Clinton.
Another Santa Catalina grad, Abigail Folger, was one of the people murdered by members of the Manson family in Los Angeles in 1969.
13. El Paso High School
Location: El Paso, Texas
Bottom Line: El Paso High School
You can't always expect schools to take your breath away at first glance. Some have nuances, like location, that make them so compelling. Others need to be looked at as a whole to appreciate.
El Paso High School is not one of those schools that require careful study. You just need one look, and you're sold.
"The Lady on the Hill" was built in 1916 in the Neoclassical style and overlooks the thing that makes Texans' hearts full more than anything else — a high school football field that was the first concrete stadium built in the U.S. and the original home of the Sun Bowl.
El Paso High School Notable Alumni: F. Murray Abraham
El Paso High's F. Murray Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Antonio Salieri in the 1984 film "Amadeus" and has been a star of both stage and screen since the late 1960s.
12. John Handley High School
Location: Winchester, Virginia
Bottom Line: John Handley High School
The Neoclassical Revival style of John Handley High School makes a pretty grand impression. The multitude of steps climbing seemingly up, up and up forever is something to behold.
Meticulously designed grounds from famed landscape architect John Charles Olmstead enhance the look of the campus to an infinite degree.
They are a big part of the reason the school was added to the National Register of Historic Places for not only its history in the area (obviously) but also for its "prominence as an architectural landmark."
John Handley High School Notable Alumni: Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline is one of the biggest country music stars of all time, with two No.1 hits in her brief career.
Cline died in a plane crash in 1963 at just 30 years old.
11. Volcano Vista High School
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bottom Line: Volcano Vista High School
You can make an argument that there are better campuses. But you can't make an argument that there's a better name than Volcano Vista High School.
Volcano Vista High is a newer school. It didn't open until 2007 and didn't have full grades 9-12 until 2009. But it's made quite an impression in that short time.
The striking thing about the front-facing entrance to the school is a massive, rust-colored obelisk that welcomes students and visitors. Beyond that, there are modern, earth-toned, glass-dominant buildings dotting the campus that push the futuristic vibe.
Volcano Vista High School Notable Alumni: David Cormier
Volcano Vista High is relatively new so there weren't a lot of alums to pick from.
Current Air Force Academy wide receiver David Cormier looks like he could be a star in 2021.
10. Stadium High School
Location: Tacoma, Washington
Bottom Line: Stadium High School
The steps of Stadium High School's football stadium, the Stadium Bowl, were famously used by the late Oscar winner Heath Ledger during an epic song and dance in the movie "10 Things I Hate About You."
The stadium is right below one of the two high schools that play there — Stadium High School — and has been there since the school was built in 1906.
What will really take your breath away are the stunning views of Puget Sound and Commencement Bay as the backdrop for the school itself.
Stadium High School Notable Alumni: Gov. Dixy Lee Ray
Stadium High's Dixy Lee Ray was the first female governor in Washington history.
She also was a scientist with a degree from Stanford who was governor when Mount St. Helen's erupted in 1980.
Ray died in 1994, at 79 years old.
9. The Bolles School
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Bottom Line: The Bolles School
The Bolles School has a great location, nestled right next to the sprawling St. John's River, just a few miles east of the Atlantic Ocean and Jacksonville's beaches.
The design for the school was never with a school in mind, which seems to speak directly to its beauty. In its first life, the Castilian-style buildings were the San Jose Hotel in the roaring 1920s.
One big part of The Bolles School's appeal is its athletics programs and facilities, with a who's who of pro athlete alumni spread across the NFL, NBA and MLB.
The Bolles School Notable Alumni: Chipper Jones
Baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones might be the best athlete to ever come out of The Bolles School, which routinely produces pro athletes across all four major sports and Olympic athletes by the dozen.
Jones played 18 years for the Atlanta Braves, won the World Series in 1995 and was the National League MVP in 1999.
8. Baylor School
Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Bottom Line: Baylor School
Most college campuses don't hold a candle to Baylor School, which boasts almost 700 picturesque acres along the banks of the Tennessee River.
The straightforward aesthetic is red brick buildings dotting its landscape and a massive, grassy quad that student life revolves around.
Baylor School alumni are loaded with famous Tennessee natives, from presidential nominees to professional athletes, actors and Pulitzer Prize winners.
If you ever do make it to campus, make sure you seek out its most unique feature — a statue of the mythological Greek character Icarus.
Baylor School Notable Alumni: John Hannah
Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah was a star at the Baylor School.
He then starred at the University of Alabama and in the NFL for 13 seasons.
Hannah is widely considered one of the greatest offensive linemen of all time.
7. Withrow High School
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Bottom Line: Withrow High School
Located on a relatively compact 14 acres in the Cincinnati city limits, no school gives off a greater first impression than Withrow High School, which has been on the National Register for Historic Places since 1983.
Students walking up to Withrow High every day are truly fortunate. They cross a unique, arching entry bridge in the shadow of an epic clock tower above an entrance framed by large Roman columns.
The school has undergone big-scale renovations over the last two decades to modernize the campus, thanks in large part to gifts from the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.
Withrow High School Notable Alumni: Rosemary Clooney
Withrow High grad Rosemary Clooney is one of the more famous Cincinnati natives of all time, and was one of the most well-known singers of the 1950s.
Clooney, who died in 2002, was the mother of the late actor Miguel Ferrer and the aunt of Academy Award winner George Clooney.
6. Mission High School
Location: San Francisco, California
Bottom Line: Mission High School
Proximity does so much for an aesthetic, and it's difficult to beat San Francisco's Mission High School.
Mission High butts right up to Dolores Park, where locals gather on the weekends to picnic in the grass and simultaneously take in stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.
The oldest still-standing high school in San Francisco has amazing architecture, and you can't help but wonder if designs of an older age might be something we should gravitate back to, including a magnificent, 1,750-seat theater.
Mission High School Notable Alumni: Carlos Santana
Guitar legend and Mission High product Carlos Santana's prodigious talent has kept him on the cutting edge of the music scene since his breakthrough performance at Woodstock.
5. Taft School
Location: Watertown, Connecticut
Bottom Line: Taft School
The 226-acre Taft School saw its first buildings go up in 1890. And in a stroke of sheer brilliance, their continued expansion over the next century has kept the design choices in line with those original buildings.
This campus is New England, classic-style architecture at its finest — and one of the coolest-looking high school campuses we've ever seen.
In an interesting twist, the creator of the television show "Friday Night Lights," considered by some to be the greatest depiction of high school life in any medium, is Taft alum Peter Berg.
Taft School Notable Alumni: Peter Berg
Taft grad Peter Berg started his career as an actor but became one of the most powerful producers and directors in Hollywood with films like "Hancock" and "Lone Survivor" and the film and television versions of "Friday Night Lights."
4. Lake Forest High School
Location: Lake Forest, Illinois
Bottom Line: Lake Forest High School
The North Shore suburb of Chicago's signature high school looks pulled from a John Hughes movie, and one of its most amazing features is its huge front lawn, where students play lacrosse and field hockey.
In the spring and summer, vines come to life on the school's front-facing entrance, further enhancing the movie-like atmosphere around the campus.
The movie references are fitting. The 1981 Academy Award for Best Picture winner "Ordinary People" was filmed in and around the campus, and movie star Vince Vaugh is perhaps Lake Forest's most famous graduate.
Lake Forest High School Notable Alumni: Vince Vaughn
Vince Vaughn went from Lake Forest High to movie stardom.
The early rise of his career was chronicled in the literary masterpiece "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by classmate Dave Eggers.
3. President William McKinley High School
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Bottom Line: President William McKinley High School
President William McKinley High School originally opened in1865 as Fort Street English Day School before changing its name to Honolulu High School, then taking on its current name and location in the 1920s.
The Spanish Revival style of the school's architecture brings to mind the design used on several signature high school campuses on the West Coast, most notably being Mission High School in San Francisco.
McKinley High's alumni include some of the most prominent Hawaiians in history, and its reputation for academic excellence is almost unmatched.
President William McKinley High School Notable Alumni: Sen. Daniel Inouye
Daniel Inouye was a U.S. Senator from 1963 through his death in 2012 at 88 years old.
Inouye fought in World War II, where he was awarded the Medal of Honor after he lost his right arm to a grenade blast.
Inouye was also the first Japanese-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
2. St. George's School
Location: Middletown, Rhode Island
Bottom Line: St. George's School
It's hard to put into words exactly how baller this school's setup is.
Located smack dab on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, you can watch the waves roll in from almost anywhere on campus. Can you imagine what that's like in the spring?
The school has been home to some of the most wealthy and well-known families in the United States over the years, including several members of the Bush family, and made its way into the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel "This Side of Paradise" in 1920.
St. George's School Notable Alumni: Prescott Bush
There might be more well-known St. George's grads, but none had the influence of Prescott Bush.
The former Connecticut senator is the father of President George H.W. Bush and the grandfather of President George W. Bush.
1. Diamond Ranch High School
Location: Pomona, California
Bottom Line: Diamond Ranch High School
Of all the "new" schools on this list, none have pulled off as groundbreaking a design as Diamond Ranch High School, which was built on what was previously thought to be unusable land on a hillside between Diamond Ranch and Pomona.
The expressionist modern design of the school is truly breathtaking, and the work by architect Thom Mayne is still being poured over 20 years after the school opened.
One indication of the school's unique beauty is in its draw from Hollywood, where it's been featured in films like "The Cell" starring Jennifer Lopez, "Orange County" starring Jack Black, and "Live Free or Die Hard" starring Bruce Willis.
Diamond Ranch High School Notable Alumni: Charles Brown
There's not a lot of Diamond Ranch High grads to pick from — the school didn't open until 2001.
Charles Brown was an All-Pac-10 pick at USC before he played six seasons in the NFL.