Champaign Urbana or Urbana Champaign which are sister counties or twin cities surrounded by beautiful Prairies in Mid-west of United States of America will surprise you with its metropolitan style of the diverse population. Located 130 miles away from Chicago, Illinois. Urbana – Champaign is known for its world-class prestigious University, vibrant artistic County lifestyle, arts – cultural festivals, farmer’s markets, specialized family events, sports arenas, farmlands, forest preserves, and nature trails. Not only the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign attracts tourists from all over the world but its events, festivals, street markets are also attracting many visitors throughout the year. Champaign – Urbana is also a foodies heaven as you will find diverse cuisine from all over the world. As this region is known for corn fields but who knows that the Supercomputers and Nobel prize winning theory of Superconductivity too got birth here amidst corn fields. So enjoy Champaign Urbana with innumerable events, festivals, museums, nature parks/forests, educational and cultural attractions for all interests in this article. Let’s read about 24 best things to do in Champaign Urbana, Illinois.
Note: I was hosted by Visit Champaign County to feel Champaign county, but views and opinions are my own, not influenced by anyone.
24 Best Things To Do In Champaign Urbana, Illinois
University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign
This prestigious University was founded in 1867 and is one of the top public universities of the USA. Some of its faculties like School of Information Science and College of Engineering are ranking among the top 10 in the world University Rankings. Also it houses USA’s second largest University Library which is built in 4 acres. University Library is also a worth visiting place in campus.
This University proudly boasts of 24 Nobel Prize winners and 18 Pulitzer Prize winners in their Alumni or Faculty.
Not only this University is academically significant but it also attractive to tourists due to many beautiful fields, architectural beauties, sculptural works, wide gardens, events, and sports arenas and second-biggest library of the USA.
Activity Type (Suitable for)– Educational & Architecture lovers
Memorial Stadium – Fighting Illini
The famous football stadium of Mid-west USA which is located on the campus of the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Founded in 1923, this stadium was built in memory of people who laid their lives in World War I and that’s why it is named as Memorial Stadium. The seating capacity of this stadium is 60,000 and an official stand for Chicago Bears and Illinois Fighting Illini.
Activity Type (Suitable for)– Sports Lovers
StateFarm Center is an indoor events area with huge dome-shaped is located in the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign. The university owns and operates this arena. This arena has around 15,000 to 16,000 seating capacity. It is a multipurpose event area where many times basketball games are hosted here – Illinois Fighting Illini’s Basketball Games. Also, some famous Broadways series, concerts and many more entertaining events are also held here. Great musician Elvis Presly performed here in October 1976. It is third largest even venue in Midwest.
Activity Type (Suitable for)– Sports Lovers or Event Lovers
Meadowbrook Park & Wandell Sculpture Garden
130 acres of Green and beautiful park located in Urbana is developed to restore the original Prairie landscape. You can find many species of plants, huge trees, farms, fields, birds, insects and many natural attractions. Here you can spot a wide range of flora and fauna like Shooting stars, hyacinths, spiderworts, milkweeds, white indigos, cup plants and many more. Prairies flowers can also be seen here which blooms in different colors in different seasons.
Not only this park is a paradise for nature lovers but there is a huge collection of sculptural work from local artists within the park. You can spot them while you go for a walk in the park. The name of artists and materials used in the work is also written with the work.
Entrance – Free to Enter
Activities – Family Trails, Hikes, Dog Walking, Birds Watching, Running/Jogging, Roller Bladders, Nature Photography, and Nature fun activities
I loved listening to beautiful chirping sounds of birds and humming sounds of bees throughout the park. It looks like nature is playing a musical concert for us, as you can see nature in full bloom in this park.
Amenities – Restrooms, Playground, Community Gardens, Benches, Fields, Nature Parks, Paved paths, Prairies fields, Sculpture garden, drinking fountains, and water bodies.
As this is surrounded by nature and fields you cannot spot restaurants or eat-outs nearby, so go well prepared.
Activity Type (Suitable for)– Nature Lovers, Artists, Fitness Freaks
22 acres of a lush green vibrant park located just a few minutes away from the University will surely interest the nature lovers. You can see large green grassy grounds with more than 25 species of trees and through which a scenic paved path passes to take long walks. This park is famous amongst the children as it has beautiful children’s playground and splash pad. Therefore you can spot many families on weekends and holidays with their children for some nature outings. Even there are picnic benches so that you can spread out your food and have a nice family picnic. Other than this it also has tennis courts, basketball courts, and Grills.
Activity Type (Suitable for)– Nature Lovers, Families with children & Fitness Freaks
Museum of the Grand Prairie
Located in the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, this museum depicts the 19th century and early 20th-century Mid-west’s Prairies lifestyle. This museum is divided into three sections –
Grand Prairies Stories – Lifestyle of people living in Prairies which shows farms & fields and how people lived here in ancient times.
BlackSmithing on the Prairie – Blacksmith’s life and his shop
Champaign County’s Lincoln – Depicting Abraham Lincoln’s early years till his political beginning because Lincoln has spent his early life in Prairies. Abraham Lincoln is from Illinois state and was a farmer too and therefore you can see a strong connection between his early life living in this museum.
Entrance – Free to Enter
Activity Type (Suitable for) – History Lovers
Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve
This 900 acres stunning forest preserve across Sangamom River has fishing, boating, hiking, cross country skiing(in snow time), Golf course, Botanical gardens, wooden bridge, and many more beautiful natural attractions.
Lake – You can rent pedal boats, Kayaks, and rowboats from the boat peninsula at 101 N Lake at Woods Road.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Nature lovers & Nature Photographers
Lake of the Woods Golf Course
Award-winning 18 hole Golf course and also you can find 9 hole par 3 course with a practice golf course range too.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Sports Lovers
Lake of the Woods Covered Bridge
A deep red colored wooden covered bridge connecting two sides of the lake of the woods is a very quirky stopover in the lush green forest preserve. As this area is very peaceful, relaxing you can enjoy nature here by spending a few hours here.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Nature Lovers & Relaxing Travelers
Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens
8 acres lush green garden in Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve has many trees, lakes and diverse flora & fauna. Just off from state highway Route 77 it is a beautiful spot for complete nature relaxation. Many couples have exchanged wedding vows here.
Entrance – Free to Enter
Activity Type – Nature Lovers, Fitness freaks and Nature Photographers.
Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch
This historic family-run orchard farms in southwest of Champaign is a perfect weekend activity to spend some time in original farms. You can wander around apple trees and even pluck your favorites ones and buy them while returning from here. This family-run orchard features pumpkins, apples, and farm animals. Kids love to play around with cute farm animals and can learn about farming and field activities. Explore farm lifestyle with fresh produce growing, farm animals moving around and having some food at the quirky farm style of restaurant which sources raw products from the farm.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Families with children & Farm Lovers
Alto Vineyards Champaign
Taste the amazing flavors of Southern Illinois’s finest wines by this family-owned vineyard and winery. It is located in the scenic location of Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. They produce the highest quality of wine from their own vineyard and in their tasting room, you get the opportunity to taste some of their award-winning wines.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Gourmet Lovers
Krannert Center of the Performing Arts
A huge concert Hall in the University campus having 4000 seating capacity in all four venues hosted many famous and notable performances. Many notable performers like Zakir Hussain, Joshua Bell, Clark Terry, Sonny Pollins, Savion Glover, have performed here. Many world-famous Orchestras or Ensembles have also played here.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Artists and Event Lovers
Spurlock Museum, U of I
Ethnography historical museum at UIUC which includes around 50,000 collections of cultural heritage from around the globe.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – History Lovers
South Quad Bell Tower
Located at the South end of the campus of UIUC, this famous bell tower is also known as McFarland Carillon. This 185 ft tall tower has 49 bells which are pre-programmed through computer and can play 500 songs. You can also control it through keyboard and create your own musical sounds. This bell tower signifies the beauty of modern-day tower and how technology can make bell towers more musical and interesting. Also, it is located in the beautiful green ground of the University campus area which also makes a great place to spend time and listen to wonderful musical notes at the campus.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Music and nature lovers
NCSA Blue Water Super Computer
Blue Water is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world and one of the fastest in the University campus. This petascale supercomputer at NCSA in University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) runs the science and engineering codes at speed of one petaFLOPS. This supercomputer system controls the University’s power and cooling system to reduce energy consumption.
For free guided tours to know more about this supercomputer you have register yourself on their official site. For viewing, you need to reserve your time slot.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Technology lovers and Educational
Crystal Lake Park
60 acre green park located on the intersection of Main Street & Smith Road boasts of native flowers, grasses, boardwalks, and birdwatching.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Nature lovers, Fitness freaks, Nature photography
Prairies Farms or Domed Barns
Enjoy the wildflowers land in Midwest of USA. Also as you are surrounded by many cornfields as this region is famous for cultivating corns, then take an opportunity to have photos in farms or cornfields.
Also, you can see specially domed shaped designed barns which are quite common in midwest farming areas. So enjoy the Great Plains in Northern America.
These farms can be spotted in University grounds too as this University has significant Agricultural studies too. Also while coming to Champaign or while exiting this county, you will see numerous barns and farm fields.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Nature & Farm Lovers
Sunset at Farms
Get a glimpse of a colorful sunset over the cornfields or farms. A beautiful sight which is not crowded with tourists and can be enjoyed from everywhere. Just head towards farms in the direction where sun is about the set. There you can see so many shades of sun playing drama in the sky.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Nature Lovers
Catch a show at The Art Theater on West Church Street. The vintage style of theater from 1913 is preserved as it is. So have the movie fun but not like modern multiplex but in the vintage style of theater. This theater shows many genre movies with food and beverages.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Entertainment lovers
Though this city is small you will find plenty of murals or street art behind the streets or on the college campus. There are many sculptural installations also which show the county’s love for art and paintings.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Artists and Art Lovers
Enjoy the most vibrant part of this county by participating in many street festivals and events. You can find many market days held here where performers or musicians come here to perform with many seasonal events. You can also eat in restaurants located here as they are very famous and also opt to seat out. Also known as Downtown Champaign and evenings of this place are very charming and vibrant.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – All
If you love to visit the temple there is one temple amidst cornfields which celebrate all Indian festivals and all are allowed to enter and participate in these festivals. Prasadams daily and feasts on festival days are also organized here.
Activity Type (Suitable for) – Spiritual
After this virtual tour of Champaign Urbana, you can now feel that there are many places for all interests and all age groups.
Where to eat in Urbana Champaign – Ideal for Vegetarians too.
- Panera Bread – Sandwiches and Soups
- Maze – for Mexican food
- Ambar Restaurant – For Indian cuisine
- Kohinoor Restaurant – For Indian cuisine
- Old Chicago – for Italian and American style pizza
- Himalayan Chimney – Indian cuisine
Apart from all these which I tried out, there are many other restaurants in these twin cities which offers diverse cuisines from all around the world.
How to commute in Champaign Urbana?
- Taxis like Uber, Zipcar & Lyft
- Self-drive and
- MTD public buses
- By Bike – Travel eco-friendly way by renting a bike and check Champaign County Bikes for maps at champaigncountybikes.org
You can take MTD bus ride in 1 USD for one time which can be paid through TokenTransit App or by coins. You can also purchase annual Bus pass too in 84 USD. University students and staff travel for free in these MTD buses by showing their i-Cards.
You can download MTD connect app for free to check bus routes and bus timings. Click here for Champaign-Urbana Mass transit Public transport official site.
If you are self-driving then for parking you need to put quarters in the meters at parking slot and for around 2USD you can park up to 30 minutes in premium places and somewhere in 1USD for 90 minutes. Parking you can pay by quarter dollar coins or through Mobile App named MobileMeter. Sticker code on parking meter tells you the type of parking. Red is the most expensive and Green is the least expensive parking slot.
How to reach Champaign Urbana?
- Chicago is the nearest International and Domestic airport.
- From Chicago Airport you can either rent a car near the terminal or you can book your seats in private owned Peoria Charter bus services.
- Peoria charter takes around 3 to 4 hours to reach Champaign Urbana from Chicago O’Hare Airport. It costs approximately 30 USD per person to reach here by this bus service. Click here to book your bus tickets.
- Champaign also has a small domestic airport named Willard Airport which is operated by University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign. You can also book low-cost flights if you are traveling within USA from here. Not all flights land here so check the schedule of your airlines and which flights arrive here. Also during heavy snow this airport sometimes gets closed.
Where to stay in Champaign Urbana?
As this twin cities houses world’s one of the most prestigious University, there are many hotels of all brands, categories, and price range. They are located everywhere in the city and mostly they are full when there is some even in the University like Dad’s Weekend, Mom’s Weekend, Graduation Day, Illini International students welcome day and Graduation Day. So the prices of hotels are very high during these days as the whole city is full of parents and siblings of students studying here.
I stayed at two places
- Home2Suites By Hilton.
- Country Inn Suites by Radisson and I found both are very good to have a stay here.
Where to shop in Champaign Urbana?
Market Place, Boutique shops at Church street, big hypermarkets like Target, Walmart, Best Buy and Dress for Less. In Market Place, you will find mostly all the brands like Kohl’s, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, food courts and many interesting shops. There is no problem with shopping as you will find many branded and boutique shops all over these twin cities. Or you can also check some premium outlet mall for premium shopping at Auroras shopping Plaza in between while coming from Chicago International Airport.
Festivals & events in Champaign County
- Taste of Champaign Urbana
- Urbana Sweetcorn Festival
- Mahomet Music Festival
- Japan House Matsuri
- CU Oktoberfest
- Parade of Lights
- Engineering Open House
- Boneyard Arts Festival
- Street Fest
- Freedom Celebrations
- Historic Farm Days.
Enjoy Fall of Champaign Urbana as it is the most splendid time to visit this quirky county with nature blooming in many Fall colors.
I hope you would love the Mid-western hospitality and vibrant cultural vibes of Champaign Urbana. Feel the #outofordinary experience at #chambana which is one of the most unique in Mid-West.
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