Champaign-Urbana

Champaign-Urbana is a metropolitan area in central Illinois, composed of the towns of Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy. The community is the site of the main campus of the University of Illinois, one of the great public universities of the United States.

Champaign-Urbana is a community of about 120,000 amongst the corn and soybean fields about 150 miles (250 km) south of Chicago. The area was first settled by Europeans in the early 19th century. Urbana was founded in 1833, Champaign in 1855, and the university in 1867. Starting out as a farming community, the area's development was largely influenced at various times through the years including the Illinois Central railroad, the university, now-defunct Chanute Air Force Base in nearby Rantoul, and others. Today, the cities are growing, cosmopolitan, and ethnically diverse, with a modern urban feel in the area's core.

Most residents of Urbana know that their town was there first and that Champaign (originally named "West Urbana") started because a major north-south railroad was built three miles west of downtown Urbana, prompting the building of a second town along the tracks.

Today Champaign-Urbana is defined by some amount of traditional industry such as Kraft Foods, Hobbico, and others, a growing technology and information sector, and the university. The university is the county's largest employer and a very large institution of 43,000 students. It would be short-changing Champaign-Urbana to call it merely a college town. But there is no doubt that the center of gravity of the arts, entertainment, and intellectual communities rests with the university.

Champaign-Urbana is a very open-minded community with regard to social issues, in stark contrast to much of the surrounding area. Urbana is seen as the more politically liberal and pastoral of the two, and Champaign is seen as having more of a big-city feel. Champaign-Urbana residents are proud of their oasis of culture and big-city amenities amongst the cornfields, of the less intense traffic, sprawl, and lower cost of living here compared to major cities, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini sports teams, and its burgeoning arts scene.

Museums
  • Champaign County Historical Museum  102 East University Avenue, Champaign. Houses quilts and other historical artifacts documenting the history of Champaign County. 

  • Orpheum Children's Science Museum, 346 North Neil Street, Champaign, Constructed in 1914 as a movie theater, it has been converted to a children's museum. 

  • Krannert Art Museum, 500 East Peabody Dr, Champaign. Permanent and rotating collections on exhibit. 

  • Spurlock Museum, 600 S Gregory St, Urbana. Cultural artifacts from around the world. 

  • Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, 1103 S Sixth Street, Champaign. The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music (SACAM) acquires and preserves significant archival records and historical artifacts in multiple media formats that document America's local and national music history and its diverse cultures. 

  • Early American Museum, 600 North Lombard S., Mahomet. 

Movie theaters
  • Virginia Theatre, 203 W Park St, Champaign, Built-in 1921, the historic theater is home to the annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival and is also used for monthly film series, live concerts, and theatre. It retains its original Wurlitzer pipe organ which is played before many of the shows. 

  • Carmike Beverly Cinema 18, 910 Meijer Dr,  Standard big-screen movie theater. 

  • Savoy 16 Goodrich Quality Cinema, 232 Burwash, Savoy,  check opening dates online. Standard big-screen movie theater with stadium seating, digital projection & sound, party room, assisted listening devices, handicapped seating, open caption events, captiview closed captioning, and special events. The theater has 16 screens including a 3D IMAX theater. 

Live performance
  • SoDo Theatre, 114 South Neil, Champaign. SoDo Theatre is a developing space for visual and performing artists and arts organizations. The stage hosts a variety of live entertainment on a regular basis, including improv comedy, music and magic. 

  • Station Theatre, 223 North Broadway, Urbana. An intimate, "black box" playhouse, and home to the Celebration Company, the theatre is in downtown Urbana. The theatre was built as a passenger station of the Big Four Railroad. 

  • The Canopy Club, 708 S Goodwin Ave,  At the edge of campus in Urbana and is an excellent musical venue; draws some big-name acts regularly. Must be 18+ to enter. 

  • Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana. The main venue in town for music, theater and dance. Features community, university, and world-famous performers. 

Sports
  • Illinois Fighting Illini. University of Illinois sports, featuring 21 teams (10 men's, 11 women's) competing in the Big Ten Conference alongside 13 other schools, mostly in the midwest with a few eastern outposts. Almost all athletic facilities are on campus; the two most prominent ones are listed immediately below.

    •  State Farm Center (Assembly Hall). Home of the Illini basketball teams (men's and women's). Also hosts large rock performances. Elvis Presley, Aerosmith, U2, The Rolling Stones, Phish, and Garth Brooks have all performed here. 

    •  Memorial Stadium. Home of the Illini football team.  

Do
  • Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding countryside is an attractive place for bicycling. The Prairie Cycle Club has organized rides of varying distances and intensities throughout the non-winter months.

  • Japan House. Houses informal and formal Japanese tea rooms constructed by Japanese artisans and surrounded by Japanese-style gardens. Tea ceremonies are held every other week throughout the year. Classes and free tours are also available.   

  • Market at the Square (Urbana Farmer's Market). Sat 7 AM-noon. Held every Saturday morning from May to November at the corner of Illinois Avenue and Vine Street, Urbana. 

  • Urbana/Champaign Independent Media Center (IMC). Community-run center for community media and social events in downtown Urbana. It regularly hosts independent music, cultural, and political events as well as a variety of classes and community group meetings. A schedule of events can be found on the Independent Media Center's website. 

  • Illini Union. The University of Illinois Student Union hosts many dances, music, comedy, and other assorted social events in its ballroom or outside on its patio. A link to their schedule of events can be found on their online calendar.   

  • Krannert Uncorked, 500 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana. Th 5-7 PM. Most Thursdays throughout the year (check calendar), Krannert Center holds a free wine tasting for those who are 21+. Each week, a different local bar/winery/store brings in one white and two red wines to sample. Generally, a sample of each will range from 1-3oz. Free Chex-mix and cheese & crackers available. 

  • Champaign Public Library (Library), 200 West Green St. Beautiful renovated library with lots of spaces for all users. Free wifi. Special area for children with toys, puppets, and friendly librarians.  

  • Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, 4410 N. Lincoln Ave. Farm on the outskirts of town embodying core sustainability and social responsibility principles. They sell high-quality goat cheeses. They occasionally host community days where one can visit the goats on the farm, peruse the grounds, and eat tasty farm-produced food. 

  • Sidney Dairy Barn, 311 W Main St, Sidney, IL 61877. Local Ice Cream shop for over 54 years.

Annual events
  • ELLNORA: The Guitar Festival. This biannual festival started in 2005 and named after Ellnora Krannert the founder of KCPA, features live concerts and workshops by some of the greatest names in the music business. Adrian Belew, Bubby Guy, Taj Mahal Trio, Bill Frisell, Luther Dickinson, Dan Zanes, Sharon Isbin - they've all been there. Jazz, Rock, Steel Guitar, Blues, whatever! If it riffs, sizzles, strums, it's at this hot festival in September at Krannert Center for Performing Arts (KCPA). 

  • Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. The only full marathon in central Illinois. Half marathon, 10k, and 5k distance races are also available. Held in late April. 

  • Central Illinois Metalfest. The three-day heavy-metal festival, held annually in July.

  • Champaign County Fair. The annual fair held by the county in Urbana in late July. 

  • Roger Ebert's Film Festival (Ebertfest). The annual film festival began by critic Roger Ebert, a Champaign-Urbana native, every April. Held at the Virginia Theatre.   

  • Taste of Champaign-Urbana. The annual event in late June where dozens of restaurants, artists, and music groups set up on West Side Park in Champaign. 

  • Pygmalion Music Festival. Indie music festival in late September, lasting four days. 

  • New Art Film Festival. An annual film festival, started in 2010, featuring films by local filmmakers in Champaign-Urbana and downstate Illinois. Held every April at the Art Theater.

  • Insect Fear Film Festival. Held each February on the campus. Motto: "Scaring the general public with horrific films and horrific filmmaking since 1984."  

  • Annual Sweetcorn Festival. The Annual Sweetcorn Festival is organized by the Urbana Business Association each August in downtown Urbana. This is a family-friendly festival with activities for all ages. There are two entertainment stages, food and merchandise vendors, and activities for children. And the highlights of the event are the hot buttery ears of sweetcorn.

  • Boneyard Arts Festival. Occurs each April and is hosted throughout Champaign-Urbana. 

  • Quad Day. An event at the beginning of the fall semester in which student organizations at the University of Illinois showcase their clubs on the main quad. Although mainly for students, many clubs put on interesting showcases that are quite entertaining and worthwhile to see. 

  • Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, Downtown Urbana. Late August. This annual event has become the largest festival in Champaign County. The main course: hot, steaming ears of sweetcorn! The festivities kick off on Friday at 5 PM and will last until 11 PM, and all day Saturday from 11 AM-11 PM. Bring your family and friends, enjoy food, music, and more fun than you can handle. Activities include a petting zoo and pony rides, a rock-climbing wall, and live entertainment.