Travel Illinois: Champaign
If champagne calls to mind fun times, celebrations and fond memories, it’s no wonder the town that shares a name with the bubbly drink has the same effect.
Located in East Central Illinois, Champaign is a city that’s pulsating with cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities that compel visitors to come back again and again. Here are our best recommendations for your next visit to the Champaign area.
Have a Ball
Catch a flick or watch a play at the newly renovated Virginia Theatre, a historic landmark owned and operated by the Champaign Park District. Built in 1921, the timeless 1,525-seat Virginia Theatre continues to entertain citizens and visitors to Champaign as it has done for more than 80 years.
Once a thriving vaudeville house, The Virginia Theatre boasts extraordinary architecture. The exterior of the building is done in the Italian Renaissance style, while the interior offers a Spanish Renaissance design.
Another impressive entertainment venue is Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Praised as one of the two largest edge-supported domes in the world, the massive 17,000-seat arena hosts Broadway shows as well as top-of-the-line entertainers such as Pearl Jam and Kenny Chesney.
Prefer classical tunes? Plan to attend a performance at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, also located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The stunning center encompasses two city blocks and is home to the Champaign-Urbana Symphony. It features an elegant lobby, a gift shop that sells fine arts, a café and four main theaters, the most famous of which is the acoustically superior Foellinger Great Hall.
If you’re more in tune with sports than with Beethoven, catch the Fighting Illini in action at a University of Illinois basketball game. Don’t forget to wear your orange and blue.
See the attractions
Nearly everybody knows the words to the lovesick ’80s ballad “Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.” But not everybody knows that REO Speedwagon, the rock group that took the hit song to No. 1 in 1985, had its roots right here in Champaign. In honor of the city’s famous natives, Main Street between Chestnut and Neil Streets was officially named REO Speedwagon Way in 2001.
Take a hike through West Side Park and the captivating Prayer For Rain sculpture and fountain will surely catch your eye. Sculpted by Edward Kemeys, the sculpture was first dedicated to the City of Champaign in 1899 and depicts an American Indian, a panther, and a deer keeping watch over the park. The historic artwork was restored and rededicated to the city in 1999 for its 100th anniversary.
Then venture over to the Wandell Sculpture Garden in Urbana, where large-scale pieces sit along a three-mile trail that doubles as a pathway for walkers and bikers.
Take the kiddos to the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum for a day of fun learning. Housed in Champaign’s 1914 Orpheum Theatre, the museum offers kids of all ages the chance to manipulate levers and pulleys, work as a blacksmith in the Miniature Castle, and come face-to-face with turtles, tarantulas, and even hissing cockroaches.
Taste exotic coffees from around the world at Columbia Street Roastery, where the owners are dedicated not only to producing flavorful coffees but also to educating customers about the faraway people who grow the coffee beans. The roastery offers a monthly tasting event called “Sit & Spit” when the public is invited to learn about the different coffees that originate in places such as Africa, Indonesia and South America.
If reading is more your cup of tea, be sure to drop in Jane Addams Book Shop, an antiquarian bookstore in downtown Champaign. Open since 1984, Jane Addams Book Shop carries out-of-print titles, used books, vintage postcards, old photographs, and other jewels from the past. Simply put, it’s a bookworm’s paradise.
Search for treasures at Carrie’s Antiques & Jewelry, a nifty little shop overflowing with vintage clothing, retro furniture, linens, tableware and toys. You never know what you’ll find at Carrie’s.