Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Champaign, IL

  • Published 2022/06/12

Champaign, Illinois, has a buffet of things to enjoy.

For starters, there’s the diverse University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign—home to museums, an arboretum, and a world-famous supercomputer.

Champaign also has some of the best city parks in the United States.

Crystal Lake Park, in particular, will blow your mind.

So, what are you waiting for?

Start planning your visit and check out this list of the best things to do in Champaign, Illinois:

Explore the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus

Exterior of a building at University of Champaign-Urbana

tzm23 /

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has played one of the most essential roles in shaping Champaign’s culture and education.

One of the most prestigious institutions in the USA, the university deserves your time and attention.

Its grounds are home to some of the most awe-inspiring attractions, too.

Students on the grounds of Urbana-Champaign Campus

Leigh Trail /

The Krannert Art Museum and the Spurlock Museum are the two most talked-about attractions on this campus, while Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center are the most impressive courts where the students play football or basketball.

The arboretum is something that you must take a look at, too.

The place is well-kept, with paths all around to help you navigate your way around the area.

Interior of Urbana-Champaign Campus' library

Nagel Photography /

Be Awed by the Blue Waters Super Computer

Exterior of Blue Waters Super Computer

HorsePunchKid, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inside the National Petascale Computing Facility lies one of the most important computers in the world.

Named the Blue Waters Supercomputer, it is an attraction that is open to everyone for the benefit of mankind.

Did you know it can complete more than a quadrillion calculations in one second?

It is believed to be of immense power.

Top scientists and genius engineers can use this computer.

Visit the Vibrant Krannert Art Museum

Achilles oil painting displayed in Krannert Art Museum

Jean-Joseph Taillasson , CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Krannert Art Museum is known to lift visitors’ moods with its colorful facade.

Did you know the museum is one of the largest in Illinois?

It also holds art pieces so old that you would not be able to guess their age.

Some were even made in 4 B.C.

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

The museum boasts a collection of over 10,000 artworks.

Spend the Day in Downtown Champaign

Buildings along Downtown Champaign

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Champaign’s downtown area is within walking distance of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The best time to visit is in the morning as breakfast is the most popular meal here.

The options for breakfast are fantastic.

Aerial view of Downtown Champaign

Henryk Sadura /

The whole street smells of eggs, bacon, and other delicious items when you walk along.

Aroma Cafe, Sam’s Cafe, and Bacaro are some of the staple places you must check out.

StreetFest is one of the most popular events held here, and foodies love it.

Step into History at the Champaign County History Museum

Exterior of Champaign County History Museum

Killivalavan Solai, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Champaign County History Museum is the most delightful location to learn more about the city’s past.

They hold various impressive exhibits throughout the year.

A vintage wall phone in Champaign County History Museum

Dori, CC BY-SA 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

The building in which you’ll find the Champaign County History Museum also has immense historical significance.

Known as the Cattle Bank, it was built in 1857 and is the oldest building in Champaign.

There are three galleries inside the museum that will help you get a better grip on the city’s history.

Displays in Champaign County History Museum

Dori, CC BY-SA 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend a Summer Afternoon at Hessel Park

Hessel Park is one of the oldest parks in the city.

It has been around for more than a hundred years.

Crowds are attracted to Hessel Park for its ambiance.

It’s one of the best places to catch a break.

There is green foliage all around.

Summers are particularly fun here due to the presence of a splash pad that most kids enjoy.

During this season, they also hold live music events in the park.

Take a Break at Alto Vineyards and Winery

One of the best ways to enjoy Champaign is with a delightful glass of wine.

The Alto Vineyards and Winery is a perfect choice for anyone.

Located along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, it’s one of the most gorgeous locations where you can sip on a glass of luxurious wine while and enjoy some great views.

The winery is owned by a local family, and tours are open to the public.

Check Out the Vast Staerkel Planetarium

While the University of Illinois attracts visitors from all over the US, Parkland College attracts more people within Illinois.

It is a community college.

The reason behind its popularity is that the school offers some of the best degrees and courses.

Besides that, the campus happens to be home to the awe-inspiring Staerkel Planetarium.

The dome screen present inside the planetarium measures almost 50 feet, making it one of the largest ones in this category in all of America.

A lot of shows and activities take place here.

Have a Beer at The Blind Pig Brewery

The Blind Pig Brewery at a Downtown Champaign alley

CU Wiki Users/BrianZelip, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Blind Pig Brewery is one of the best places to catch up with your friends while in Champaign.

They have four branches just in Champaign, so the beer is bound to be satisfying.

Their interiors are aesthetically decorated, and the ambiance will make you want to sit and have a few more beers.

They have a whopping 27 brews ready on tap.

You can even mix and match and craft your own concoction as an experiment.

The tasting room is open to all.

This is one of the best places to enjoy, chill, and hang out for an evening.

Explore Music History at The Sousa Archives Center for American Music

They are devoted to collecting, preserving, and making available an extraordinary collection of historical objects and archives in various media to study American music.

The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, housed in the Harding Bank Building, is a museum that hosts yearly exhibitions on a wide range of topics, including women in music, sports and music, and more.

Albert Austin Harding, Herbert L. Clarke, and John Philip Sousa are just a few of its notable archivists.

Their papers may be found in the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois.

The electronic music system designed by Salvatore Martirano called The Sal-Mar Construction is likewise housed at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

Take a Stroll at West Side Park

Prayer for rain statue in the middle of West Side Park

Kaveh k, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This public plaza, which spans 12.7 acres, provides a wealth of free and low-cost activities for residents and tourists alike.

In 1859, West Side was designated as the city’s first park.

Champaign’s Central Park is becoming a must-see destination for locals and visitors alike, thanks to its diverse public art collection and welcoming atmosphere.

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and relaxing, this park serves as a great stress reliever.

To get a good look at the park’s fountains and fountains, walk about it a little.

In addition, you’re welcome to attend any of the park’s regularly scheduled community activities and celebrations.

Browse Champaign Public Library’s Books

Exterior of Champaign Public Library

Dori, CC BY-SA 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

This downtown Champaign library, which dates back to 1876, is brimming with services and features.

Check out this public library if you have nothing else to do and want some alone time.

Additionally, it provides free internet access and DVDs, making it a great place to spend time.

Is it not the most beautiful and welcoming hotel globally with a unique architectural style?

Traveling with young children? Family-friendly programs, such as storytimes at the library, are offered regularly.

You may view the Peter Sis murals or grab a book here.

Catch a Performance or a Movie at Virginia Theatre

Exterior of Virginia Theatre

Simone Williams – 3D Tour Gallery Photography, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cinematic and theatrical performances have been taking place at this downtown cinema since 1921.

It has many classic films and more modern productions to choose from, making this the ideal place to spend an enjoyable evening in Champaign’s downtown.

Roger ebert statue on the grounds of Virginia Theatre

Bordwall, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It also features a stunning architectural design, excellent lighting, and luxurious velvet drapes.

You’ll be reminded of Europe’s grandiose buildings when you visit.

See a live play, movie, or other cultural events held here.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Check Out the Interesting Spurlock Museum

Classical art collection at Spurlock Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spurlock Museum, also known as the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum, is one of the most visited spots on the campus.

The museum is an ethnographic one.

Exterior of Spurlock Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The university likes to learn and teach people about the state’s different cultural heritages.

It has done an excellent job of preserving immense knowledge.

You can get your hands on 51,000 objects beautifully scattered around in the displays.

Wall exhibit in Spurlock Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Shop for Local Goods at Urbana’s Market at the Square

From May to October, Champaign gets lit up every Saturday morning.

The farmers’ market is one of the most exciting places to check out here.

Get a grip on the local taste and flavor, and make your way to this local market.

No matter your age, the farmer’s market can be entertaining for you all.

You will be delighted at the different flowers and plants sold here.

There are a lot of delicious fresh goodies to eat, too.

Many events are also held in the marketplace.

Admire the Foliage at Crystal Lake Park

Autumn trees at Crystal Lake Park

dfletch000 /

Crystal Lake Park happens to be one of the most beautiful gems in the entire city.

Not only is it decorated in different shades of green, but it also has some of the best facilities.

Take your kids to the Aquatic Center inside the park.

Looking for some alone time among woods?

A duck on the waters of Crystal Lake Park

Busey Photography /

Head over to the Busey Woods.

Want to enjoy the best waters?

Crystal Lake itself is here for your entertainment.

The Anita Purves Nature Center is also located nearby.

Learn More about Nature at Anita Purves Nature Center

The Anita Purves Nature Center is an excellent place to hang out close to nature.

The playground here is structured so that the kids learn more about nature.

Here, you’ll get to learn more about the environment, the different ecological systems, and different paths.

There are some trails, where you can embark on a short or easy hike.

The gift shop outside the center offers the quirkiest gifts, too.

Enjoy Some Japanese Aesthetics at Japan House

Exterior of the Japan House

Japanteaurbana, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Japan House is such a pretty place that you need to check it out for yourself.

The College of Fine and Applied Arts uses Japan House as a part of its lectures and experiments.

The place offers some educational trips, too.

If you have not seen a traditional Japanese tea garden before, r, the first time will surely be unforgettable.

Fall, spring, and summer are the best times to enjoy the place’s beauty at its finest.

You can also attend one of the tea ceremonies often held here.

Take Your Little Ones to Meadowbrook Park

Meadowbrook Park is one of Champaign’s elite parks.

This is one of the top attractions for children in the city.

Kids of all ages love the place for there are many things to do here.

The 13,000-square-foot playground happens to be the biggest attraction inside the park.

There are some also amid nature for adults to enjoy.

Take your time, and let your kids have fun while you explore the natural trails that go all around the park.

Learn More about Agriculture at The Morrow Plots

Welcome sign of The Morrow Plots

Ken Wolter /

Illinois’ Morrow Plots are an experimental agricultural field located in Urbana-Champaign and are among the country’s first.

It is the second oldest research station globally, following England’s Rothamsted research station.

Corn crops of The Morrow Plots

AheadByEcho, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These plots, named for Professor George Morrow, are a collection of six one-tenth-acre-sized fields that have been sown with corn for more than 140 years.

While alfalfa and clover may also be found in the alfalfa plots, they are not the only crops that can be grown there.

The Morrow Plots at the University of Illinois have been an essential source of agricultural data since the university’s inception.

The field of The Morrow Plots

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Known for its technical brilliance and prominent institution, this college town is a hidden treasure in Illinois.

For a town of its size, Champaign offers a wide range of activities and attractions to suit the needs of visitors with all types of interests.

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