Following the theme of our latest post, today’s post is on another pair of twin-cities that are well worth your time and space on your travel bucket list. Champaign-Urbana is located in East Central Illinois and is best known for being the campus town of University of Illinois. However, these towns have much more to offer outside of university involvement.
Most notably, traffic and interest in downtown Champaign has been picking up in recent years. When my dad went to the University of Illinois in the mid-to-late eighties, downtown Champaign was not much of the scene it now is. For both tourists and locals, including college students, downtown Champaign offers many different types of attractions. From food to music to rehabbed, old movie theaters, there is something for everyone.
Both Champaign and Urbana have been sites of a large restaurant boom. Take, for instance, the restaurant Black Dog, which specializes in BBQ-type food. This restaurant first opened in a small place in Urbana in 2009. After becoming very popular, they did not move their location to a larger space, but rather opened up an entirely new, second location in Champaign in 2015. Now, Champaign-Urbana residents have the choice of either restaurant to get their delicious BBQ pulled pork, Mac and Cheese, and homemade corn bread. However, if you go during peak meal times, be ready to wait. While the servers and cooks are as efficient as they can be, there is almost always a line of hungry people determined to wait so that they can get their hands on the delicious food.
Other restaurants to check out include Big Grove Tavern, which specializes in semi-high end American food; Miga, which boasts an Asian-American fusion menu (and old black and white movies projected onto the wall); Radio Maria, serving up delicious Latin-American food, surrounded by pieces from the owners’ art collections; and Silvercreek, offering a delicious and extensive buffet-style brunch every Sunday morning and afternoon.
For a more sweet food endeavor, check out either Cream and Flutter, located in downtown Champaign and specializing in baked goods, such as cupcakes and macaroons or Jarling’s ice cream, which gives more than you can eat, even in the smaller sizes they offer, and is newly opened year-round so that you can get their delicious Snowstorms in any season and any weather.
In terms of entertainment, Champaign and Urbana boast a lively bar and live band scene. Step into bars, such as Cowboy Monkey or Memphis on Main to hear a local live band play all their favorites for a crowd that usually knows them pretty well. Or, step into Canopy Club in Urbana, which hosts a wide variety of musical acts, from local bands to better known artists, such as Young the Giant.
If music isn’t your thing, check out one of the multiple independent movie theaters, such as the Virginia Theater or the Art Theater Co-op. The Virginia is an experience you will get very few other places, with two levels of seating and grand decor that makes you feel like you are seeing an opera in a fancy theater. With a more no-frills vibe, the Art Theater offers a wide range of film screenings, from recent Sundance films to throwbacks, such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or first-runs, like when Selma came out a couple years ago. Either way, you movie-going experience will be different than it ever has been or will be in a regular movie theater. And make sure to tip them if you can, local, independent, and cultural spots like these need to stay open.