Venture off campus to find unique local spots


By Abrar Al-Heeti

The University campus will become your world when you start school here. It provides all the basic necessities you need—and then some. There’s a County Market where you can pick up groceries, a variety of restaurants lining Green Street and plenty of places to take some time off from the stresses of school work.

But you’ll also want to venture off campus to explore other places that offer great food and entertainment, because there is so much more to find here. The following are a couple popular places you might consider visiting:

The Art Theatre and the Virginia Theater

Downtown Champaign is a beautiful place to pass some time. It offers an assortment of local restaurants and shops in a fun, vibrant atmosphere.

It also has two beautiful theaters that have become local icons: The Art Theatre Co-op and the Virginia Theatre.

The Art Theater Co-op showcases independent and foreign films, all in a lovely setting. Skip the Hollywood blockbusters for a night and change pace with a movie at this 101-year-old theater.

The Virginia Theater is another local gem. The beautifully-restored building will take you back to old-time elegance. In addition to screening movies, the theater also hosts local events such as plays, concerts and comedy shows.

The Virginia is also host to the annual Roger Ebert Film Festival, which showcases films that Ebert believed were overlooked by audiences and critics. Although Ebert passed away a few years ago, his wife Chaz continues to host the event for our University alum. 

Allerton Park

While Allerton Park isn’t located within Champaign-Urbana, it’s worth the 40-minute drive. Located in Monticello, Illinois, it’s a scenic escape with several different gardens and hiking trails spread across 1,500 acres of land.

Take a stroll through the gardens (the Sunken Garden is my favorite), sit by the reflecting pond and enjoy the view of the majestic Allerton mansion that overlooks its beautiful surroundings.

Curtis Orchard and Pumpkin Patch

This place is a huge hit in the fall. Grab a group of friends and hit the apple orchard to pick some of your own fresh fruit. You can also take a wagon and venture into the expansive pumpkin patch. The open space is a refreshing change of pace from the usual sights of cars and buildings.

You can also find some goodies such as jams and apple cider in the country store. The Flying Monkey Cafe connected to the store serves lunch every day. Oh, and don’t forget to buy some apple doughnuts. You’ll thank me when you do.

Urbana’s Market at the Square

What better place to buy fresh produce than from the farmer who grew it? Check out the Urbana Market at the Square, every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., rain or shine. Not only can you buy fruits and vegetables, but also crafts, baked goods and sweet treats.

Tip: grab some Pandomonium Donuts while you’re there. The donut truck also stops by campus during the week, but it never hurts to have too many delicious donuts.

Prospect Avenue and Neil Street shopping

Where should you go when you’re in the market for a new outfit or want to stop by Walmart to buy some groceries? The shopping district on the two major streets of Prospect Avenue and Neil Street in north Champaign is the place to do that.

You can check out Marketplace Mall, which is surrounded by several grocery stores and other major businesses where you can likely get most of your shopping needs taken care of.

Courier Café

For a local dining experience and escape from chain restaurants, Courier Café in downtown Urbana is a nice change of pace. The restaurant features a unique, old-fashioned setting. While you enjoy your food (burgers and milkshakes are the way to go, in my opinion), you can look around at the décor to see some historic pieces, such as lamps from Pullman railroad cars and a cash register from 1914. Tweet: There’s more to Champaign-Urbana than the University campus. Check out these selections of off-campus places to spend some time.

Abrar is a senior in Media.
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