C-U area offers off-campus escapes


Containers filled with squash and pumpkins are seen in front of rows of apple trees, sans apples, at Curtis Orchards

By Lillian Barkley, Features editor

The University campus has something for everyone, with plenty of shopping and eating destinations on Green Street, an arts and culture hub at the Krannert Center and Big Ten sports in arenas across campus.

With so much to do on campus, it’s not surprising that students overlook other Champaign-Urbana attractions. Some are more off campus than others, but with the use of public transit or a bike, it’s easy to experience everything the area has to offer.

One of my personal favorite destinations isn’t a secret, but it is seasonal. Curtis Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Patch, 3902 S. Duncan Rd. in Champaign, is the go-to spot for traditional fall fun.

Its peak season starts in September and goes until Halloween, when students and locals head out to find the perfect pumpkin and taste the orchard’s apple cider and donuts. There’s also a petting zoo and corn maze, which is fun for all ages.

The orchard is technically open from July 20 until December 20, but it’s best to go during apple or pumpkin-picking season.

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Another option for fresh produce is going to a farmer’s market. Urbana’s Market at the Square opens May 7 and operates at the corner of Illinois and Vine streets every Saturday until November 5. It’s open from 7 a.m. until noon and features local vendors with produce, honey, cheese, baked goods and handmade crafts. Local favorite food trucks including Cracked and Pandamonium Doughnuts also set up shop at the market.

If early mornings aren’t your style, The Land Connection’s Champaign market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday from May to October. The vendors turn parking lot M in downtown Champaign into a bustling one-stop shop and most of them are the same farmers who sell in Urbana.

Both markets highlight the area’s focus on sustainability and agriculture, and buying from a farmer’s market means supporting local businesses and getting fresher food as well. It’s a pretty great way to curb all the dining hall food.

There are also activities that are year-round, such as seeing a film at the Art Theater Co-Op, 126 W. Church St., Champaign. The Art shows independent films and throwbacks to classic and cult films with many themed nights throughout the year. The theater dates back to 1913 and boasts that it is “truly independent” – it’s owned and operated by a local group of movie lovers. Keep an eye out for its horror nights and Oscar previews, as well as secret showings.

Urbana also has a great option for getting away from the crowds on campus: Meadowbrook Park. The 130-acre park has a main entrance at 2808 S. Race St., which leads to three miles of paved trails surrounded by 80 acres of restored prairie. Taking a walk through the tallgrass prairie is a perfect way to destress, and it serves as a natural escape from the ARC treadmills. The large park is speckled with a wildflower garden, organic garden, herb garden and the Wandell Sculpture Garden. Even though it’s just a few blocks away from the main campus it feels peacefully removed.

Lillian is a junior in Media.

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