Hidden gems on campus


Daily Illini File Photo

The Miles C. Hartley garden at the Arboretum is the largest of 5 major gardens. The rest of the Arboretum’s 160 acres contains several open fields and a number of tree-lined paths.

By Annabeth Carlson, Managing Editor for Online

During the school year, it can be so easy to get into the routine of going from your dorm to class and back. However, there are so many hidden gems on campus that some students will never know existed after four years at the University. Trust me, as an incoming senior, I am already in a panic, worried that I still have so much to see and not enough time. Luckily, as a journalism major, I have gotten to leave the classroom and explore for writing assignments and stories for the Daily Illini. I’ve found myself at several interesting places — concert venues, farms, little-known libraries and even law and government offices (not as interesting). So, if you’re looking for a new, cool place to study (or procrastinate), you have come to the right place. Here are some of my favorite overlooked spots on and around campus.


Stop and actually smell the roses at these gorgeous on-campus gardens. Taking up 160 acres, the Arboretum is open to all students and the public as a way to provide beauty as well as plant science and arts education. Some of my favorite features of the arboretum are the ponds, cherry trees and the gazebo in the Master Gardener’s Idea Garden.

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

During my freshman year, I got the opportunity to write a story about the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Located on the third floor of the Main Library, it is truly a hidden gem on campus, with almost half a million books. There are old texts ranging from the Elizabethian period in England, Shakespeare and the Bible. They also have collections that depict American history and culture, free speech and economics. It is easy to plan a visit on the library’s website, and once there, a curator will help you find what you are looking for, or just show you around. (There are temperature-controlled rooms where they preserve the books!)

Visit the “Prairie Monk”

It’s true that the best experiences are unplanned. One day, a friend and I were walking around downtown Champaign when we came across what looked like a secret garden with tall grasses tucked away from the industrial street. As we snooped around, the owner of the garden, David Monk, also known as the “Prairie Monk,” came over and gave us the grand tour. Monk, who calls himself a preservationist, environmentalist, naturalist, educator and activist lives nearby and created the garden, or “pocket prairie,” as a way to preserve the Illinois prairies so people can appreciate them. To experience this for yourself, stop by the nearby WEFT Radio Station (113 N. Market Street), where Monk does a weekly radio show on Sundays at 11 a.m. If you ask, he may show you around.

Illinois Dairy Farm

Did you know there are 400 cattle at the University? If this intrigues you, get outdoors and visit the Illinois Dairy Farm (2307 S. Lincoln Ave.), where students can learn about the dairy industry and animal science (and see the adorable cows, of course!). I visited the Dairy Farm for a Daily Illini story, about a 16th-generation cow at the University named Illini Nellie. Contact Henry Hoene, the Dairy Farm manager, to set up a trip ([email protected]).

Annabeth is a senior in Media
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