Explore the underrated treasures of downtown Champaign


The marquee at The Virginia Theatre during Roger Ebert’s Film Festival. 

By Jessica Berbey , Assistant daytime editor

Living on campus can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when midterms are around the corner and it feels like you don’t have any room left to breathe. These places in downtown Champaign can serve as good stress relievers if you’re having one of those days, or they can just be fun places to hang out. Regardless, these sites are worth checking out.

Record Swap

This hidden gem, located at 114 E. University Ave., doesn’t seem like much if you judge it based on its exterior. However, once you step through the door, you will be bombarded by a plethora of records. With a vast array of vinyls in every genre, you are sure to find what you are looking for, whether it be a Pink Floyd LP, your favorite Grateful Dead album, Beethoven, Ariana Grande or Tupac — there is something for everyone.

It is a true music junkie’s paradise. Despite its name being “Record Swap,” the music store doesn’t only sell records. In fact, they have an extensive supply of CDs, DVDs, VCRs, Blu-Rays and posters. Employees are welcoming and knowledgeable and will help contribute to a gratifying experience.

Jane Addams Book Shop

Whether you’re a book lover or just love the smell of old books, Jane Addams Book Shop at 208 N. Neil St. is the way to go. With a staggering collection consisting of three floors of books, this shop houses everything from first editions, to graphic novels, to best sellers, to novelty postcards. You can take your time and explore through the thousands of books, or you can ask an employee for help if you have something specific in mind. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Virginia Theatre

The Virginia Theatre, located at 203 W. Park Ave., is nothing short of breathtaking. Established in 1921, this theatre hearkens back to the aura of classic theatres, proving to be a historic venue in the Champaign community.

Having been fully restored to its original condition, the venue is both a performing arts center and movie palace, hosting events such as concerts, stage plays, dance shows, spoken word performances and of course, films. It is also home to Ebertfest: Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, which occurs every April.

Whether you choose to go during April for the film festival or on a regular day to catch a show, the Virginia Theatre is a place you have to visit at least once. While downtown, make sure to eat at one of the great restaurants – especially during nice weather where local favorites like Destihl and Big Grove Tavern offer plenty of outdoor seating. Downtown Champaign may feel like it is a world away from the smell of KAM’s or the cheers after an Illini touchdown, but it is easily accessible using the CUMTD buses or a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft.

Jessica is a junior in LAS.
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