Q: What kinds of outside activities does the C-U offer?

No matter how difficult an academic schedule may seem, students would be wise to avoid mental overload and find time to take a break from the rigors of class and homework. Despite initially appearing novel and exciting, the dorm environment will inevitably stale. To curtail unnecessary angst, new students should make a point of venturing out beyond their residence hall, and even campus town. The C-U area offers countless options year-round for such an escape.

The Division of Campus Recreation provides a variety of facilities and services to students of the university, and most are free. The two largest facilities are known as the Campus Recreation Center East (CRCE) and the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC).

CRCE is located in Urbana just south of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and contains an indoor track, cardio machines, weights, recreational pool, and group fitness workout rooms. In Champaign, north of Assembly Hall, ARC has all that CRCE has to offer and more. Recently remodeled, ARC features an indoor climbing wall, indoor and outdoor pool, a wellness center, and an instructional kitchen.

Each of the Campus Rec facilities offers “Open Rec”, through which students may choose to reserve courts ahead of time for basketball, volleyball, badminton and racquetball.

Outdoor tennis courts are available for use at Illini Grove in Urbana and southwest of Gregory and First in Champaign, with outdoor lights operating from 7:30-11:30 pm March through October. Many students also choose to take advantage of the campus Ice Arena. Just north of the Armory, the arena is a good place to visit with a large group of friends, and with $1 skate rentals it’s also affordable.

If you’re idea of escape involves a more carefree environment and/or less physical activity, consider visiting one of the many parks on and off campus. Many students spend their leisure time between classes on one of the three campus quads, either reading or tossing around a frisbee.

Campus parks include Scott Park on Second and Springfield, Washington Park on Second and Chalmers, and Illini Grove in Urbana. Each of these parks contains outdoor grills and picnic areas, and the latter two offer volleyball courts.

Although campus parks are pleasant enough, it’s always nice for a change of scenery. Students would benefit from venturing beyond campus town, and visiting one of the dozens of parks in the area. With its extensive bus system, the CU area is very accessible to students without cars.

Located off Windsor Road and east of Lincoln Avenue, Meadowbrook Park in Urbana offers a unique environment for relaxation and activity alike, with a playground area, a covered pavilion and three miles of hard surface path.

Its Wandell Sculpture Garden features sculptures by local artists along a segment of the interior path. Another popular Urbana Park is Crystal Lake Park, which not only has ball fields and trails, but opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming. The park is located at Park and Broadway.

Centennial Park at Kirby Avenue and Crescent Drive is one of Champaign’s largest destinations for outdoor sporting activities. Centennial Park contains baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer and volleyball courts, and is also home to the Sholem Aquatic Center — a pool containing a lazy river and two water slides. Heritage Park in Champaign offers a more low-key atmosphere with its trails, and areas for picnicking and fishing.

Autumn weather provides additional opportunities for escaping the routine sites of campus town. Various campus clubs such as the October Lovers make a point of visiting the Curtis Apple Orchard on Duncan Road in southwest Champaign to pick apples and pumpkins. Students can also make the trip out to Rantoul and visit Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch corn maze and the Fear Factory Haunted House.

Winter weather should not mean students are banished to their dorms. Snowstorms provide a great opportunity for sledding and impromptu snowball fights. Although Illinois is a bit vertically challenged in the hill department, students living in the PAR/FAR area have been known to congregate on a mound a bit southeast of their residence.

There are, however, more thrilling options available, though at a greater distance from campus. Centennial Park in Champaign has a sledding hill, but Crystal Lake Park in Urbana is the best place to go for an authentic outdoor winter experience. No matter the weather or the time, there’s always something to do here in C-U. So put down those textbooks, and explore all that this great town has to offer.