Champaign, IL

I’ve just found out I might have to spend a week on business in the aforementioned town, sometime soon.

Anyone know

a) what it’s like (the impression I get is it’s kinda… quiet and in the middle of nowhere), and
b) if there’s anything to do out-of-hours for a guy on his own. Titty bars, hookers, blow and the like. (OK, not really.)

Well, U of I is there, so it’s a college town out in the middle of nowhere. Lots of bars from what I hear.

I lived there until 2005, so you can PM me if you like for specifics.

Your entertainment options are as follows:

Downtown Urbana: has a few townie bars, one in particular where the MBA and JD students play darts (a bit more mainstream), a decent (for Chambana) thai restaurant and organic supermarket. Classification-still pretty townie and dead. Urbana sure is pretty though, I lived there for 2 out of 3 years.

Downtown Champaign: older crowd than option 3 (described below)-mostly graduate students and the profs. There’s a martini bar, a sports bar, an artsy theatre and quite a few restaurants. I’d recommend Radio Maria to eat. It’s like Champaign’s version of upscale dining that is non-chain.

Green Street: alongside Date Rape Row…umm, basically this is where all the undergrads go to booze. Several very cheap Chinese, korean, greek/middle eastern, pizza etc. restaurants and skeezy disgusting bars where I’m still convinced they recycle the remnants of people’s beer. On the other hand, it has 1 of the only 2 Indian restaurants in town. Every freaking Indian seems to send their kid to UIUC but there are only 2 restaurants in town and I think the one on Green Street is slightly better if only because they’re polite and hire local kids to serve you.

Outer Champaign: movie theatre, walmart, target and several chain stores. You need a car to get here. I can’t imagine why you’d want to go unless you have a burning desire to eat at Chili’s and watch a movie.

Scattered: there are neat places around campus-ish. There are two nice restaurants alongside the new administration building (kind of like Radio Maria but I believe both are Italian).

Things to do: you can wander around campus, check out the “test patch” and the architecture, I guess.

For the size of the university…the whole C-U scene is kind of small. It’s not an Ann Arbor or Madison by any means. On the other hand, their non-profit radio station, WPGU is still one of my faves, and is a pretty good resource for things to do. I think I like it even better than the glory days of WFNX 101.7 in Boston. You can also pick up the weeklies and the campus newspaper for events going on in terms of concerts and whatnot (the only time I’ve ever seen Ravi Shankar live was at UIUC).

Also, my old classmate still lives in the area and writes an awesome blog called Central Illinois Life. She’s a really cool chick-feel free to email her for better/more details and say Anu/Monkey referred you (or you can just leave her a blog comment or something). You can filter out her C-U posts with the tags on the right side of the blog.

Hope that helps.

If you end up going, any chance of a weekend jaunt to Chicago?

I did my undergrad there, it’s a college town, 100%. There’s enough grad students and staff, though, to ensure that there are enough frat-boy-free venues in the area. The Courier Cafe in Urbana was very popular in my day, has old tin ceilings and all that. Downtown Champaign has some nice places, names escape me. You can definitely kill a few hours walking around campus – the Illini Union is open to the public and I’m sure the hotel desk on the north side would be happy to give you a campus map.

I also see the Silver Bullet in Urbana is still open.

I actually think Champaign-Urbana is a nice little city, I’d send my hypothetical kids to school there for sure. It’s not really that quiet either, at least when school’s in session. Definitely a more interesting place than many Chicago suburbs.

It’s home to one of the nations largest Universities, so it’s not exactly a tiny little farm town. There is a ridiculous concentration of college bars on campus and tons of the types of cultural activities you’d expect at a large liberal arts school. It’s got a pretty impressive quad and the mix of old and new architecture makes for an excellent walking tour, the campus is almost entirely contiguous making it easy to traverse on foot. Depending on when you are there you could take in a football or basketball game, the latter is a truly awesome experience if you appreciate a rabid student section and completely unique venue.

The rest of the city suffers in comparison to the campus. The northern parts of Champaign and Urbana can be a little run down, it’s essentially a recovering (to varying degrees) Rust Belt city, and it lacks much character since it’s been overrun with chains stores and fast food joints like every other suburb/small city in middle America.

If you go after classes let out for Xmas break (probably about December 17th or so) then things get really quiet and a little bleak and the population of the city gets just about cut in half.

So, to answer your question, it depends on what you want to do and what you enjoy. IIRC you are right around 30 years old, perhaps a few years younger, so you should find plenty to enjoy on campus. Champaign is the quintessential Midwestern college town. Lots of bars, record stores, quirky shops, coffee houses and all the campus book stores and sporting events that go along with it. As for Champaign proper, well, it’s probably going to be pretty damn predictable if you’ve ever been to a small to mid sized American city in late fall.

If you go into campus town, I highly recommend Murphy’s for hamburgers…it’s on Green Street.

Thanks for all your suggestions!

I will be coming through Chicago, and might indeed stop off.

Add 10. :frowning: I still live as if I’m a 30-year-old though…

Bear in mind, though, I will probably be working during the day so only out and about in the evenings. How cold will it be in Dec/Jan?

Not even remotely true. UIUC is the 14th largest campus in the country, Wisconsin is 15th and Michigan is 19th, the U-C metroplex is larger than Ann Arbor, South Bend, and every other Big Ten city aside from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus and Madison which are all state capitols and cities where the college campus is secondary at best.

Sarahfeena, Murphy’s was remodeled about 8 years ago and hasn’t been the same since. It feels more like a Bennigan’s than the hipster haunt it used to be. It’s shame really.

Sorry, got you confused with another Doper with a similar screen name. I just noticed your location, how much travelling have you done in the US? I was speaking as if you were someone who knew most of the nuances of quasi-rural America. Of of curiosity, will you be working with the University?

As for temperature, things can change pretty dramatically from the beginning of December to the end of January. In early December it will be chilly, probably averaging about 30-35 degrees F. At the end of January it could be absolutely blisteringly cold. Champaign gets extremely windswept come mid-winter and temps in the 0 to -10 F range are common, 10-15 F typically.

I was there as a grad student from '73 to '77, and have been back a few times, and you should have seen how dead it was back then.
It got down to -20 one January when I lived there, so dress warm. Most of the places are new, but when I was there, and even later, Papa Dels had the best pizza around. In fact, better than Chicago. I don’t know if the quality has been maintained.

Oh, I know…but we still go there every time we make it down to Champaign. It’s one of the few places left from when we were students there in the late 80s. And the burgers are still pretty good. :slight_smile:

I wasn’t talking about the size of the campus. Everyone knows UIUC owns all of Champaign County. That doesn’t change the fact that if you bike 3 miles in any given direction-BIKE, mind you, not even hop in your car and drive, you hit corn. CORN. The dining options are relatively lame. This is what I got out of Champaign after 3 years- a law degree and 70,000 house parties. Ain’t nothing to do but drink and fuck. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Make sure to pay attention to the nightly news. 75% of it will be about how some Ag Professor did something special.

Look, I have fond memories of the place and just wrote them a $500 check to keep the old prison up to date with the latest in mustard coloured paint, but it’s not all that happening.

And the other nice restaurant was Timpone’s. Just remembered.

Hmm, I enjoy house parties, and for that matter I enjoy drinking and fucking too. Go figure. :wink:

Fair enough, but I think the exact same could be said of every mid-sized city in the US that doesn’t reside within urban sprawl, and those replace corn with strip malls and parking lots. I suppose there are a few lucky ones with a notable geographic feature or historic significance, but on average all of middle America could be described that way.

That place was great, wonder if it’s still there. I’ll also second the Papa Del’s recommendation. Nothing fancy, but that’s some awesome deep dish 'za.

A lot. I’ve lived in TX, TN, and CT, and have done road trips through 47 contiguous (even Delaware! But not RI, the bastards.). And when I was at college I dated a girl from Terre Haute who attended Bloomington, and visited her for a few weeks, so I’ve a passing familiarity with midwest college towns.

No, though I think the company might be a university spin-off.

What’s that in real temperature? :wink:

OK, so anywhere from -1C to -23C. Jesus H., that’s cold!

Well, I figured - no matter how cosmopolitan Champaign-Urbana might be (or Shampoo-Banana, as one alum friend of mine calls it), they don’t have an international airport.

If you are going to be in this neck of the woods, though, please do give me a shout! I know lots of alums, as do most of us who graduated high school in IL, and maybe have a connection or two at whatever company you’re visiting - if you want to PM me or whatever, I’d be happy to do some intel on the company (and on C-U).

Timpone’s is still there. Papa Del’s is indeed amazing. If you want to have a beer I recommend the Blind Pig, they’ve got a pretty nice selection including some cask beers. For a burger check out Farren’s. There’s some places you could check out live music depending on when you’re in town and your tastes.

I’m currently an undergrad at U of I, feel free to message me if you want something more specific as I’m off to class now and don’t have time to get into anything too deep at the moment.

I strongly second Radio Maria’s! I’ve only eaten there a couple of times, but I couldn’t recommend it more highly! Ecletic food and waitstaff; tremendous Bloody Marys and Mimosas. We had brunch there with friends and family the morning after our wedding.

First, bang an undergrad.

Next, seek out the sculpture of Lorado Taft, one of America’s greatest artists…a graduate and benefactor of U of I, who has many important works sprinkled around the campus.

Third, go to one of those campus bars and get wrecked.

Fourth, bang another co-ed.

– Uke, who’s never been in Champaign-Urbana

There are a lot of fun places right in a few blocks of each other in downtown Champaign (Neil and University). Jupiters (pizza and pool), Guidos (sports), Blind Pig and Highdive (local music) are my favorites.

ETA: Also recommend trying Papa Del’s deep dish. It’s better than anything I’ve had up in Chicago.