Champaign County is a small, friendly town in Illinois with an array of attractions and activities, great shopping, excellent restaurants, casual cafés, and gracious hospitality. From arboretums, breweries, wineries, and nature centers to several museums, art galleries, coffee shops, and a planetarium, Champaign County has something for everyone.
Taste award-winning wines at the Alto Vineyards and Winery, sip freshly roasted coffee at BrewLab Coffee, take in a stargazing show at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium, and soak up fine art at the Krannert Art Museum. Here are some attractions and activities to enjoy in and around Champaign County, IL.
1. Anita Purves Nature Center
© Anita Purves Nature Center
Located at the north end of Crystal Lake Park, the Anita Purves Nature Center is an environmental education facility that offers hands-on learning programs, environmental exhibits, and a nature-themed play area. Established in 1979 to inspire and encourage visitors to learn about nature and the great outdoors, the Anita Purves Nature Center features a field station exhibit, four multi-purpose rooms, an observation room, an educator resource room, and the Audubon Nature Shop, which sells souvenirs and other unique nature-related gifts. The center offers a variety of environmental and educational programs for visitors of all ages and can be rented for public and private events. The adjacent Busey Woods is ideal for hiking and bird watching.
1505 N Broadway Ave, Urbana, Illinois 61801, Phone: 217-384-4062
2. Blue Waters Supercomputer
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Located at the National Petascale Computing Facility on the University of Illinois campus, the Blue Waters Supercomputer is one of the most powerful computers in the world and is open for the public to experience and enjoy. Finalised in 2013, Blue Waters is a sustained petascale Cray supercomputer built from the latest technologies and capable of more than 13 quadrillion calculations per second. The computer is used by engineers and scientists around the world to tackle a wide range of challenging problems, from simulating the evolution of the cosmos to predicting the behavior of complex biological systems.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at 1205 W. Clark St., Urbana, Illinois. Phone: 217-244-6689
3. Champaign County History Museum at the Historic Cattle Bank
© Champaign County History Museum at the Historic Cattle Bank
The Champaign County History Museum at the Historic Cattle Bank is a museum that explores the history of Champaign with an impressive collection of exhibits and objects from the region. Set in a beautifully restored building dating back to 1857, the museum features three rotating galleries and exhibitions that focus on the pioneer past of Champaign, student life at the University of Illinois, and the war years as well as a quaint bookstore. Artifacts in the collection include the rifle of Henry Sadorus, the first European settler in the county, Vriner's cashier box, Olympian Bonnie Blair's speed skates from Albertville, and a roomful of World War II memorabilia, including uniforms, medals, and photos of the famed Tuskegee Airmen at Chanute Air Base in Rantoul.
102 E University Ave, Champaign, IL 61820, Phone: 217-356-1010
4. Urbana Park District Park System
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The Urbana Park District's park system includes several pristine natural areas and green spaces that have been beautifully restored to showcase the very best of Illinois' most diverse habitats. Parks in the system include Busey Woods, Weaver Park, Meadowbrook Park, and Perkins Road Site. Busey Woods is a 59-acre oak-hickory forest located at the north end of Crystal Lake Park and is well known for its spectacular spring wildflower display, elevated boardwalk, and excellent birdwatching. Weaver Park is a 60-acre park to the south of the intersection of Main Street and Smith Road, which boasts prairie and native grasses, savannahs, and woodlands. Meadowbrook Park is an 80-acre Illinois native landscape in south Urbana, along Windsor Road and Race Street, and the Perkins Road Site is an on-going project that will include a range of prairie and wetland environments for wildlife observation, environmental education programs, and recreation.
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5. Japan House, Champaign, IL
© Japan House
Japan House is a unique teaching facility for both university students and the public that is part of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Established to create and foster cultural understanding in the broader community, as well as a more profound sensitivity towards diverse cultures, Japan House focuses on the study of Japanese aesthetics and traditional arts, particularly around the time-honored art form of Chado, the Way of Tea. Located just south of Kirby/Florida Avenue on Lincoln Avenue, near the arboretum and the Vet Med complex, Japan House is open to the public for tea ceremonies and tours on Thursdays and during special events.
2000 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana, IL 61802, Phone: 217-244-9934
6. Krannert Art Museum
© Krannert Art Museum
Located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, the Krannert Art Museum is an art museum that promotes a vibrant exchange of ideas in the visual arts. The second largest general fine arts museum in Illinois, it features a permanent collection of more than 10,000 works of art dating back to 4 BC that represent a wealth of cultures and various forms of artistic expression.
The museum’s permanent collection includes works from the 1930s, abstract American artists, ancient history, Andean textiles, contemporary American painting and sculpture, classical Greek and Roman works, East Asian works, and Native American art, among others. Visitors can explore the Krannert Art Museum on guided tours, which are designed to provide in-depth explorations of particular galleries and the works of art within them. More info
500 E Peabody Drive, Champaign, IL 61820, Phone: 217-333-1861
Next read: Getaways in Illinois
7. Spurlock Museum
© Spurlock Museum
The William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum, also known as the Spurlock Museum, is an ethnographic museum at the University of Illinois that collects, preserves, documents, exhibits, and studies objects of cultural heritage.
The museum features a permanent collection of more than 51,000 objects in its artifact collection, including cultural artifacts from the Museum of Natural History and Department of Anthropology as well as historical clothing from the Bevier Collection of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and objects donated by other institutions and private individuals.
The museum’s main galleries feature exhibits of ancient Egyptian art, works from the old Mediterranean and modern Africa, and art from East Asia, Europe, Mesopotamia, and the Americas. More info
600 S Gregory St, Urbana, IL 61801, Phone: 217-333-2360
8. Staerkel Planetarium
© Staerkel Planetarium
Located at the Parkland College in Champaign, the William M. Staerkel Planetarium is the second largest planetarium in the state and presents a variety of light show entertainment and science education programs. The planetarium features a 50-foot dome equipped with the latest in projection and sound technology, including a Digistar 4 digital projection system, a Zeiss M-1015 machine, 64 panels of LED dome lighting, a state-of-the-art surround sound system, and comfortable reclined theatre-style seating for up to 144 guests. The Staerkel Planetarium offers over two dozen interactive and narrated programs for school field trips, Scout troops, and other groups, and are tailored to fit a wide range of student ages.
2400 West Bradley Avenue, Champaign, IL 61821, Phone: 217-351-2568
9. The Sousa Archives Center for American Music
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The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music are dedicated to documenting the history of American music through an outstanding collection of historical artifacts and archival records in multiple formats. Located in the Harding Bank Building, the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music operates as a museum, with annual rotating exhibits on a variety of themes such as women and music, baseball and music, and technology and music. Part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s library system and the University of Illinois School of Music, the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music features significant collections, including archives of Albert Austin Harding, John Philip Sousa, and Herbert L. Clarke. The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music also house the Sal-Mar Construction, an electronic music system created by Salvatore Martirano, and the Claude Gordon Personal Papers and Music Instrument Collection.
Harding Band Bldg, 1103 S 6th St, Champaign, IL 61820, Phone: 217-244-9309
10. University of Illinois Arboretum
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The University of Illinois Arboretum is a new 160-acre arboretum currently under construction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. Located at the intersection of Florida and Lincoln Avenue, and open daily to the public, free of charge, the arboretum features a welcome garden with an entrance and meeting place, a Japanese tea garden, a dry Zen garden, and a 3-acre sunken garden called the Hartley Garden, which features annual and perennial beddings. The garden also has an Idea Garden, which consists of six areas including perennial borders, ornamentals areas, vegetable gardens, children's gardens, and special projects as well as the Sen Cherry Tree Alleé and the Frank W. Kari walkway – a short third-of-a-mile pathway that winds around the yard with tranquil ponds and educational signs.
2001 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana, IL 61802, Phone: 217-333-7579
11. University of Illinois Morrow Plots
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The University of Illinois Morrow Plots is an experimental agricultural field at Urbana-Champaign and one of the oldest such areas in the United States. Named after Professor George E. Morrow, the Morrow Plots consists of six small fields one-tenth of an acre in sizes that have been continuously planted with corn (maize) for the past 142 years. Other plots feature rotations of corn, oats, and soybeans, along with alfalfa and clover. The University of Illinois Morrow Plots is a valuable source of agricultural data, which the university has been utilizing for the past 120 years.
1102 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, Phone: 217-333-3420
12. Alto Vineyards and Winery
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Located on the scenic Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois, Alto Vineyards and Winery is owned by the Renzaglia family and produces award-winning wines. Set atop the rolling landscape of Alto Pass, the family-owned vineyard and winery consists of the central wine farm in Alto Pass and a tasting room in Champaign, where visitors can taste some of the best wines in the country. Alto Vineyards and Winery feature a sizeable indoor tasting room with ample seating, a screened-in pavilion with a back deck, and a rooftop vine deck with breathtaking views over the Shawnee National Forest and the valley. The award-winning winery can be rented for special events and weddings.
Alto Pass: 8515 Highway 127 Alto Pass, IL 62905, Phone: 618-893-4898
Champaign: 4210 N Duncan Road, Champaign, IL 61822, Phone: 217-356-4784
13. BrewLab Coffee
© BrewLab Coffee
BrewLab Coffee is a hip and trendy on-campus coffee shop that offers a contemporary gathering space for meeting friends with freshly roasted coffee and home-baked snacks. Located on Fifth and Green, the independent coffee spot serves a range of quality beverages, including coffee, espresso, and mocha as well as cold drinks, ice coffees, and healthy snacks. Bright and bathed in natural light through large windows, BrewLab Coffee offers complimentary high-speed wireless Internet, which attracts a cool crowd.
630 S 5th St, Champaign, IL
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14. The Blind Pig Brewery
© The Blind Pig Brewery
The Blind Pig Brewery is an inviting rustic wood-paneled bar that serves an array of draft and craft beers and artisan brews. Boasting four locations in downtown Champaign, all within a few blocks of each other, the Blind Pig Breweries have over 27 brews on tap, a variety rotating and seasonal beers, and guest drafts, including Big Thorn Farm Pale-Nelson Sauvin, Revolution A Little Crazy, Half Acre Lead Feather, Delirium Tremens, 4 Hands Absence of Light, and Bells Porter. The Blind Pig Company on Walnut Street features 27 brews on tap, the Blind Pig Brewery on Neil Street is the central brewpub and serves an array of experimental beers, the Brewery on Taylor Street has a superb beer garden, while the Blind Pig Brewery warehouse on Market Street is the company’s packaging facility
120 N Neil St, Champaign, IL 61820, Phone: 217-398-5133
15. University of Illinois Ice Arena
© University of Illinois Ice Arena
Located on the campus of the University of Illinois, the Ice Arena is a treasured asset for both students and the public. At the heart of the arena is the huge 192 X 115-foot sheet of ice which is perfect for all ice-related activities including hockey, figure skating and free-style skating. The arena is open to the public for various skating activities several times a week and there are a number of clubs which offer lessons and fun team activities for anyone who would like to take their skating hobby to the next level. Before or after your ice activity you can visit the Ice Café for a snack and a warming mug of hot chocolate.
201 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign, IL 61820, 217 333 2212
16. The Virginia Theatre
© The Virginia Theatre
For more than 100 years the Virginia Theatre has been a treasured landmark in the heart of downtown Champaign. It started life in 1921 as a Vaudeville theatre before becoming a live performance venue and a movie house. After a large-scale restoration, the Virginia Theatre is once again bringing the pure joy of live entertainment and classic movies to the Champaign community. Today you can visit the historic theatre to enjoy a wide range of entertainment including comedy nights, children’s theatre, concerts, stage plays and dance performances. Please visit their website to see what’s on during your visit and to book your tickets online.
203 W. Park Ave, Champaign, IL 61820, 217 356 9063
17. State Farm Center
© State Farm Center
The amazing State Farm Center is an entertainment venue which opened back in 1963, but still manages to attract huge audiences today. When it opened, the venue was pretty unique, boasting an enormous domed roof which is only supported on two edges. Its amazing architectural design has endured and it still pulls in crowds of up to 16,000 spectators. The venue hosts men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, huge big-name musical concerts, Broadway extravaganzas and many other forms of entertainment. You can see what’s on and book your tickets on their website.
1800 S. 1st Street, Champaign, IL 61820, 217 333 2923
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