My favorite things to do in the Urbana-Champaign area

What fun things can you do near the University of Illinois?

Payton Jarzyna is a senior pursuing a dual degree in creative writing and advertising. During the school year she works as a marketing intern for the College of LAS and as a waitress. In her free time you can find her reading thrillers, watching Succession, or shopping for cool necklaces.

As a second semester senior, I’ve spent a lot of time finding fun activities at the University of Illinois. Whether it’s a fun way to pass time with friends, an opportunity to take pictures, or just a relaxing area to unwind, I’ve got a place for it. 

Whenever I return to my hometown, I miss all the amazing activities Chambana (a common portmanteau of Champaign and Urbana!) has to offer. From hidden gems, to popular spots, here are some of my favorite places to go in Champaign-Urbana.

CU Adventures in Urbana1. C-U Adventures

If you’re looking for the chance to test your brain, or to bond with friends, Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time & Space is the place to be. They offer several themed escape rooms, from a spooky haunted cabin to an alien spaceship. The rooms use fog machines, motion sensors, and changing lights to make you feel like you’ve been transported to a different world. 

The fun puzzles and interactive games challenge your brain to think both logically and creatively. If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to solve the room, don’t worry. The rooms are customized to your experience level, since you can always ask for hints or clues along the way. Or, if you don’t want help, you can opt out of asking any questions. The group-focused games offer the perfect bonding experience for friends or coworkers.

2. Curtis Orchard

Curtis Orchard feels like the set of Gilmore Girls or When Harry Met Sally. There’s a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, a petting zoo, and an orchard of apple trees. Surrounded with haystacks and scarecrows, basically any fall activity can be done at Curtis Orchard. Unfortunately, it's only open from August-December, but that just means there’s plenty of time to prepare your fall wish list!

The country store is adorably charming. There’s a bakery with delicious cinnamon sugar donuts, pastries, warm cups of apple cider, and more. The store sells all kinds of fall products like honey sticks, sweaters, candles, pumpkins, etc. It’s an aesthetic photo opportunity or just a cool spot to meet up with friends.

Curtis Orchard in Champaign

3. Star Karaoke

Do you want to try karaoke but are afraid of singing in front of strangers? At Star Karaoke, you can get your own private room for a cheap price. Each room comes with color changing lights that flash across the table, a TV with song lyrics, and a binder full of songs with new releases and decades-old bangers.

They also offer a menu of food and beverage options, if you’re looking for more than just an opportunity to sing. You can get corn dogs, egg rolls, Korean BBQ, or whatever you’re in the mood for. It’s a super fun way to see your friends let loose, whether that’s by singing Taylor Swift or 50 Cent.

Star Karaoke in Savoy

Fishing at Kickapoo Park4. Kickapoo

Looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of school? Kickapoo Park is an awesome spot to unwind around nature. The hiking trails are beautifully scenic, with lots of spots that look out onto rushing waters or forests of trees. If you have fishing skills, there are lots of places to cast from, or watch other people cast. The beautiful sights and activities make you feel like you’re on a nature trip.

Open fields offer a great opportunity to pass a frisbee around with friends, or set up a picnic. If you want to grow closer to your friends, or just take a break by yourself, there’s tons to do. An extra bonus, Kickapoo is a great spot to walk your dog (or look at other people’s dogs)!

An unexpected perk to attending the University of Illinois is the diverse list of fun activities you can do nearby. Whether you’re looking for a chance to sing your heart out, go on a space mission, or fish in a river, you can find the opportunity near Champaign-Urbana.

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Payton Jarzyna