Let’s face it, campustown can be a bit of a bear during the school year. It’s busy, parking can be hard to come by and navigating where you need to go can be a little chaotic. Don’t get me wrong, the UIUC student population gives Champaign-Urbana a liveliness that makes this community truly special. But, why not take advantage of all that campus has to offer while there are less people around? Here are my five favorite things to do on campus when the students leave for the summer:
Yeah, we’re starting with the big, obvious one. Summertime is the perfect time to hit up all your favorite campustown restaurants. These businesses rely heavily on the student population during the year, so in their “offseason” they will welcome you in with open arms.
One of my absolute favorite breakfast spots in CU is Cracked. They do breakfast really, really well. Do yourself a favor and try the Sloppy Jose - I promise you won’t be disappointed. If you live in Champaign-Urbana or the surrounding areas, you are probably familiar with Ko Fusion. It is a staple in this community for sushi and Asian cuisine. Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret here: Ko Fusion’s campus location has a different menu than they do at the downtown location. This includes the option to build your own 8 piece roll - it’s awesome. Don’t come at me for this one because it’s a chain, but I also really love Potbelly. I just think they make really good sandwiches and I love going there in the summer when it isn’t as busy. Seeking a little redemption here, my next two recommendations are iconic local establishments: Murphy’s Pub and Legends. While both are bars at their core, they also have fantastic food. Lastly, I’ll leave you with something a little sweet - Insomnia Cookies. Yes, they will deliver cookies all over Champaign-Urbana, but nothing can replace the overwhelming smell of fresh baked cookies when you walk through the doors. Oh, and while you’re there, you can check out what we’ve got going on at The Lab which is right next door.
BONUS: I could be here all day talking about food, so here are a some other (very) honorable mentions: Burrito King, Fat Sandwich Company, Shawarma Joint, Jurassic Grill (go for the burgers, stay for the cajun fries), The Bread Company, Timpone’s and Manolo’s Pizza & Empanadas. Seriously, I could talk about food for days, so it’s best I just stop while I’m ahead.
In addition to food, campustown is home to a number of wonderful stores and boutiques. As with restaurants, these are great places to visit when there are fewer people around.
For all of your Illini gear needs, [The Illini Union Bookstore](https://bookstore.illinois.edu/default.asp?) is a great place to go. From t-shirts to shot glasses and everything in between the Bookstore will have you singing Oskee Wow Wow in your sleep. Looking for a new outfit? Ragstock, known for it’s vintage and recycled clothing and accessories, has a location on campus that is full of fun pieces waiting to be discovered. Call me basic all you want but there is something therapeutic about a good trip to Target. Campustown is now home to their very own Target, which is much different visually from the Target on North Prospect. What better time to check it out than when the students are home for the summer? Another hidden gem of campustown is AM-KO Oriental Foods & Gifts. They have a wonderful selection of produce and specialty items as well as unique gifts - they’ll even create custom gift baskets upon request.
3. Go for a Walk
This might sound obvious, but campus is a great place to get out and just go for a walk. During the summer the sidewalks, which would normally be filled with students in a rush to get to their next class, are open and ready for meandering. UIUC is an undeniably a beautiful campus. Filled with grassy picturesque quads, traditional brick buildings and cutting-edge architecture, there is never a shortage of something to look at. If you are into nature, the Japan House and the Arboretum are filled with beautiful foliage and flowers. The Japan House also regularly offers traditional public tea ceremonies which are an absolute must for anyone in the CU.
4. See Live Music or Catch a Play
Even during the slower summertime hours, campus is still host to a number of live music, plays, shows and more. Venues like Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, State Farm Center and The Canopy Club keep things lively all summer long. The Canopy Club books artists, has open mic nights, dance nights and comedy shows. These three are all great places to enjoy throughout the summer when things are naturally a little slower.
5. Play Sand Volleyball, Basketball or Soccer
Need to work off all of the food you ate because I gave you a whole bunch of great suggestions? I’ve got you covered. UIUC is home to some great outdoor courts and fields for different sports including sand volleyball, basketball and soccer. In my experience, summertime is a perfect time to go check these out. There are typically people playing pick-up games or you can bring a group of friends with you. The courts are free and open to use by anyone. As university properties, they are well maintained throughout the year. Make sure to take advantage the opportunity to use these amenities. More information about the courts can be found here.