By Kristy Wilson
Let’s face it, we live in a great town! Well, OK maybe not everyone loves living in Champaign-Urbana, but having grown up here and now going on 27 years of living primarily in C-U I’m convinced that it really isn’t such a bad place and I know many who would agree with me.
However, I must admit it is not perfect. There are certainly things that are missing from our town that would make it even greater! So, here you have it the top 13 things that Champaign-Urbana is lacking and, most important, where you can find the closest one.
1. The beach: This makes the list because after taking our daughter to the beach one time in her life she wouldn’t let it go. She would convince her teachers at school that we were leaving for a vacation at the beach almost every week because she would say “I’m going to the beach soon!” Maybe she wished that she was, but it wasn’t part of our plans. So what is the closest place to find that beachfront atmosphere without going to either of the coasts or the gulf? While there is a small beach area at Clinton Lake (about 36 miles away) the other option are just north of downtown Chicago along Lake Michigan or the Indiana Dunes (approximately 155 miles).
2. Chick-fil-A: What is it about this place? Every time I go, eat, and then leave I ask myself this question. I suppose that I do really like the waffle fries. They are just a change of pace from the normal, everyday, straight french fry that is served other places. I also particularly like their sauce variety. Not to mention the tea. I don’t really drink tea, but it is a must to get their sweet tea … OK, I have convinced myself now why I do when it’s available. So, where is the closest one? Bloomington.
3. Chuck E Cheese: We used to have one in town. It was on Bloomington Road where Carpet Master Carpet One now is. This one is kind of a rite of passage for kids. I can remember going to the one in Springfield as a kid and dragging around tons of tickets from the skeet ball game only to be able to purchase something like one of the wooden paddles with the rubber ball attached with a bungee string. You know the ones! The closest one is in Bloomington.
4. Costco: Truth be told, we have a Sam’s Club membership. I have only been in a Costco a handful of times, but this was a suggested addition to the list. I’m sure that those who frequent Costco could tell me the difference between these two stores, but the only one that I can think of is the photo lab. Eeeep! At any rate, the closest Costco to C-U is in Peoria.
5. Gloria Jean’s Gourmet Coffee: Admittedly I am a bit biased about this place. I grew up drinking the blended coffee drinks from Gloria Jean’s, then I had the opportunity to work at one for several years. Hands down, it was one of the most fun jobs that I have had. So when our owners decided to retire (no, the temporary Starbucks in the mall didn’t run us out!) and no one was interested in taking over their franchise I was a bit heartbroken. However, my waistline and health are probably grateful! Anytime we are in Bloomington I make sure we make a pit stop at Eastland Mall for a yummy coffee drink from Gloria Jean’s.
6. Go-karts: Unless you know someone who owns them in town there really aren’t options here in town. A little research lead me to a place called Pla-Mor Pla-Land in Decatur that has both adult and toddler-sized go-karts. A local blog group Decatur, IL. Moms did a review of the place. We might have to add this to our summer to-do list!
7. Haircut places for kids: Writing this article couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Just this evening my husband and I wrangled our 16-month old as we tried to use the clippers to trim the sides of hair. We sat him in his old walker, which he has albeit outgrown, pinned him in a corner of our patio, I steadied his head and my husband and I started the dance around one another to get each angle as well as possible. I once again thought, “Why doesn’t someone open one of those places with the little cars for the kids to sit in and be distracted while getting their hair cut?” As far as I can tell a place in Frankfort, just east of Joliet, called “Buzzes and Beehives” is the closest of its kind.
8. IKEA: I really don’t think that any explanation is needed for this one, right? The closest one is in Bolingbrook. Thank goodness there is online ordering now. Less than 10 years ago when we moved into our former house there really wasn’t much of an option to buy things online from them.
9. An outlet mall: While we don’t have one in Champaign-Urbana I always seem to claim the one in Tuscola as an entity of C-U when telling people what’s around in the area to do. If you’ve grown up here or lived here for a while, you might have similar thinking. If not, then it will be helpful to know that the closest one is in Tuscola, just a quick 30-minute drive south of C-U.
10. Trampoline park: I have yet to go to one of these. I am working hard to get myself in better shape and feel like it would behoove me to wait until I have progressed in my health journey a bit further because, let’s face it, these places look like a serious cardio workout! One of our Chambanamoms, Bethany Parker, recently reviewed her trip to Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park. Sounds like she had a blast despite the two-hour drive to Plainfield, Ind.
11. Trader Joe’s: Yet another that I think needs no introduction. There have been cruel April Fool’s jokes on local internet sites and news publications stating that Champaign-Urbana is getting a Trader Joe’s, but alas the individuals responsible for those are just that, cruel. The closest one is on 86th St. in Indianapolis.
12. Water park: While we have local pools that have recently remodeled, adding several water slides, one who likes water parks wouldn’t really refer to our local pools as a true water park. The closest one of these is Knight’s Action Park in Springfield. Having a lot of family that lived near or in Springfield growing up, I went to Knight’s Action Park several times as a kid. You wouldn’t believe how much they have added in the course of the last 20-plus years.
13. Zoo: While we don’t have a zoo beyond Prairie Farm, which has animals and is sometimes referred to it as a “petting zoo,” it is hardly close to a traditional zoo. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy going there, but to get the true zoo feeling your best options are Scovill Zoo in Decatur or Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington.
What would you add to our list? What’s “missing” in CU?
Kristy Wilson considers herself a “townie” having lived in the community for more than 26 years. She grew up in Unit 4 schools and attended the University of Illinois. Kristy is passionate about her professional work as a social worker. In her spare time she enjoys food! In particular she loves to try new recipes and sample new dishes at local eateries.