It’s TASTE time! One of our favorite local festivals, the 2018 Taste of Champaign-Urbana gets underway on Friday, Aug 17. We are so excited to be part of this grand event as a partner, don’t miss the chambanamoms.com KIDS ZONE, tons of new food vendors, and many surprises. Taste of Champaign-Urbana provides a community spotlight on food, the arts, and local organizations making an impact.
We’ve got the 411 on what you need to know before you go. And how to make the most of your budget while you’re there.
WHERE: Taste of Champaign-Urbana is once again at West Side Park right next to downtown Champaign.
WHEN: Friday, Aug. 17, 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 18, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
HOW TO GET to The TASTE OF CHAMPAIGN-URBANA:
- PARKING: On Friday night, there is free street parking in the neighborhood around the park; remember, some meters are enforced on weeknights through 9 p.m. Read the label if you’re not sure. No meters are enforced in that area on Saturdays.
- If you don’t want to mess with street parking, the downtown parking deck isn’t far.
- There is accessible parking available on the east side of the park, by the church with the red door.
- You can also avoid driving and take CUMTD; walk; and/or bike. State and Elm Streets will be closed around the park, so remember before you go.
HOW MUCH: Admission is free, but food and some activities are ticketed.
- You must buy tickets to buy food and drink.
- Some of the chambanamoms.com Kids Zone activities are ticketed, such as the inflatables, face painting, balloon animals and special bubbles.
- The ticket tent is in the center of West Side Park. They take cash or credit/debit.
- Tickets are sold in groups, so it’s $5 for five tickets. They are not refundable.
So, what can your family do on a budget?
- Some of the artists exhibiting will be giving demonstrations of their unique crafts all weekend, you can see those identified on the map. One we’re looking forward to: Dan Denton’s chainsaw carving.
- There will be a lot of kids fun that isn’t ticketed, so don’t miss out on the Chambanamoms.com Kids Zone. New this year: a grafitti wall! This community project will entice your young artists. There will be sidewalk chalk will be available to all kids. Our friends from the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum will have free activities. There will be a touch-a-truck too.
- There’s plenty of live music (starting 5 p.m. both nights) on the Illinois American Water main stage; on Saturday you can also check out the pop-up performances brought to you by 40 North’s Friday Night Live. We’re especially intrigued by Emily Blue on Saturday, who is “known for her glitchy, sophisticated, and infectiously catchy music.”
- There’s lots of actual “tastes” available, small bites for 1-2 tickets each.
WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD?
Food costs vary from person to person. Expect to spend about $10-$20 per adult on food — depending on how hungry you are. Budget friendly note: there’s free water at the Illinois American Water Tent.
- There are more food vendors than in recent memory.
- New food vendors include Wood’N’Hog BBQ, Baldorotta’s Porketta and Sicilian Sausage, Latin It Up, Hautte Boxx, Stango Cuisine, Scotty’s Brewhouse, and Smackin’ LLC.
- We know that Champaign-Urbana loves its food trucks,(for more on the local food truck scene, see our article.) and there will be plenty at Taste, including everyone’s favorite popcorn truck – the antique run by the Champaign County Historical Museum– will be back once again.
- Picky eater? Wondering what food is kid friendly? Well, we’re happy to see a “Little Kids Grilled Cheese” from Piato-to-Go; hot dogs are available from multiple vendors, as is pizza (we love Manolo’s Pizza and our pals at Jet’s). Note that mac and cheese at the Taste often has a grown-up audience, such as the one from Caribbean Grill (it’s got a kick to it).
- Notable dishes to try: Fried Fish & Fries from Wood’N’Hog; Basil Minced Chicken from Siam Terrace; Dipping Action: Fried Yuca, Plantain & Tostones from Latin It Up; Jerk Chicken or Meatballs w/Rice’n’Peas from Caribbean Grill;Mushroom Swiss Burger from Scotty’s.
- What about dessert? You could literally go to Taste and JUST feast on the desserts. Have something familiar such as Kona Ice, or different: Try an Artisan Ice Pop from the Pop Stop; a Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treat from Dancing Dog Eatery; Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcake from Piato; Cookie Dough at the Snack Shack; and Beignets from Stango Cuisine. (There are plenty more options.)
- Did someone say BEER? Yep! Once again, adult beverages area available for the over 21 crowd. New this year: Riggs! The menu features local craft brews from the likes of Blind Pig, JT Walkers, Riggs, and Triptych. There’s also domestic products as well as margaritas available. Beer ranges from 5-8 tickets, but a taste of craft beer is available for one ticket. You can walk around the whole park with your beer, too.
- Why should your family attend this event? We know Champaign-Urbana loves its restaurants and food trucks, and the Taste of Champaign-Urbana is a great chance to try new food. It’s also one of the signature community events of the year, and a great chance to run into friends from all over the area.
What Taste tips would you add?