It’s the Summer Festival We’ve All Been Waiting For: Taste of Champaign-Urbana
It’s TASTE time! One of our favorite local festivals, the 2019 edition of Taste of Champaign-Urbana gets underway on Friday, Aug 16. 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.
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 (aka Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church).
- 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 drink are ticketed. Also, 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.
Other tips to enjoy your visit:
- Dogs are not allowed at the event, so leave Fido at home.
- There are port-a-potties available, as West Side Park does not have bathrooms.
- Diaper changing stations are available on the north and west sides of the park.
- If you want to bring a wagon, chairs, blankets, that is all allowed. While picnic tables are available, they fill up fast; and they aren’t always in the shade when you want them to be.
So, what can your family do on a budget?
- Check out the arts demonstrations, this year being provided by the Park District cultural arts programs.
- There will be a lot of kids fun that isn’t ticketed, so don’t miss out on the Chambanamoms.com Kids Zone. Our friends from the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum will have free activities. There will be a touch-a-truck too (not in the kids zone, so be sure to look on the map).
- If you haven’t checked out the new West Side Park playground, be sure to take a look. This is especially a great playground for smaller children.
- There’s plenty of live music (starting 5 p.m. both nights) on the Illinois American Water main stage. A few highlights: local favorites Mank n Sass are playing at 6:30 pm on Saturday night and the fairly-new-to-the-scene women duo of Dearie on Friday night.
- Check out the amateur BBQ contest! There’s even a division for kids ages 8-14. The action will be happening on Saturday; food must be turned in between noon and 2 pm, and judging then follows.
- The community booths always have a lot of friendly faces – and a lot of swag as well.
- 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. If you want a full meal, drinks and dessert – expect to spend about $15-$20 per adult, depending on how hungry you are. But certainly, you can spend less. Plan your food strategy ahead of time by looking at the map, which might save you money and time.
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 Hunger Force Mobile Kitchen, Weiner Wagon, CBPB POPCORN SHOP, and Come Get This, and Just Bee Acai (all are food trucks).
- 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; they are starting to dominate the festival. One of the original food trucks – before the concept became all the rage is the antique popcorn truck operated by the Champaign County Historical Museum; it 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 and burgers are available from multiple vendors, as is pizza (we love Manolo’s Pizza and our pals at Jet’s). There’s also chicken tenders from Weiner Wagon and cheese quesadillas at Burrito King.
- Notice we didn’t put mac and cheese on that list for kids. A note about Mac and Cheese at the Taste: for some reason, it SELLS OUT quickly. Also, 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) and the one at Mamma D’s Smokehouse is called “gourmet”. Not sure about yours, but my kiddos just want the plain old stuff.
- What about vegan/vegetarian options? There are plenty of options for vegetarians this year including more than one veggie burger; vegan options – we’re not so sure. When in doubt, ask.
- Notable dishes to try: Turkey Tips from Wood’N’Hog; Fried Noodles from Hunger Force Mobile Kitchen; chicken curry from Stango Cuisine; Drunken Chicken Sandwich from Baldarotta’s; BBQ Nachos from Chester’s BBQ; Horseshoe from Come Get This.
- What about dessert? You could literally go to Taste and JUST feast on the desserts. Have something familiar such as Kona Ice, or yogurt from TCBY. If you want something a little different: Try Cinnamon Kettle Corn from CBPB Popcorn; Dessert Egg Rolls from Simply Crispy; S’mores Bar from Piato; Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings from Mamma D’s Smokehouse; and beignets from Stango Cuisine. (There are plenty more options.)
- Did someone say ADULT BEVERAGES? Yep! Once again, adult beverages area available for the over 21 crowd. New this year: WINE SLUSHIES! 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. And if you’d like, you can even get a collectible color-changing cup.
- 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?