Explore the University of Illinois Campus in Champaign-Urbana
From gardens to museums to best kept secrets: 13 all-ages activities to make the most of the University of Illinois campus during the summer months.
The lights are flashing red, there are empty parking spaces, and it’s so quiet you can walk down the middle of the street without worry.
OK, so we’re exaggerating (no one is advocating anyone walking in the streets). But there’s no doubt that this is the quiet season for the University of Illinois campus — not just the heart of Campustown, but all over the University of Illinois campus. And that means it’s a great time for the rest of Champaign-Urbana to visit our state’s flagship university, which just so happens to be in our backyard.
Thanks to Champaign Center Partnership’s 13 Thursdays for presenting this list. 13 Thursdays presented by JSM Living is returning May 20 to August 12, 2021 with all of the regular specials, sales, and deals every Thursday, all summer long in Campustown! Check out the new digital passport with sales and deals at more at 20+ participating small businesses plus family-friendly activities. Free trolley rides, learn to ride MTD buses, and the Back To School Bash are some of the FREE activities you can enjoy this year. The Campustown Pub Tour will round out the 13 Thursdays promotion – featuring stops at 3 pubs, and complimentary food and drinks.
(One warning: there’s a lot of construction on campus every summer, so beware that some areas are a little less accessible than usual. Some streets have been re-made into one-way in recent years. Also: some restaurants and other business adapt summer hours. When it doubt, call.)
We’re listing 13 things to do on the University of Illinois campus this summer, with a focus on family friendly activities:
1) Thirteen Thursdays. This great event, which takes place every Thursday afternoon in the summer (between graduation and the beginning of the fall semester) has different themes and activities each week. Try new restaurants, do some shopping, park for free. And ….
2) See a movie on the Quad. Each week, there are FREE movies to be seen on the Quad. Some of these movies are more family friendly than others. Check our calendar.
3) Visit the Student Sustainable Farm Stand. On Thursdays — we’ve seen varying times; its Facebook page says 11 a.m.-4 p.m., while its website says noon-5 p.m. — the stand offers the produce is has grown on six acres in Urbana. Talk about fresh food. It doesn’t get better than this.
4) Go bowling. Yes, bowling. Head to the Illini Union Rec Room for some bowling fun. Keep in mind, the rec room is closed on Saturday and Sunday, but if you’re free from Monday through Friday (10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.), it’s worth considering.
5) Go to a Tea Ceremony. It’s one of those things you’ve been meaning to do: take advantage of the cultural opportunities available at Japan House. Available weekly through June, but note that Japan House is closed in July and most of August. Reservations are recommended.
6) Eat at some new restaurants. We have this older list of eight places to eat in Campustown; we would add a few to the list, including Pokelab and Cracked for fast casual places — and Naya for a grownup evening out.
7) Take a bike ride. We’ve written before about family friendly bike paths; while we wouldn’t recommend biking around campus while school is in session, when it’s empty there are few better places to bike than campus. There are ample bike paths and many other areas that are outside of traffic.
8) Walk around the athletics complex. Have you driven on St. Mary’s Road lately? If not, you might be interested to wander past the remarkable new soccer/track and field complex. The area is receiving a transformation, with current construction projects at the Ubben Basketball Complex, Eichelberger Field softball complex and Illinois Field baseball complex.
9) Go to Krannert Art Museum. The museum remains open in the summer, and is a favorite place to hide away for a few hours — and it’s nice and cool, too. Admission is free, donations accepted.
10) Grab a picture for posterity, or your holiday card, or just to be silly. The campus’ most famous picture spot is, of course, the Alma Mater statue. But there’s also a nifty, low-level, brick-and-mortar sign at the corner of several intersections (such as Lincoln Avenue and Green Street). And the soon-to-be iconic “Campustown” sign on the underpass of Green Street.
11) If you’re fairly new to the C-U area, by all means, take a driving tour. The U of I website offers this through driving-tour guide that will give you a quick and easy lowdown on all things Illini.
12) Go shopping. We love going to the Illini Union Bookstore for its great selection of Illini gear and quirky gifts (and let’s face it, my kids think they have the same taste as college kids). We also enjoy boutiques such as Fira (Urbana), more for the grownups. And, for some folks …
13) Check out the new Target store. “Target-o-philes” — and you know who you are — are obligated to check out the still-relatively-new, multi-level Target store on campus.
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