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Champaign County, Illinois

Art, Food & Offbeat Fun in Champaign County

By Hitomi Farrell

Located just 2.5 hours south of Chicago, Champaign, Illinois, is a town of art, food and education. It is also home to a campus of the University of Illinois and several major, big-name companies. Recently, Nerd Wallet ranked Champaign-Urbana in their Top 10 best place for work-life balance. No wonder this charming, active town attracts so many students and visitors from all over the world, and I was happy to be among them.

Downtown Champaign

With its combination of historical and modern architecture, downtown Champaign has a charming, small-town atmosphere. The lovely town and its attractions make for a great weekend trip if you’re in a nearby big city like Chicago.

Downtown Champaign is lined with stylish boutique stores and gourmet restaurants, making it the perfect place to find a unique gift, have a great date or just pass the afternoon. The vibrant energy invites you to stroll around the town all day. Stop in at the Blind Pig Brewery for locally brewed beer and catch Friday Night Live, a free concert series held every Friday evening during summer.

Challenge the Corn Maze at Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch

Have you ever wanted to walk through a corn maze like you see on TV? Then you’ll be super excited to go to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch. Hardy’s is one of the only-in-Champaign experiences you should have, and is a really fun way to get in a festive mood as the holiday season begins. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a herd of Alaskan reindeer and 5,000 Christmas trees. Step inside the 100-year-old barn gift shop to purchase tickets for the 10-acre corn maze. Set aside a couple of hours for this labyrinth – you’ll need from 1-3 hours to find all of the checkpoints and find your way out of the maze. For the ultimate challenge and thrill, try it at night! (Note that the corn maze is only open in the fall.)

Theater and Performing Arts in Champaign

For an evening out on the town, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Illinois hosts many concerts by a variety of local and international musicians, as well as events, festivals and performing arts. It’s a year-round art destination – a must-see for arts and culture aficionados. Be sure to stop by the gift shop for a selection of quirky gifts and unique chocolates. The Stage 5 Bar is a great meeting spot for your date or group.

Arts, culture, food, entertainment and history – if that sounds like a holiday to you, then Champaign, Illinois, should be on the itinerary for your next American getaway.

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