Champaign-Urbana, Illinois


Fighting Chambanas!

The Best Thing About Champaign-Urbana?

Dual Worlds

In many college towns the schools utterly dominate and everything you can do in town is driven by the school. The schools may offer a lot of sports/cultural activities but if you don’t want to hang on campus or tire of the college/student scene then you’re out of luck. Champaign-Urbana is big enough to offer you both worlds. The school has all the energy, sports, culture and education amenities a local could want or have access to but the towns of Champaign and Urbana each offer interesting downtowns with theaters, music venues and excellent restaurants, bars and cafes. For singles, couples and families who are not students this dual opportunity for social and cultural experiences is a big bonus.

Mini-review from a local: It’s a nice enough place to live, although as others have noted it lacks natural scenery. The university is a plus because it enables more dining and entertainment options than you would find in a non-college city of its size. It has a pretty fair regional Airport, Amtrak to Chicago, good interstate access and a friendly populace.

The Worst Thing About Champaign-Urbana?

The Drives

The airport at Champaign-Urbana is pretty tiny, which means you’re going to have to drive a couple hours to Chicago or Indianapolis for bigger airport route options or puddle jump to a bigger airport before taking your direct flight. Big travelers will find this a pain. Also, if you want the best outdoor experiences locals will note you need to take a drive – at least 20-30 minutes to smaller local options and an hour plus to the state parks etc..

Check out a locals pov on the Willard local airport: It’s the cost. Willard only serves commercial flights with an American Airlines affiliated regional airline. They currently only run flights to and from Chicago and Dallas. So that really only limits your flight options to OneWorld affiliated airlines and you will likely have a connection in Chicago anyway. The only cost effective way to fly in and out of Champaign is buying flights with airline miles, as that’s usually a set rate for any domestic flight. But really, it might not even be worth your time if the connection is greater than 3 hours anyway, so you can just take the bus from Chicago.

Lifestyle of Champaign-Urbana

As noted there is a lot of cultural activity around town, both on and off campus. The Krannert Center is the big performing arts event space on campus and offers free concerts, theater performances and speaking events. Classes are available for audit on campus and the library system in both towns are excellent. Both downtowns have excellent traditional american and ethnic food choices. There are theaters and music venues in each town, farmer’s markets and plenty of parks and city and neighborhood association activities throughout the year. Families enjoy those park systems, ball fields and excellent school systems that so frequently are found in college towns where professors and locals insist on great public schools for their kiddos.

Check out the calendar of events for CU (Champaign-Urbana) to see what's going on over the course of a year:

Workstyle of Champaign-Urbana

Like a lot of college towns, the largest employer here is the university in particular and the education systems in general. Healthcare is also very typically #2. Champaign-Urbana, like some of the more robust economic college towns, particularly in the midwest, has some manufacturing, tech and finance employers and jobs. All of this means you’ll find a more robust economy here than other smaller options. One note of caution – you’re a couple hours from the larger cities of Chicago and Indianapolis so if working remotely is not an option then commuting won’t work if you move here and find yourself needing a job you can’t get in town.

Why You Should Move Here Now?

Champaign-Urbana is quite affordable relative to the bigger cities nearby and relative to other college towns in neighboring states like Ann Arbor or Columbus. Like those two competitors you get a great university experience but you also get an interesting, entertaining in-town experience separate from what the school has to offer. That makes the amazing college town experience quite reasonable.