Freshman Ryan Smith, a general studies major who grew up in Chicago, previously thought that Green Street was downtown Champaign. He was shocked, and a bit skeptical, to hear that Champaign is a fairly big city and that its focal point lies outside of Illinois’ campus.
Champaign is not nearly as big or developed as Chicago, but it has come a long way.
Downtown Champaign is only about a mile north of Green Street, but it can serve as a much-needed getaway from the spots Illinois students are used to seeing. The short trip from U of I’s campus can be accessible through cars, city buses, bikes and even walking if need be.
“[Downtown is] more local, more eclectic and probably a little more expensive,” Jeff Hamilton, Communications Manager for the City of Champaign, said.
He also said that the biggest difference between Campustown and downtown are the demographics. The downtown area is usually filled with an older crowd and is slightly geared towards the people who live in Champaign.
However, this isn’t to say that downtown isn’t also a great hangout spot for college students.
When the weather is nice, hundreds of people can be seen sitting outside on any given day enjoying one of downtown’s fine-dining restaurants or bars. There are dozens of restaurants to choose from, most of which are locally owned.
Freshmen Dan Kummerer, an agricultural accounting major, recently made the trip downtown to eat at the “Western Burger” at Guido’s Bar and Grill. Guido’s gave Kummerer “the best meal he’s had all semester, by far.”
Aside from quality food, downtown Champaign encompasses a brewery, performing arts center, art theater, children’s museum, newspaper headquarters, bookstore and a jewelry shop. The city also hosts food and film festivals year-round as well as parades and concerts.
Downtown Champaign has much to offer Illinois students, which leads to the question: Why do some Illinois students shy away from going there?
According to freshman journalism major Jimmy Burnette, it has nothing to do with the distance. Jimmy has his own car on campus and he still never makes the trip downtown.
“I have everything I need on campus,” Burnette said.
Burnette, along with many other students, is not particularly interested in spending more money on higher quality food. As a baseball player, he doesn’t have much time to visit museums or go to concerts. For now, he’ll stick to Green Street.
Hamilton says that if any University student is hesitant to visit downtown Champaign, it’s probably for the sake of convenience. He called Campustown “its own little community” and some students might just find it easier to stay there.
Genevieve Kirk, the Executive Director for the Champaign Center Partnership, “hope[s] that students will have a chance to wander past Green Street to see what’s available north of Campustown.”
What’s out there could surprise you.