Where We Live
THE URBANA AND CHAMPAIGN COMMUNITIES
Urbana and Champaign together form a community of just over 125,000 people. The Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau site is one of the best sources of information about Champaign and our nearby communities which creates the larger Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan area which accounts for nearly 232,000. We are richly diverse in culture and ethnicity, and both Urbana and Champaign tend to be liberal and lively. In short, this gem of a community has all the advantages of a larger city at a much lower cost of living, and without the traffic and waiting lines! Check out the links to direct websites for each city: Urbana; Champaign and Savoy. So is it Champaign-Urbana, or Urbana-Champaign?
The official name of our congregation is the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign, whereas most people refer to the two cities collectively as Champaign-Urbana. This dates back to the University being founded in Urbana and the post office residing in Urbana. Champaign was later added to the official name of the university to account for its geographic location in the middle of the two towns. Other less formal names you will hear are ‘Chambana’ or Shampoo-Banana. Our church is considered part of the locally renowned architect Joseph Royer Arts & Architecture District, recognized by a sign at the front.
Depending on your preference for quaint, older neighborhoods, or for shiny new subdivisions- the local communities have housing of all types and for all price ranges. Our members also live in a variety of neighborhoods- many members like the state street neighborhood of Urbana which is within easy walking distance of the church as well as other historic Urbana neighborhoods. Although further from the church- you’ll also find interesting architecture and historic neighborhoods in Champaign. Champaign County Realtors is a good starting point, and some of our church members will be able to help guide you in your decision making process- being in the apartment and/or real estate business themselves. This MLS Listing link will take you directly to properties for sale. Ask us if you’d like recommendations for realtors.
COST OF LIVING
This cost of living calculator will help determine the salary you would need in Champaign-Urbana to have a comparable standard of living with your current situation. The price difference section helps compare costs, for housing, groceries, utilities and other expenditures. Select the state and city where you now live, under “I live in”; Select IL and Champaign-Urbana under “I want to live in” and move the dot on the bar to rest on your current salary. An economic overview of CU can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics site. Additional information can be found at the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.
EDUCATION, LIBRARIES, MUSEUMS, CULTURE AND THE ARTS
Because we are home to the University of Illinois, with an enrollment of 44,880 we have a lot to offer as a college town. More in-depth information can be found at this Wikipedia site: University of Illinois. The two cities have several interesting museums and cultural attractions, some of which are on campus such as the Spurlock Museum, the Illinois Natural History Museum and Japan House and gardens. The Museum of the Grand Prairie in nearby Mahomet is privately funded, and the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum is a great hit with kids. Explore the 10 best museums in the area according to TripAdvisor.
Parkland College is located in northwest Champaign and has an enrollment of around 10,000. It is a thriving community college known for excellent teaching. It is also the home of the unique Staerkel Planetarium.
Champaign-Urbana is served by two school Districts—Unit 4 in Champaign and Unit 116 in Urbana. Our congregation currently includes individuals who serve on each of the Boards of Education. They would both be happy to talk with you about either district.
Champaign Community School District Unit #4 serves more than 10,000 students in grades pre-K through 12 in Champaign, Savoy, and Bondville, Illinois. There are 19 campuses and Unit 4 offers numerous special programs, including gifted education in grades 2-5, dual-language elementary classrooms in English/Spanish and English/French, and a high school Bridges program for non-English speakers who have received little formal education in their native language. Recently Unit 4 was recognized by the College Board for increasing access to AP coursework for minority and low-income students while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP Exams.
For more information about Unit 4's Schools of Choice -- a system of assigning students in grades K-8 that takes into account the available programs, family preferences, and schools in proximity to one’s home -- please see the Welcome to Champaign Schools book (online at http://choice.champaignschools.org/files/ChoiceBook2016.pdf).
Urbana School District Unit #116 serves 4,449 students in grades pre-K through 12. Urbana has nine schools (1 early childhood school, 6 elementary schools, 1 middle school and 1 high school). USD has received awards for its Bilingual and Multicultural Programs, which includes a Two-Way Immersion Program. Urbana High School was one of only 20 schools from across the country to receive recognition in 2016 as a “School of Opportunity,” a coveted national designation honoring excellent public high schools by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). District #116 also partners with the Urbana Adult Education Center, which offers programs that consist of the following: GED, High School Diploma, English Language Acquisition, Certified Nursing Assistant, Continuing Education and Career Development. Additional information about USD, its teachers, students, administrators and academic progress, can be found at the Illinois Report Card, the state’s official source for information about public schools across Illinois.
LOCALLY GROWN- FRESH, TASTY AND FRAGRANT
You’ll find a number of UUs take advantage of these venues and many more that you can explore. There are more but these are some of the tried and true favorites:
A long standing Farmer’s Market at the Square in Urbana is a favorite Saturday activity for many and a Tuesday Farmer’s Market in Champaign is more recent but a good option for local produce during the week. Many options exist for locally grown and organic food. The best known is Common Ground Food Coop, an owner’s cooperative and grocery store but anyone can shop there. Two other long standing natural food sources is Strawberry Fields in Urbana and Natural Gourmet in Champaign. A number of local farm cooperatives include Sola Gratia Farm, Blue Moon Farm, and Moore Family Farm. If you are an aficionado of local wines, Alto Vineyards of Champaign is just one of several Central Illinois vineyards. Another local favorite is Curtis Orchard, with at least 30 varieties of apples, but also pumpkins, gourds, petting zoo, pony rides and other play activities for the kids. So many bakeries to choose from you’ll have a hard time deciding which you like best.
DINING AND NIGHT LIFE
Many different styles of dining and food can be found within CU and our environs. Check out the Food and Drink page of the local visitor’s bureau. The 10 Best CU restaurants as rated by TripAdvisor will also help guide your palate. Being a university town you will find that nightlife venues are also plentiful- and not just on campus.
The climate is quite comfortable, with all four seasons, and not many extremes. Urbana, which was originally called “Big Grove” lies on the prairie, near the confluence of five rivers. Part of the original big grove has been preserved in Busey Woods, at Crystal Lake Park. Close by and a favorite of all ages is the Anita Purves Nature Center. Speaking of parks, both cities have award winning park districts: Champaign Park District and Urbana Park District which includes local favorite Meadowbrook Park, a popular hiking/biking trail in the middle of a tall grass prairie. Looking for a longer hike? The trails at nearby Allerton Park and Conference Center are dotted with sculptures collected from around the world where you can also see original tall grass prairie. Check out the Department of Natural Resources. Even though east central Illinois itself is flat prairie, within two to three hours away you can find wonderful hiking, canoeing and kayaking opportunities with hills, cliffs and rock formations galore, such as those at Moraine View, Kickapoo, and Starved Rock State Parks, and Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. Both communities have pools and/or aquatic centers, the newest being the Crystal Lake Pool and Aquatic Center. Ice skating enthusiasts enjoy the U of I Ice Arena for year round skating. Many garden centers provide plenty of material for building your own landscape if gardening is a hobby, and places such as the U of I Arboretum and the Master Gardeners Idea Garden are amazing and inspirational.
MUSIC, ENTERTAINMENT, SPORTING EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
The university attracts world-class music, dance and theater performances to the four theaters at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. The fantastic acoustics of the Great Hall at Krannert has been chosen for recordings by major symphonies. You will find a large number of UU’s at the various performances there. The Champaign-Urbana Symphony and Sinfonia Da Camera offer frequent concerts as well. Many opportunities for a continuous flow of fascinating lectures and cultural offerings abound. Athletic events of all types can be found at the university as well as local schools and other groups. The State Farm Center, resembling a space ship emerging from the prairie, and originally built as The Assembly Hall, hosts numerous sporting events, concerts and other touring shows, circuses and community fairs. Champaign is home to the Ebertfest, well-known by film buffs everywhere and hosted at the restored historic Virginia Theater. Urbana has the Station Theater, showing plays featuring highly talented local actors. There is a very active live music scene, as you might expect in a university town with many local and traveling bands performing in nightclubs and other venues. Among music festivals- two local favorites are the Pygmalion Festival and the C-U Folk and Roots Festival. Dance is a popular activity- whether as active participant, such as at the Regent Ballroom, the Tango Society, Salsa or as an observer with the world renowned Dance Illinois department at the U of I. Movie theaters are in plentiful supply with the Savoy 16 IMAX, Carmike Cinemas, and for the eclectic movie goer The Art Theater Coop finds many UU’s being part owners as well as attendees. Make your own art with friends at the Art Party Studio. Make your own pottery at the CU Potters’ Club. There are activities galore. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to be bored around here, unless you’re just plain boring with no interests whatsoever!
Getaways from Champaign-Urbana – some are an easy drive:
GETAWAYS TO MAJOR CITIES – WITHIN 2 TO 3 HOURS:
Getaways to three major cities are another reason people love living here. We are a short trip to Chicago and Indianapolis at two hours each, and St. Louis at three hours. Amtrak runs regular trains to Chicago, and many people enjoy driving north to one of the Metra train stops to avoid driving and parking in the city. The plethora of students from the Chicago area assures many bus and shuttle options heading north. The University Of Illinois Willard Airport provides air access immediately. The Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington and the Indianapolis Airport are also popular with people looking for cheaper fares.
SO MUCH MORE…
So even if you clicked on a few of the above links, you’ll see that Champaign-Urbana is a difficult place to be bored! We’ve only scratched the surface and if there’s an interest we didn’t address above, just ask us and it’s likely there’s something we haven’t shared about these wonderful cities and region we call home!