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Top things to do in Urbana Champaign – a student’s guide

Home to the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Illinois is a great choice for college students. But don’t just take our word for it!

Check out why so many students choose to live and study in the Urbana Champaign area - including the best places to eat, drink, and hang out with friends.

The best places to eat in Urbana Champaign

From classic BBQ food to mouthwatering fried chicken, there are plenty of delicious food options for everyone to tuck into.

Here are our top four recommendations in the Urbana Champaign area…

Watson’s Shack & Rail

Watson’s Shack & Rail is a chicken shack, bar, and restaurant in the heart of downtown Champaign. There’s plenty to dig into on the menu, including firecracker shrimp, fried Brussel sprouts, and a whole lotta delicious chicken. Try it for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.

Big Grove Tavern

Big Grove Tavern describes themselves as ‘a classic tavern with a modern twist’ – and that’s exactly what they are. Serving up hand-cut steaks, Cuban chicken, surf & turf tacos, and plenty more – you’re sure to find a dish on the menu to satisfy every hunger!

Papa Del’s

Papa Del’s is an iconic pizzeria serving classic deep dish Chicago style pizza, with a huge range of tasty toppings to choose from. Papa Del’s has been rated Urbana-Champaign’s best pizzeria for more than 40-years, so it’s definitely a bucket list place to visit during your time here. 

Black Dog Smoke & Ale House

Looking for a quirky restaurant to eat and hang with friends? Black Dog is the place to be. Set in an old train depot, this BBQ spot has a range of meaty dishes - including ribs, brisket, and burgers.  If you’re of the legal age, you can pair your food with one of their famous refreshing craft beers too.

The best places to drink in Urbana Champaign

Urbana Champaign has a great range of places to drink, from suave sports bars to traditional Irish pubs. Just remember, the state of Illinois has a strict 21+ drinking policy, so don’t forget your ID! 

Murphy’s Pub

Bringing Ireland to Illinois, Murphy’s Pub has over 25 beers on tap, and has been serving Urbana Champaign since 1969. If you’re not a beer lover, don’t worry. Murphy’s also has a great selection of ciders and liquors – sure to tantalize every tastebud.


Located in the heart of campus town, Legends is a popular sports bar with classic American food. If you want to kick back and hang out with friends, it’s for sure the place to be, thanks to its affordable drinks, outdoor beer garden, and pool room.


Bentley’s Pub

Bentley's Pub is a downtown bar with a friendly neighborhood vibe. If you’re a lover of cocktails, Bentley’s is the go-to place in the Urbana Champaign area. With plenty of hand-fused cocktails, and prices starting from just $5, what could go wrong?

Seven Saints

If you’re looking for a place that has it all, Seven Saints serves a great selection of craft beer, cocktails, and wine.. Not only are their drinks great, but they also serve up legendary sliders and tasty bar food too!

Top attractions and things to do in Urbana Champaign

Take a break from studying and get out and about in Urbana Champaign. Ready to explore?

Check out our favorite things to do in the area…

Elevate Trampoline Park

Spend the day bouncing round Elevate Trampoline Park and get fit whilst doing so! Located on the outskirts of Dodds Park, you can embrace your inner acrobat while enjoying an awesome day out with your friends.

Krannet Art Museum

Immerse yourself in culture as you take in stunning period pieces at the Krannet Art Museum. Admission is free, and you can expect to see all periods of art, from Ancient Egyptian pieces, to modern-day photography.


UI Ice Arena

Get your skates on at UI Ice Arena! With its state-of-the-art amenities and well-maintained ice surfaces, the arena provides a great environment for both recreational and competitive skaters. If the ice isn’t for you, why not catch a game from the stands instead?


Hessel Park

If you want to enjoy a day out in nature, we’d recommend visiting Hessel Park. Just a 10-minute walk from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, this charming urban oasis features well-maintained green spaces, walking paths, and a serene pond.

So, there you have it! That’s our guide to the best things to do in Urbana Champaign. But, have you thought about your accommodation? Choose from Yugo Champaign South 3rd Lofts or Yugo Urbana Illinois, and get ready for an awesome time in Illinois!