Life in Champaign-Urbana

Champaign-Urbana is a surprisingly diverse, micro-metropolitan community known for its urban amenities yet small-town affordability, accessibility, safety, and friendliness.

The twin cities (often affectionately called “Chambana” or simply CU) include three downtown districts—Champaign, Urbana and Campustown. As a whole, they create a dynamic and vibrant community with a lively cultural scene and numerous recreational opportunities. Hailed by Midwest Living as a “Great Midwest Food Town,” CU boasts a wide array of restaurants, micro-breweries and cafes. (Go to Visit Champaign County for more details.)

Where to Live

Whether you’re looking for a quiet tree-lined neighborhood or the bustle of a larger apartment complex, you’ll find an array of affordable options in Champaign-Urbana. The Office of Off-Campus Community Living has valuable information and resources related to the area rental process. While off-campus housing is most popular, there are a limited number of other University housing options.

Culture and Music Scene

Hailed by Midwest Living as a “Great Midwest Food Town,” Champaign-Urbana is a foodie’s paradise. It also boasts an assortment of shopping, coffee houses, clubs, live music venues, movie theaters and athletic events. A major center for the arts, the University of Illinois attracts dozens of internationally renowned artists each year to more than 350 performances held at the widely acclaimed Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Champaign is also the home of the celebrated Ebertfest, Roger Ebert’s annual film festival, and several large music festivals, including the Pygmalion Festival (pictured here), ELLNORA, The Guitar Festival and a Folk and Roots Festival.


The state-of-the-art Activities and Recreation Center is one of the premier campus recreation facilities in the country. Among its many features are a 35-foot climbing wall, two indoor tracks, indoor and outdoor pools, a sauna, and an instructional kitchen where wellness classes are held. Carle Illinois students have organized teams for some of the 30+ intramural sports and 40+club sports offered on campus.

Champaign and Urbana also have many award-winning parks with paths, recreation facilities, programs and sports leagues. The Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in the spring is another popular event for Illinois students. Or drive a half hour East to go camping, mountain biking, canoeing and tubing at Kickapoo State Park. Just over an hour away is Turkey Run (pictured here, with Carle Illinois students), where you can explore the sandstone gorges and ravines. 

Getting Around Town

Champaign-Urbana’s award-winning mass transit bus system covers the majority of the twin cities and is free to students. With a convenient schedule to and from Carle Illinois facilities, it’s a great option and very popular. Pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly, Champaign-Urbana has a growing number of bike lanes on shared roads. Each MTD bus is also equipped with an easy-to-use bike rack. Uber, Lyft and Zipcar are also available.