Once again, Illinois Fighting Illini Football is in a rebuild. A fanbase still hurting from the Tim Beckman era following the fall of the Zook regime is going to need some more results before they pack the house again. This is good news for you, intrepid traveler, because it means you can probably find tickets for your road game in Champaign for pretty cheap. So should you go?
First off, let me address a myth. The only place where farm animals are kept anywhere near campus is near the veterinary medicine school on the southeast edge of the campus area. I don’t know what things were like before 2007, but if you’re in Memorial Stadium and you smell poop, check your vicinity for either a freshman that didn’t know how to marathon-drink or an oblivious Iowegian.
Now that that’s out of the way, yes you should go. The vast expanses of plains surrounding Chambana (also known as “the broad green fields that nourish our land”) can be a beautiful thing to behold on a sunny day in the fall, and There are plenty of things to see. But you’ll want to get there Friday night, since the game probably kicks off at 11 central. I don’t know what to tell you about hotels other than that the Hilton is within a few blocks of the stadium.
If you’re feeling adventurous, get your party started at Hollywood Liquors on Green and Neil.
Actually, don’t do that. This place is pretty sketchy. But if you keep going down Neil, you’ll get to downtown Champaign, which is a pretty decent place to grab a drink. The Blind Pig Brewery is among the most popular beer spots in the area. Champaign is definitely where the more upscale nightlife is, relatively speaking.
The first thing you should do Saturday is check to see if I’m in town, because if so we’re doing orange and blue shots
I highly recommend checking out our fledgling tailgate scene right on the west side of the stadium, particularly Grange Grove. It’s been pretty populated for all the games I’ve been to since it opened. The Red Grange statue overlooks the whole thing.
Should you happen to be there early in the season, make sure to watch not only the Marching Illini at halftime but also the card stunts in Block I (North End Zone). This is the birthplace of both the college football marching band and the card stunt.
Odds are the Illini will fall behind in the second half enough that people will start leaving. Feel free to move closer to the bottom of your section. However, do note that any Illini fans still present at the end of a 3-touchdown loss will probably not want to talk to you for at least 20 minutes. This is a jaded group that likes to solemnly soak it all in. No seriously give me a half hour or so before approaching me. I’ll be fine, I promise. I just need a little time.
In the event that Illinois wins...hey, we Illini fans are just as surprised as you. Those of us experienced enough to know what it’s like to lose a game you should absolutely win will probably even buy you a shot. Let’s make merriment.
In any case, assuming it was an early game, there’s still plenty of daylight. So check out some major campus icons. Head northeast from the stadium and you’ll find yourself on the Quad.
Can’t you just feel the nostalgia already? At the north end of the quad is the Illini Union, which also has a hotel if you’re feeling swanky. For the engineering enthusiasts, the Engineering Quad is north across Green Street.
In the center is what effectively served as my prison cell for the 2011-12 school year, also known as the Mechanical Engineering Lab. On the left is the enormous Grainger Engineering Library, the largest engineering library in the country. On a bench near the entrance sits Grainger Bob, a statue in a constant state of study.
Anyway, the biggest campus icon to check out is at the southeast corner of Wright and Green: the Alma Mater
Across Wright Street you’ll find the campustown bar scene. One block to the west of the Alma Mater is the veritable stalwart that is Murphy’s Pub. In an ever-changing Green Street, Murphy’s is the constant. Have a beer and carve “GO IOWA AWESOME” into a table or something.
Campustown a little too upscale for you? Want to get your frat on? Did you skip leg day? Then I have the solution for you. Head two block south of Green Street to 6th and Daniel and there you’ll find KAM’S. Feel your age as 19-year-olds surround you, then drink so much you don’t even notice. Get in a great quad workout by getting your feet unstuck from the floor. Play a rousing game of Pee In The Alley Without Getting Spotted By The Cops. See where the night leads.
Hopefully it will lead two blocks east to 4th and Daniel, where for a limited time you can join the hallowed annals of Illini Inn Mug Club membership. Experience a tradition untainted by the millienialization of college culture in this legendary hole in the wall. Better hurry and cross this one off your bucket list, because they’re supposed to knock down the building at any time.
So it’s Sunday morning and you’re feeling disheveled, but the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day in East Central Illinois. Stumble over to one of the several Merry Ann’s Diner locations in Chambana (Neil and Kirby, perhaps?) and get yourself a horseshoe or a diner stack to stave off that hangover. If you can make it all the way over to Kirby and Lincoln, there’s a beautiful arboretum there to walk through to get some blood flowing and help you wake up.
On your way out of town, stop by Curtis Orchard to pick some apples and/or pumpkins, get some cider and some donuts and get your quaint on.
Head out on to the highway and enjoy the open road. Sure, there are some more things to see here, but if you’re going in for your first weekend trip, these are some of my recommendations. Be prepared for wind, heat, cold, rain, pretty much anything. And seriously, the second I get over the indignity of seeing another team celebrate on our field once again, I’ll be glad to grab a drink with you, but not a moment before then.
What’s the #1 thing to see in Chambana?
This poll is closed
State Farm Center
Morrow Plots (A Famous Cornfield)
South Quad Bell Tower (Eye of Sauron)
The Silver Bullet
How Many Drinks Will You Have With Thumpasaurus?
This poll is closed
nope nope nope nope nope
Let’s nurse a single beer
Gimme some Orange and Blue shots
One drink for every point in the margin of victory
1-on-1 Keg Race