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10 Reasons Champaign, IL, Is a Great Place To Live

Plenty to see and do, plus unique experiences you won’t find elsewhere in Illinois, make Champaign a stand-out place to live.

By Erica Buehler on December 30, 2022

Glow sticks and plenty of Illini pride light up State Farm Center as members of the Orange Krush cheer on the University of Illinois men's basketball team. The work of the Orange Krush does more than just help the team on the court. As a branch of the registered student organization, Illini Pride, at the University of Illinois at UrbanañChampaign, Orange Krush members fund raise, donating more than $2 million to help local and national charities.
Fred Zwicky

ChampaignUrbana, IL, is known as a charming college town, but if that’s the extent of your knowledge, you may be surprised to learn all the amenities the greater Urbana-Champaign area has to offer.

Named Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Food Town, home to the Division 1 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the state’s only International Dark Sky Park, and proudly showcasing affordable living, short commutes and several thriving industries full of job opportunities, to say Champaign is a great place to live is quite the understatement. 

We could go on and on about all the advantages of living in Champaign County, but in a nutshell, here are ten reasons ChampaignUrbana, IL, is a great place to live.

Diwali, Indiian Festival of Lights on University of Illinois Quad.
L. Brian Stauffer
Diwali, Indiian Festival of Lights on University of Illinois Quad.

1. Diversity is a point of pride here.

Champaign is home to Illinois’ flagship university, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which welcomes more than 11,000 international students each year. That diversity flows into the community, where many cultures, languages, faiths and cuisines coexist and create a wonderfully rich civic life. Champaign celebrates holidays from a variety of cultures each year with festivals for Diwali, the Lunar New Year, and more, and has many museums, cultural centers and exhibits — like the Champaign County African American Heritage Trail — that encourage the education and celebration of different cultural histories.

A passenger and desk agent at the Willard Airport in Champaign County, Illinois.
Courtesy of Visit Champaign County

2. Its geographical location means unparalleled connectivity.

Champaign sits midway between Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis, each of which is only a short drive away. Nearby towns like Peoria and Bloomington are also quick jaunts from the center of town. Don’t feel like driving? No worries, just grab a ticket and hop on the Amtrak from downtown to Chi-Town or New Orleans. But if you’re trying to get somewhere a little farther away, travel is still easy; Champaign’s Willard Airport offers daily flights to both Chicago’s O’Hare and Dallas/Fort Worth airports, meaning you can easily get anywhere in the world while living in one of the best counties in the state.

KAM Fest on August 29, 2019 Photo: Della Perrone for Krannert Art Museum
Della Perrone

3. It’s very affordable.

With a cost of living that’s a whopping 29% lower than Chicago’s — but with all the benefits of three major metro areas nearby — planting roots in ChampaignUrbana is almost a no-brainer. The median home listing price in Champaign is a reasonable $192,000, and rent averages $915 per month, so prospective residents can purchase a home affordably and still have resources left over for all the things that matter, like traveling, enjoying Champaign’s many amenities and attractions, and enjoying the perks of Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis.

Aerial shot of Sakanaya in Champaign, IL.
Courtesy of Visit Champaign County

4. It has an amazing culinary scene supported by local farmers and producers.

One of the perks of the diverse community spilling over from the University of Illinois is an equally varied and impressive culinary scene. As a result, it retains the title of Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Food Town, with many international cuisines such as Korean, Congolese and West African, Filipino, and many, many more. Moreover, being surrounded by agriculture, chefs and restaurants in Champaign have a steady supply of fresh, local ingredients. (And the farmers markets are pretty great, too!)

Players take the field as the Fighting Illini battle Nebraska during a matchup at Memorial Stadium.
Fred Zwicky

5. There’s a vibrant arts and entertainment scene.

One of the residents’ favorite aspects of Champaign is its arts and entertainment opportunities, including more than a dozen museums (most of which are free), a plethora of public art and live music events year-round. Much of the public arts and live performances come from the university, whose offerings — like the Krannert Art Museum — draw in locals and visitors alike. All of this, plus arts and music festivals in warmer months, make ChampaignUrbana one of the most arts-accessible towns in the state.

Champaign IL
Champaign / iStock/leightrail

6. College sports are big here, and there’s always a game on.

This may not be much of a surprise since ChampaignUrbana is a college town. But here, football is big, and the sports culture attracts a diverse community. Join the masses and cheer on the Fighting Illini, whose football and basketball teams (and more) represent Champaign in the Big Ten Conference. And, with state-of-the-art facilities, Champaign can host major sporting events like the NCAA Tennis Championships, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics Championships, and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Basketball and Wrestling State Championships.

The St. Elmo Brady S.T.E.M. Academy Science Fair was held at the Garden Hills Elementary School, Champaign, IL on May 2, 2015.
Joyce Seay-Knoblauch

7. You’ll find thriving industries and plentiful work opportunities here.

Even if you spontaneously move to ChampaignUrbana on a whim, finding a job won’t be difficult. The area’s No. 1 employer is the university, meaning the field of education is the top industry for job opportunities. However, health care is a rapidly growing industry, given that Champaign is home to three separate hospital systems. Additionally, agriculture tech is (naturally) pretty huge when it comes to job opportunities and education. Tools like the You’re Welcome Champaign-Urbana Job Board make finding jobs in the greater Champaign area one of the easiest things to do.

Two women biking in Champaign, IL.
Courtesy of Visit Champaign County

8. Outdoor activities are accessible throughout the year.

With the added perk that every household (yes, every single one!) is within a 1/2 mile of a park or green space, there are also six forest preserves nearby where people can enjoy hiking, biking and water activities such as kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Bird watching is also a popular pastime for many residents, and Champaign’s Middle Fork River is home to the state’s only International Dark Sky Park, perfect for camping and viewing the stars. Still, in and around town, there’s plenty of access to hiking and biking trails as well as bike lanes on streets and several bike rentals and shops.

A bus runs through Champaign-Urbana, IL.
Courtesy of Visit Champaign County

9. There’s a great public transit system.

Driving is undoubtedly made easy here, especially considering the average commute is only 15 minutes (also the average time it takes you to get from one end of town to the other). But the available bike lanes and public transit system are so accessible that user numbers are comparable — and sometimes exceed — those of larger metro areas. Moreover, students and staff (including retired staff) at the University of Illinois get transit passes as part of their tuition or employment, making navigating the community easy.

People chatting at the Boneyard Arts Festival in Champaign, IL.
Courtesy of Visit Champaign County

10. Work-life balance is attainable here.

If you think about how much more free time you gain with a shorter commute, the world opens itself up for so much more exploring, travel and activity right in town. You can pack a lot more into a single day here — like those free museum visits or park hangs — and with the short commute from one end of town to the other, you can get places quickly and utilize your time better for an ideal quality of life.

This article was sponsored by Visit Champaign County.

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