Best Places to Live

Champaign, IL

Population: 84,008
Photo: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Why It's a Great Place to Go to College: Champaign (along with its twin city Urbana) is where you’ll find the University of Illinois, the state’s flagship campus. This Midwestern school has one of the largest living alumni groups in the country, which means students often find instant connections wherever they land after graduation. The more than 33,000 undergraduate and 11,000 graduate and professional students regularly turn out to support the university’s Division I athletic teams that play in the Big 10 conference, including the Fighting Illini football team.

Why It's a Great Place to Live (Even If You're Not a Student): Champaign is conveniently located near three major U.S. cities (and their airports) — Chicago to the north, St. Louis to the southwest and Indianapolis to the east — so residents (and employers) can get anywhere in the world with relative ease. But beyond that, Champaign has a delicious dining scene, an awesome farmers market and tons of outdoor recreation options, making it an ideal place for anyone to live.

What Sets It Apart From Other College Towns: Champaign may feel like a small town, but it offers Illini all the amenities and activities of a big city. Plus, students have the opportunity to network and land internships at more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies based in Champaign County — and who wouldn’t want that to help jumpstart their career?

Iconic Pizza Place: Jupiter’s Pizzeria and Billiards

Brunch Spot: Cracked the Egg Came First

Tailgating Must-Have: The most over-the-top orange outfit you can muster. And on your way to Memorial Stadium, be sure to stop by the entrance of Lincoln Hall to rub the bust of Abraham Lincoln’s nose for good luck.

Shopping Street: North Neil Street

Best Local Hangover Cure: Drag yourself out of bed and head over to Aroma Cafe in downtown Champaign for a strong cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll.

Best Place to Grab a Cheap Beer: Murphy’s Pub

Local Dream Job: Farmer at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, where a herd of Nubian and LaMancha goats are living their best life by roaming free before their milk is turned into delicious cheese and gelato.