Best Places to Live

Champaign, IL

Population: 84,008
iStock Photo/eyfoto

Why It’s a Great Place to Go to College: You may know Champaign better by its nickname “Chambana,” which is what you get when you squish Champaign together with its sister city, Urbana. No matter what you call it, this thriving city is home to the University of Illinois, the state’s flagship campus and a world-class research institution with more than 33,000 students from all 50 states. Students here are successful after they finish their studies, too: a recent campus survey found that 89 percent of grads were working or continuing their education within six months of graduation.

“Everywhere you go throughout the country and the world people recognize an Illini. We have a world-class academic institution and an environment where it is easy to fit in and meet new people,” says Connor Josellis, a senior studying journalism and the student body president.

Why You Should Put Down Roots Here (Even After Graduation): Even if you’re not a University of Illinois alum, the passion for college sports here is contagious. On top of that, Champaign is home to several Fortune 500 companies and has a flourishing startup scene. If you like to spend time outdoors, you should know that Champaign has dozens of parks, five forest preserves and several farms and wineries you can visit. All these factors and more helped Champaign earn a spot on Livability's list of 2019 Top 100 Best Places to Live.

Coolest Campus Tradition: Illinois is “the Land of Lincoln” (President Abraham Lincoln served as a state legislator here), so it makes complete sense that students rub the nose of good ol’ Abe’s bust for good luck before taking tests. 

Best Place to Get Out and About: The 700 acres of parks, trails and green spaces in Champaign

Best Fourth Meal: Mac-and-cheese bites, wings and a Cinnamon Toast Crunch milkshake from Wingin Out

Place to Be on a Saturday Night: The Red Lion, a popular bar with medieval decor

Beloved Brewery: The Blind Pig Brewery, a downtown spot with an awesome patio

Best Bookstore (for non-textbooks): Jane Addams Book Shop

Favorite Coffee Shop Study Spot: Cafe Kopi

Local Dream Job: An archivist at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, which has an amazing collection of materials and exhibits about John Philip Sousa and other important musical moments and historical figures.

What Keeps Alumni Coming Back: Hands down, the Fighting Illini. Alumni can’t help but wear blue and orange and join in on chants of “I-L-L … I-N-I” on gameday.