Ready your Google Calendars. We’ve put together a list of the best events in Champaign-Urbana this spring. Some are small, some are big, but all are guaranteed to please.
March 19-April 30 – Prairie Fruits Farm Spring Open House
Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery is known to many through their participation in the Farmer’s Market. If you’ve never visited their farm north of Urbana, then you should take advantage of their spring open houses. Every Saturday morning between 9 and 12 you can stop by to check out the farm and get free goat-milk hot chocolate, coffee, and pastries. While you’re there, you can pick up some of their excellent meat, dairy products, and produce.
And remember, since it’s spring, you’ll be able to see some baby goats! (Bring your kids to see the kids…)
March 25 – Nite Lite Egg Pursuit XXIII
If you miss the excitement of Easter egg hunting, but don’t want to be a weirdo who steals candy from kids, then Champaign’s got you covered this Easter. The Nite Lite Egg Pursuit lets you run around Hessel Park at night looking for eggs filled with prizes. All you need is a flashlight and $10. The event starts at 8:10 p.m., but registration starts at 7:15.
March 26 – 26th Annual Egg Hunt
The Eggstravaganza is Champaign’s more traditional children’s egg hunt. This event is free and held at West Side Park. The egg hunt starts at 11 a.m. and there will be free hayrack rides from 10-10:45.
March 26 – Early Wildflower Hike – Allerton
It’s now just a few days into spring and flowers have already started to pop up. As we’ve said time and time again, Allerton‘s one of the best ways to experience the outdoors in Central Illinois. Go on a guided tour of early-blooming wildflowers along the Sangamon River this Saturday morning. The hike will be from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration is only $5 and can be done online.
April 1-3 – DoCha Festival
The Downtown Champaign Chamber Music Festival is a collaboration between C-U community members as well as students and faculty from UIUC. There are five events from Friday to Sunday, some designed to engage a younger audience and others aimed at adults. All shows will be held at the Orpheum Theater. All are free and are open to the public!
April 4 – 11th Annual Edible Book Festival
The Edible Book Festival is a collaboration between the University of Illinois Library and the University YMCA. Edible sculptures that look like books or focus on scenes in books are created, displayed, and eaten, with prizes given in a number of categories. The public viewing will start at 11:30 a.m. and the eating of the “books” will happen at 12:45 p.m.
If you’re interested in entering into the competition, you can register online.
April 7-9 – Boneyard Arts Festival
Run by the Champaign County Arts Council – 40 North | 88 West, the Boneyard Arts Festival‘s aim is to provide a venue for local artists to exhibit their work to the community, connecting together area artists, residents, businesses, and organizations. It offers events in Champaign, Urbana, and the UIUC campus, helping to fulfill the Art Council’s mission to bring the arts to everyone in the community.
Boneyard Arts Festival offers you a great opportunity to get a look at some work done by local artists in a massive variety of media. There’s painting, photography, sculpture, music, theater, poetry, performance and more.
There’s always so much to see. Really. So. Many. Interesting. Events. All over C-U. And for people of all ages and with all sorts of interests. They also typically have events in Rantoul, Homer, Mahomet, St. Joseph, and Sidney.
April 9 – Japan House Spring Open House
Japan House and the Arboretum made it on our guide to spring and with good reason. They’ve got beautiful gardens, interesting events, and cherry blossoms! On April 9th they’ll be holding an open house which means that not only can you see the grounds on a beautiful spring day, but you can also go to some great activities:
- Tea ceremonies and a special tea presentation
- Garden tours given by the gardens’ designer, Jim Bier
- An exhibition of Japanese Kokeshi dolls and a presentation about them
I should add that, save for the tea ceremony, which is being offered at the reduced rate of $5, all events will be free. For more information about the timing of events, see the event listing on their calendar and keep an eye on their Facebook page.
April 13-17 – Ebertfest
Ebertfest is a perennially popular festival with locals and visitors alike and 2016 marks its 18th year in C-U. As the name might suggest, it was begun by Roger Ebert, the famed Chicago Sun Times film critic and Urbana native. Its aim is to show movies that are of high quality but that did not receive the degree of recognition that they deserved upon their release. Over time this has shifted somewhat to also include classic films and, really, just a varied selection of good films in general. Movies are shown at the Virginia Theater, a historic cinema operated by the Champaign Park District, located in downtown Champaign one block west of West Side Park.
Although Ebert passed away in 2013, Ebertfest has remained a popular and relevant film festival, with recent years bringing well-known names like Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Patton Oswalt, and Jason Segel to C-U. This year’s guests include Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan’s Labyrinth.
The collection of films is always quite varied – from silent films to documentaries to art films to major releases. Screenings are followed by discussion, often with panelists who were involved in the making of the film. It’s really a great opportunity to see some interesting movies in a gorgeous theater and learn a bit about film. Few cities the size of Champaign can boast anything comparable.
For a listing of this year’s films, see their schedule. Tickets are available through the Virginia Theater. A festival pass, allowing you entry to all of the films screened, costs $150, while admission to an individual movie is $15/$13 students-seniors.
April 28-30 – The 8th Annual Illinois Marathon
Eight years on, the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon is now one of the biggest events of the spring. Come watch and support your friends or join in yourself! You can run a full marathon, a half marathon, a relay, a 10k, and a 5k. There are also youth runs. None of the events are full yet, so if you’re thinking about registering, there’s still time left!.
National Bike Month
Both in C-U and across the US, May is National Bike Month. That means that throughout May you’ll find lots of events promoting cycling. Keep an eye on the C-U Bike Month website and Facebook page to stay updated on events. A couple of them we’ll be listing below.
May 3 – Bike to Work Day – National Bike Month
One of the centerpieces of this month is Bike to Work Day. This day isn’t meant to just put the focus on bikes and biking, but rather to celebrate and promote integrating biking in our daily lives. Not only is biking a more environmentally conscious way of getting around, it’s also healthy and fun. Loads of cities in the US have events on this day and as Silver and Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Communities, Champaign and Urbana are no different.
Neutral Cycle has celebrated Bike to Work Day in the past by hosting a mobile repair station on the Engineering Quad. As we get closer to the date, there should be more information on the different activities and events that will be planned on this day. We’ll try and keep you updated!
For more information, check out Champaign County Bikes’ website and Facebook page. If you want to know about events related to National Bike Month all over the US, look to the League of American Cyclists’ page.
May 4 – Bike to School Day
Bike to School Day is the students’ counterpart to Bike to Work Day. The idea is the same: promote biking as a meaningful alternative to cars and public transportation.
May 7 – Urbana’s Market at the Square
Generally called the farmer’s market, Urbana’s Market at the Square comes back to C-U on May 7th. It’ll stay with us until November 5th, when it will again return to hibernation. Held from 7 a.m. to noon, the farmer’s market is your one-stop shop for local meat, eggs, produce, and dairy. If you’re interested in high-quality ingredients from local producers, this is one of the best places to visit in Central Illinois.
Not only is the farmer’s market a place to fill your pantry, it’s also a place where C-U comes together to meet. You’ll see old friends and you might even make some new ones. There’s a certain satisfaction to establishing a personal relationship with the people who make the food you eat.
And if you can manage the cobblestones in West Urbana, it’s a great excuse to go for a bike ride on a brisk Saturday morning.
May 14 – The Amazing Bike Race
Champaign Park District is organizing an amazing bike race called The Amazing Bike Race. Teams of 2-4 participants will race 8-10 miles through Champaign working to solve clues to arrive at the next checkpoint. The first three teams to finish will be awarded prizes. Helmets are required, so make sure to bring them!
June 4 – Homer Soda Festival
The Homer Soda Festival is held in Homer, IL, a town 20 miles southeast of Urbana. The Homer Soda Company is dedicated to sourcing and selling high-quality soda made by small companies all over the U.S. This festival not only celebrates interesting sodas, but also community. Go there to drink great soda, hear live bluegrass music, and get a taste of small-town Illinois life.
June 11 – Follow the Farmstead
Ever been interested in seeing some of the local farms situated around C-U? Follow the Farmstead will give you that opportunity. This is a family-friendly event where you have a chance to see what life is like on small Illinois farms and to learn about what’s involved in producing the food you eat. Admission is free and it’s a great way to see parts of Central Illinois that you don’t typically see.
June 18 – Kickapoo Rail Trail Duathlon
Participate in competitive or noncompetitive duathlons – that means running and biking – in the Kickapoo State Recreation Area. All the proceeds of this event will go towards building the Kickapoo Rail Trail, a multi-use trail to be built along a retired railroad corridor running between Urbana and Danville.
June 18 – Uncork Urbana 2016
Like wine? If yes, then you’ll like Uncork Urbana. Dedicated to celebrating wines produced in Illinois, this is a chance to enjoy Downtown Urbana along with wine, food, and music.
June 18 – StreetFest
StreetFest will be held in Downtown Champaign on June 18th (and on July 16th) from 7 p.m. to midnight. Listen to local bands and sample local food and drink.