Smile Politely

We’re looking forward to summer in C-U

We prematurely slammed into summer last weekend as temperatures neared 100 degrees, and it got us thinking about our summer plans. Even if your livelihood isn’t bound by some sort of school schedule, the vibe around here shifts in the summer. There’s a flurry of new activity options, but with an undercurrent of ease. Our natural spaces, patios, and downtowns come alive. C-U and Central Illinois may have neither ocean access or mountain trails, nor the sheer quantity of entertainment options of a sprawling metropolis, but we have a lot going for us, and there are so many ways to enjoy all that our community has to offer over the next few months.

Here are some of the things we’re looking forward to this summer.

Fun in the water

Despite being landlocked, there are many ways to cool off and enjoy the water around here. Sholem Aquatic Center and Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center are set to open in a little more than a week. There are definitely times during the day when these locales are not a relaxing spot to be, but if you are strategic with your timing you can take a dip without being splashed and overwhelmed by children. Late afternoons usually have waning crowds, as camps pack up and families that arrived at opening are ready to head out. Keep an eye out for adult swim events at Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center. 

If you’re willing to drive a bit, there are some options within about an hour’s drive of C-U to cool off. Kickapoo State Recreation Area, with the Vermillion River carving its way through, is a great place to do some canoeing, kayaking, or tubing. You can bring your own boats and/or flotation devices, or go through Kickapoo Adventures. Kingfisher Kayaking can get you set up on the Sangamon River, to canoe or kayak with varying levels of difficulty. If you want somewhere with a beach for swimming, try Clinton Lake, just 40 minutes west of here. 

Outdoor music

Whether in a parking lot, on a patio, or in a park, we’re here for outdoor music. We are thrilled with the continuation of Rose Bowl Tavern parking lot shows, but that is just one way to hear local musicians outdoors. Both park districts have regularly scheduled free concerts in the park. Urbana Park District’s Neighborhood Nights are on Wednesday evenings in June and July. Champaign Park District has Hessel Park concerts and Jazz in the Park once a month, plus two Street Fests in Downtown Champaign. The Champaign County Forest Preserve District has a summer concert series starting in June, so keep an eye out for those dates.

Keep an eye on The Overture for opportunities to hear live music on patios this summer, but you can pretty reliably count on Rose Bowl, Pour Bros, NOLA’s, Bentley’s, and Seven Saints to come through with these experiences. Friday Night Live returns in June, and it’s really hard to beat having a leisurely meal on a Downtown Champaign patio while music wafts through the air. Dance Music Therapy is back this summer, happening once a month at the Lake House at Crystal Lake Park. Alto Vineyards and Allerton also have live music all summer.

Events and festivals

Summer is the time for larger events — combining music, food, makers, and more — and there are plenty to look forward to. Over the past few years, Juneteenth has been coupled with Buy Black Chambana’s Black Restaurant Week. HV Neighborhood Transformation is hosting a Juneteenth event this year in Crestview Park on June 18th to kick off 40 days of peace summer gatherings. Toast to Taylor Street has gone from a one time event to a summer series in Downtown Champaign. Pour Bros is hosting a new music festival, Summer Soul, on Memorial Day weekend, and Spindependence on July 2nd and 3rd. 

All the other outside things

Whether we are eating and drinking, watching a movie, shopping, or getting some exercise in, we are looking forward to all of the other outdoor opportunities in the summer. Enjoying a beer at Riggs at sunset, a snowstorm at Jarling’s with friends around a picnic table, or dinner al fresco on one of the many patios in C-U (something we came to appreciate even more as we’ve navigated this pandemic) are just lovely experiences. We are fortunate to still have a drive-in movie theater in our general vicinity, with Harvest Moon just up Route 47 in Gibson City, where you can sit under the stars and watch new releases and old favorites. 

It’s farmers’ market season, which means we will have access to produce and other goods from area vendors on the regular. There’s just something wonderful about strolling through the Market at the Square on a sparkling Saturday morning and walking away with some strawberries or peaches, some veggies for dinner, and maybe a bouquet of flowers. If you don’t want to get up early on a Saturday, the Champaign Farmers’ Market gives you another chance after work on Tuesdays. 

Illinois Race Weekend may be over, but there are so many upcoming races, if running and/or walking is your thing. Second Wind Running Club does training runs every Thursday at 6 p.m., and they end up at Riggs after. It’s $20 for an annual membership. They sponsor some races throughout the summer, and have a great list of all races happening in the area. For an in-town and short and sweet race, the Freedom 5K is July 4th. If you’d like to venture out a bit and do a more off-roading sort of run, try the Lake Mingo trail run in Kennekuk County Park. 

If cycling is more your speed, the Champaign-Urbana Cyclists and Prairie Cycle Club host various rides throughout the summer, open to people of all biking abilities. 

We’re looking forward to all that a C-U summer of 2022 has to offer, and hope you’ll find ways to let loose and have a little fun too. 

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.

Top photo from Sholem Aquatic Center Facebook page.

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