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Looking forward to summer in CU : Opinion : Smile Polite

We jumped into summer early last weekend as temperatures approached 100 degrees and this got us thinking about our summer plans. Even if your livelihood is not tied to any school schedule, the mood changes here in the summer. There’s a barrage of new activity options, but with an undertone of lightness. Our natural spaces, inner courtyards and inner cities come alive. CU and Central Illinois may not have access to the ocean or mountain trails, nor the sheer volume of entertainment options of a sprawling metropolis, but we have a lot to offer and there are so many ways to enjoy everything our community has to offer over the coming months.

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





fun in the water

Despite being a landlocked country, there are plenty of opportunities to cool off and enjoy the water here. The Sholem Aquatic Center and the Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center are slated to open in just over a week. There are definitely times during the day when these spots aren’t a relaxing spot, but if you’re strategic with your timing, you can take a dip without getting splashed and overwhelmed by kids. Crowds usually thin out in the late afternoon as camps pack up and families who have arrived for the opening are ready to head out. Keep an eye out for adult swim events at the Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center.

If you’re willing to drive a bit, there are a few options within about an hour’s drive from CU to cool off. Kickapoo State Recreation Area, through which the Vermillion River meanders, is a great place for canoeing, kayaking, or tubing. You can bring your own boats and/or flotation devices or drive through Kickapoo Adventures. Kingfisher Kayaking can take you canoeing or kayaking on the Sangamon River at varying levels of difficulty. If you’re looking for a swimmable beach, try Clinton Lake, just 40 minutes west of here.

music outdoors

Whether it’s in a parking lot, on a patio or in a park, we’re here for outdoor music. We are excited about the sequel to the Rose Bowl Tavern Parking lot shows, but that’s just one way to hear local musicians outdoors. Both park districts regularly host free concerts in the park. Urbana Park District’s Neighborhood Nights are held on Wednesday nights throughout June and July. The Champaign Park District hosts monthly Hessel Park concerts and Jazz in the Park, as well as two Street Fests in downtown Champaign. The Champaign County Forest Preserve District has a summer concert series that begins in June, so keep an eye out for these dates.

keep an eye out The Overture offers opportunities to hear live music on patios this summer, but you can pretty much count on Rose Bowl, Pour Bros, NOLA’s, Bentley’s and Seven Saints to have those experiences. Friday Night Live returns in June, and it’s hard to beat dining comfortably on a patio in downtown Champaign while music wafts through the air. Dance Music Therapy is back this summer and takes place once a month at the Lake House in Crystal Lake Park. Alto Vineyards and Allerton have live music throughout the summer.

events and festivals

Summer is the time for bigger events – a combination of music, food, makers and more – and there’s plenty to look forward to. In recent years, Juneteenth has been coupled with Buy Black Chambana’s Black Restaurant Week. HV Neighborhood Transformation is hosting a June 16th event this June 18th at Crestview Park to kick off 40 days of peaceful summer gatherings. Toast to Taylor Street has grown from a one-off event into a summer series in Downtown Champaign. Pour Bros is hosting a new music festival, Summer Soul, over Memorial Day weekend and Spindependence on July 2nd and 3rd.

All other external things

Whether eating and drinking, watching the cinema, shopping or doing sports, we look forward to all the other outdoor opportunities in summer. Enjoy a beer at Riggs at sunset, a blizzard at Jarling’s with friends at a picnic table, or al fresco dining on one of the many patios in CU (something where we came from appreciate even more while navigating this pandemic) are just beautiful experiences. We’re fortunate to still have a drive-in theater close by, with Harvest Moon just off Route 47 in Gibson City, where you can sit under the stars and check out new releases and old favorites.

It’s farmers market season, which means that we will have regular access to products and other goods from local suppliers. It’s just wonderful to stroll through the market square on a sparkling Saturday morning and walk 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 offers another opportunity on Tuesdays after work.

Race weekend in Illinois may be over, but there are so many races ahead if running and/or walking are your thing. The Second Wind Running Club runs training runs every Thursday at 6pm, ending in Riggs afterwards. It costs $20 for an annual membership. They sponsor a few races throughout the summer and have a great list of all the races that are held in the area. For a short and sweet race around town, the Freedom 5K is July 4th. If you want to venture out a little and do an off-road run, try the Lake Mingo Trail Run in Kennekuk County Park.

If cycling is more your pace, this is it Champaign-Urbana Cyclists and the Prairie Cycle Club host a variety of rides throughout the summer that are open to people of all skill levels.

We’re excited for everything a CU summer of 2022 has to offer and hope you find ways to let go and have a little fun too.

The editorial board consists of Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer and Mara Thacker.

Top photo from the Scholem Aquatic Center Facebook page.

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