Unofficial St Pats
If you happen to be Champaign on the first Friday of March, you may wonder why there are students drunk in the streets at 7am. This is our own little holiday that we fondly refer to as "Unofficial" - short for Unofficial St Patricks Day. The bars open early. People miss class, and the ones that do attend are usually drunk. Have fun, be safe, and wear green! Remember: "Irish Today, Hungover Tomorrow!"
Champaign: Illinois' second city
Champaign may not be the second-largest city in Illinois - that dubious honor goes to the ugly, industrial Peoria - but it's certainly the most happening place outside of Chicago.
When I was in high school, the "cool" thing to do was to drive down to Champaign for the weekend and, well, party more than a high school student should. Though I never understood the appeal as a high school student, I grew to love Champaign for other reasons later in life. As a graduate student, I lived here while working on a master's degree, and found the town to be sophisticated and fun. I wouldn't have minded staying there longer than I did - it was a great place to live, largely because of the university.
For those who may not know it, Champaign-Urbana is home to one of the nation's largest and most-renowned universities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The student population alone consists of about 40,000 people, several thousand faculty and staff, and another 70,000 people that cater to those highly educated people. Thus, Champaign-Urbana has a large and varied selection of restaurants (over 320), a vibrant arts scene, and a town full of lively (sometimes too lively) nightlife.
The large student and faculty population draws a number of big-name performers, and world-famous symphonies, groups like Cirque du Soleil, and musicians like Ben Folds, Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Natalie Merchant, and etc., perform here regularly. Roger Ebert, the noted film critic, is an alum and holds an annual film festival here, and the town boasts a notable art museum.
The university offers Big Ten football, for anyone interested in sports, and also hosts a dazzling assortment of sports complexes, giving the town everything from Olympic-sized swimming pools to ice arenas to racquetball courts.
Public transportation - also provided by the university - is phenomenal. It's cheap, it's clean, it's safe, and it literally takes you anywhere in the city.