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Wednesday, May 21, 2008 08:17 pm

Double the pleasure

Champaign-Urbana offers a relaxing day trip

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Untitled Document Champaign-Urbana, just about an hour-and-a-half away, has added or upgraded some new attractions that make the twin college towns a great day or weekend trip this summer. • Snack — In fall 2007, a little breakfast diner got a facelift and was transformed into one of Champaign’s most interesting eateries. The only recognizable elements of the old digs are the charming neon-pink sign in the front and of course, the name. Today Carmon’s serves — almost exclusively — crêpe entrées, featuring such interesting fillings as beef Stroganoff, seafood with a dill cream sauce, and creamed spinach. Also offering tasty soups, salads, appetizers, and dessert crêpes in its cozy atmosphere, Carmon’s (415 N. Neil St., Champaign) is an unassuming classic. Another Champaign stalwart, Radio Maria (119 N. Walnut St.), has expanded its space and opened a full tapas bar featuring fusion flair. Other places to sink your fork: Crane Alley (115 W. Main St., Urbana), a bar with a surprisingly upscale menu; Café Luna (313 E. Green St., Champaign), an impressive fine-dining restaurant recently transplanted to downtown from campus; and Jupiter’s (39 E. Main St., Champaign), a great place for a game of pool and a thin-crust pizza.

Shop — New boutiques are sprouting up
­all over Champaign-Urbana. Already this year two new, worthwhile shops have popped up, and another’s on the way.
Jennifer North (17 E. Taylor St., Champaign) caters to the twenty- and thirtysomething crowd; the racks are stocked with jeans, shoes, cute kitchen decor, and flrity dresses. Bella Bambini (2213 S. Neil St., Champaign), a one-stop shop for moms with a decent budget, opened in May. The boutique features hip clothes for soon-to-be-mamas and those new bouncing babes, too. This summer, the ultratrendy Urban Outfitters (507 E. Green St., Champaign), which counts its only other Illinois locations in the Chicago area, sets up shop on the ground floor of a building going up in Campustown. Those on a budget can bop into Dandelion (9 E. Taylor St., Champaign), a used- and vintage-clothing store; if you’re down with digging, prepare to be rewarded. Swim — Kids tagging along? The Champaign Park District has just the solution to for a long day with antsy rugrats: the Sholem Aquatic Center (2200 W. Sangamon Dr.). The sprawling facilities don’t measure up to Springfield’s Knight’s Action Park, but the price ($9 for nonresidents) is right. The center features an 8,000-square-foot activity pool, along with a 660-foot winding river ride and a 197-foot body flume, dubbed the Rapids and the Plunge, respectively. Sit back in the Oasis (a concession area) and watch your kids go nuts.

See — The Summer Studio Theatre Company of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (500 S. Goodwin Ave. Urbana) presents three plays in repertory each summer. This season’s schedule consists of Talley’s Folly, The Last Five Days, and The Turn of the Screw. Other places to take a load off include Boardman’s Art Theatre (126 W. Church St., Champaign), a single-screen art house specializing in independent and foreign films; the Virginia Theatre (203 W. Park Ave., Champaign), home of Roger Ebert’s Film Festival; and the Krannert Art Museum (500 E. Peabody Dr., Champaign), a University of Illinois museum featuring art in 10 galleries.

Contact Marissa Monson at mmonson@illinoistimes.com.
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