Advice for the drive to Champaign?

Submitted by tk47 on November 2nd, 2011 at 12:40 PM

I'll be making my first trip to Champaign for the Nov 12th game and I'm just wondering if I could get any advice from people who have made the trip there before.  Primarily, I'm wondering what the best route from SE Michigan is.  It looks like there are 2 ways to go: I-94 to I-57 (past Chicago), or I-69 to I-74 (past Indy).  Chicago looks a little quicker/shorter but I'm curious if the traffic might be lighter coming from Indy.

Any random advice on Champaign in general would be appreciated too.  There was a small thread about this a couple weeks ago but there weren't too many replies, nor was there any info about the best route to get there, so I thought I'd revive the topic...



November 2nd, 2011 at 2:51 PM ^

See I think the two biggest pet peeves on a roadtrip for me are traffic and tolls, both of which are featured prominently on the Chicago route. I-69 is wide open, fewer cops, higher speed limits, less traffic, less construction, just driving.


November 2nd, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^

I did I-94 to 1-57 for the game four years ago.

Two bits of advice: Don't expect pretty scenery and don't stop off for a meal in Clifton, Illinois.


November 2nd, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

Go via Indy. I drove from Lansing to Champaign last year to the OSU game and went one way, came back the other. It took no time at all to get thru Indy, but Chicago always has traffic. Plus you can avoid some Illinois tollways.

As for campus recommendations, I got very few, but you should go to campus hit up Green street, that's where everything is. There was some bar that some pretty good burgers, that probably tasted better because as the wait was long I drank a lot while I waited on it. Long wait didn't bother me and I used it as a signal that it must be worth it/popular.


November 2nd, 2011 at 3:00 PM ^

After 15 years in southeast MI (including 4 in Ann Arbor, woo!) I've spent the last 6 years living in Champaign.  I make the trip back to the Detroit suburbs a couple times a year.  The 94-80-57 route is much faster unless you'll hit Chicago at rush hour. Then they're about equal. There's exactly one toll stop, which will set you back a whopping $0.80, I think.  Go that way. Really.



November 2nd, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

I've always done I-94 to I-57 on two trips to Champagin and numerous trips down I-57 to I-55 and beyond. You'll be fine in terms of traffic, especially if you are traveling on Saturday. Even on Friday you should mostly be alright, since you're staying slightly south of the city. I suggest I-94 to I-57. No reason to add half an hour to your trip needlessly.


November 2nd, 2011 at 12:59 PM ^

I went to the 2004 game. It was the day after Michigan played New Hampshire at Yost so we got a late start. We camped out in Kalamazoo, at my house, and then finished the drive through Chicago to Champaign in the morning. It was all fine until after the game where about 15 minutes back onto I-57 I almost fell asleep. I ended up taking a nap at a rest area and then getting a hotel somewhere about halfway toward Chicago. On a weekend, early in the morning, the traffic through Chicago should not be too bad.

Also, there were a ton of parking lots that were good for tailgating around the stadium. I organized a trip of about 50 other Michigan students at the time and it was fun. There is not a lot to do right around the stadium/ Assembly Hall area, but you could walk about 15-20 minutes into campus to get on the main road. Given that the stadiums are at the edge of campus it should be pretty obvious what direction to go.

By the way, in case you didn't know Illinois thinks they are a Michigan rival so prepare for a lot of Muck Fichigan!

Ann Arbor is whore!


November 2nd, 2011 at 2:03 PM ^

That is one thing that the last four seasons have driven home to fans that hadn't already figured it out:  everyone in the B1G sees Michigan as a "rival."  Notice how teams have celebrated like they just won the Super Bowl every time they have beaten Michigan.  

Now that the talent level is back to where it needed to be, with a reasonable number of upperclassmen and only sporadic use of true freshmen, there aren't as many teams celebrating anymore.  

Hopefully, Michigan continues to educate B1G teams how to act like they have actually been there before after victories.  



November 2nd, 2011 at 12:59 PM ^

I would take the Chicago route.  Believe it is about 60 miles closer and is an easy drive.   I have been there twice, from the Brighton area, and believe it took in the neighborhood of  6 hours to get there.     As far as advice for hangin out in Champaign- both times I went we stayed in Chicago.  I do recall the fans there were not overly friendly- they seemed to treat Michigan as their bitter rival for some reason.   Good luck and enjoy!


November 2nd, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

Don't speed (at least not significantly) on 57.  There is a state trooper office about an hour and a half outside Champaign that feasts on football Staurdays.


November 2nd, 2011 at 1:08 PM ^

I'll always remember the time Dad and I did the Illinois road trip when McDonald's was having a 2 for $2 campaign. We had 2 Egg McMuffins for breakfast, 2 B1G Macs for lunch, saw the game, drove home, had 2 B1G Macs for dinner. I don't remember vomiting when we got home, but it's a distinct possibility. As others have mentioned, be prepared for some serious anti-Michigan, "you are our rival whether you acknowledge it or not" - stuff from the Illini fans. The games down there were a lot more fun when Chief Illiniwek was still running around. It's fun to laugh at them doing the "I-L-L" "I-N-I" cheer. Hooray, you can spell. Now, it's best to just get in and get out. Although, my wife went to Illinois for undergrad and says the Custard Cup ice creams are the best.


November 2nd, 2011 at 1:14 PM ^

Take the Chicago route but gas is more expensive in the Chicago area so try and avoid stopping there.  Fill up in Indiana.

Try and avoid Kankakee too...ghetto town.

The Illini do not have an arch rival per se.  It's supposed to be Northwestern but they already played them on 10/1 and nobody even cares about that game.  Hence, Illinois student will be all decked out in there orange "Muck Fichigan" t-shirts thinking that this some HUGE game.  

Finally, try and avoid the area south of the stadium.  It smells like pooh over by there.



November 2nd, 2011 at 2:47 PM ^

Little known to anyone, including fan bases of the teams themselves (especially young OSU fans), OSU and Illinois have a long rival. The Illi-Buck trophy is one of the league's oldest, we obviously can't compete with the jug though. The two teams don't play each other annually anymore, and have had as long as a 6yr lay off.


November 2nd, 2011 at 1:44 PM ^

Go to Merry Ann's diner and order a Haystack.  It is a biscuit on top of which sits hashbrowns on top of which sits a sausage pattie on top of which sits bacon on top of which sits two eggs (cooked to order), all covered in sausage gravy.  It's the best thing about Champaign.


November 2nd, 2011 at 2:39 PM ^

(I posted in the old thread so some of this is redundant)

I went to grad school in Champaign after finishing up in Ann Arbor. Definitely echo the other comments that the Chiicago way is best (94-80-57). Occasionally, there are delays on the Indiana side around the Illinois border but even with these, it's still quicker than taking state highways to avoid Chicago all together.

Bars: Campustown is probably the best. (Green Street, west of Wright Street). I always liked Murphy's and Legends. Both places where you can get good beer and decent bar food. I'd stay away from Kam's and C.O. Daniel's unless you like the smell of stale vomit mixed with fresh vomit. Downtown Champaign is pretty nice too- but attracts more of the grad student and upscale townie crowd. The Blind Pig has a great beer selection- other good places are Seven Saints, Esquire, and Guido's (note: all this advice is a couple years old). Downtown Urbana doesn't have much of a bar scene and most students skip it entirely.

Tailgating: Best spot is on the lawn around Assembly Hall. Spots are plentiful and you'll have a lot of room to spread out.  If the wind is blowing there is almost always a scent of manure in the air coming from the south farms. You'll get used to it after a while.

Other Food: If it's open, try Jarling's custard cup. 

In general, Illinois sees this game as a huge rivalry and a lot of Illini fans don't understand that they take a backseat to Ohio, MSU, and ND in terms of Michigan rivals. You'll see a lot of Muck Fichigan shirts, but in general the fans all seem pretty friendly and respectful. I always wore my Michigan gear to the games without any problem.

oriental andrew

November 2nd, 2011 at 2:45 PM ^

1) Stay awake.  As others have said, the "scenery" in central illinois is non-existant.  You might see some nice wind farms, but that's about it. 

2) Watch out for deer.  Seriously, those things are EVERYWHERE.  A family in a minivan was recently killed in NW Indiana after hitting a deer and subsequently getting run into by a semi.  You'll see at least half a dozen dead deer on the side of the road.

3) Along those lines, watch out for semis.  Typical road-trip advice, but especially important if you plan on driving at night or early morning. 


November 2nd, 2011 at 3:48 PM ^

Went to law school at the U of I.  Mainly verifying what everyone else says here: 94 W to 57 S is the better way to go, generally, but I've taken both routes.  I'd say check the weather before leaving and take whichever is clearer.  If both are clear go 94-57.

Champaign is a nice enough town.  Stay away from Campustown, otherwise the restaurants are decent.  Fans shouldn't give you too much trouble.  Illinois is as much a basketball school as anything else.  Illinois is pretty respectable academically, though not quite U of M.  Half of the students there wanted to go somewhere else, the other half are glad they didn't have to go somewhere else.  The natives will be a little chippy, but they know the difference between a cooler and a toilet and they respect that.  This pretty much sums things up:

Central Illinois is the Billiard Table of the Gods.  Bad news is there's a real risk you'll fall asleep.  Good news is there isn't much risk of hitting anything if you do.

Enjoy the game.  Illinois is underrated IMHO.  That goes for the team, the campus, and the stadium.  But then again I'm supposedly an alum.


November 2nd, 2011 at 4:25 PM ^

Don't want to burn out your brakes on the downward grade.

Michigan to Champaign is a drive with a subtle landscape, no matter how you drive it.

I have family in Indy, and family in-law in Champaign, so drive that way from Michigan every once in a while, usually via Indy. As others have noted, the shorter route is via Chicago. However, the Indianapolis route is less stressful to drive, as I-94 and the trip through south-Chicagoland is traffic- and truck-heavy.

A trick that will save a few minutes if you go via Indy is to drive across I-465 north, then take I-65 north to Lebanon, then SR 32 west towards Crawfordsville, picking up I-74 just before you get there. 32 is pretty quick and serves as a nice break from expressway driving. Plus it's 10 miles shorter than dropping down Indy's west side to pick up I-74 by the Speedway.

Food options are probably better via Chicago. There are a couple of rib places in Kankakee (and others I don't know specifically about on the south side). There is a Sanfratello's Pizza outlet in Tinley Park, one exit west on I-80 (and a bit of a drive) from the I-57 interchange. You could do worse than order a stuffed Chicago pizza on your cell and pick it up just out of the oven. They also will prepare one but only partly cook it, so you can drive it home and drop it in the oven.

Yes, I am a geographer. Why do you ask?



November 2nd, 2011 at 6:05 PM ^

I went to the Penn State/Illinois game in 1994 that was in Champaign, and I can still imagine the smell of hog shit from 17 years ago. I highly recommend Champaign's bars in lieu of tailgating near the stadium.


November 2nd, 2011 at 6:26 PM ^

I always take I-94 West to northwest IN where I would take I-65 South.  Go south on I-65 about 25 miles and exit west on Highway 2.  Highway 2 will go southwest and turn into Highway 17 west. Going west on HIghway 17 will take you right to I-57 just east of Kankakee. Take I-57 South and you will be in Champain in about an hour.


November 2nd, 2011 at 7:11 PM ^

To tailgate near the stadium.  Did that in 2007 and had a blast! In 2009 I tailgated in a $10-$20 spot in a farm field 1 mile away from the stadium (recognized as stadium parking) and it wasn't that fun