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5 Must-Visit Performance Venues in Champaign-Urbana

Are you looking to see one last show before the end of the semester?  Or, better yet, are you staying in Champaign for the summer and wondering what kinds of things you could do with your free time?  If you answered yes to either of the above or simply want to know more about the local concert/theater/movie scene, then check out this list of 5 stellar performance venues on and around campus!

1. The Canopy Club

Opened in 1998, The Canopy Club is a live music venue committed to diversity in the entertainment they provide, likening their mission to the way a rainforest canopy encompasses the Earth’s most diverse ecosystem.  Whether you’re into rock, country, hip-hop, electronica, jazz, indie, funk, or anything in between, The Canopy Club will have a show for you.  Past performers have included Fall Out Boy, Smashing Pumpkins, and Snoop Dogg!    

2. State Farm Center

Opened in 1963, State Farm Center has truly hosted it all.  Between being the home of Fighting Illini Basketball and welcoming icons such as Elvis, The Rolling Stones, U2, and many, many more, the State Farm Center never falls short in raising the roof.  Whether you’re looking to see a recording artist or a Broadway performance, a family-oriented show or a spirited university event, this gigantic dome wants you to come in and take a seat.  (With 15,500 permanent seats, over a fifth of Champaign could come with you!)

3. Virginia Theater 

Located in Downtown Champaign, the Virginia Theater is an historic performing arts center and movie palace (yes, movie palace is a term) that hosts concerts, stage plays, dance, spoken word, films, comedy shows, and more.  First serving as a vaudeville house in 1921, the Virginia Theater has since been fully restored, having been owned and operated by the Champaign-Urbana Park District for the past 18 years.  Both a place of rich history and current community engagement, the Virginia is a must-visit venue. 

4. The Art Theater

A block away from the Virginia Theater you’ll find the Art Theater, an establishment smaller than the former but no less valuable.  Opened in 1913 (the earliest of all the venues on this list), the Art Theater, formerly known as the Park Theater, aims to build a critically-engaged community through the exhibition of cinema and media arts.  You could call the Art Theater the film version of The Canopy Club: it offers diverse media programming in the hopes of promoting culture and dialogue through US independent and international cinema.  Current showings include “Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) and “Isle of Dogs” (2018).  

5. Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Last but certainly not least, we have the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.  Opened in 1969, Krannert Center is recognized as the nation’s (the nation’s!!) premier university-based performing arts center.  With its roots as an alma mater project (one of the original donors, Herman Krannert, and Max Abramovitz, the architect, both graduated from U of I); its expansive range of productions; and its commitment to education, research, and public engagement, it’s not hard to see why.  One of the best parts about all of this?  A student ticket is never more than $10.  Take advantage of it while you can!


A place of rich engagement with the performing and media arts, Champaign-Urbana just might be the Chicago or New York of central Illinois.  How lucky are we to attend the university that is in the midst of it all?  

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Elli Wills

Illinois '18

Elli has written for the U of I at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) chapter of Her Campus, the UIUC literary arts journal, Montage, and the nonprofit online magazine Culturally Modified. During her time as an intern at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, she also had the distinct pleasure of interviewing a fellow intern for the museum blog -- an experience that only confirmed her love for learning about others and sharing their unique stories. When she's not jotting down ideas for her next article, you can often find her binge-watching anime, practicing yoga, or spending time outdoors.
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