Sometimes, the best getaway is one with your girlfriends, where you can escape the everyday stresses, let your hair down and explore with your best friends. We’ve assembled our top stops to help you plan an Outside of Ordinary girlfriends’ getaway!
1. Walk in the garden
Situated in Monticello—just west of Champaign—and hidden among old trees and winding paths, you’ll find a European-inspired estate, Allerton Park & Retreat Center, with all the grandeur of Downton Abbey. Take a stroll through the exquisite formal gardens, with more than 100 ornamentals and sculptures to discover, after picking up a coffee and pastry from the Greenhouse Café. If you’re feeling adventurous, head out on a hike on their 14 miles of trails along the Sangamon River. For an extra special getaway, book rooms in the Mansion or Gate House for your group so you can see the sun rise and set on this unique setting.
2. Find tranquility during a tea ceremony
Ichigo, ichie—this is the phrase you learn and take to heart when you step onto the tatami mats for a tea ceremony at the Japan House. Meaning “one life, one opportunity,” this principal encourages you to free your mind and slow down as you prepare to take part in the ceremony. Held regularly during the academic year (September–May), the tea ceremony is a glimpse into one of the rich traditions in Japanese culture that aims to teach the four spirits of tea—harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Following the ceremony, continue your journey in the serene gardens surrounding the house.
3. Visit an art gallery or museum
From local art to Impressionist-era paintings, the Champaign County area has an impressive number of ways that you can experience and purchase art. Galleries in and around Champaign-Urbana showcase local and regional artists, such as artist-owned cooperative The Vault Art Gallery in historic downtown Tuscola and Cinema Gallery in downtown Urbana, showcasing more than 70 professional Midwest artists. Watch a glassblowing demonstration as Jim Downey creates art at his shop, Prairie Fire Glass, on Monticello’s Square. And don’t miss the second-largest fine arts museum in the state; Krannert Art Museum & Kinkead Pavilion at the University of Illinois boasts more than 10,000 works of art from around the world. This free museum will take you on a journey through art, starting with the fourth century and moving forward to modern art by students and faculty.
4. Shop boutiques and outlets
If you want to be the trendiest person in your circle of friends or own unique home décor pieces that inspire envy in your houseguests, a shopping trip in Champaign-Urbana is for you. Browse boutiques stocked with one-of-a-kind items, from clothing and accessories to furniture and housewares. Check out our local shopping guide to find a stop that suits your personality. Looking for big name brands? Between Market Place Shopping Center, named Illinois Country Living’s Top Shopping Destination in 2018, and the Tuscola Outlet Shops, we have all the brands you could want. From Coach New York and Under Armour outlets to Sephora and Francesca’s, you’ll want to shop ‘til you drop!
5. Solve an escape room
For a midafternoon challenge, put on your thinking caps and work on your team building skills at an escape room. In this rising social trend, groups are led to a secret room with hidden clues that eventually lead to a way out. For 60 minutes, use your wits to figure out how to escape several rooms while piecing together a storyline. Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time and Space, with a newly expanded space, crafts its own storylines and appoints local artists to help stories come to life. LabEscape, coming from the minds in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois, shows you that science can be amazing, useful, beautiful and even fun. Be prepared to be giddy after the challenge as you relive it for hours!
6. Eat and drink downtown
While coming down from the natural high provided by your escape room adventure, head to downtown Champaign for an unforgettable meal. With Champaign-Urbana named Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Food Town, our downtown district reflects why we are a culinary destination. The area boasts more than 40 locally owned bars and restaurants serving everything from nationally ranked barbecue at Black Dog Smoke & Ale House to stunningly beautiful sushi at MIGA. During the warmer months, all restaurants offer outdoor seating, creating a block party vibe on a busy night. Check out lively breweries, such as Blind Pig Brewery and Destihl, and wine bars at Crudo and Bacaro.
7. Catch a show
Hailed as the nation’s premier performing arts center on a university campus, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating 50 years of arts during their 2018–2019 season. From September through May, catch live music, ballet, theatre and more from national touring acts alongside University of Illinois student productions. These affordable shows rival those you can see in any major city; in fact, Krannert Center was designed by U of I alum Max Abramovitz, who went on to design the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. So go ahead and get your tickets to enjoy a night of enriching culture!
8. Visit and eat at the farm
Most notable about our landscape are the endless acres of farmland surrounding our micro-urban community. Agriculture is our foundation and a big part of our lifestyle, which includes enjoying fresh farm flavors at local restaurants and from area farmer’s markets. Get to the heart of our local food system at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, the first farmstead cheese-making facility in Illinois. Stop in to visit the dozens of goats that produce its award-winning cheeses and goat-milk gelato. Sample these local flavors at The Real Stand, the on-site farm store, or catch one of the popular dinners on the farm. These unrivaled dining experiences feature guest chefs to highlight ingredients found in and around Central Illinois, while also showcasing the varieties of cheese produced on the farm. You’ll become fast friends with those dining around you at this community-focused meal.
Have you started your countdown to your girlfriends’ getaway? We’re here to help you plan a stress-free, fun-filled trip!