After bashing the “campus is all that exists” viewpoint in my last article, I felt a little bad for making it sound as if there’s nothing on campus. As I said, there are definitely gems—particular things that I go to campus to do for fun and entertainment that I can’t find other places.
So here you go, things to do on campus that perhaps the townies and non-campus lovers might enjoy, even if it’s only during spring break, winter break, and summer sessions (if you know what I mean). What? I like being able to find a parking space too. I understand.
Get a Taste of Spring
Anyway, first things first. It’s slowly becoming Spring (yay!) and for those just itchin’ for everything to turn green again, there is the University of Illinois Plant Biology Greenhouse with plenty of greenery and live things, particularly when everything is frozen or brown.
It’s a block south of Allen Hall, off of Dorner Drive. There’s plenty of meter parking, and from 8:30 to 4:30, every weekday, it’s open to the public for no charge. Groups and classes can also set up private tours, if there are other days or hours that are convenient, or if you want more information on plants and names from a guide. Contact information is listed on the website.
Full of growing things and flowers all year round, with a beautiful greenhouse and a few separate rooms featuring various types of plants, the Plant Biology Greenhouse will help you remember that Spring is on the way.
Personally, I like to go during my lunch break, as the warmth and beauty can help out a dull day spent at the office.
Get Something to Eat
Once you’ve glimpsed Spring, and you’re ready to get something to eat, check out Manolo’s. I love this place, and not only because I was lucky enough to win tickets through them and WPGU to see Girl Talk last year at the Canopy Club.
With an unassuming facade, not much room for eating, and less-than-tasty-looking pizza on display, this is definitely a hidden place for those not in the know. Take my word for it though, get a variety of empanadas and see what you think. I recommend the inferno chicken empanada. It’s my personal favorite.
The empanadas are amazing here, and the pizza, whether made fresh or heated up in the oven, is a great combination of flavors. I have to say, I love goat cheese on pizza.
This place delivers, which is great, but most importantly, it delivers next door to the Canopy, for all your favorite drunk-munchie needs. Friendly employees, informal style, and a variety of tastes add up to a great place to check out when you’re in the mood for something not involving a waiter and a lengthy wait for a table.
After finishing your tasty treat (while watching passersby head to classes), it’s time to go even further towards campus, to the Illini Union.
Play Some Games
Why in the world would you go there? Yes, yes, we all know about the different eating places and the comfy couches to sleep on in-between classes, but there is yet something else to check out, especially if you are in the mood for blinking lights and loud noises.
I love pinball. Seriously, putting aside how bad I am at it, I can’t get enough of it. And in the basement of the Union, past the new pool tables and the bowling lanes, are three different pinball machines for enthusiasts such as myself.
The Illini Union Rec Room is open all year round, and available to both non-students and students alike. At the moment, there’s Roller Coaster Tycoon, Monopoly, and Dirty Harry. Dirty Harry is my favorite, with the ball-trigger shaped like a gun and the ease of play, but the bizarre mix in Roller Coaster Tycoon (check out the weird troll) and the silly flippers in the Monopoly game offer a mixed set of play experiences that can keep you cheaply occupied for a while, depending on whether your pinball skills are better than mine. My habit is a bit more costly, as I never last too long. A Pinball Wizard, I am not.
Drink Something Sweet
Another enjoyable place to check out on campus is Evo Cafe. I cannot vouch for the Chinese food, sadly, as in all of my years on campus I have only gone there for the bubble tea. For a cheap treat, Evo offers an amazing amount of teas of all different flavors, and I highly recommend them.
Beware, in case you have not yet had the awesomeness that is bubble tea. It isn’t the hot tea you’d normally get at a Chinese restaurant. If the tea is a Snow (Honey Snow is my favorite), then it’s milky, with no bubbles. If it is a bubble tea, it is more of a slushy, with tapioca pearls at the bottom. Ask your helpful counter person for more information, if need be, and be brave with trying different flavors. They’re great.
Weekend Open House and Plant Sale
Finally, here is a specific event for you to check out next month. If weekdays during work hours aren’t convenient for you to visit the Greenhouse mentioned earlier in this article, the Conservatory is occasionally open on weekends. On April 17 and 18, the weekend of University Mom’s Day weekend, it will be open to the public, and will include a plant sale, which will offer many blooming things to brighten up your abode. If you’re like me, stick with getting a cactus.