Roughly equidistant among Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis, Champaign is known as a technology center, the so-called Silicon Prairie. It has its own song, "Champaign, Illinois," written by Bob Dylan and Carl "Blue Suede Shoes" Perkins, and it is kept youthful by its campus of the University of Illinois, which is a member of the Big 10 Conference. Meeting venues in Champaign may also bear the name of Urbana, a city that is frequently paired with Champaign.
The small University of Illinois Willard Airport (CMI), five miles south of downtown Champaign (and owned and operated by the university), has American Eagle flights to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth. The nearest international airport is Indianapolis International (IND), 125 miles to the east.
There are no large convention venues in Champaign, but the attractive, 126-room I Hotel & Conference Center on the university campus contains the Illinois Conference Center. In total, Champaign County has approximately 3,500 rooms. Most hotels venues in Champaign/Urbana are midscale properties. Another standout property is the 225-room Hilton Garden Inn Champaign/Urbana, which has meeting space for up to 900 persons, while other properties in town include the 132-room Drury Inn & Suites Champaign, 130-room Hampton Inn Champaign/Urbana and 78-room Champaign Courtyard by Marriott, all with some meeting space.
Private events for groups may be arranged at the Krannert Art Museum, which includes the Kinkead Pavilion (this has rental space and is part of the University of Illinois' College of Applied & Fine Arts); and the William M. Staerkel Planetarium, which can put on private solar-system viewings. Another museum possibility is the Orpheum Children's Science Museum, which has a room for 25 persons and a mezzanine for 32, while two fresh-air choices are the Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch, which has an outdoor, covered space for 35 persons but is open only from mid-July to just before Christmas Day; and Alto Vineyards, which has a tasting room and attractive, trellised seating areas for groups, the Wine Garden for 325 persons and Festival Hall for 100.
Finding quality dining is not a problem here either. Suggestions include the Flat Top Grill, where guests create their own stir-fry dishes and can sit down in private function space; Escobar's, with a menu described as "Nuevo Latino" and group space for up to 75 persons; Radio Maria, which features lots of good art in a dining room, tapas lounge and bar; and Bacaro, a wine lounge and restaurant.