Welcome to Urbana!
Maybe you're from Indianapolis, Vincennes, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Evansville, Crown Point and places in between. You've made a rather sudden business trip and you have some time on your hands.
Friends from the Indiana House of Representatives, you've come to the right town. Urbana is indeed a lovely place.
We've compiled, in good humor, a modest list of food and fun.
Often, visitors focus on that other lovely place – on the west side of Wright Street.
But not today.
It's the county seat's turn to shine.
Before heading out, remember Illinois is in the Central time zone.
1. Meet the mayor: You have a lot in common with Laurel Prussing, Urbana's two-term mayor. She's a Democrat and she was an Illinois House member in the 1990s. If she's in a meeting, stop and chat with her chief of staff, Mike Monson. He used to be a News-Gazette reporter and knows Urbana as well as anyone. The City Building is at 400 S. Vine St.
2. Visit the campus: There's more to the University of Illinois than the Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium (besides, they're in Champaign). Get your photo taken in front of the Alma Mater, with her outspread, welcoming arms. Be sure to include Altgeld Hall in the background. If you time your trip to the noon hour, you'll hear an Altgeld chime concert from 12:50 to 1 p.m. Check out the Illini Union, which is just east of the Alma Mater. The northern portion of the Union was built as a Works Progress Administration project. From the Union's south patio, you'll see the Quad, a classic college setting.
3. Take in a basketball game: And we're not talking about the Illini. The Urbana boys' basketball team is having its best Big 12 season in seven years. Tonight they play Decatur Eisenhower at 7:30 in Oscar Adams Gym. The Tigers' arrow is pointing up. Be sure to give second-year coach Vashoune Russell a pat on the back.
4. Go to the theater: Not the movie theater (there isn't one in Urbana) – the real theater. The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., is truly one of the world's finest. This weekend, you're in luck: "Man of La Mancha," a UI opera production, is being performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Krannert's Tryon Festival Theatre. If opera's not your thing, "Holi: An Indian Festival of Colors" opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Krannert's Studio Theatre.
5. Anyone want ribs? You have choices. Hickory River Smokehouse, 1706 N. Cunningham Ave., is known for its ribs and brisket. Black Dog Smoke & Ale House, 201 N. Broadway Ave., is small and very popular. And you already know about Li'l Porgy's Bar-B-Q, 101 W. University Ave.; local reporters say Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, is quite fond of Li'l Porgy's carry-out.
6. Or maybe you prefer Asian: Two fine options are Siam Terrace, 212 W. Main St., and Miko, 407 W. University Ave. If you prefer fine dining, you cannot go wrong with Kennedy's at Stone Creek, 2560 S. Stone Creek Blvd., or Timpone's, 701 S. Goodwin Ave., or Milo's, 2870 S. Philo Road.
7. Get a souvenir: You can't leave town without a memento. You could buy an Illini T-shirt, for example, at Brownfield Sports in Lincoln Square Village. They have both kinds: orange and blue. Or perhaps you want to show off to the folks back home that you're in sync with local humor. See if Wind, Water & Light, also in Lincoln Square, has any "People's Republic of Urbana" T-shirts. If not, they usually stock a number of uniquely Urbana T-shirts.
8. Shopping? While you're in Lincoln Square, you should check out the eclectic merchandise at the Art Mart. It's also a good place if you have a taste for imported cheeses. Downtown Urbana is known for its galleries. If any of you trace your roots to the Emerald Isle, be sure to stop in Heartland Gallery, 112 W. Main St. For a little taste of Europe, Mirabelle Fine Pastry, 124 W. Main St.
9. You're tired of sitting around the hotel: There's jazz and blues at the Iron Post, 120 S. Race St. For those who prefer country, you'll love the Rose Bowl, 106 N. Race St. (It may be the closest Indiana fans ever get to Pasadena.) There are plenty of other places to kick up your heels; check out the e3 calendar in Thursday's News-Gazette. Fair warning: If someone says "Silver Bullet," reconsider. Politicians and strippers have a way of making headlines.
10. Relax, you can see the Hoosiers: Or Purdue or even – gasp – Notre Dame. Two good sports-oriented bars: Bunny's, 119 W. Water St. (if you can find Black Dog Smoke & Ale House, you can find Bunny's), and Po' Boys, 1901 S. High Cross Road. Both serve food and plenty of it.
Dan Corkery, the managing editor of The News-Gazette, has lived – and paid taxes – in Urbana since 1987.