I studied my undergraduate at UIUC. I love the school! I used to not like the area when I was studying there, because I am from a big city, and I felt that the area was a little boring with a small-town feel. But now that I left, I actually miss it a lot! And there are actually tons of things to do there. (It is like a mini-city full of students)
To get there, the most convenient way is to: Arrive at ORD airport in Chicago, and then take a bus from ORD to Champaign.
A good bus option is Peoria Charter: https://peoriacharter.com/schedule.php?tt=OW
(Note: Try to avoid Illini Shuttle- it has a very bad reputation among the UIUC community...)
Some common choice of destination stops in the area would be Altgeld Hall, which is the Mathematics Department building. Or Illinois Terminal, which is a bus terminal where you can find buses to wherever you want in the town. But it really depends on where your accommodation is in the area, to decide which destination stop you want.
In the area, I have some food options recommendation based on personal preference:
(PS: lot of restaurants and bars and clubs are located on Green Street, which is the busiest street for the student population. )
- Black Dog Smoke & Ale House: Very tasty barbecue food, and a very famous place in the Champaign-Urbana area. Check out the menu at: http://www.blackdogsmoke.com/
- Meatheads: A nice hamburger place! It is a little far from the main campus area though, but buses would reach there. https://www.meatheadsburgers.com/menus/
- Farren's Pub & Eatery: Very tasty place for hamburger too! It is located in downtown Champaign, so it is a nice walk to explore the area too. http://www.farrenspub.com/
- The Himalayan Chimney: Excellent Indian food! Also in downtown Champaign! https://www.thehimalayanchimney.com/
- Pho Cafe Thai Kitchen on Green Street: It is decent food with affordable price.
- Xinh Xinh Cafe at a farther away place (can reach by bus) has very good Vietnamese food with very affordable price!
- There are many bubble tea & Ice cream places on Green Street too. If you like to try some bubble tea, Taipei Cafe, Latea and Teamoji are some good options! Cocomero is a good place too.
- Korean food: I love Babplus! The place is very clean, and serve very good korean food. http://babpluskorean.com/40130
- Korean food: the Soup Kitchen on Green kitchen is also a good option.
- Japanese food: Ozu Ramen is an excellent place if you like ramen! Also Sakanaya restaurant is good too (but a little pricey)
- Chinese food: Unfortunately, as a Chinese international student, I am very picky at Chinese food offered in the US.. LOL Haha so I don't recommend any of the restaurants there...
- Bars & Clubs: Brothers Bar & Grill and Legends are two nice bars for chilling and chatting! Joe's brewery is more of a clubbing place for dancing! They are all full of students since they are all on Green street. In downtown Champaign, there is a bar called Blind Pig Brewery, which is also super nice.
There are always activities to do in the area too. Also, if you would like to go to some musical/theatrical performance in your visit, you can visit the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts to see their latest events: https://krannertcenter.com/
The university is great. Like other big state universities with lots of students, it has a lot of diversity and a lot of resources for everything that you could think of. The mathematics department is excellent too. There are a lot of super nice professors who really care about students, and would take extra steps to help students. Of course, as there are a lot of students there, you need to take the initiatives to seek out the resources/ help there when you need them. There are also *a lot* of student organizations and activities.
One thing that I feel a little sad about is that UIUC has not been managing its finance well in the past years. And graduate students were affected by this. Earlier this semester, there was a protest going on in UIUC, as the GEO was striving to gain a new contract for the graduate students in the university. The protest was successful, and now the graduate students have a contract with better terms. More details on this issue can be found on the UIUC GEO's facebook posts: https://www.facebook.com/uigeo/
Lastly, maybe you can check out this video of UIUC campus taken by a drone, UIUC From the Sky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXbFu91a0t4
All the above are just my personal opinions!
Hope it helps and hope you have a great time visiting the area!
(Orange and blue is the UIUC color btw)