How to Explore Peoria in 11 Weeks

First, a fellow student told junior Jeannie Hansen to visit the Peoria Zoo. Then someone suggested that she check out the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

As the recommendations piled up for things to do in Peoria, Hansen decided other Bradley students should be involved in these discoveries, too.

“We just kept learning so many different things you can do in Peoria that are reasonable for a college student,” said the advertising and public relations major. Hansen is also the founder and president of the BU Explore Peoria club. 

More than 115 students are now part of the club’s membership since its founding in November 2021, with waitlists for events such as ice skating, escape rooms and haunted house visits exceeding 30 people.

BU Explore Peoria draws Bradley students outside of campus to experience the charms of the city through fun but inexpensive activities college kids can afford. 

The club’s surging popularity shifted Hansen’s ambitions from holding one or two events a month to the 11 events scheduled nearly every weekend this spring.

So far this semester, students have jumped around at Elevate Trampoline Park, scavenged for vintage items at Peoria thrift stores and knocked some pins down at Mt. Hawley bowling alley.

And there are still some big events on the docket: taking in stand-up comedy at the Jukebox Comedy Club, walking through the lush greenery at Luthy Botanical Garden and catching a ballgame from the Peoria Chiefs minor league baseball team.

BU Explore Peoria advertises its events through snazzy social media graphics on Instagram, on its website and in Hilltop Happenings each week. Signing up is easy and members of the executive board can provide transportation to events for students.

When students, alumni or staff learn about BU Explore Peoria, Hansen typically receives two responses.

“Everyone thinks I’m from Peoria because of this club,” said Hansen, which isn’t the case — she’s from Westmont, Ill.

And the other?

“I wish I had this club when I was at Bradley.”

The latter response resonates with Hansen, whose first year at Bradley included mostly online classes and limited social opportunities as a result of COVID-19 safety measures. She wanted to meet more people, especially students outside her major, and the people she had already met talked about how much there is to do in Peoria.

Hansen formed the club as a result of that void. Now students have so much fun each weekend that the events extend past the planned activity and continue to a restaurant or coffee shop after.

“It’s a great club because it’s not just advertised for one particular major,” Hansen said. “Our executive board consists of me as a communications major and then nursing and engineering students. They would have never met each other without this club.”


 — Thomas Bruch

Students at picnic table

Students at local coffee shop