I have been going to campus multiple times a year since 2016.
The Union Hotel is lovely but pricey and the rooms are tiny. I only stayed there using points. Splurge at an off-peak time to get a better rate–it is a beautiful property. The deck outside the bar is surpringly secluded feeling.
There are all the usual chain brands out near I-65. Note that some properties will require refundable prepayment for popular weekends (Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn are two I have experienced). The Residence Inn, Home2, Drury and Courtyard are far enough from the highway exit to avoid noise and provide decent value aside from move-in, football and graduation weekends.
I stayed at Townplace Suites only briefly (abandoned after 1 night) because it was clean but run down and we woke up to police out front. Basically the hotels east of I-65 are a little more budget brands (2-star) than the ones west, although there are budget brands on both sides. All have you about 15 min by car through town to campus. Comments from many suggest the Four Points by Sheraton should be avoided. I have no experience there.
Incoming families frequently find hotels already booked when their students commit. Try Crawfordsville or Logansport if a chain is what you want. Indianapolis isn’t far either if you shoot down 65.
Restaurant wise you will find all the usual chains but there are some regional chains and independents to check out. Ripple & Co., Lafayette Brewing Co., Bru Burger, Revolution BBQ (and bakery), Walt’s, Nine Irish Brothers, Westside Diner and Christo’s are good and close to campus. People like The Bryant but I’ve never been there. There are also some good international places that look unassuming but have good food, like KIMCHI Korean restaurant in West Lafayette and Yatagarasu in downtown Lafayette. Baklava Plus rosewater cake, Red Mango Korean fro-yo, Mamma Ines conchas, Baked By Brittaney cheesecakes and Mary Lou donuts have all been first or last stops. Don’t be afraid to stray from the campus corridor—the Lafayette area isn’t huge but there are nice places to discover.
Happy Hollow park in town and Prophetstown State Park are nice to walk around. The campus golf courses and other public courses nearby make it worth bringing clubs once in a while.
Walking around downtown Lafayette is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Bookstore, chocolate shop/soda counter, NA beverage store, gift shops, cat cafe, jewelry stores, bars, markets and boutiques are in lovely old buildings.
It’s a quick couple hours to Indiana Dunes or Chicago. FlixBus, Amtrak or local limo/bus services will get you to and from Chicago from around $70 round trip and up. Flix and local transport services will get you to and from Indianapolis with regular service too.
I love walking around campus and the energy of the kids.