What’s better than relaxing outside listening to live music on a nice summer evening? How about listening to FREE live music?
This summer there are dozens of opportunities in the Champaign-Urbana area and beyond to take in free outdoor concerts with your family. We’ve listed as many as we can find in this guide!
Thank you to our guide sponsor, Krannert Center’s Outside at Research Park, which is one of our favorite outdoor concert events of the year. Krannert Center’s Outside at the Research Park plays upon a simple concept: great music, fresh food, and a green state of mind in an open, relaxed environment. The performance space and seating area are located just south of the Atkins Building at the corner of First Street and St. Mary’s Road in Champaign. The tree-lined, grassy space has hosted thousands of audience members each summer since the inception of Outside in 2007.
So pack up a picnic, load up the kids, and head out to Research Park for the summer event you won’t want to miss. Thanks to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts for making this amazing event happen!
Outside at Research Park: Friday, July 21, 6:30 p.m. If you’ve ever been to a major summer music festival like Ravinia, you know why Outside at Research Park is so special: it brings a major outdoor concert event to Champaign-Urbana. Outside at Research Park is a partnership between the University of Illinois Research Park, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and Fox/Atkins Development, LLC, which aims to present the arts in a welcoming, eco-friendly public venue featuring tempting food and beverage options. This year, the headliner is the Elvin Bishop Big Fun Trio, who play an appealing mixture of rowdy blues, R&B classics, and down-home, feel-good vibes. The opener will be local favorite Mank N Sass. Don’t miss it.
Sounds at Sunset: The Champaign Park District once again is sponsoring the Sounds at Sunset Concert Series. Held some Sundays through August at various parks throughout Champaign, each concert includes live music, inflatables and more. Bring your own lawn chairs, blankets and refreshments.
Friday Night Live in Downtown Champaign: Friday Night Live will be held every Friday from 6-8 p.m., starting June 2 and running through Aug. 25. Performances are held at the intersections of Neil & Church, Neil & Park, and Walnut & Chester in Downtown Champaign. Friday Night Live includes an eclectic mix of music and street performances including bluegrass, jazz, folk, rock, and blues, along with a cappella, bellydancing, and live painting.
Neighborhood Nights in Urbana: Join your fellow music lovers at these free outdoor concerts on Wednesday nights that feature great LOCAL bands. Bring your lawn chair or even a picnic dinner and spend the evening. From May 25 to August 9. Each Neighborhood Night features local musicians, free popcorn and lemonade, and fun activities.
Summer Twilight Concerts on the Quad: June 29 and July 27. The University of Illinois Summer Band meets during the summer session and performs two “Twilight Concerts” on the UI Quadrangle. This tradition goes back over 100 years, and is a special element of the Illinois Band Program. Pack a picnic or grab some food from one of the many area campus town restaurants.
Folk and Roots Friday Concerts: Join the Urbana Park District and the C-U Folk & Roots Festival on the first and third Friday of each month this summer (June, July, August) for some great FREE live music! At the Crystal Lake Boat House in Crystal Lake Park, Urbana.
Strawberry Jam: It’s a family favorite at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana on June 17. Bring a picnic dinner and a blanket or lawn chair for a good old-fashioned fun time. Ice cream and fresh strawberries while supplies last.
Summer Concert on the Lawn: Every Friday in June and July at the St. Joseph Township Library. Bring a chair or blanket and come enjoy some music on a warm summer night. If it’s raining, the concert is cancelled.
Music on the Lake: Wildwood: Sunday, June 25, Walnut Hill Shelter, Homer Lake Forest Preserve, 5-7 p.m. Wildwood, a bluegrass string band hailing from Mahomet and Champaign, will be performing their unique blend of contemporary bluegrass – with a stunning view of Homer Lake! Food and drinks will be available for purchase, a portion of the proceeds will go to the restoration of the new Kickapoo Rail Trail! FREE!
Music on the Lake: Bone Jugs: Sunday, July 23, Walnut Hill Shelter, Homer Lake Forest Preserve, 5-7 p.m. Enjoy the musical stylings of Bones Jugs, with a stunning view of Homer Lake! Their creative and lively music will have you tapping your foot and itching to dance! Food and drinks will be available for purchase. FREE!
Summer Garden Concert: Hot Iron String Band, Sunday, July 9, Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden, Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, 5-7 p.m. Bluegrass band Hot Iron String Band is back, performing original songs and classic favorites. Enjoy live music, all while surrounded by the beautiful blooms of the season! Food and drinks will be available for purchase. FREE!
Don’t forget to check out our Summer Fairs and Festivals Guide to find even more free outdoor concerts this summer!