Champaign-Urbana is not THAT big of a town. You can get from one place to another in about 20 minutes, outside of morning or evening traffic. But sometimes 20 minutes is just too long. So here are a few suggestions for quick side trips – five minutes or less — that might keep your kids from yelling, “Are we there yet?”
1. Trevett/Finch Park, corner of Prospect and University avenues, Champaign. The large tree that dominates this tiny little speck of Champaign Park District land has got to be the greatest tree ever created. It defies gravity, going against the grain by growing horizontally. It begs to be taken in, climbed upon, read near, investigated and enjoyed. Park benches nearby make for a great spot to sit and watch the kids burn off some energy on Mother Nature’s mini-playground. Interesting to note: According to the Champaign Park District’s website, the tree and large rock featured at the park were part of the original farmhouse site, purchased by Oliver Trevett in 1857. Just imagine how many children — including the Trevett and Finch grandchildren — have played on that tree!
2. Parking lot behind the old train station, near the corner of Chestnut and Main streets, Downtown Champaign. If you have a train lover in your house, pop back behind the old train station for a few minutes and wait for the Amtrak to roll on by (keep a schedule in the car). You won’t be more than 15 feet from the rushing wind of a locomotive – so close you can count cars if they’re going slow enough. It’s a quick and easy alternative to the Monticello Railway Museum.
3. Hallene Gateway and fountain, near the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Illinois Street, University of Illinois campus/Urbana. First off, there’s not much better to cool you off that watching a rushing fountain of water. Grab some pennies, throw them in and wait for your wish for peace and quiet to come true. The nearby Hallene Gateway is the official east entrance to the University of Illinois and was the stone portal from the first University-built classroom building, discovered discarded on the grounds at Allerton Park in 1994 and resurrected in 1998. Look, they even get a history lesson!
4. Krannert Art Museum sculpture garden, corner of East Peabody Drive and South Sixth Street, University of Illinois campus/Champaign. Students are gone for the summer and the museum itself is closed, but no one can stop you from enjoying these outdoor wonders. Our favorite: the little construction-like guys (above) who are pushing what look like pennies around the ground.
5. Krannert Center for the Performing Arts roof and amphitheater, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., University of Illinois campus/Urbana. Cultural gems can be found on the stages below, but the roof and amphitheater have magic of their own. The roof has a pathway that crosses from one side to the other, along with great views. The amphitheater would give any budding Shakespeare or, let’s face it, Disney star the opportunity to show their stuff.
These are places you probably drive past every day. What other five-minute-or-less stops do you see on your daily commute?
Aubrie Williams is an all-around journalist, Chambanamoms managing editor, and University of Illinois graduate who is happy to have gotten “stuck” in Champaign-Urbana. She is the doting mother of three daughters, dutiful wife of one lucky husband, and loving caretaker to two cats and one insanely messy house.