By Emily Harrington
With a three-day weekend within our reach, I knew we had to do something outside of the norm. Parks and picnics are great, but an extra day in the weekend meant something special was in order.
I weighed our options. I felt like Turkey Run (although awesome) would be too crowded, and Allerton (although great, too) was too dry. It was going to be hot and we would need water to wade in or boat through. Kickapoo State Recreation Area felt just right.
We set out at 9 a.m. and made it inside the park in 40 minutes via I-74. The perfect amount of time for a kid to be in a car before all hell breaks loose. The park is located at 10906 Kickapoo Park Rd. in Oakwood. Exit right before you hit Danville if you are coming from the Champaign-Urbana area.
I’ve never been to Kickapoo with my son, so I was looking at the park with an entirely new perspective. Kickapoo is an old mining area that was restored to state park status decades ago. The lush grounds span 2,842 acres of woods and water. The park is basically a series of different ponds and trails with lots of wide open spaces in between. Even though this was a long weekend, it never seemed crowded or rowdy. We had space and freedom to roam uninterrupted.
Anything you want to do outdoors (in a day or a weekend) can be achieved within the park. There’s camping, fishing, camping, hunting, hiking, biking (even scuba diving!) and boating to name a few. Boat rentals include canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and tubes. You can boat and watch the wildlife and plants along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.
We started at the horse stables. Unfortunately, the stables are no longer open for riding, but you can still pet the horses. We then worked our way to two different playgrounds and finished at the hub of the park—Kickapoo Landing. You can organize your rentals for river trips, buy bait or eat in the café for lunch, dinner or breakfast. Think diner-type cuisine. The food smelled great, but we had lunch plans.
All the activity had left us hungry! My husband had one thing on his mind—Gross’ Burgers in Danville. After you exit the park, take I-74 towards Danville for a few minutes then take the Georgetown Road exit heading south toward Tilton. They are located at 25 Henderson St.
DO NOT LET THE NAME DECEIVE YOU. The burgers are the opposite of gross. This place is BUSY, too. The menu is simple and the genius is in the simplicity. I’ll make it easy—choose from a single, double or triple and add your toppings. You can add fries, too. We bought two orders of fries which filled up an entire lunch sack. Three burgers, fries and two drinks cost us about $13.
After that day and that lunch, we all needed a nap. Two thumbs up to Kickapoo and Gross’ Burgers for satisfying our family’s hunger for activity and good food.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.