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 Outside at Research Park, which is one of our favorite outdoor concert events of the year! 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.
And if you know of a free concert we didn’t include on this list, let us know so we can add it.
Outside at Research Park: July 8. 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.
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 4 and running through Aug. 28. Performances will take place at the intersections of Neil and Church, Neil and Park, and Walnut and Chester in Downtown Champaign and will include an eclectic mix of music and street performances including bluegrass, jazz, folk, and blues, along with a cappella, dancing, and live painting. There will also be a special family activity every week including balloon animals, glitter tattoos, hula hooping, puppets, and much more!
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 3. Each Neighborhood Night features local musicians, free popcorn and lemonade, and fun activities.
Summer Twilight Concerts on the Quad: June 23 and July 21. 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 for some great FREE live music! At the Crystal Lake Boat House in Crystal Lake Park, Urbana.
Summer Garden Concert Series: Held the second Sunday in June, July and August at the Mabery-Gelvin Botanical Garden, enjoy a free concert surrounded by the beautiful blooms of the season! Food and drinks will be available for purchase, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the restoration of the Mabery-Gelvin Botanical Garden.
Music on the Lake: Enjoy concerts at Homer Lake Forest Preserve the last Sunday of the month in June and July. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the new Kickapoo Rail Trail! FREE!
Strawberry Jam: It’s a family favorite at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana on June 18. 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.
Don’t forget to check out our Summer Fairs and Festivals Guide to find even more concerts this summer!