In Champaign-Urbana, Fall Family Fun Doesn’t Have to Drain Your Budget
The weather may be cooling down but the fall fun is just heating up.
It’s time to start planning some fun, fall family outings. And don’t worry — there’s a lot to do this fall in the Champaign-Urbana area that won’t cost you too much.
Thanks to our friends at CIBM Bank for presenting this guide.
Fall in the Midwest is magical.
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Load up on squash, pumpkins, fall greens and more at area farmers markets. Many continue well into October and you’ll continue to find great produce while supporting local farmers. Note on Market at the Square – now that U of I is back in session, you’ll find “Science at the Market” most weeks where your kids can talk to scientists in a particular featured field each week, Watch the calendar for these events! Our tips for shopping Market at the Square with kids are right here, in case you’re new to the market.
Prost! (Cheers!) Downtown Champaign has an afternoon full of polka, food, drinks and fall fun for your whole family each year. There will be face painting and bounce houses (weather permitting).
This museum located at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet offers a variety of great educational programs for kids during fall, many of which are free or very cheap. Check out the new exhibit, Discovering Home, while you’re there. There’s also a number of fun fall activities planned including the popular Harvest Festival.
Opens in August with activities like a 10-acre corn maze, hay rides, pedal race carts, pumpkin launching, country gift shop, and a paintball shooting gallery as well as concessions on the weekends in the fall. Admission is free but check out the website for individual activity pricing. Check out our top ten things to do at the Reindeer Ranch before you go!
Savoy 16 will offer free fall morning movies for FMG Rewards members on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this fall. Show times at 10am. Not a FMG Rewards member? Movies are $1 per ticket. We have the fall 2019 line-up for you here.
It’s so much fun to head out to the apple orchard with an empty bag and your kids and fill it up! You’ll often find other fall-related fun at these locations while you’re there, too.
Take advantage of the fall sporting events (aside from football) the University of Illinois offers. They are tons of fun to watch and tickets are usually free or reasonably priced. Soccer and volleyball are two family-friendly favorites. Check out all the Illini sporting events coming up here.
Happening each fall, the CU Pride Festival and Parade is a great day of free family fun. There will even be four hours of free admission to the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum during the fest!
Considered a Best Kept Secret by many local residents, Negangard’s offers a huge variety of pumpkins and gourds at affordable prices, and opens for the season in mid to late September. Pack up the kids for an afternoon of fall fun but make sure you leave plenty of room for pumpkins — you’re going to need it. Editor’s tip: Swing by the Sidney Dairy Barn on your way home before it closes for the season.
11. Flannel Fest
An annual tradition, you can wear your plaid flannel and head out to Hessel to watch the lumberjack show demonstrations (your kids will love it!) and enjoy music, art, food trucks, crafts, games and more.
Fall skies make great conditions for stargazing. Visit the state of Illinois’ only international “dark sky park”, which means you’ll see a LOT of stars out at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. You can also visit the Parkland Planetarium, and pencil in the 75th anniversary of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at U of I, which will feature a 100-drone light show one night.
13. Play at the Park
Exploring new parks is so much fun, especially when you can admire the beautiful leaves changing colors. Check our online reviews before you head out and remember, you can go to more than one!
14. BOO! Halloween Fun For All
It’s no secret Champaign-Urbana LOVES all things Halloween. We have a fun guide put together for you to find all things Halloween, so find those costumes now and check out which of these events might require pre-registration so you don’t miss out!
A two-part street festival located in nearby Monticello, the daytime activities feature a tractor pull, petting zoo, multiple bounce houses, face painting, balloon artist, LIVE music, Sundowners Car Show, and more. Then come back in the evening sans kids for entertainment for those 21 and over.
16. Go Outside – Right in Champaign-Urbana – Busey Woods/Anita Purves
Another great spot for viewing the fall colors, check out Anita Purves Nature Center and Busey Woods. It’s a great place to take a hike this fall. While you’re there, explore the new nature playscape, Busey Friendship Grove.
17. Go Outside – Beyond Champaign-Urbana Headed West- Allerton Park
Named the most underrated tourist destination in the state of Illinois, we’re lucky enough to have Allerton Park in our backyard… and it is STUNNING in the fall. Entry is free; go hiking, check out the formal gardens, hunt for the sculptures, have a picnic. Grab a bite at the Greenhouse Cafe if you don’t want to pack your own food.
18. Go Outside – Beyond Champaign-Urbana Headed East – Homer Lake Natural Playscape
In some communities, “creek stomping” is all the rage. We don’t really have that many creeks to stomp, but the playscape fills that void. Since it stays warm in the Champaign-Urbana area through September and into October, you can easily get a Homer Lake visit in during the fall. Bonus in that the leaves will be changing colors and looking beautiful. Always free and always fun (and dirty, too!)
Many films offered this fall on weekends at the Illini Union are family-friendly (some are not). Check the Illini Union Events Calendar for more information. Stop down by the Illini Union Rec Room before the movie for some bowling and grab some food while you’re there, too.
20. Pumpkin Lights
Yes! It’s a thing! You don’t have to wait for Christmas lights… you can find a pumpkin lights display right near Champaign-Urbana! Drive out to Mahomet for the Crowley family’s glowing pumpkin display (dates TBA).
21. Hit the Road – Pick a Fall Festival Nearby
If you’re willing to drive just an hour or two beyond our wonderful community, you’ll find many great fall festivals with FREE things to do. 85% of the world’s pumpkin is processed in Morton (near Peoria), so there’s a fest for that of course… and the largest Halloween parade around can be found in Centralia. Here are our top five picks for nearby fests.