Worried about boredom over Winter Break in Champaign-Urbana? We’re here to HELP!
You may be thinking: I have these kids at home, and stuff is closed for the holidays, and everyone seems to be out of town. What to do? Well, we’ve got you covered. There are more opportunities to get out and have fun in the Champaign-Urbana ara — and keep kids active — than you ever imagined! We also have a collection of day trip ideas. And check out our Winter Break Camps Guide.
So when does winter break start for Champaign-Urbana area schools? For many area school districts, winter break begins at the end of the school day on Friday, Dec. 20. The main exception is Urbana Schools 116, which end on Thursday, Dec. 19. As far as the University of Illinois goes, finals week ends on Saturday.
Thanks to Illinois Athletics for helping us present this list of 50 Things to Do in Champaign-Urbana over Winter Break. Although the rest of the students may be gone, the games must go on! Don’t miss out on these great opportunities to support the Illini.
What: Go to an Illinois men’s basketball game
When: Dec 29 at 1 pm against North Carolina A&T
Where: State Farm Center, Champaign
How Much: Get four tickets for $49.
What: Have a Redbox bowl watching party. It’s not everyday the Illini are in a bowl game!
Where: Anywhere there’s a TV
When: 3 pm on Monday, Dec. 30. The game will be broadcast on FOX 55.
How much: Well, depends on how much you want to spend! Don’t have this on your TV at home? Several area restaurants/bars will be showing the game. We’re waiting on official local watch parties.
Places to visit over Winter Break
What: Play at a FREE Indoor Playground
Where: Champaign, Savoy, Mahomet, Urbana; check our guide.
When: Some are stores and libraries and open most of break; others, like the First Christian Church Playground, have very limited hours over break.
How much: FREE
We’ve told you before how much we love these indoor playground facilities – great for kids to run off some steam. If you haven’t been to the Windsor Road Christian Church playground, this is a good chance.
What: Explore local libraries
Where: Urbana Free Library; Champaign Public Library; Mahomet Public Library; Tolono Public Library; Rantoul Public Library and many more!
When: (almost) anytime!
How Much: Free
Many of our area libraries continue to offer regularly scheduled programming, as well as a few special events. Of course many will be closed Dec. 24-25, and Jan. 1.
What: Explore local museums
Where: Mahomet, Urbana, Champaign, Homer
When: Well, that depends! Spurlock Museum is closed Dec 21 through Jan 1 for the winter holiday, open Jan. 2-5 . Museum of the Grand Prairie is open 1-5 p.m. every day through Dec. 31 except for Dec. 24-25; get there before its annual January/February closing. The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum is open regular hours (closed Mondays) and also closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Krannert Art Museum is closed from Dec. 24-Jan. 1. Anita Purves Nature Center is open except for Dec. 24-25, Dec. 31, and Jan. 1. The Homer Lake Interpretive Center is open Dec. 26-27, Dec. 31, and Jan. 2-4 from 1 to 5 p.m.
How Much: Orpheum has fees; others take donations but are more or less free.
What: Try a new restaurant
Where: We have a list where kids eat free in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding areas as well as a list of places we believe to be great values for kids.
How Much: Varies. For our Kids Eat Free list, read the fine print! Use our kids eat free list and treat your family to a nice meal out.
What: Go swimming at the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center
Where: Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center
When: Extended Public Swim Hours, Dec 20 – Jan 5; WEEKDAYS: 1:30-9 pm; SATURDAY: 12-5 pm; SUNDAY: 2-7 pm Closed Dec 24, Dec 25, Dec 31, Jan 1.
How Much: $6 per person; $3 for supervising adults; $4 per person on Thursdays.
Splash around this great community resource – fun for the whole family!
What: Go bowling
Where: Several places, we recommend Illini Union Rec Room!
When: Most bowling alleys are open over winter break. Illini Union will be closed some days.
How Much: Varies
Another way to stay active and have fun with the kiddos.
What: Go Ice Skating
Where: University of Illinois Ice Arena
When: Here is the online calendar with open skate times; times vary, but there are open skates almost every day except for Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1.
How Much: Complete rate schedule is available here. Our tip: buy a punch card or a family pass to save.
Skate at lunchtime, in the evening, or a few weekend afternoons.
What: Holiday Tennis Camp and Reduced Court Rates
Where: Dodds Tennis Center, 2802 Farber Dr., Champaign
When: Camp is Dec. 26-30; Facility open otherwise with exception of holidays
How Much: Reduced court rates are $15/court per hour for members and guests Dec 21-31; camp prices vary
Children ages 6-18 are invited to the 31st Annual Holiday Juniors Tennis Camp! Stay for a day or the whole time. Learn the fundamentals of tennis or perfect your backhand, and experienced tennis pros will ensure that your child has a healthy and fun holiday break! Sessions last one hour for 6-9 year olds and 1 1/2 hours for older youth. Contact: 217-819-3993
What: Hang out at the Leonhard Rec Center
Where: Leonhard Recreation Center, Champaign
When: Open every day with the exception of Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1. Closing early on Dec. 31. This is based on 2018 info.
How Much: Day passes available.
Indoor playground, walking track, and more. Get moving.
What: Visit the University of Illinois campus and Campustown
Where: see above
When: Anytime! Although beware with the timing of the holidays and generous holiday vacation policy at the university, some restaurants and amenities may be closed.
How Much: Depends where you go 🙂
The students are gone! The students are gone! The students are gone! This is a great time to visit Campustown restaurants (or special treats), especially now that Green Street is more accessible. Shop at Campustown retailers. If the weather holds, walk around and see all the neat architecture and history. There’s even a self-guided tour.
What: High school basketball tournaments
Where: various locations
When: winter break
How much: varies by school
It’s a time-honored tradition – the winter break period is a busy time for girls’ and boys’ high school basketball teams, with holiday tournaments all over the landscape. One of our favorites is the Monticello Holiday Hoopla tournaments for both boys and girls from Dec. 26-28. Schools include Tuscola, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, and Paxton-Buckley-Loda. The Champaign Central girls basketball team plays at Urbana on Dec. 21 at 2:30 pm. And several area girls/boys teams are playing at the State Farm Classic tournament, just up the road in Bloomington-Normal.
What: Go explore nature and get outdoors.
Where: Forest Preserves, Allerton Park, Busey Woods, any local park or trail
When: any time (during the daylight hours)
How much: FREE!
From what we’ve seen, the forecast won’t be too terribly cold over winter break. There’s something about bundling up, getting out into that cool, crisp air, and going out on an adventure. We love a New Year’s Day hike – River Bend Forest Preserve is our usual stop. And if there is snow on the ground – go SLEDDING! Pick a new place. Here’s our list of great sledding in Champaign-Urbana.
What: New Year’s Eve activities
Where: various locations
When: Dec. 31
How much: Varies by location
Check out our Champaign-Urbana New Year’s Eve guide for info on noon balloon drops and other family-friendly events for spending New Year’s together as a family.
What: Kiss a reindeer
Where: Hardy’s Reindeer ranch
When: Open daily before Christmas; closed Christmas Day; open Dec. 26-28, 10 am to 5 pm (last day of the season is Dec. 28)
How much: It’s free to go to the ranch, but various attractions have a fee. Take the Reindeer tour ($5 per person) and surround yourself with these magical animals of the North. You’ll be given a treat to feed them then you can even give them a ‘reindeer kiss’ – if you’re brave. It’s a great photo opportunity.
Events to check out over Winter Break (check back often, we will be adding to this!)
Winter Solstice Prairie Grove Holiday (Pre-registration Required)
Time: 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Anita Purves Nature Center
1505 N. Broadway, Urbana
Dinner with Santa at McAlister's
Time: 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
421 Town Center Road, Champaign
Grand Community Menorah Lighting & Chanukah Celebration
Time: 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
509 S. Fourth Street, Champaign
Illini Women's Basketball - 217 Day
Time: 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
State Farm Center
1800 S First Street, Champaign
Holiday Hop Around at First Baptist Church at Savoy
Time: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
First Baptist Church at Savoy
1602 Prospect Ave, Savoy
Time: 11:30 am - 2:00 pm
UI Ice Arena
406 E. Armory, Champaign
Noon Day Drop at the Orpheum Children's Science Museum
Time: 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Orpheum Children’s Science Museum
346 N. Neil, Champaign
Party Like It's 1900 New Year's Eve Noon Day Celebration
Time: 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Museum of the Grand Prairie, Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve3
950 N. Lombard St., Mahomet
Noon Year's Eve: Bones Jugs & More!
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Urbana Free Library
210 W. Green Street, Urbana
Family Fun Night - New Year Celebration!
Time: 6:30 pm - 7:15 pm
Champaign Public Library
200 W. Green Street, Champaign
Illini Farm Toy Show
Time: 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
1001 W Killarney St, Urbana
Do you have other ideas? Let us know in the comments below!