When you’re ready to escape into nature without leaving Champaign-Urbana, make a visit to a hidden gem
Kids (and adults!) of all ages will love meeting the animals, checking out the fossils and bird watching at the Urbana Park District facility
There are so many ways to experience nature with kids in Champaign-Urbana without even leaving town. When you’re looking for a nature-focused facility that has both indoor and outdoor elements, the Anita Purves Nature Center is going to be your destination. Even better, this Urbana Park District facility is completely free to visit during open hours!
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You may have noticed the nature center at the opposite end of the parking lot for the Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center (Urbana’s outdoor pool). Or perhaps you recall the buzz around the opening of Friendship Grove, Urbana’s own outdoor playscape. But have you ever stepped inside Anita Purves itself?
If your kids like to touch and hold things when you’re out and about, here’s good news: That’s encouraged here. Kids can rifle through buckets of sand digging for fossils, choose slides to look at under a microscope and touch and feel all kinds of materials and objects, including real fossils. Your budding paleontologists will love learning about the fossils found locally and reading the stories that go along with some of them.
Of course no matter what age your kids are, the animals that reside at the Anita Purves Nature Center are a huge draw. There are the rescued screech owls that will probably stand out to your family right away. You will notice something amiss with their eyes as these owls have rehabilitated from injuries and now live safely at the nature center.
There are also snakes and turtles you can watch, too. Toddlers and preschoolers love to see what the turtles are munching on every time we visit the nature center as they usually recognize the vegetables in their enclosures.
As a parent, you’ll also enjoy the quiet bird watching room that overlooks the path to Busey Woods, a favorite hike in Champaign-Urbana for families with children due to the accessible path that winds through the woods and is wide enough for strollers. In the bird watching room there are binoculars and bird watching pamphlets/books to peruse. Encourage kids to be quiet and listen to the sounds piped in from right outside the window.
Since this is an Urbana Park District facility, you can sign up for programs run by the park district (like summer camps) while you’re at the nature center. There’s even a gift shop so you can pick something up for the nature-lover in your family.
Looking for a place to hold your child’s next birthday party? The Anita Purves Nature Center does those, too. Read the mom review of having a birthday party.
Make plans to visit the Anita Purves Nature Center with your family soon. Whether you decide to stay inside or venture outdoors into the woods or the playscape, we think you’ll have a great time at this great Urbana Park District facility without having to spend a dollar.