It doesn’t matter if you own a pair of hiking shoes, can’t stand bugs, or spend every waking minute soaking up the fresh air and sunshine. Outdoor fun reigns supreme this summer for Champaign-Urbana area families.
When you’re looking for things to do in 2020, it may seem like a lot of things are closed and canceled. By and large, heading outdoors is wide OPEN. Going outside, while maintaining social distance, is how we’re all going to navigate these summer months with our families.
Champaign-Urbana is filled with and surrounded by picturesque nature escapes. Spending time together in nature as a family is great for mental and physical health, and we think you will experience the benefits firsthand rather quickly as you head out with your family. So hike, fish, bike, camp and walk your way through the outdoors this summer!
Thanks to Kickapoo Adventures for presenting this list of places to have fun outdoors. Whether it is canoeing, kayaking or tubing on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River — Illinois’ only National Scenic river — trail riding through the challenging single-track trails, hiking or running the forested trails through abandoned strip mining spoils reclaimed by nature, or fishing the deep, clear ponds, Kickapoo Adventures is your source for adventure.
Editor’s note: During COVID-19, some trails, facilities, or entire parks may be closed. Be aware of any safety protocols or group size limitations currently in effect for the area you will be visiting. Before you go, please check the website or social media for the specific park you plan to visit.
Everything Outdoors for Champaign-Urbana
Pin this page, post this to Facebook, save the link to your homescreen, or bookmark this link because this is one page you’re going to want to come back to over and over again for the summer. Click on each link below to read what we’ve taken the time to put together for your family.
Walk, Bike or Hike
Start with the basics when you head outside and take a walk as a family. We round up all our favorite walking paths in Champaign and Urbana and give you the distance of the path in most cases.
When you’re biking as a family, you probably have two goals for your journey: somewhere out of the way of major traffic, and somewhere that’s not too strenuous for little peddlers. We take you to some of our favorite riding spots in the area, including the Kickapoo Rail Trail.
Different than a walk, hikes will take you into the woods and off the beaten path, so to speak (though near Champaign-Urbana, we have a lot of beautifully paved paths you can hike). Nonetheless, find out how and where to start hiking near town with a handy legend showing you the varying levels of difficulty you’ll encounter as you tackle the trails with your kids.
Play at a Park
Because you may want to carefully plan your local park outings to locations where your toddler won’t be making a mad dash for playground equipment, we’ve got the scoop on what parks you can visit that do NOT have playground equipment — or parks you can visit and stay far away from playground equipment with your kids.
Outdoor playgrounds currently require some extra vigilance from parents because of the pandemic. We look forward to when they become carefree places again, because our area has so many fantastic options to enjoy.
Fish, Stomp, Canoe and Camp
Fishing may sound intimidating but it’s a fairly easy family activity to pick up and start to do together. Spending a little to get a fishing rod and reel and making sure you have an applicable fishing license pays off rather quickly when you see how much fun you can have casting into the water at convenient locations close to C-U.
You didn’t know this was a thing? Creek stomping is an absolute blast and requires absolutely nothing to “do” other than a parent’s permission to get muddy, wet and dirty. We round up where you can take your kids to stomp around and have a blast in local creeks.
Sometimes heading outdoors is simply to enjoy and experience nature. We give you the scoop on the closest places to C-U that have you feeling like you’ve retreated to a nature oasis in an instant.
Ramping up the intensity in your “outdoor summer” is when you decide to not just head outside for the day but for a night or two, as well. There are a number of spots to camp as a family throughout Central Illinois, so choose the location that sounds most ideal for you.
Don’t scoff at “boat rental” as out of your budget. Renting a canoe or kayak for a few hours is a special summer outing you can plan with your older kids and teens. We’ve got options within an hour’s drive of Champaign-Urbana that will make it possible.
A Closer Look at Some of our Favorite Spots Outdoors
- Busey Woods
- Allerton Park
- Lake of the Woods
- Homer Lake
- River Bend Forest Preserve
- Sangamon River Forest Preserve (Fisher)
- Middle Fork River Forest Preserve
- Sangamon River Corridor Reserve (Monticello)
- Moraine View State Park
- Clinton Lake
- Kickapoo State Park
- Forest Glen
- Matthiessen State Park
- Turkey Run State Park
- Weldon Springs State Park