When you want to play outside with your children, you have dozens of parks to choose from in and around Champaign-Urbana
Take a quick drive through any portion of Champaign, Urbana, Savoy, Mahomet and many other towns nearby and you will see green space and playground equipment every few minutes. We are fortunate to have so many parks and playgrounds to choose from when we want to head outside with our children to move our bodies, get fresh air and have some fun.
Update: Outdoor playgrounds reopened with restrictions as of 6/26/2020 when Illinois entered Phase 4. Be sure to follow all current Champaign County Public Health District recommendations including those for group size, social distancing, and mask wearing. Since outdoor play equipment is not cleaned or sanitized, some families may decide to avoid playgrounds — for more info about area parks without playgrounds, head over here.
According to a 2018 clinical report shared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “children need to develop a variety of skill sets to optimize their development and manage toxic stress.” Play helps regulate the body’s stress response. Outdoor play, specifically, gives the opportunity to improve sensory integration skills, and physical play (like you find on a playground) promotes an active lifestyle and many opportunities to hone social skills while playing among other children.
We love so many parks and playgrounds around Champaign-Urbana and want to share them with you!
Below we break down many of our favorite parks by town. Click on the name of the park to expand the information about that facility. We also include outdoor playspaces and generally great places to spend time together outside as a family.
A neighborhood park first established in 1874, Beardsley Park boasts some neat features like a suspended rubber platform, small climbing wall, teeter totter and more. The play equipment is geared towards younger kids but early elementary kids may find it enjoyable as well.
This new neighborhood park offers the opportunity for people to practice team sports like basketball or soccer. There is one medium-sized play structure geared towards kids of all ages instead of two separate structures (younger/older). Bring anything with wheels as your kids can scoot or race around the path on your visit!
As if a splash pad, basketball courts and a huge playground wasn't enough, Douglass Park features Champaign's only "fitness trail". This walking path is lined with pods of outdoor fitness equipment, like a cardio stepper, mobility station and stretching area, to name a few.
This all-inclusive playground is compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, has sensory-stations throughout and features tennis courts, basketball hoops and a batting cage.
With a trio of slides, a climbing wall, a drum to bang and lots of other appealing elementary-age equipment, Glenn Park is well worth the visit to this neighborhood park.
Hessel Park offers expansive playground equipment for the youngest of park-goers to older children, tweens and teens. You'll find the famous parent/baby swings here, in addition to a splash pad (summer months only), a lengthy walking path and ample green space.
This huge park is bordered by open fields, making it seem even larger than it is when you visit. The park features paved paths and an accessible playground, in addition to tree stumps bordering the park your kids can play on.
Overlooking miles of farmland, Sunset Ridge Park offers lots of unique fun, like tennis courts, a skate park, extra-wide walking paths and the eye-catching play structure your kids will become enamored with.
The main structure at this playground is designed for kids ages 5-12, with preschoolers typically navigating it safely, too. Settled among wood mulch, these play structures are going to provide some fun for your family.
Footsteps from Downtown Champaign, West Side Park is a beautiful property with rich history and lots of fun. The gated playground is popular for parents of young children (and mulch-free, too). You'll find a larger play structure for older kids as well. Catch annual events, like the Taste of CU, at West Side each year.
Relatively small in terms of equipment, there's a lot of space to spread out here at Zahnd Park. If your kids play organized sports, you may find yourself here for practices or games but any time is a good time to visit the park. Bonus... there are indoor bathrooms here (hours they are open may very seasonally).
This highly accessible playground just off University Avenue in Urbana is full of structures children can walk (or roll) right up to experience. Families who have someone with a disability will especially appreciate a lot of the thoughtful park features found at this park.
More "nature" than playground, Busey Woods is a great place to get outside we can't overlook. These are some of the safest trails you'll find in the area to navigate with wheelchairs, mobility aids or strollers. Enjoy the woods from the elevated boardwalk walking trail or let your kids venture "off road" and explore.
This historical Urbana park is a "best kept secret" and one of our favorite places to see the fall leaves when they change color. The playground is geared towards older children; younger children will just need to be more closely supervised here as there's still plenty for them to do.
Crystal Lake Park is a lot more then a playground. Fishing, sledding, nature walks and more await at the huge park in Urbana. Look for sand volleyball courts and tons of benches and picnic areas throughout the park itself, too.
"Get dirty" and "touch it all" are two of the guidelines when playing at Friendship Grove, outside the Anita Purves Nature Center in Urbana. Urbana's own playscape is made of natural materials to engage children of all ages in creative, free play.
Meadowbrook Park has probably caught your eye when you've driven past it on Windsor Rd in Urbana before. The classic wooden play structure is a favorite among area children. There's also miles of paved walking trails, a wide open field for kite flying and picnics and beautiful sculptures lining the trails.
Have a toddler? Great! Sunnycrest Tot Lot will be a great fit for them. With infant-only swings, ride-on animals and a generally quiet zone to play, we think you'll find this neighborhood playground to be some fun times for your young child.
In addition to one of our favorite playgrounds in the area, Colbert Park features Champaign-Urbana's first "Born Learning Trail", with signs like "Go run up the hill, like Jack and Jill". It's a beautiful, expansive park with picnic tables and a natural, thoughtful aesthetic.
Newly opened in 2019, this playground has lots of fun, interactive features especially geared towards younger park patrons. The interconnected shapes and suspended seats give a unique twist to typical playground equipment. Being on the edge of town, this park is usually less busy than others.
Sports fields surround this playground that feature a rock climbing wall, two age-appropriate play structures and a tic tac toe game, to name a few.
Our six favorite parks in Mahomet are Lake of the Woods, Bridle Leash Park, Brent Johnson Park, Water Tower Park, 13 Acres Park and the Riverbend Forest Preserve. We share a little on each park in the post below.
Owned and operated by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, you'll find a playground here (off the entrance on Lake of the Woods Rd), botanical gardens (off the entrance on Route 47), fishing spots, sledding hills, miles of paved walking/jogging/biking paths and tons of green space. Lake of the Woods is a popular Champaign-Urbana "nature escape" for all these reasons and more.
Other Outdoor Recreation Areas
You can camp, you can fish, you can hike, you can boat or you can just soak up the sunshine at this state recreation area. Clinton Lake boasts one of the only "beaches" in Central Illinois, too.
This Champaign County Forest Preserve District location features miles of easy-to-navigate hiking trails, opportunities to fish/kayak/canoe around the lake and the famous nature playscape that most area families come to Homer Lake in search of.
Located in LeRoy, this quiet oasis is popular for canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. You can even rent them here if you want to try it out. There's also camping, fishing, hiking and the usual outdoor activities to be enjoyed too.
Known as a camping destination, Kickapoo State Park makes a great short drive from Champaign-Urbana. Families can hike, fish, boat and have a picnic in the great outdoors with just a thirty minute drive away.