Outdoor fun continues to reign supreme this fall for Champaign-Urbana area families
Throw on a hooded sweatshirt, shuffle your feet through the leaves and get ready to enjoy everything outdoors with your kids
When you’re looking for things to do in 2020, it may seem like a lot of things are not an option. By and large, heading outdoors is wide OPEN. Hooray!
We’re accustomed to going outside (while maintaining social distance) at this point and fall brings a whole new spin on enjoying the outdoors together for the next few months.
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 pick those apples, take those walks and enjoy the crisp fall air this year!
Thanks to the Champaign Park District for presenting our ultimate guide to outdoor fun in Champaign-Urbana.
COMING SOON: THE GREAT PUMPKIN HUNT
Are you ready to solve clues to find pumpkins all over Champaign-Urbana? Champaign Park District has teamed up with Urbana Park District to hide pumpkins in the parks throughout October.
Get more information here: https://www.facebook.
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 – and remember to pack your masks.
Enjoy the Fall Colors
It’s one of our favorite fall activities: heading out to look at the beautiful changing colors. We give you some ideas on where to head, but really if you have any trees in your vicinity, you can’t miss the fall colors.
Walk, Bike or Hike
Start with the basics when you 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. Fall is great biking weather!
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
Champaign-Urbana has so many wonderful playgrounds! We provide a roundup of the ones we love to visit.
Because you may want to carefully plan your park outings around locations where your toddler won’t make a mad dash for playground equipment during a pandemic, we’ve got the scoop on what parks you can visit that do NOT have playground equipment — or parks where you can stay far away from playground equipment.
Outdoorsy Fun for Nature-Loving Families
Sometimes heading outdoors is simply to enjoy and experience nature. Falling leaves and changing trees make it all the more enjoyable. We give you the scoop on the closest places to C-U that have you feeling like you’ve retreated to a nature oasis.
Go Stargazing: Dark Park
Did you know that autumn is one of the best seasons for stargazers? It’s also more family-friendly as the night skies get darker earlier. For optimal star gazing away from city lights, head to the Dark Park at Middle Fork Forest Preserve.
Fishing may sound intimidating but it’s a fairly easy family activity to pick up and do together. There are a number of convenient locations to C-U and fishing can be done throughout fall on those beautiful weather days. Early fall mornings are especially great for catching fish.
If we’re being honest, picnicking in the fall is grand. Better temps, (typically) fewer bugs, and not as much demand for picnic tables. Add in some yummy fall foods (pumpkin, anyone?) for good measure.
Fall is our favorite season to go camping; bonfires, warm sweatshirts and hot dogs, just to name a few reasons. So make it a night or two and dodge the summer heat and crazy bugs by camping during the fall! There are a number of spots to camp as a family throughout Central Illinois, so choose the location that sounds most ideal for you.
Fall Traditions: Champaign-Urbana Area Attractions You Don’t Want to Miss
When we think of enjoying the outdoors during fall, we think of some of those annual family traditions that we just can’t wait to do this fall … like apple picking! Head to Curtis Orchard (the closest place to C-U to pick apples) or venture a bit farther if you like to one of the other locations on our “where to pick apples” list. We love strolling around Curtis Orchard while kids chase kittens and warm up with apple cider. There’s no admission to enter the orchard so you can stop by just to wander if you want to just enjoy the fall.
Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch near Rantoul has long been a Champaign-Urbana destination for all things fall. Plan an outing to do the corn maze (super popular with older kids and teens); this year’s adventure is called “Under the Sea.” Experiencing the maze under the moonlight (after 5 p.m.) is an adventure to remember, too! Climb on the massive stacks of hay and wave to the reindeer. There’s no admission fee.
There are tons of places you can pick out a pumpkin throughout Champaign-Urbana. A “best kept secret” we want to make sure you know about is Negangard Pumpkin Patch. Located in rural Sidney, this pumpkin patch is all about the pumpkins — and pumpkins there are! The prices are pretty awesome and families are known to load up a wagon for a great price. Don’t miss the GIANT pumpkins while you’re there and take a picture on your way out. This is close to Sidney Dairy Barn, so if you’d like to grab some ice cream before heading back to Champaign-Urbana, you may even find pumpkin ice cream on the menu.
A Closer Look at Some of our Favorite Outdoor Spots
- 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