In Champaign-Urbana, Fall Family Fun Doesn’t Have to Drain Your Budget
The weather may be cooling down but the fall fun is just heating up.
It’s time to start planning some fun, fall family outings. And don’t worry — there are plenty of happenings still on for fall in 2020. Outdoor activities continue to reign supreme and many of our annual traditions (like picking out a pumpkin) are happening, along with many others. We list 21 of our favorite things to do as a family during fall while staying on a budget, too.
As your family makes plans to head out on a family fun outing this fall, we encourage you to double check the details (hours, etc.) of the place you’re heading to — and remember to pack your masks!
Load up on squash, pumpkins, fall greens and more at area farmers markets. Many continue well into October and you’ll continue to find great produce while supporting local farmers. We have tips for shopping Farmers Markets with COVID guidelines, in case you haven’t shopped the market yet this year.
This museum located at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet offers a variety of exhibits and programs during the fall, many of which are free or very cheap. Note that some may be virtual this fall, as the Museum has done a great job of streaming programs.
It’s so much fun to head out to the apple orchard with an empty bag and fill it up! You’ll often find other fall-related fun while you’re there, too.
Considered a best-kept secret by many local residents, Negangard’s offers a huge variety of pumpkins and gourds at affordable prices. Pack up the kids for an afternoon of fall fun but make sure you leave plenty of room for pumpkins — you’re going to need it. Pro tip: Swing by the Sidney Dairy Barn on your way home before it closes for the season.
Illini football: Watch from home
You can join in the fun at football games by cheering on the Illini right from your home. Pull out the orange and blue, make some fun football themed snacks and have a college football Saturday as a family. The Illini season begins Oct. 23 at Wisconsin.
Play in a Nature Playscape: Friendship Grove or Homer Lake
For two great spots for viewing fall colors, check out Busey Friendship Grove outside the Anita Purves Nature Center and Homer Lake, a short drive beyond Champaign-Urbana. Both offer different experiences where the play is with logs, dirt, mud and more.
Named the most underrated tourist destination in the state of Illinois, we’re lucky enough to have Allerton Park in our backyard — and it is stunning in the fall. Entry is free; go hiking, check out the formal gardens, hunt for the sculptures, have a picnic. We think you’ll love it.
Nope, we’re not sending you on a hike with this particular suggestion. (But see below.) We’ve got several famous Chambanamoms Food Trails posts put together for you to check out. Some of the ones that stand out to us for fall are the barbecue trail, pizza trail, pretzel trail, and burger trail. Many of the stops on our ice cream trail will still be open into fall, too!
Sounds simple enough — hop in your car with your kids and drive through special places at special times and, with most of these, treats are involved! Bring your mask, dress in a costume if you wish, and get your BOO on, from your car.
Go see the big things in Casey, get some Amish cinnamon rolls from the bakery, or find all things Lincoln for a different spin on learning. No matter what you choose, the ideas on this list are low in cost and high in fun.
A 10-acre corn maze, hay rides, pedal race carts, pumpkin launching, country gift shop, and a paintball shooting gallery as well as concessions on the weekends in the fall — so much fun! Admission is free but check out the website for individual activity pricing. Check out our top ten things to do at the Reindeer Ranch before you go.
Roast hot dogs — and marshmallows, too
Hot dogs over the fire are a fall tradition, that’s for sure. If you don’t have a fire pit or a place to build a fire, you can roast them over the range on your (gas) stove — really! So get out the forks and let your kids cook their own hot dogs in some form or fashion. And if you do get a fire going, make sure you’ve got s’mores supplies on hand, too.
Building on the above suggestion, why not take your hot dog roasting out to a campground for a night? You can get a campsite near C-U for $16-20 a night, so this still fits the budget-friendly bill. Don’t have camping gear? I bet one of your friends does. Ask around.
It’s prime look-at-the-leaves season and we’re here for it — all of it! Check out our fall foliage map and pick some of the best spots to see fall colors near you.
Fall skies make great conditions for stargazing. Visit the state of Illinois’ only international “dark sky park,” which means you’ll see a lot of stars at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. You can also check out the awesome programming from Staerkel Planetarium, with many FREE, live-narrated tours of the sky that night.
Exploring new parks is so much fun, especially when you can admire the beautiful leaves changing colors. One of our favorite parks to play in the leaves is Carle Park. Check our park round-up before you head out.
Going right along with playing at the park, you can set out on the Great Pumpkin Hunt and find hidden pumpkins throughout C-U parks this year.
It’s no secret Champaign-Urbana loves all things Halloween. Check out our Halloween events and activities post to get started.
Yes! It’s a thing, and you just stay right in your car! You don’t have to wait for Christmas lights; you can find a pumpkin lights display near Champaign-Urbana. Visit Mahomet for the Crowley family’s glowing pumpkin display Oct. 29-31.
Walk through Pumpkins in the Park and take a selfie at Arthur Pumpkin House
Take a short trip to Tuscola and visit the “Pumpkins in the Park” walk-through display. It’s open all day. Head a little bit farther if you’re there in the evening and visit the Arthur Pumpkin House, taking a selfie in front of hundreds of glowing pumpkin faces.