Grab your winter gear, your camera, and letter to Santa (optional) before heading out for a stroll in Champaign’s Porter Park this holiday season
The unique holiday season of 2020 won’t be lacking for opportunities to make some new family memories – they just might look a little different.
That’s certainly the case for the Champaign Park District’s Winter Nights at Porter Park, a new walk-through lights attraction built just for 2020 that is free and open to the public, nightly from now through January 3.
Make sure to bundle up when you load up the entire family for a fun evening at Robert C. Porter Family Park. Located in southwest Champaign near the intersection of Windsor Road and Rising Road, the brightly lit display is a welcome addition to the Champaign-Urbana area holiday light scene.
We’ve watched the Champaign Park District work diligently on this display for days now. We were so excited to check out the display in its entirety, we made it to Winter Nights the first weekend it opened.
A few of our observations:
- It’s a great excuse to get the juices flowing and stretch our legs. The Winter Nights at Porter Park path is definitely a manageable walk for kids and adults of all ages and a wide range of abilities. If you are looking for movement opportunities, youngsters will appreciate the roughly half-mile lit walking or strolling path around the pond. Parents will appreciate the incentive for exercise that is fun for everyone.
- The entire perimeter of the path is paved, making it stroller and wheelchair accessible.
- If it’s part of your tradition, make sure to have your children bring their letters to Santa, as there is a special North Pole Post to send your letters directly to Saint Nick himself. This dropbox is located near the end of the trail nearest the playground structure.
- Whatever you do, just don’t forget that camera. We’re fairly certain that you will sneak a picture (or 10) before you leave.
A few tips before you go:
– A handicapped accessible portapotty is located near the entrance to the walking path at this time. The Champaign Park District has indicated that the portapotty is scheduled to be picked up at some point in December, but has not indicated the exact date of its departure. (Our recommendation, like for most other outdoor outings: be sure the family uses the facilities at home first.)
– Masks are encouraged and recommended. Others will be on the path and social distancing might not always be possible.
– Although Porter Park is lit up, there are still some places where the path can be a bit dark. Our recommendation: pack a flashlight or two just in case, or be prepared to use the flashlight on your phone.
– Parking is somewhat limited in the area. The lot may be full, especially as the walk gets more visitors. There’s no word on where overflow parking will go. Hopefully, this won’t be a problem!
– Want to bring snacks or dinner? Picnic tables are located near the walking path under a covered open air structure.
– The playground is open — best to get there before the sun goes down and the lights go on, if that’s of interest to your family. If you’ve never been before, the nature-themed playground and playscape is one of our favorites and has elements for the littles and the big kids.
A few of the top moments on the trail:
A bench with mistletoe is located along the trail. We made the children in our group blush to see their parents sneak a kiss under the lit archway.
Our group appreciated the vibrantly lit bridge (pictured above) that will be sure to pop up in your Facebook or Instagram feeds more than a few times this holiday season.
For our next visit, we think that this walk would be improved with a cup of hot cocoa. Need some ideas for where to find that before you stop by the park? We can help point you in the right direction here.
The Park District’s Facebook event page for Winter Nights at Porter Park includes up to date information about the light display as well as other fun holiday games and ideas for families to enjoy this holiday season.
If you go:
Winter Nights at Porter Park
HOW MUCH: Free
WHEN: The light display will run each evening from 5:00-9:00 p.m. from November 27, 2020 through January 3, 2021.
WHERE: Porter Park is located at the corner of Rising and Windsor Roads in far southwest Champaign. The entrance to the parking lot is off of Rising Road.
Jump Directly to Champaign-Urbana Holiday Info:
Gigantic Holiday Guide | Drive Thru Holiday Events |How to Watch the Nutcracker for Free | Where to See Santa | | Christmas Parades | Where to Get a Live Christmas Tree
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