How to enjoy the great outdoors during a Champaign-Urbana winter
Bundle up, put on your boots, and get ready to enjoy everything outdoors with your kids
When you’re looking for things to do during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem like a lot of activities 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 winter will challenge us in new ways as this is our primary outlet for something to do this year.
chambanamoms.com thanks Countryside School for presenting the Ultimate Outdoor Winter
Information Nights: Join Countryside on Thursday, February 4 at 7 p.m. for a free webinar about Kindergarten-5th grade or Thursday, March 4 at 7 p.m. for a free webinar about Middle School! “See” the classrooms, hear from teachers (and from students at the middle school night), learn about their COVID safety protocols, hear about the application process, and ask questions.
Register to receive the webinar link: www.tinyurl.com/CSInfoNights2021
Countryside School is the area’s first and only ISACS-accredited, independent, K-8 school. They offer an accelerated, hands-on curriculum, and their mission is simple: “Joy in Learning, Excellence in Education.” They are non-profit and offer financial aid.
For more information: www.countrysideschool.org
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.
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.
Winter Fun Outdoors
Kids big and small will love the thrill of careening down a hill on a piece of plastic, holding on for dear life. Just try to make it down the hill without smiling … we double-dog dare you. And when you’re done, you can go home and have cookies and hot chocolate. There are plenty of options in the Champaign-Urbana area for this classic winter pastime.
While the Ice Arena at the University of Illinois may be closed for this year’s season, an outdoor rink has popped up in Springfield and you can ice skate indoors in Bloomington, for the time being. We will update this list as the winter goes on and rinks update/add their info.
Anywhere you could go for a walk or a hike proves to be a great place to try out snowshoeing. No hills required, no road-tripping necessary — unless you decide to seek out state parks or forest preserves.
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. Watch out for icy patches and enjoy some fresh air.
Biking in the winter? Sure, why not? You might not want to put those bikes into storage this winter so you can take advantage of each and every single nice weather day. When you’re biking as a family, you probably have two goals for your journey: finding someplace out of the way of major traffic, and someplace 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.
Please note that nearly all hikes will be just a little more challenging during the winter time, so take that into account when you’re choosing an easy, moderate or difficult trail (by our terms, at least).
Play at a Park
Champaign-Urbana has so many wonderful playgrounds! We provide a roundup of the ones we love to visit. And any warm-enough day can be a playground day during the winter. Bonus: Playgrounds are less crowded during the winter so if you haven’t ventured out to one since COVID-19 came onto the scene, winter may be a good chance.
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. Snow covered trees and birds chirping add to the ambiance of a winter moment spent in 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, regardless of the season.
Go Stargazing: Dark Park
Did you know that winter is one of the best seasons for stargazers? It may be cold but you can also go out at an earlier hour than you can during the warmer months. For optimal star gazing away from city lights, head to the Dark Park at Middle Fork Forest Preserve.
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
- Weldon Springs State Park
More Posts on Enjoying the Outdoors at Warmer Times of the Year
- Where to Rent Canoes, Kayaks and Boats Near Champaign-Urbana
- Creek Stomping Your Way Around Champaign-Urbana
- Go Leef “Peeping” in Champaign-Urbana: 10 Places to See Fall Colors
- Fishing Fun for Families in and around Champaign-Urbana
- Where to Go on a Picnic With Your Family Near Champaign-Urbana
- Camping with your Family Near Champaign-Urbana