It doesn’t matter if you own a pair of hiking shoes, can’t stand bugs, or spend every waking minute soaking up the fresh air and sunshine. Outdoor fun is here to stay for Champaign-Urbana area families once again
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 first-hand rather quickly as you head out with your family. So hike, fish, bike, camp and walk your way through the outdoors this summer!
Summer was a strange season last year. When many things completely closed down, the outdoors was wide OPEN. And that holds true once again this year. We encourage your family to keep that love for an outdoor summer alive in 2021 or begin your first ventures outdoors if this is a new-to-you idea.
Thanks Scovill Zoo for presenting this post. Since 1967, Scovill Zoo has been an important part of the Decatur community. With 400 animals spanning six continents, an Endangered Species Carousel, Z.O. & O. Express Train, community-built Project Playground, summer camps, adult volunteer opportunities, and mobile classroom programs, the zoo contributes to the education, enjoyment, and quality of life of residents and visitors from across Central Illinois.
Everything Outdoors for Champaign-Urbana
Pin this page, post this to Facebook, save the link to your homescreen, or bookmark this link because this is one page you’re going to want to come back to over and over again for the summer. Click on each link below to read what we’ve taken the time to put together for your family.
Walk, Bike or Hike
Start with the basics when you head outside and 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.
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. Click on the details of each park we share to get an in-depth look at that park’s features.
When the weather finally breaks and we just HAVE TO get outside … but everything is muddy and mucky and we just aren’t in the mood to trudge through it all … find a mulch-free playground! Rubberized surfacing makes play safe (and mess free) and you’ll find it on many of our playgrounds in Champaign-Urbana.
Because you may want to carefully plan your local park outings to locations where your toddler won’t be making a mad dash for playground equipment, we’ve got the scoop on what parks you can visit that do NOT have playground equipment — or parks you can visit and stay far away from playground equipment with your kids.
We’ll give you a hand and show you the best picnic locations in and around Champaign-Urbana to make sure you’re taking advantage of warm weather and this timeless tradition. Whether you pack your own or pick up a local delight on your way to your picnic, we know that picnics make for the “best day ever” when it comes to fun on a budget with kids.
Fish, Stomp, Canoe and Camp
Fishing may sound intimidating but it’s a fairly easy family activity to pick up and start to do together. Spending a little to get a fishing rod and reel and making sure you have an applicable fishing license pays off rather quickly when you see how much fun you can have casting into the water at convenient locations close to C-U.
You didn’t know this was a thing? Creek stomping is an absolute blast and requires absolutely nothing to “do” other than a parent’s permission to get muddy, wet and dirty. We round up where you can take your kids to stomp around and have a blast in local creeks.
Sometimes heading outdoors is simply to enjoy and experience 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 in an instant.
Ramping up the intensity in your “outdoor summer” is when you decide to not just head outside for the day but for a night or two, as well. There are a number of spots to camp as a family throughout Central Illinois, so choose the location that sounds most ideal for you.
Don’t scoff at “boat rental” as out of your budget. Renting a canoe or kayak for a few hours is a special summer outing you can plan with your older kids and teens. We’ve got options within an hour’s drive of Champaign-Urbana that will make it possible.
Top spots for outdoor recreation near Champaign-Urbana:
- Visiting Clinton Lake With Your Family
- Visiting Imagination Grove Near Bloomington-Normal
- Meet Me Halfway: Kankakee River State Park
- Hidden Treasure in Central Illinois: Weldon Springs State Park
- The Perfect Family Hike: Explore the Sangamon River Forest Preserve near Fisher
- Best Kept Secret: Buffalo Trace Prairie in Mahomet
- Getaway for a Day: Matthiessen State Park
- Best Kept Secret: Forest Glen Preserve
- Hiking the Sangamon River Corridor Reserve in Monticello with your Family
- What to Do at Kickapoo State Recreation Area
- What To Do At Turkey Run State Park With Your Family
- Everything You Need To Know about Visiting Homer Lake Forest Preserve with Your Family
- What To Do At Moraine View State Recreation Area With Your Family
- Visiting Lake of the Woods in Mahomet with Children
- What To Do At Clinton Lake With Your Family
- 8 Reasons You’ll Love Visiting Allerton Park with Your Family
- At Middle Fork River Forest Preserve, Darkness is the Star
- Parent’s Guide to Busey Woods in Urbana
- River Bend Forest Preserve in Mahomet a Great Escape