Your children can splash to their hearts’ content this summer at Champaign-Urbana area splash pads
These free, water-based playgrounds are open for family fun
From Champaign to Homer, Rantoul to Bloomington, there are numerous splash pads that Champaign-Urbana area families can visit during summertime months. Some are newer than others, some have more bells and whistles, but all of them prove to be great for keeping cool and staying on a budget.
Perhaps the most famous splash pad in Champaign-Urbana, Hessel Park has been there for far longer than this generation of today’s kids. The Champaign Park District property was updated in 2018 with new water features and many improvements. It is turned on from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, Memorial Day to Labor Day. It has a theme of bugs/critters and your kids are sure to find this adorable. A handful of nearby benches are available. The bathrooms, if you’ve not experienced them before, have the feel of pool bathrooms.
Not as “famous” as Hessel Park but nearly equal in size and features, the Douglass Park splash pad is a best-kept secret in Champaign-Urbana. This is on the same block as the Douglass Branch Library and at the same park that features a real “fitness trail”, open to the public to get in your workout while playing, too. This splash pad is typically much less crowded than Hessel (the secret is out now!) and it is another great spot to set up camp for a couple hours while the kids play. Bathrooms are available at the community center (located on the same property).
Brand new in 2021, the splash pad at the Rantoul Sports Complex highlights sports-themed features and offers a great way for kids to cool down before, during or after a game at the adjacent sports complex. Find it running, weather-permitting, during summer days and special events. A mud-free playground also opened next to the splash pad, so you can really have a good time letting your kids burn off some summer energy here. Located right off the Rantoul exit from Interstate 57.
The farthest drive on our list, this splash pad is located outside Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington-Normal, just under an hour’s drive from the heart of Champaign-Urbana. Why do we think it is worth the drive? The abundance of water features, for starters! This splash pad is HUGE. We don’t have the specifics on square footage, but we can tell you it feels gigantic compared to the other splash pads on our list. Kids can aim the sprayers towards other kids running around the splash pad (or siblings, ahem) and get just as soaked as they would in a pool. So don’t skip the swimsuits if you’re coming to this destination. Note: we’ve been known to trek over with our littles JUST for the splash pad, without even venturing to the zoo located across the park from here. It is a trip in and of itself.
Homer Village Park
The park in downtown Homer is a lovely place to head with your kiddos to cool off in a shaded playground with a water play option. If you are looking for a quiet, small-town park feel, Homer is the splash pad for you. It is much smaller than the other options on this list, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a welcome outing for your kids, especially younger ones.
Want another water play option in Homer? Be sure to visit the natural playscape at Homer Lake. Not a splash pad, but another free option to get cooled off (pictured below).