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
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. Winter time is no exception – you just need to be prepared for the elements!
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.
In addition to our favorite ice rink at the University of Illinois, we point you towards all of the ice rinks a short drive from Champaign-Urbana and tell you where you can find a true outdoor ice rink, too!
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 aren’t usually very crowded during winter!
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.
Find everything related to winter in Champaign-Urbana:
- Winter Fun in Chicago: Free Days at the Best Museums
- Winter Road Trip: Visiting Ice Castles at Lake Geneva, Wis.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Indianapolis: Free Museums, Zoo and More
- Where to Ice Skate in Central Illinois and Beyond (Indoor and Outdoor)
- Have the Ultimate Outdoor Winter in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Best Sledding in Champaign-Urbana
- Slide on your Snowshoes and Hit Trails Near You Around Central Illinois
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
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