A Champaign County family favorite, the Homer Lake Natural Playscape is a unique way to stay cool and enjoy what the Champaign County Forest Preserve has to offer
Kids of all ages love the Homer Lake playscape, which is reason enough to plan a trip
Not a splash pad, a playground or a creek, the Homer Lake Natural Playscape is a one-of-a-kind destination for Champaign-Urbana families. This man-made water feature offers a great opportunity to get up close with nature, with something for kids of all ages and abilities to enjoy. And because there are about 100 other reasons to head to Homer Lake, we want to make sure you know why we think a visit to the playscape should be at the top of the list the next time you head to Homer with kids.
What is a natural playscape?
According to the Champaign County Forest Preserve District website:
The Homer Lake Natural Playscape is a playground designed to connect people to nature. Prepare to get dirty as you explore the plants, stream, logs, boulders, and animals!
These play experiences are akin to those that many kids had a generation ago, and which are becoming increasingly rare today. The Homer Lake Natural Playscape brings back the magic of those experiences for today’s kids, and help grow future advocates for the environment while also building healthier bodies and minds.
In a nutshell, the playscape is a place where you can freely play in nature in a kid-friendly, easy-to-enjoy atmosphere. You truly have to see it for yourself!
How to prepare for a visit to the playscape
There are a lot of things to do here, but during the summer months you will definitely want to enjoy the water feature. That means you’ll prepare for the playscape like you would a visit to the splash pad — swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, snacks, lots of water, and extra clothes to change into afterwards. Because here you will not only get wet, but you’ll get dirty, too!
There’s also sand, dirt, mud, and other muck to get into. So if you’re unsure of what your visit will look like, preparing for MESS is a sure bet.
We’re big fans of taking water shoes — something that you would take creek stomping — that will be grippy (flip flops won’t be helpful here on the slippery rocks) and parents, don’t forget you’ll want yours, too. Particularly if you are going to be heading to the playscape with kids under 5 so you can climb right in the water with them.
What is the best age to visit the playscape?
Truly, we can say that any age is a great age to take to the playscape. You’ll want to proceed with caution with those slippery rocks if you have young children with you, but we believe there is plenty to do at the playscape for kids of any age. Older kids may want to bring nets and take them down by the lake, where they can catch creatures and get into messy muck. Don’t forget you can climb the spiderweb and sit on the porch swing-style swing.
Technically the playscape was designed for children ages 5-12 years old. With that being said, all ages are welcome!
What to know about the water feature
Again, from the Champaign County Forest Preserve District website, the stream runs from 9:45 a.m. to dusk daily during warm months of the year. Touch the pad to activate the pumps — once you do it a couple times, you’ll have the hang of it — and wait for the pumps to fill up before the water comes out.
Yes, the playscape is a man-made water feature. But it was designed in such a way that you truly will feel like you’re playing in something amazing that has been there for decades, untouched by man. There are very few elements that remind you that it is man-made (like the pump you turn on to activate the water).
Other information you will want to know
Pets and bikes are not allowed at the playscape. Bathrooms are a short walk away — walk south along the lake toward the traditional playground and you’ll see the building that has handicap accessible restrooms. We can’t guarantee these are open all year; you can always take a short drive up to the Interpretive Center during its open hours.
Bring your fishing gear! This is a great location to go fishing while you’re playing at the playscape.
We can’t write about the Homer Lake Playscape without sharing the thoughtful (and quite adorable) names of the different features you’ll find on your visit:
- Crawdad Creek
- Compass Rock
- Stump Jump
- Boulder Bounce
- Bluebird House
This destination is an awesome Champaign County family-favorite and only a short drive from Champaign-Urbana. It is a great place to meet up with friends for the day, pack a picnic and swing by the Sidney Dairy Barn (seasonally) on the way back to C-U. That last part is truly the icing on the cake!
More on all your favorite outdoor activities:
- Gardens and Flower Farms in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Where to Go Boating with Your Family Near Champaign-Urbana
- Hiking Trails For Families in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Visiting Champaign-Urbana Area Parks and Playgrounds with your Family
- Fishing Fun for Families in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Walk Your Way Through Champaign-Urbana
- Gardens and Flower Farms in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Avoid the Mud and Muck with Mulch-Free Playgrounds in Champaign-Urbana
- Great Places for a Picnic in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Family-Friendly Bike Trails in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Creek Stomping Your Way Around Champaign-Urbana
- Camping with Your Family Near Champaign-Urbana
- Parks Minus Playgrounds We Love Around Champaign-Urbana
- 6 Places to Experience Nature with Kids Near Champaign-Urbana
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
- 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