Are you looking for an Instagram-worthy holiday photo location? Are you looking for that perfect Champaign-Urbana shot to finish your holiday cards?
We tend to spend a lot of time driving around Champaign-Urbana (and Central Illinois!) admiring the beautiful lights and holiday decorations. Sometimes we do it wearing pajamas and drinking hot cocoa, but we have to admit that on more than a few occasions we have coordinated outfits in search of that perfect holiday photo stop or selfie… and we may have taken a few more pictures than we’d like to admit.
In case you are still searching for a festive photo backdrop to finish your holiday greeting cards or just want some fun family snapshots, we’ve picked out a few of our favorite photo backdrops to ponder for your next adventure out and about.
Editor’s Note: The ideas in this post are available seasonally and decor varies from year to year.
Note: Always make sure to confirm dates and hours of operation before planning your family’s photo-worthy expedition.
Allerton Park, 515 Old Timber Rd., Monticello: Check out Holiday GLOW, presented by the U of I Community Credit Union. It is open most nights through Jan. 14, 2023. This walk features many fun photo opportunities (below) including the gardens, a large lit tunnel, and other lit structures. Find out more about Allerton’s Holiday GLOW here.
Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch, 1356 County Road 2900 N, Rantoul: Take a family picture with the reindeer or snap an Instagram-worthy selfie. There’s a herd of authentic Alaskan reindeer for you and your family to interact with. Find out more about visiting Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch here.
Lake of the Woods, 109 S. Lake of the Woods Rd., Mahomet: The crew at the Champaign County Forest Preserve District worked hard again this holiday season to create picturesque spaces for your family to enjoy. You can choose between backdrops best viewed during daytime, and the “Night Lights” illumination in the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens on Friday and Saturday evenings, 4-8 p.m., from Nov. 25 through Dec. 31, 2022. Find out more about Night Lights at Lake of the Woods here.
Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Ave., Champaign: The folks at the Champaign Park District transform the mezzanine lobby of the Virginia Theatre for the holidays. Each year this space hosts visits with Santa, and on specific days and times can be reserved for free by members of the public who wish to take holiday pictures. We hear families show up dressed in everything from their best holiday finery to matching pajamas. For information on holiday happenings in this beautiful space, check their social media or our Events Calendar.
Prairie Farm, 2202 W. Kirby Ave., Champaign: Our friends at the Champaign Park District illuminate a beautiful holiday display at Prairie Farm (adjacent to Sholem Aquatic Center) every Thursday through Sunday night, Nov. 25 through Jan. 1. (The lights will be closed on Dec. 24-25 and 31.) This relaxing and accessible-for-all stroll through Prairie Farm is free to enter; free hot chocolate on Friday and Saturday evenings only. Bring a letter for the man in red himself, Santa, to drop off in a mailbox along your walk. Find out more about Winter Nights at Prairie Farm here.
Riggs Beer Company, 1901 S. High Cross Rd., Urbana: The German Christmas Market hosted at Riggs has become a highlight of the holiday season. It is open for 4 weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, from Thursday to Sunday. There is no admission charge — families can enjoy traditional foods such as sweet and savory crepes, bratwurst, candied roasted nuts, and hot spiced wine, while shopping local craft vendors. Find out more about the Christmas Market here.
Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign: Take a family picture or snap a selfie with a festive holiday goat! Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery will be open for farm visits and farm store shopping Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of December. On Dec. 10, for only $5 you can visit the Santa Goat Photo Booth! Come out to see the goats, check out the great cheese and accompaniments in the farm store, and maybe even enjoy a cup of gelato or warm spiced cider. Look for details on their website or social media pages.
Prairie Gardens, 3000 W. Springfield Ave., Champaign: If vintage red trucks or giant Santas (or large stuffed reindeer) are your thing, you won’t want to miss the fantastic displays at Prairie Gardens. Experience the magic of the season with a store decorated head-to-toe in unique, inspiring Christmas décor.
Ice Castles, Lake Geneva, WI: You’ll notice that none of these local holiday photo suggestions require snow, or even cold weather. This final suggestion is the exception, and it is only an option after the 2022 holiday season is over. It requires travel, time, money, and a bit of luck. But if you are able to secure tickets for a timeslot at Ice Castles 2023 — in Wisconsin or one of four other U.S. locations — your family photos are going to be EPIC. Find out more about Ice Castles in Lake Geneva here.
Know of another spiffy holiday photo location? Email us and let us know.
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