Worried about boredom over Winter Break in Champaign-Urbana? We’re here to HELP!
You may be thinking: I have these kids at home, stuff is closed for the holidays, and we’re not even going out of town at all. What to do? Well, we’ve got you covered. There are more opportunities to get out and have fun in the Champaign-Urbana area — and keep kids active, while you’re at it — than you ever imagined! We also have a collection of day trip ideas; we do a list specifically of summer day trips that you may be able to use for some inspiration, too.
So when does winter break start for Champaign-Urbana area schools? For many area school districts, winter break begins on or around Wednesday, Dec. 21. It’s the longest break from instruction that kids (who do not attend a school on a balanced calendar) have all year, until summer.
Places to visit during Winter Break (in Champaign-Urbana)
What: Check out books, movies and more at local libraries
Where: Urbana Free Library; Champaign Public Library; Mahomet Public Library; Tolono Public Library; Rantoul Public Library and many more
When: (almost) anytime (except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and maybe others, depending on location)
How Much: Free
Pick out some new books (or movies) to keep your time at home interesting for your kids. Some even have equipment like 3D printers you can check out (we’re looking at you, Urbana!)
What: Explore Champaign County Forest Preserves
Where: Mahomet, Homer, Fisher, Penfield
When: Generally speaking, the Forest Preserves are open from dawn to dusk. The Middle Fork Forest Preserve has an area that stays open 24 hours a day for night sky viewing.
How Much: Free
There are so many things you can do to enjoy nature this winter! Bundle up and head outdoors — your kids will run around to their hearts’ content.
What: Visit the University of Illinois campus and Campustown
Where: Various locations on the campus of the University of Illinois
When: Anytime — students are gone for an extended break from on-campus instruction
How Much: Depends where you go, of course.
The students are gone! The students are gone! The students are gone! This is a great time to check out Campustown restaurants (or special treats), especially now that Green Street is more accessible. Shop at Campustown retailers. If the weather holds, walk around and see all the neat architecture and history. There’s even a self-guided tour.
What: Go see Christmas lights, both in Champaign-Urbana or throughout Central Illinois
Where: All over!
When: Daily, all winter break
How much: Usually free; some of the larger displays have a fee per car
Lights, lights and more lights! This is a great year to drive around and see ALL the lights. And since it gets dark so early, if you plan on heading to one of these further-away light displays, you can leave in the afternoon and make a day trip out of it if you wish, arriving there right at opening.
What: Ice Skating
Where: University of Illinois Ice Arena
When: Schedule varies by the day
How much: Ages 4 and up are $6; ages 3 and under are free. Skate rental is $3 for all.
Some days have discounted rates, and there are also family passes available or bulk rates. In any case, you can skate around the ice to your heart’s desire.
Where: Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center or Stephens Family YMCA
When: Special hours may apply. Click here for the UIAC schedule; here for the Stephens Family YMCA schedule.
How much: UIAC rates are $6 per person; under 4 years free; $3 fee for anyone who enters the facility. Punch cards and various memberships are available.
An energetic swim in the middle of winter? Sounds like a great way to burn off some energy to us.
What: Playing at Leonhard Recreation Center or the NEW Martens Center in Champaign
Where: 2307 Sangamon Dr., Champaign (Leonhard) or 1515 N. Market St., Champaign (Martens)
When: Hours vary by the day. Click here for the Leonhard schedule; here for the Martens schedule.
How much: Day pass available at Leonhard for $6 for residents, $9 for non-residents; monthly and annual memberships also available. Martens offers memberships on a monthly or annual basis; daily admission for open gym is $2 (residents) or $3 (non-residents).
Open gym, pickleball, indoor playground, indoor track, games and more. Offerings vary between the two buildings so read up ahead of time to decide which one you want to visit.
Places to visit during Winter Break (as a day trip)
What: Miller Park Zoo
When: Any day, except Christmas Day
How Much: Pricing is $4.95 or $6.95 per person with children ages 2 and under free.
A walk through the zoo will prove to be a fun outing for your family even in the middle of winter.
What: Casey Big Things
Where: Casey (about an hour from C-U)
How much: Free
The world’s largest crochet hook and knitting needles; the world’s largest mailbox; and the world’s largest wooden shoes — this is a trip to remember. Budget-friendly, mostly outdoors and definitely unique, this could be fun to do over winter break.
What: Lincoln Log Cabin
Where: Lerna (about an hour from C-U)
When: The grounds are open daily
How much: Free
Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Stop at the visitor’s center first, then wander the grounds and enjoy the Lincoln Log Cabin up close.
Events to check out over Winter Break
Fighting Illini Women's Basketball vs. Florida Atlantic | Holiday Game
Time: 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
State Farm Center
1800 S First Street, Champaign
Noon Year's Eve Party
Time: 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
111 E. Main Street, Tolono
New Year's Eve Early Bird
Time: 3:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Big Thorn Farm & Brewery
14274 E 600 North Road, Georgetown
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