In Champaign-Urbana, fall family fun doesn’t have to drain your budget
It’s time to start planning some fun-filled family outings for the fall. And don’t worry — there’s a lot to do in the Champaign-Urbana area that won’t cost you too much.
We have the best of the best when it comes to fall fun in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities. And just like any other time of year, activities can quickly ring up a hefty price tag. So when you’re looking for something that is full of fall fun (that costs a bit less), we have a long list of ideas to fit the budget.
Load up on squash, pumpkins, fall greens and more at area farmers markets. Many continue well into October and you’ll find great produce while supporting local farmers. Check out our tips for shopping Urbana’s Market at the Square with kids, in case you’re new to the market.
2. Flannel Fest
An annual tradition, you can wear your plaid flannel and head out to West Side Park to watch the lumberjack show (your kids will love it!) and enjoy music, art, food trucks, crafts, games and more. Two days this year, Oct. 14-15!
You can join in the fun at football games without even walking into Memorial Stadium. Head to Grange Grove before the game for free inflatables, face painting, a performance from the band, and more. Check out our Family Friendly Guide to Illini Sports to learn all about taking in Illini sports as a family.
This museum located at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet offers a variety of great educational programs for kids during fall, many of which are free or very cheap. Hours are 1-5 p.m. daily (excluding Thanksgiving) and subject to change at any time.
Opens in September with activities like a 10-acre corn maze, hay rides, pedal race carts, country gift shop, and a paintball shooting gallery as well as concessions on the weekends. Admission is free but check the website for individual activity pricing. Check out our top 10 things to do at the Rantoul ranch before you go.
This year, we’re finding outdoor movies continuing well into fall. And they can happen anywhere: projected on the sides of buildings, on giant inflatable screens and many other creative options.
It’s so much fun to head out to the apple orchard with an empty bag and fill it up! You’ll often find other fall-related fun at these locations while you’re there, too. Curtis Orchard is our local fav, with others nearby.
Take advantage of the fall sporting events (aside from football) that the University of Illinois offers. They are tons of fun to watch and tickets are usually free or reasonably priced. Soccer and volleyball are two family friendly favorites. Check out all the Illini sporting events coming up here.
Happening each fall, the CU Pride Festival and Parade is a great day of free family fun. It is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 30, with events happening all week long, and you can gather the details here. If the past is any indication, you’ll have a smile on your face the entire time.
Considered a Best Kept Secret by many local residents, Negangard’s offers a huge variety of pumpkins and gourds at affordable prices, and opens for the season in late September. Pack up the kids for an afternoon of fall fun but make sure you leave plenty of room for pumpkins — you’re going to need it. Editor’s tip: Swing by the Sidney Dairy Barn on your way home before it closes for the season.
We’ve got several famous Chambanamoms food posts put together for you to check out, in search of the “best” around. For fall, check out the best barbecue, pizza, pretzels, and burgers. Ice cream is great into fall, too!
12. Look Up At The Sky
Fall skies make great conditions for stargazing. Visit the state of Illinois’ only international “dark sky park,” which means you’ll see a LOT of stars out at Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. You can also visit the Parkland Planetarium for one of its shows.
13. Play at the Park
Exploring new parks is so much fun, especially when you can admire the beautiful leaves changing colors. Check our park round-up before you head out and remember, you can go to more than one!
14. BOO! Halloween Fun For All
It’s no secret Champaign-Urbana loves all things Halloween. We have a fun post put together for you that has all our calendar’s Halloween events in one place, so prepare those costumes now and keep checking back as we add more.
15. Roast hot dogs — and marshmallows too
Hot dogs over the fire are a fall tradition, that’s for sure. If you don’t have a fire pit or a place to build a fire, you can roast them over the range on your (gas) stove — really! So get out the forks and let your kids cook their own hot dogs in some form or fashion. And if you do get a fire going, make sure you’ve got s’mores supplies on hand.
For great spots to view the fall colors, check out Anita Purves Nature Center and Busey Woods. It’s a great place to take a hike this fall. While you’re there, explore the nature playscape, Busey Friendship Grove.
We’re lucky enough to have Monticello’s Allerton Park — named the most underrated tourist destination in Illinois by the Huffington Post — in our backyard. And it is stunning in the fall. Entry is free; go hiking, check out the formal gardens, hunt for the sculptures, have a picnic. Grab a bite at the Greenhouse Cafe if you don’t want to pack your own food.
Since it stays warm in the Champaign-Urbana area into October, you can easily get a Homer Lake visit in during the fall. Bonus: The leaves will be changing colors and looking beautiful. Always free and always fun (and dirty, too!)
It’s prime look-at-the-leaves season and we’re here for it — all of it! Check out our fall foliage map and pick some of the best spots to see fall colors near you.
20. Pumpkin Lights
Yes, it’s a thing! You don’t have to wait for Christmas lights, you can find a pumpkin lights display near Champaign-Urbana. Visit Mahomet for the Crowley family’s glowing pumpkin display (dates TBA). Or head out to White Heath to drive through Pumpkin Hollow.
21. Visit a fall festival nearby
If you’re willing to drive just an hour or two beyond our wonderful community, you’ll find many great fall festivals with free things to do. Eighty-five percent of the world’s pumpkin is processed in Morton (near Peoria), so there’s a fest for that of course, and the largest Halloween parade around can be found in Centralia. Check out fall festivals in the Champaign-Urbana area as well as those a little farther away. And it’s a great time of year to watch a parade!
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