As the snow and ice have melted, and birds return to the perches on the trees, we’re ready to get back outdoors to enjoy the fresh spring air. From hiking local trails, strolling through parks, or visiting area gardens as spring’s flowers start to poke through the ground, the greater Champaign County Area has a number of opportunities to get out and explore the great outdoors this spring. Here we lay out our top ten activities to put on your list!
1.) Hike the Trails at Allerton Park & Retreat Center—Recognized as one of the seven wonders of Illinois, Allerton Park & Retreat Center in Monticello offers 14 miles of hiking trails along the Sangamon River to explore. Adding to the scenic hike are grand European-inspired sculptures that invigorate you on your hike. Check out their trail run happening in early April for a fun course half marathon, 10K or 5K through the stunning park.
2.) Ride the new Kickapoo Rail Trail—The first 6.7 miles of the Kickapoo Rail Trail opened in August of 2017, showcasing woodland, prairie and wetland between Urbana and St. Joseph. This multi-purpose trail will soon expand over 24 miles, connecting to Kickapoo State Park. Until then, take a breather from your ride in the Village of St. Joseph with numerous shops and restaurants to enjoy.
3.) Run or Walk in the Chrisitie Clinic Illinois Marathon—Celebrating 10 years in 2018, the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon is one of the most notable races in the Midwest. With a race for every one (5K, 10K, Half, Full Marathon, Marathon Relay, Youth Run and Wheelchair Half Marathon), this flat course brings in runners from 48 states and 13 countries. Marathon runners take advantage of the flat course to qualify for the Boston Marathon, while other runners PR while they enjoy the motivational signs from the community. BONUS: Runners get to enjoy a big celebration afterwards with a complimentary beer for anyone over 21.
4.) Discover Art in the Prairie—A truly ‘Outside of Ordinary’ in Urbana, Meadowbrook Park showcases 80 acres of recreated tallgrass prairie with three miles of paved trails. As you navigate the park, you’ll discover nearly two dozen pieces of public art in the Wandell Sculpture Garden, sure to inspire you as you catch some fresh air.
5.) Kayak on Homer Lake—Spring is the perfect time to break out the canoe or kayak and bring it out to Homer Lake Forest Preserve. This scenic lake connects to the Salt Fork River so you can extend your trip, or pack up and hike the trails or check out the Interpretive Center to learn more about the natural history of the area.
6.) Get Ideas for your Garden—The University of Illinois Arboretum offers a scenic walk on the south side of campus, with numerous gardens to explore as flowers start to bloom. The Idea Garden, established by Master Gardeners, showcases the latest in borders, ornamentals and vegetables, with a special section for children. You’ll be ready to get home and start digging!
7.) Play Foot Golf at Lake of the Woods—At another of Champaign County Forest Preserve, you’ll find a unique activity, perfect for stretching those legs after hibernating this winter. Lake of the Woods offers their golf course with a new option, foot golf! This soccer and golf combo is nine holes of pure fun. While you’re there, check out the Mabery Botanical Gardens and visit the Museum of the Grand Prairie!
8.) Fish at Kaufman Lake— Stocked with sunfish, channel catfish, and largemouth bass, Kaufman Lake in Champaign offers up a fantastic day of fishing. In addition to their accessible pier, you can bring your own canoe and kayak onto the lake, or bring out your radio-controlled boat for an afternoon of fun!
9.) Play at our Natural Playscapes—Have the kids take a break from technology and rediscover natural play. Urbana Park District’s new Friendship Grove Nature Playscape adjacent to the Anita Purves Nature Center is a hands-on, kid-directed outdoor play space for kids where fun in nature is led by their own imagination and ingenuity. Meanwhile, at Homer Lake, the Natural Playscape gets kids exploring the plants, stream, logs, boulders and animals building healthier minds and bodies.
10.) Check out an Illini Baseball Game—As spring approaches, the excitement of baseball returns. The Fighting Illini Baseball team starts their home season in March running through May as they take on their Big Ten opponents. These free games are perfect outings for the whole family to enjoy!
What will make your spring bucket list in the greater Champaign County area?
Plan your spring getaway now! Download our Visitors Guide for more area information, or discover the many hotels in the area to book your stay!