In a new blog series for the month of August, we’re going to work to suggest activities and events for you to do on a dime. Visitors and residents alike are always looking for affordable ways to enjoy our Outside of Ordinary area, so we’re starting a new blog series this week with some end of the summer fun you can do "on a dime!"
We’re lucky to have so many great free events in our area every summer, and as August winds into September, some of them will be wrapping up. A popular, free event to consider before it closes for the season is the Summer Quad Cinema Series. In its final two showings, you can enjoy a free screenings of Aladdin (August 8th) and Detective Pikachu (August 15th). The Fall Weekend Films lineup follows, with a schedule releasing soon. If you’re in the mood for concessions while enjoying the films, popcorn is very cheap, at $3-large and $1.50-small (refills are $1.50 and $1, relative to size).
Another great opportunity to enjoy some inexpensive entertainment is to attend any one of the numerous free concerts in the area! Folk and Roots Fridays at the Lake House at Crystal Lake Park is always a fun way to spend lunch before the weekend. The stylings of Katie Flynn are free to enjoy later this month, as is the Gospel Jazz Festival happening at Hessel Park! Minus food and activity costs, free admission to both Taste of Champaign-Urbana as well as the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival and Homer Krazee Days gets you in the gates to enjoy live music. Plus, while you’re there, ticketed snacks and activities keep costs down to whatever you feel like doing or enjoying! For more local music, check out the August Concert Calendar, which includes free and paid ticketed performances.
The great outdoors requires nothing but your presence and attention to the miraculous things around us. In the greater Champaign County area, we’re lucky to have so many opportunities for engaging with the outdoors, and while you’re leaving footprints behind, you can leave your wallet behind at home too! Middle Fork River Forrest Preserve is a great example of a cost-free way to experience something money can’t buy. Middle Fork, as of this year, is an International Dark Sky Park. It earned its title for being far enough away from the urban lights of more populous areas in the greater Champaign County area. This means that when the sun goes down, and the stars start to shine, the view is unlike anything else around.
At Middle Fork and a number of other locations in our area, you can camp for a great price. Some see camping as an experience you either enjoy or don’t, but even just a night camping with the family can be a fun way to mix things up. It’s also a wonderful way to sneak in a vacation at the end of the summer when you might not have major getaway cash handy. Prairie Pines Campground in Rantoul is less than $27 a day, so if you have some people who might enjoy giving camping a go, it’s a great place to find a new passion for the activity!
Lastly, visitors and residents alike enjoy the University of Illinois Arboretum as a way to enjoy some cost-free fun and time outside. The UI Arboretum is like a living laboratory. On the 57 acres of land, plant collections and facilities that support the teaching, research, and public service programs of several units throughout U of I make up the area’s landscape. For a quick walk, day outdoors, or exploration of plant life, the Arboretum is a fantastic way of saving some cash without sacrificing fun or adventure.
Splash and spray pads are wildly popular in our area, and totally free! For example, the Hessel Park Splash pad is an area favorite and runs up through Labor Day. Likewise, the Douglass Park Splash Pad also runs through Labor Day at no charge to little ones looking to stay cool and have some fun!
For older swimmers, or those looking to swim more than just splash around on a spray pad, keep an eye out before the end of the summer for discounted swim days. For example, Sholem Aquatic Center features $4 Fridays, which is an awesome way to save some money and get in the water. You can also get into the pool for $4 after 4 p.m., which works out well for those who work into the early evening! Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center does their $4 days on Tuesdays, if that works out better for your schedule! If you head to Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center after 4 p.m., you can even get a lower price for entry at $3!
For as many people who live in the greater Champaign County area who graduated from U of I, many did not. You might drive by Memorial Stadium, but do you know your way around the historic campus? Self-guided tours of the Quad and Engineering Buildings are a great and free way to get to know the University a little better! Virtual Tours are also available if you can’t find time to get to the campus yourself, but trust us, it’s something you’ll definitely want to do in person. Now is a great time to tour the campus, just before students return. Nevertheless, touring can be made even more fun when enveloped in the energy of a living, in-session university.
Have a favorite activity you like to enjoy On a Dime? Let us know by sharing a photo with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #OutsideofOrdinary and tagging VisitChampaign.