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5 Top Activities for Spring & Summer

March 9, 2020

The weather is warming up and spring is upon us, with summer looming on the horizon. This season brings a flurry of events and activities to get you back outside and enjoying the Outside of Ordinary atmosphere in the greater Champaign County area. Check out our top five recommendations for this spring and summer.

Garden Walks

As spring approaches and the signs of winter start to fade, wildflowers poke through the ground, shades of purple and pink appear in the earliest blooms, and cherry blossoms and lilacs abound, ripe for the picking. Gardens in all corners of the greater Champaign County area lie in wait for your senses to discover. Allerton Park & Retreat Center, a majestic estate with fourteen formal gardens has over 100 ornamentals deliberately placed along the turns of every path so regardless of the time of year you visit, you’ll be accompanied by an abundance of color.


Peace and tranquility will wash over you as you find yourself in the adjacent gardens of the Japan House and the Arboretum. The Sen Cherry Tree Allee ushers in spring with the blooming of cherry blossoms leading up to the Japan House. Surrounding this cultural facility, you’ll find traditional Japanese gardens such as their Tea Garden, which is based on the historical gardens dating back to the 16th century, and the Dry Garden with rocks and sand that doesn’t fit with the Western world’s view of a garden. The Idea Garden showcases the latest in borders, ornamentals, and vegetables to inspire you on garden design.  


At the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, you’ll find eight acres of the park dedicated to the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden. A popular backdrop for photos, this garden boasts some of the most beautiful and diverse flora in Central Illinois. The red Japanese bridge pops against the pond filled with lily pads and the waterfall trickling behind it.



On-the-Farm Dining

Each spring, over 100 baby goats are born at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, where they produce award-winning goat cheese and gelato. This spring, enjoy their popular events, Babies & Brunch on April 18–19, and April 25–26, where guest chef, Alicia Hinze of the Buttered Tin in Minneapolis, and winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” will prepare sweet and savory baked goods for guests who come out to catch the cuteness of the babies.


In the summer, stay tuned for their limited dinner series on the farm with the Sunday Dinner Club from Chicago. Enjoy ingredients straight from their organic farm at community tables for a night you won’t soon forget.



Outdoor Entertainment

We clamor for longer, warmer nights so we can enjoy music outdoors. Like our indoor venues, you can catch some outdoor entertainment throughout the summer months with these awesome line-ups.


Friday Night Live—From the Friday after Memorial Day to the Friday before Labor Day, you can catch live music every Friday night in downtown Champaign, hosted by 40 North, the Champaign County Arts Council. On four street corners from 6:00–8:00 p.m., you’ll catch eight different local performers each week, alongside a kid’s activity. Grab a drink from one of the local bars and snag one of the many outdoor seats and enjoy some tunes. 


Urbana Downtown Get Down—When you head to Main St. in Urbana the last Saturday of the month from May–August, you’ll find a streetfest with live, local music, an art fair, demos, games, kids activities, and much more brought to you by the Urbana Public Arts.


Allerton Park Concert Series—In one of the most unique settings in the Midwest you can catch regular live music through Allerton Park’s Concert Series. With their new Love for ALL(erton) kicking of Pride month, their Reds, Whites and the Blues each July, Irish Fest in August, and the Prairie Sky Festival in September, you’ll catch every genre over the summer months. Don’t miss the annual Music Barn Festival in late September in collaboration with the University of Illinois School of Music.


Gaze in Wonder at the Night Sky

As weather warms and we break out our camping gear, plan a trip to Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. This hidden gem, one of Champaign County’s five forest preserves, was recently named an International Dark Sky Park. The only Dark Sky Park in Illinois, Middle Fork offers wonderous views of the cosmos for stargazers. The 688-acre preserve features a campsite on the grounds so you can plan your night-time views, and during the day, you can hike and spot the ample wildlife in the area, or swim in the lake in Central Illinois’ only beach!


Get Out on a Bike

Head through any part of our community and you’re likely to see bicyclists out for a ride or commuting. The League of American Bicyclists ranks bicycle-friendly communities across the country, and we’re proud to have Urbana as Gold-Level, and Champaign as Silver-Level communities. How can you enjoy biking in our community? We make it easy!


Kickapoo Rail TrailCatch the trailhead for the first 6.7 miles at Weaver Park in Urbana and head east to Saint Joseph, where you’ll end in the heart of the village. Along the way, you’ll pass acres of farmland, prairie, and wetland featuring one of the most diverse ecosystems in this part of the state.


Bike Paths—While our city streets are lined with dedicated bike lanes, our communities are filled with bike paths for an afternoon of riding or commuting. In Rantoul, enjoy nine miles of trail looping around the Village that will take you downtown, to the Bill Seeber Sports Complex and Willow Pond Golf Course. The Mahomet bike trail leads you through the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve, past Main Street, and to Barber Park with four complete miles of trail. Parks in and around Champaign and Urbana offer trails such as the Boulware Trail in Champaign connecting to Mattis Park, and trails around Meadowbrook Park in Urbana.


Don’t have a bike? Check out our bike share & rentals. Locally, you can access bikes and e-bikes (for a little extra help!) through VeoRide’s app to find the closest bike to you. Simply scan the QR code to unlock the bike and only pay for the length of time you use the bike. Hop on and off where it’s most convenient for you, and bikes will be picked up later! At Neutral Cycle on the University of Illinois campus, you can rent a variety of bikes by the day or week. Rent a tandem to tour the community with a partner and check out all the Outside of Ordinary spots around the greater Champaign County area.


Ready to plan your spring & summer getaway?

Get your free copy of the greater Champaign County area Experience Guide!

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