5 outdoor destinations in Champaign–Urbana, Illinois

Allerton Park & ​​Retreat Center | 515 Old Timber

Located in Champaign County’s Monticello, Allerton Park & ​​Retreat Center is a beautiful escape to get a taste of art, nature, and history. Philanthropist and artist Robert Henry Allerton built the estate in 1900, and it was offered as a donation to the University of Illinois in 1946. Today, the 1,500-acre park is open to the public during designated hours, when visitors can explore formal gardens, the natural prairie, forest land, and 14 miles of walking trails. The historical mansion is now used as a space for conferences, events, and limited lodging.


Crystal Lake Park |​​206 W. Park

With 90.4 acres of space, Crystal Lake Park presents a number of engaging nature-based activities for the entire family. Pockets of forested areas define this wooded nature oasis, but the park is home to pavilions and picnic shelters, flower beds, horseshoe pits, playgrounds, sports and open fields, sand volleyball, the outdoor Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center, trails for biking and walking such as Crystal Lake Labyrinth, and a hill used for sledding in the winter. Notable features include the nearby 59-acre Busey Woods nature preserve and Anita Purves Nature Center, as well as the lake, the Lake House, fishing piers, paddle boat and canoe rentals, and seasonal boat rentals.


Market at the Square | 401 S. Vine

During summer and fall, the Market at the Square farmers’ market in downtown Urbana happens every Saturday morning from 7 am–noon. Located between Walnut and Vine streets along Illinois Street, rows of vendor stalls sell fresh produce, plants, clothing, food, and other goods. Crowds flock to the market to peruse the items, as well as enjoy family-friendly programming and live performances, demonstrations, and music.


ILLINI Pub Cycle | 416 S. Chestnut

Now a fixture throughout many cities and main streets, group pedal tours are a fun option, ideal for groups over age 21, ranging from Greek life events to alumni weekends to graduation celebrations. ILLINI Pub Cycle, operating from March through November, is one such bike pedal bar that operates on flexible routes throughout the area and hosts between eight and 15 people per pedaling group. Those who book Illini Pub Cycle can enjoy a 90-minute ride throughout the city while enjoying whatever beverages they bring with them. The company provides coolers, ice, and cups—choose your drink of choice, and hop on for a fun ride.


Wandell Sculpture Garden | 2808 S. Race

Tucked into the 130 acres of Meadowbrook Park, Wandell Sculpture Garden opened in 1998. Unique sculptures dot the area, tucked in gorgeous Illinois tallgrass. Sculptures include local pieces from artists associated with the University of Illinois, as well as works from various artists across the country.

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