21 things to do in Urbana Parks in 2021

Dec 2020

Meadowbrook Park
The gardens at Meadowbrook Park

With a new year upon us, thoughts inevitably turn to resolutions. Instead of making specific vows of what we would like to change, in this month’s blog we have decided to brainstorm 21 wonderful ways to enjoy Urbana parks in 2021:

  1. Make some music at AMBUCS Park: Not only does this north Urbana park feature an accessible playground, but the accessible path circling the play area features instruments you can play while you stroll.
  2. Play some evening tennis at Blair Park: Located just south of Urbana High School and Urbana Middle School, Blair Park is home to the district’s only lighted tennis courts.
  3. Take in (or play) a game at Canaday Park: Home to the Urbana Park District’s (UPD) softball and kickball programs, this park off of E. Main near the former Solo Cup factory features a lighted ball diamond.
  4. Take a tree tour at Carle Park: Urbana’s third oldest park is home to a gorgeous array of trees, including the largest English Oak in Illinois. Fifty of the Carle Park trees form part of the award-winning Hickman Tree Walk. You can download a map and specimen guide to the tree walk for an educational exploration.
  5. Play sports with the little ones at Chief Shemauger Park: Home to youth T-ball and pee-wee football, this park features a ball diamond, half basketball court, and an open field.
  6. Enjoy the Japanese garden at Crestview Park: Located near Florida and Philo, this park features the lovely Koishikawa Garden, created by the Urbana Rotary Club as a tribute to their sister club in Japan.
  7. Walk the yellow-ish brick road of the labyrinth at Crystal Lake Park: Follow the single winding path on a contemplative stroll around this labyrinth designed for quiet meditation or sit an enjoy the contemporary garden. 
  8. Take your canine companion(s) for a romp at the dog park: Open from sunrise to sunset, the Perkins Road dog park offers open meadow space as well as a shaded grove for your dogs to run off leash, full steam ahead. An annual pass is required, but you can get a month-long trial pass in order to test out the park and see if it’s a good fit for you and your pup. See the dog park page linked above for more information on membership.
  9. Learn archery at Judge Webber Park: Just next to the dog park lies the home of the East Central Illinois Archers (ECIA). Normally closed to the public, the Urbana Park District does offer an archery program in the summer, taught by ECIA members. Watch the UPD program guide this spring for more information.
  10. Picnic at King Park: This popular neighborhood park features a pavilion and gazebo for (small, socially distanced) gatherings, as well as grills for a nice al fresco meal.
  11. Play tag at Larson Park: With a delightful open field and grove of trees to dart around, Lason Park is a great location to let the kids run and chase each other—or tap into your inner child and join in the pursuit!
  12. Hug a historic tree at Leal Park: Home of several beautiful mature oaks, including a certified bicentennial tree, Leal Park also contains trees from the original Big Grove forest that covered the area before Urbana was founded.
  13. Play a round of frisbee golf at Lohmann Park: With a nine-hole disc golf course open to the public, you can grab a disc for a free round of golf with family or friends.
  14. See, smell, hear, taste, and touch the Sensory Garden at Meadowbrook Park: This expansive Urbana park features a wide array of gardens from the herb garden to the wildflower walk and the ornamental tree grove. Next to the farmstead you will find a beautiful Sensory Garden, designed to dazzle more than just the eyes. Wander through and enjoy unique plants that engage all the senses.
  15. Take a load off at the Patterson Parklet: Just west of downtown Urbana, you’ll find some nice shady seating at this peaceful parklet. Sit on separate benches for a socially distanced chat with friends, enjoy a nice outdoor spot to read, or simply relax after some downtown shopping.
  16. Go sledding at Prairie Park: With a manmade hill situated between the ball diamonds and soccer fields, Prairie Park provides some elevation for snowy days. Break out the sleds, coasters, and snow pants for a fun wintery day.
  17. Go for a stroll at Southridge Park: In addition to a playground, this park on Urbana’s south side provides a walking path where you can get your steps in.
  18. Take the little tikes out to play at the Sunnycrest Tot Lot: With play equipment designed for little ones up to age 5 and a picnic grove, this park south of Florida is a great place to bring your babies for a playground of their own.
  19. Grow a garden at Victory Park: Named for the World War I victory gardens planted at this Green Street spot, the park features neighborhood community gardening from April through November. More information on reserving a garden spot is available by calling 217-384-4062.
  20. Wander among the art at the Wandell Sculpture Garden: Featuring permanent and rotating exhibits, this sculpture garden is a great place to experience art and nature together.
  21. Check out the habitat development at Weaver Park: Weaver Park features an unpaved trail weaving through a variety of habitats under restoration, including woodland, savanna, native grass, prairie, and wetland areas. It’s also the trailhead to the Kicakpoo Rail Trail!

While we hope to see relief from COVID-19 in the new year, until we have guidance that interacting in groups is safe, it is still important to practice social distancing guidelines, even when outdoors. Parks provide a much safer place to meet friends than an indoor location, but a safe distance should still always be maintained.

Even if the pandemic still looms over us, however, these 21 Urbana parks offer a wide variety of reasons to get out of the house and enjoy nature in all kinds of fun, safe ways. Here’s to a happy new year in the parks—all year long!