Stay at Home Spring Break: Spend the Week in Urbana Parks

Mar 2021

One year ago, our whole world changed dramatically. Just as we were about to head into Spring Break, the country started to shut down on a scale we have never seen before. News of cancellations and closures started spreading. Travel plans were thrown into disarray as we all grappled with how to live, play, and interact with others safely. We probably did not expect to still be so impacted by the pandemic one year on, and while we certainly can start to see a light at the end of the tunnel, life is still not fully back to normal.

For those who feel uneasy about travel this spring, you can find plenty of adventure in your Urbana parks for a fun-filled Spring Break. In this month’s blog, we look at some fun ways to enjoy the parks with the kids during your week off.

Get a private tour of the Anita Purves Nature Center

The Anita Purves Nature Center is now offering free tours for small groups. Up to 8 members of your household can schedule a safe, socially distanced private tour. You’ll get to explore the Field Station, full of fascinating exhibits on local plants and animals, plus all kinds of activities for the kids to try out. You can also meet some of the center’s education animals, including owls, turtles, and snakes (don’t worry, physical contact with snakes is not mandatory).

Tours run Mondays through Saturdays between 10am and 3:30. This video will give you a taste of what you’ll experience on the tour. You can call the Field Station at (217) 384-4062 to set up a visit. They ask that you call at least 2 days in advance (but Spring Break week is likely to be pretty busy, so you may want to call even earlier to set up your tour).

After visiting the Field Station, you can explore Busey Woods on the boardwalk trail and put your new knowledge to the test identifying nature as you wander. You can also explore the Friendship Grove Nature Playscape for a hands-on nature immersion experience. If the weather isn’t great for outdoor exploration, you can also call the Anita Purves Nature Center for a free fort-building loan kit with supplies to build a fort at home!

Show off your tour guide skills in Busey Woods (with a little help from the Anita Purves Nature Center…)

On March 10, staff from the Anita Purves Nature Center will be leading a virtual hike around Busey Woods over Facebook Live. You can watch the hike in real time (or later as a recording) and learn more about what we can find in this lovely urban forest, Then, take your own family and friends out for a socially distanced hike through the woods, armed with more knowledge and tips on how to spot wildlife and/or interesting plants.

Take the Arts & Sculpture Tour

The Urbana Park District has a whopping 46 sculptures spread out across a number of parks in the community. Can you find them all? This map shows you where sculptures are located, and you can even take the tour virtually by clicking on each thumbnail for a bigger image and info on the sculptures and sculptors.

Why not turn the Arts & Sculpture tour into a scavenger hunt for the kids? Click through the pictures to learn about each sculpture, then head out into the parks to find them in person. It’s always exciting to find that something “famous” on the internet actually exists in your town! Most of the sculptures can be found in and around Meadowbrook Park, for a nice day trip on foot, but there are other artistic gems around town that you might not have seen before.

Stay in and cook

Wait, what does that have to do with Urbana parks? Well, if the weather isn’t very friendly outside, you can still enjoy Urbana Park District activities, even from the comfort of your own home and without advance registration! The UPD page on YouTube contains a number of cooking videos with local chef Ann Swanson that you can follow along from home. Make a hearty chicken & rice soup (what could be better for a rainy day?), learn 3 delicious ways to prepare kale, or enjoy something sweet from the Valentine’s Day edition.

In addition to cooking videos, you’ll find all sorts of helpful videos on the Urbana Park District page, from workouts to virtual hikes to informative nature segments. Several of the videos are great preparation before you head out into a park, to help make your visits even more fun and informative.

Explore what makes each park unique

For other ideas on fun ways to enjoy your Urbana parks, see our earlier blog on 21 Things to do in Urbana Parks in 2021. From walking the labyrinth at Crystal Lake Park to discovering the Japanese Garden at Crestview Park to an afternoon hugging historic trees at Leal Park, you’ll find all kinds of fun to be had through Spring Break….and beyond!