Thankful for the Outdoors

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

Pining for some outdoor fun on Thanksgiving? Want to burn a few calories and some of your kids’ energy before the big feast? Even our weather is supposed to be nice for November — sunny with a brisk high of 45! We've put together this list with some of our favorite local activities for you, so get out there and enjoy how thankful we all are for mother nature.

51st Annual Urbana Park District Turkey Trot

Thursday, November 22nd

9:00am Start

Crystal Park House


An annual Thanksgiving favorite of the Champaign Outdoors crew (Shira may or may not have 40-some-odd finisher ribbons), the Turkey Trot is a FREE, 1 mile fun run or walk around Crystal Lake Park for all ages. You can register at the lake house any time during the hour before the race, and the Trot starts at 9am. The first 800 participants over the finish line get a ribbon, and can we just say — free hot cocoa! There is also a great raffle after the run with tons of prizes, which may include a hammock from Champaign Outdoors.

Hike and Play at Homer Lake Forest Preserve

Park hours: 7:00am-5:00pm

2573 S. Homer Lake Rd

Homer, IL 61859

Beautiful Homer Lake Forest Preserve (part of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District) is just 15 miles southeast of C-U. Besides its nice lake, the park offers about 10 miles of hiking trails through grasslands, woods and along the Salt Fork River. Our favorites are the Oak Ridge (1.9mi) and the Flicker Woods (.94mi) River Trails, both of which start by the parking area at the south end of the lake. There is also a fantastic Natural Playscape area for kids to enjoy, and sledding when there is snow.

Saunter Around Meadowbrook Park

Park hours: Dawn-Dusk

2808 Race St.

Urbana, IL 61802

Our favorite in-town stroll, the 3 miles of paved trails through the Meadowbrook tallgrass prairie and sculpture gardens are perfect for some Thanksgiving fresh air. You can park at the PrairiePlay Playground off of Windsor & Vine, or by the Garden Pavilion off Race and then walk, run, or bike the paths.

Cycle the Kickapoo Rail Trail

6.7 Mile Trail (~13 mile round trip)

East Urbana to St. Joseph

Parallel to Route 150

Grab your bikes and ride the 6.7 mile crushed limestone trail from Urbana to St. Joe. You can park and access the trail from Weaver Park and the Main Street Spur, or the north end of the Urbana Walmart parking lot off High Cross Road. You’ll definitely earn your turkey with the 13 mile round trip! Don’t forget to wear your helmet, especially if you’re still a little a bit groggy from the tryptophan.

Play a Family Football Game

West Side Park

400 W. University Ave.

Champaign, IL 61820

Hessel Park

1400 Grandview Dr.

Champaign, IL 61820

Tossing the ball in the back yard is always fun. But, getting out of the house to enjoy a game at one or two of Champaign’s most iconic parks just gives it that extra special holiday vibe. And, if you haven’t been in a while, Hessel Park also boasts a snazzy new playground.