Image credit: Daderot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Now that the nice weather is finally upon us, students and locals who decided to stay near U of I are looking for things to do. While there are tons of options around Champagne/Urbana of ways to stay entertained this season, the University of Illinois Arboretum deserves a special spotlight. A favorite of everyone in the area, making time to stop by and enjoy all of the cool features it has will make you grateful you spent time outside and visiting this season.
Created in the late 80s and into the 90s, the Arboretum stands on the original location of the 1867 college “north of Green Street, where the College of Engineering currently exists. During the 1900s the site moved to south campus, located near the Observatory, and Smith Music Hall.” Their website goes on to say that it is currently located “at the intersection of South Lincoln and Florida Avenues, the Arboretum’s gardens, collections, and habitats are transforming 160 acres of the University’s south campus in Urbana-Champaign into an exceptional “living laboratory” for students in plant sciences and fine and applied arts, as well as an oasis of natural beauty open to the public.”
Ideally located for students and visitors, the Arboretum started out as a singular pond located on campus in 1923 to an entire park 100 years later. Some notable additions include the central part of arboretums construction in 1991, The Miles C. Hartley Garden in 1994 as well as “The Hosta Garden developed in 2010 and planted in 2011 by the Illinois Prairie Hosta Society (IPHS) contains a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures known to hosta collectors. There are 61 species and 7,400 cultivars known today.” You can read more about the developments and history of the Arboretum here.
So, why visit the Arboretum? There are tons of things to do and see here – you just have to pick where to start. If you’re looking for a chill, scenic day – pack a picnic and a blanket (or utilize one of their picnic tables!) and enjoy the breeze and the view. If you are looking for a little more adventure, the gardens is the spot for you. The Hartley Garden is massive and is what the arboretum has become known for. With the nice weather and season, now is the perfect time to visit. The flowers are in bloom, and the smell as you walk through is unbeatable.
If you’re not as much of a fan of flowers, there are seven other locations within the Arboretum to visit. Here’s a quick highlight of some of the coolest spots.
If you like the scenic views of the water, the Ponds are for you. According to their website, “The Ponds were developed in 1997 as a gift-in-kind valued at nearly $600,000 from the Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association, whose members volunteered 72 working days to dig the three ponds in the 160-acre UI Arboretum”. There is also a plethora of wildlife to see at The Ponds, including turtles, frogs, koi and other fish, rabbits, squirrels, and birds.
Cherry trees are not something someone might anticipate seeing in Illinois in the springtime and summertime, but the Sen Cherry Tree Allée is an iconic location within the Arboretum that draws tons of weddings and events every year. “The cherry tree blossoms create a mesmerizing canopy that attracts visitors of all ages eager to welcome spring’s arrival.”
Named after Dr. Drank W Kari, who got his Ph.D. at U of I – after his passing from plasma cell leukemia “funds were designated by Dr. Kari’s family to support the University of Illinois Arboretum. Their gift was used to construct this walkway around the perimeter of the ponds. In addition to the walkway, native plants and trees were planted adjacent to the ponds, and benches and educational signs were placed along the walkway.[…]The walkway encircling the ponds provides a leisurely stroll of 1/3 mile per loop and offers to stopping points along its pathway.”
The pride and joy of the University, the Arboretum, lives up to its magnificent reputation as one of the must-sees when touring the campus and a hot spot for people to spend a leisurely summer afternoon. If you’re looking for something fun to do this season, make sure to put the Arboretum at the top of your list.
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