Sometimes we can forget the beauty that is in our backyard when we’re planning, reminiscing, or dreaming of traveling to other places. In almost every place that is someone’s home, there are travels to be had that don’t require much actual travel. I had that experience today when I revisited University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana’s Arboretum.
This arboretum was developed in the late 80’s and early 90’s and is not only beautiful, but also used for many different departments and classes across campus who are studying different aspects of agriculture. Thought the Arboretum developed over time, it now consists of 57 acres–a wonderful size for locals and tourists alike to wander throughout.
It is now the end of peak cherry blossom season, but when one walks in during the peak of blooming, the arboretum has even more beauty to behold. The entrance to the entire arboretum is at an angle to the rest it, so, as you walk in, you can feel the expanse of the entire acreage, as if it were widening and opening before your eyes. The entrance path forks off fairly early, forming the circular path that guides visitors around the ponds that are central to the entire arboretum. As you walk among the paths, especially during blooming season, the cherry blossoms bend down to greet you, showing off their beautiful, dainty-pink petals.
As you make your way further into the Arboretum, the ponds come into view, with multiple small, rolling, and grassy hills surrounding them. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may wander off the path, in certain areas, and venture onto the grass to sit and admire your surroundings. A fairly new wooden bridge reaches across the middle of the two ponds, connecting either end and giving more options for pathways and views of everything.
The Arboretum is also home to UIUC’s Japan House, which hosts regular activities for both the public and the students. Activities range from small to large from tea ceremonies and beginner calligraphy sessions, to open houses and, most recently, an annual festival called Matsuri. In this arboretum, cultural experiences collide with natural beauty, which is something you will not want to miss.
If you are especially lucky, you will have a beautiful, sunny, and only slightly windy day, as I had today. On days like these, the Arboretum is very peaceful, even if it is filled with many people. There are multiple benches to choose from and grassy spots are almost always an option, too. Bring a picnic lunch, bring your hammock and book, bring someone you love, or bring nothing. Just be sure to sit in the peace and enjoy the beauty.