Blog - home
In keeping with old-fashioned practice, the winter holidays come to life in downtown Bloomington on the Friday after Thanksgiving. All it takes is the sparkling tradition of the Canopy of Lights. Thousands gather in community spirit to witness the simple, yet beloved lighting ceremony. Many have joined the celebration and made it a family tradition to ring in the season.
While the weather may be frightfully cold, don't let that keep you away. There is plenty of hot chocolate, kettlecorn and holiday music from the Bloomington Brass Band to keep you warm. But if it gets to be too much, downtown has more to offer.
While waiting for the ceremony to begin, shop at local downtown stores offering sales and special activities. CFCProperties decks out the halls of Fountain Square Mall for the season and carolers are on hand inside the mall for those not yet wanting to brave the frigid temps. Even our historic courthouse is decorated for the occasion!
Don't be late for Santa's arrival - Polka Dot the Clown takes the stage leading the crowd in holiday favorites Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus right before his arrival. For many, it's the first sighting of the man in the big red suit. When Santa takes center stage, the cheers are contagious and the countdown begins.
In unison, the crowd shouts, "5...4...3...2...1..." and it happens. Downtown Bloomington transforms into a magical winter wonderland. Regardless of your age, when the switch flips, it is one of the best feelings of the year. The 2013 Canopy of Lights Ceremony will be Friday, November 29th, at 7 pm on the north side of the square. The Canopy will remain lit through New Year's Day. Over 250,000 individual bulbs, or 25 miles of lights, are strung from the Courthouse to the buildings around the square and in the trees, creating the sparkling canopy. This annual holiday celebration is a partnership with CFC Properties, Monroe County, Cassady Electric and Downtown Bloomington, Inc.
Special thanks to our guest blogger, April Wasson. April works for Downtown Bloomington Inc, is a mother of three, and enjoys spending quality time outdoors.
Updated Schedule for Friday, Nov. 29 (added 11/20/2013)
9:30 am - 6:30 pm, WonderLab - hands on activities, games and food.
5:30 pm, Courthouse Lawn - peace statue dedication.
5 - 9 pm, Monroe County History Center - open house.
6 pm, Monroe County Courthouse - open, featuring 40-foot tree.
6 - 7 pm, Bloomington Brass Band - live music on Kirkwood.
6 - 7 pm, Bloomington Chamber Singers - Fountain Square Mall.
6 - 8 pm, Music Makers - caroling/singing.
7 pm, Lighting Ceremony - featuring Santa, Polka Dot, the Bloomington Brass Band, local dignitaries and a special appearance from Willy Wonka and his Oompa Loompas, courtesy of the Cardinal Stage Company. Photos with Santa will immediately follow in Fountain Square Mall.
Are you ready to celebrate the arrival of autumn and all those hauntingly fun events that come along with Halloween? Bloomington's ready, and we don't want you to miss one spooky thing! Here's your checklist of the 13 things you need to know about celebrating the season - B-town style!
Take a Haunted Museum Tour on Oct. 11 and 25, at the Monroe County History Museum. Local celebrities of the past will be on hand to answer all your spooky questions!
See enchantingly beautiful handmade, blown glass creations at the 4th Annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch event on the Monroe County Courthouse Lawn on Oct. 12. Choose from over 300 beautiful examples!
Take the Road Less Traveled Fall Color Eco-tours from Natural Bloomington. On Oct. 12 and 19, enjoy beautiful fall colors on routes only locals know! (Nothing scary about these tours; just beautiful scenery, so bring your camera.)
Discover the world of real blood sucking creatures at WonderLab with Nature's Vampires on Oct. 19. Some of them aren't as scary as you might think!
Walk the Trick or Treat Trail - if you dare! Cartoon friends and villains will be on hand in the forest at RCA Park on Oct. 19. There will be plenty of treats - and some stories, too!
What should you do on an ink-black night with learing jack-o'-lanterns and crisp apple cider? Enjoy the Festival of Ghost Stories beneath the stars at Bryan Park, of course! The night comes alive on Oct. 25.
Come along for a Ghostly Gathering on Oct. 25 and 26 at Paynetown State Recreation Area. Participants will enjoy a variety of festivities, including pumpkin painting and a costume contest!
Check out the fangs, scales, claws and more at Nature's Monsters Live Show at WonderLab on Oct. 26. Have some close encounters and discover the some of the critters we think of as monsters aren't so scary after all!
Join the IU Auditorium for a silent film with creepy organ accompaniment, as Dennis James Hosts Halloween on Oct. 26. James is joined this year by experimental percussionist Mark Goldstein to perform their original accompaniment to the Sci-Fi silent film and cult classic Aelita: Queen of Mars.
Venture into rural Bloomington, near the legendary Stepp Cemetery, where dozens of creatures, monsters and maniacs await at the Barn of Terror. Open every Friday and Saturday in October.
Enjoy a trip on the Haunted Hayride, every Friday and Saturday in October. Not-so-scary earlier times are available for family fun, or venture out in the dark and into the haunted stable, if you dare!
Learn about Victorian mourning practices and see odd creatures from the Monroe County History Center's collection at the Attic of Oddities Exhibit, on display throughout October.
Pick out the perfect pumpkin from one of the locations below and take a little bit of Bloomington home for your own Halloween celebrations. You'll find the perfect blank canvas for the best jack o' lantern ever, and maybe even some beautiful decorative varieties as well.
Fowler Pumpkin Patch
4865 South Leonard Springs Road, 812-322-0050 - Open Friday through Sunday.
Musgrave Orchard & Cider Mill
8820 North Old State Road 37, 812-339-5006 - Open Wednesday through Sunday. Pick up your pumpkin, apples, Indiana's best apple cider and all the other trappings of fall!
8024 Indiana Highway 37, 812-876-5800 - Several varieties of pumpkins and other gourds, locally grown at the Creekbend Vineyard, are available throughout October at the Oliver Winery tasting room.
Posted on: Monday, Sep 23, 2013 12:50 PM by: Tosha Daugherty
Every year there's a new event that I get really psyched about. Sometimes it's a concert, sometimes it's an arts show; this year, it's a balloon festival. I mean I am super pumped, like counting the days excited. I'm not sure if it's the allure of big, bright hot air balloons, the awesome music lineup, the yummy food vendors or the fact that it will be such a great family-friendly event. Doesn't even matter, that point is, I'm excited and it's going to be fun!
So here are a few more details. First up, the event takes place September 6-8 at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. It costs $12 per carload - so pack the kids in the minivan for the best deal! On Friday, the festival will start at 4 pm and end at 10 pm; Saturday it's from 6 am (no, seriously) to 10 pm; Sunday it's 6 am to 9am.
The reason for the early start time is the balloon race, which will feature 20 balloons. They have to race early due to atmospheric pressure or something scientific like that. If you aren't an early bird, come back at 5 pm for a second race on Saturday. The balloons will also light up at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday at 7 pm for a night glow, where they light up while synchronized to music. And rides on these tethered beauties will be available those evenings too. I can only imagine the delight on my kids' faces when they get to ride in a balloon!
As mentioned there is also some great music during the festival. On Friday night, Marc Broussard will be performing his soulful rock music. I am very excited to see this show, he is fantastic! On Saturday night, you can see local favorite, singer/songwriter Jenn Cristy. Both shows start at 8 pm. Other musical events are a fun Kiwanis Idol, where contestants will perform and be judged by local celebrities (including Jenn Cristy).
Food will be available (boy, will it) with local food vendors providing some goodies, plus a chili cook-off on Saturday. There's a cornhole tournament on Saturday too, but you have to pre-register so don't come with your bags ready to throw down unless you've signed up in advance. Enjoy some fun activities with the kids, and pick up some health tips, at the health & safety fun fair.
So are you excited too? Yes, you are, and I'll see you there!
Posted on: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 12:11 PM by: Julie Warren
It's August already! How did that happen?
Yes, it seems like the kids are headed back to school earlier than ever, but don't worry summer isn't quite over yet! Celebrate those last lingering days of summer with us here in Bloomington - we've got the perfect weekend all picked out for you...
No, it's not Labor Day. I'm talking about the weekend before Labor Day - August 23-25! We've got some fabulous events lined up for that weekend and it's right in the sweet spot. You know, that spot after the craziness of the first week of school for your kids has passed, but before the craziness of the "official" end-of-summer weekend.
Here's what you need to know -
Flavors of 4th Street - Sat., Aug. 24
Discover new flavors at this fun event featuring the International restaurants on 4th Street, live music, street performers and more, from 5 - 11 pm. Admission is $10 per person ($5 students, free for kids under age 12), plus $1 per food item.
Creekbend Bluegrass Bash - Sat., Aug. 24
The first ever live bluegrass showcase at Creekbend will kick off with the annual Vines, Pines and Inclines trail run through the vineyard. Enjoy free wine tasting, food trucks, self-guided vineyard tours and music by Not Too Bad Bluegrass Band, The Whipstitch Sallies and Indiana Boys. Admission is $20 per car for this family-friendly event. Gates open at 6 pm.
Grant Street Jazz Festival - Sat., Aug. 24
Brought to you by Jazz for Bloomington, this fun downtown event showcases several talented local Jazz performers, including outstanding high school and college musicians, as well as professionals. Enjoy live Jazz for free from 11 am to 11 pm on Grant Street between Kirkwood Avenue and 6th Street.
There are even special hotel rates available! Look for the Grant Street Jazz Festival on our special offers page! Be sure to check our calendar of events for even more great things to do while you're in town including concerts, theatre performances and exhibits.Posted on: Friday, Aug 2, 2013 6:58 AM by: Tosha Daugherty
There are few times that a new adventure sport shows up in the outdoor world. If you recall the mountain biking revolution of the 80's, you can begin to understand the waves being made by the twenty-first century equivalent - standup paddleboarding. With its short learning curve, versatility on flat and moving water, and peaceful workout, paddleboarding's popularity has exploded all across the country.
There are a few reasons why I've come to enjoy paddleboarding here in Monroe County. The first is our proximity to open water. Lake Lemon, Monroe Lake, and numerous smaller bodies of water lie within thirty minutes of Bloomington.
The second reason is the summer heat. As the temperature climbs, my motivation for outdoor aerobic exercise plummets. Being someone who has rarely been able to enjoy a workout with a roof over my head, summer often becomes my downtime. With paddleboarding, the low impact complete body movement of paddling while standing on an oversized surfboard is the perfect option on a hot day. Hopping on and off of a board is as easy as it gets. Paddle, dive off, swim, remount, and repeat.
The third reason I enjoy paddleboarding is a two-year-old named Nelson. My wife and I's son, Nelson, simply loves sitting on the board, seemingly floating only inches from the water. With the board nearly 11' in length and 2.5' wide, there's plenty of buoyancy to bring along my favorite 30lb passenger.
There are a few things to know before you go:
- On DNR and state park lakes and reservoirs, paddleboards are classified as non-motorized boats. Purchase and affix an annual non-motorized boat permit to your board.
- You'll need a PFD at least attached to your board, if not simply worn.
- Paddle outside of designated swimming zones.
- Fun is mandatory. Standing up is optional. If you are more comfortable staying on your stomach or paddling from your knees, do it! In fact, paddling on your stomach is a good practice until you get into deeper water to avoid falling off into shallow water.
- There are only a few locations that sell or rent paddleboards in southern and central Indiana. IU Outdoor Adventures, located in Eigenmann Hall on the Bloomington campus, rents a fleet of various size and shape paddleboards. This can be a safe option to understand your board preferences before taking the plunge and purchasing one. The nearest location to purchase a paddleboard is at the recently opened REI in Indianapolis.
Special thanks to our guest blogger, Dustin Smucker for enlightening us about paddleboarding opportunities in the area. Dustin is the Programs Coordinator with Indiana University Outdoor Adventures. When he's not working, you'll find this outdoor enthusiast in pursuit of local, kid-friendly adventures with his family.
Posted on: Monday, Jun 17, 2013 10:32 AM by: Tosha Daugherty
Fourth of July weekend is coming up fast! Are you already planning for a fun long weekend?
Bloomington is a busy place in the summer, with loads of events, performances and activities happening around town, on campus and at the lake. Of course, don't forget about all the great hiking, biking and boating opportunities available throughout the season as well! With more than 10,000 acres of water and hundreds of miles of trails, Bloomington is the perfect summertime playground. An extra-long weekend is the perfect way to pack in everything you want to see and do while here!Here's a quick run down of some specific fun activities and events scheduled between July 4-7 to help you plan your Fourth of July weekend! See our complete calendar of events for more information on these and other events.
Bloomington 4th of July Parade & Festivities
July 4, downtown Bloomington
A traditional, small-town style parade with live music, fun floats and more! Music starts on the courthouse lawn at 9 am; parade begins at 10 am.
Ellettsville Annual Fireworks Show
July 4, Ellettsville
Hosted by the Ellettsville Fire Department at the Edgewood High School Football Field. Completely funded by donations.
Jazz in July: Craig & the Crawdads
July 5, IU Art Museum
This year's annual Jazz in July music series kicks off with Craig & the Crawdads at the IU Art Museum. Music begins at 6:30 pm and the event is free.
Rubens Quartet with Chih-Yi Chen
July 5, Auer Hall in the Simon Music Library
Relax with some classical music from the Rubens Quartet and pianist Chih-Yi Chen, part of the Summer Music Festival Series from the IU Jacobs School of Music, this concert begins at 8 pm.
Friday Concert at Third Street Park
July 5, Third Street Park
Every Friday evening in June and July, Third Street Park is home to live music from some of the area's favorite artists beginning at 6:30 pm. The July 5 performance will feature Curtis Cantwell Jackson & Janiece Jaffe. Be sure to bring a blanket or lawn chair for seating!
First Friday Science of Art: Hoop Dancing
July 5, WonderLab
Watch the Hudsucker Posse use centripetal force to defy gravity during spectacular hoop dancing performances at 6 and 7 pm. Related activities include the physics of hooping, spin art and making a wooden spinning top. Museum admission is half price from 5-8:30 pm.
Much Ado About Nothing
July 5-7, Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center
Enjoy one of Shakespeare's most famous comedies featuring mistaken identities, misheard conversations and misguided decisions from the Indiana Festival Theatre, beginning at 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday and 2 pm Sunday.
Indiana Festival Theatre: Arnie the Doughnut
July 5-7, Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center
Grab the kids and enjoy this fun musical production about a lovable chocolate-covered doughnut... with sprinkles! Arnie hits the stage at 11 am.
Manahem Perssler & Friends
July 6-7, Auer Hall in the Simon Music Library
Enjoy music from acclaimed musician Menahem Pressler and his friends, Simin Ganatra, Sibbi Bernhardsson and Brandon Vamos. part of the Summer Music Festival Series from the IU Jacobs School of Music, this concert begins at 8 pm on Saturday and 4 pm on Sunday.
Fireworks at Fourwinds Resort & Marina
July 6, Fairfax State Recreation Area, Lake Monroe
A fun fireworks show over the water! The show begins at 10 pm. Come early for dinner at the resort and enjoy the beauty of the lake.
Bryan Park Concert: Bloomington Symphony Orchestra
July 7, Bryan Park
The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra kicks off this year's Bryan Park Concert Series. Catch live music in the park every Sunday through August 25, beginning at 6:30 pm. Bring a blanket or lawn chair!
There is no better time to "rock out" and explore the limestone heritage of Monroe and Lawrence County than in June, which is Limestone Month. It's a time to celebrate the history, industry, artistry and architecture of limestone in our area. This year, there are numerous activities planned to showcase the beautiful stone that permeates the region. You can find a list of all the events on LimestoneMonth.com, but here are a few highlights I'm especially excited about.
On Saturday, June 8th you can take a guided tour
through the Victor Oolitic quarry.
Quarries are typically off-limits (no, you can't go swimming in a
quarry, that's trespassing) so this is a unique opportunity to see a working
quarry up close. You have to register in
advance and there is a $20 fee but it's worth it.
There's another tour, this time at the Empire Quarry, on Thursday, June 13th. This tour is only $5, but you still have to register in advance.
The IU Campus is full of beautiful limestone architecture, and on Friday, June 14th, local limestone expert Brian Keith with the Indiana Geological Survey will take guests on a guided tour of the campus. It's free, but you need to sign up in advance.
If you want to learn to carve stone or watch the experts, or if you just want to get all dusty, check out the Indiana Limestone Symposium, which runs from June 9th through the 29th. They have daily hand carving sessions for beginners, or you can go during open house hours (Wednesday afternoons) to see the experts in action.
Limestone is an integral part of our history, and it's fascinating to see it from various perspectives so log on to LimestoneMonth.com to learn more about these events and rock on!Posted on: Monday, May 20, 2013 5:52 AM by: Julie Warren
Indiana has a lot of great fishing spots, but one of the most popular (and the biggest!) is located just southeast of Bloomington.
With over 10,000 acres of water to explore, every angler can find their "perfect fishing spot" at Monroe Lake. Experienced anglers often aim for the lake's bass and walleye, but beginners can find lots of easy-to-catch bluegill and crappie.
Several upcoming events at Monroe Lake's Paynetown State Recreation Area (4850 S. State Road 446, Bloomington) make it easy for new people, particularly kids, to try out the sport of fishing.
The summer recreation season at the lake kicks off with a special evening reception, "Fish, Food, and Friends," on Friday, May 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Activity Center, located inside Paynetown SRA.
Visitors can see which fish made the staff's "Top 5" list, view plaster fish that were hand-painted by local elementary students, pick up a copy of the 2013 Fishing Guide, and "swim" over to the snack table for special fish-themed treats - and kids can enjoy "fishy" games, crafts, and activities.
The Paynetown Activity Center staff will also highlight a new, FREE fishing equipment rental program, which will debut on Saturday, May 25. So if you don't have your own equipment, or forget to bring it with you, you can still enjoy some fishing at Monroe Lake this summer!
The following weekend, June 1 and 2, is Free Fishing Weekend at Monroe Lake. A kids' fishing derby is scheduled at Paynetown SRA on Saturday morning, plus a variety of family-friendly fish-themed programs on both days.
While a fishing license is never required for kids under age 18, the best part of Free Fishing Weekend is that ALL Indiana residents can fish without a license - regardless of age. What a great opportunity to give fishing a try, or introduce someone new to the sport!
Jill Vance is the Interpretive Naturalist for Monroe Lake, based out of the Activity Center at Paynetown State Recreation Area. She has been with the Indiana Division of State Parks and Reservoirs since 2004, previously working as the Interpretive Manager at Spring Mill State Park and as a seasonal naturalist at McCormick's Creek State Park. Jill is a 2004 (M.P.A.) and 2003 (B.S.P.A.) graduate of Indiana University - Bloomington.
Blog contributed by Alicia Blatz, a local resident and part of the Circle Initiative. The Circles Initiative is part of the South Central Community Action Program, and helps connect people and families living in poverty with volunteer allies. These individuals and families are called leaders, as they are leading the way to a better life. The circle of allies will provide the leader with support and guide them to resources that will help them in the quest to move out of poverty.
Alicia is a leader within the Circles Initiative, and she was chosen to participate in the Visit Bloomington "Be a Tourist in Your Own Town" activity. She, along with her ally Jennifer, were given $350 (the approximate amount that two average visitors would spend on a trip to Bloomington) to explore the community as if they were a tourist. Below is a summary of Alicia and Jennifer's experience.
We have gotten to do so many things with $350. I didn't realize that with that amount of money you could have so much fun!
First, we visited the WonderLab Museum with my two children. It was the first time they've been to WonderLab. My three-year old daughter's favorite part was the water activity. She got to feel the water, see how it reacts after putting different objects over the water stream that that goes shooting up in the air. There were blocks in a different stream of the water too. She learned that when you put blocks in front of a water stream, it made the water go different directions. My five year old son liked the whole place. He learned about how magnets work he liked the bubble section, all the different building areas. The WonderLab is a fun way to teach children about how things work.
Then the four of us (Jennifer, me and the kids) went to the Bloomington Bagel Company for lunch, and took it with us on the B-Line Trail. The kids liked looking at the mural and animal sculptures along the way. After lunch we played hide and seek under the big limestone table and chairs sculpture and took pictures while we tried to stay out of the way of the joggers and bicyclists.
On another day outing, Jennifer and I ate lunch at a restaurant called Bub's. They have wonderful cheeseburgers and fries. It's right downtown so you can see all the people outside while having a great meal. After lunch, we walked around downtown Bloomington. They have lots of different specialty shops and restaurants. We browsed around at the Game Preserve and By Hand Gallery, which was fun. Then we bought souvenirs at Cactus Flower and at Global Gifts, and treats from Blu Boy Chocolates. They had amazingly tasty chocolates! It had been a long time since I was downtown and quite a few things had changed. There is a lot to see and do, and we had a great time walking around the square.
The children got cute shirts from the Indiana Shop, and they also got quite a few toys from the WonderLab gift store. These are great toys that are fun to play with and help them learn - a bank that has optical illusions, a boat that teaches them about air, a catapult that teaches about gravity, a bear that teaches about reactions and gravity, and magnets they can build with. They are great new toys that help their minds grow. It's wonderful!
Our last outing started with lunch at Smokin' Jack's Rib Shack. The food was wonderful! The kids ate for free and the environment was definitely kid friendly. Then we took the kids to Jump-N-Joeys. It was also their first time going to this fun bounce house and arcade. It's a great place for kids to be safe and have fun. There are lots of games and prizes, great big slides and areas for little kids to jump too. We all had a blast. My son played a game and won 500 tickets! Then my daughter played the same game and also won 500 tickets! They had a hard time deciding what all to get with that many tickets. It was so exciting for me just to see them have fun.
There are so many great places you can go in Bloomington, my hometown. I hadn't realized that you could do so much for little amounts of money. I am so glad and thankful to have the opportunity to enjoy our town!Posted on: Monday, May 6, 2013 6:39 AM by: Tosha Daugherty
Each year in May, along with other tourism organizations around the country, we celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week. This year, that's May 4-12, but we've decided to celebrate all month long with a fun photo sharing challenge for our friends on Instagram. If you're not on Instagram, feel free to post your photos to our Facebook Timeline or send them to @VisitBtown on Twitter!
We get to show the world our favorite things about Bloomington every day. During the month of May we'd like to see the things you love about Bloomington! The #VisitBtown Photo a Day Challenge asks residents and visitors alike to share their favorite things around Bloomington, based on a list of 31 words or phrases - one for each day of the month. Participate all month, or only the weekend you're in town - it's up to you. Photos do not have to be taken in Bloomington to be eligible to win, but they should make us think of Bloomington in some way.
We've created a fun list of words or phrases that remind us in some way of Bloomington. On the designated date for each phrase, post your photographic interpretation on Instagram using the hashtag #visitbtown and the specific word or phrase for that day.
We'll award a minimum of one prize for each day and regram those winners, based on our favorite interpretations of each word or phrase, so please be creative!
Here's the official list. Good luck and have fun!
Posted on: Thursday, Apr 18, 2013 8:17 AM by: Tosha Daugherty