Tuesday, August 13, 2019
36 Hours in Bloomington: Fall
Bloomington is known for many things: #9 quirkiest town in America, the 4th gayest city in the country, one of the top 50 foodie towns in the U.S. There are a number of breweries, distilleries, and wineries to explore. You have award-winning theater right at your fingertips. Then, of course, you have miles and miles of beautiful landscape to take your breath away. That's the charm about Bloomington: while you're here you can do anything or be anyone. From the Courthouse Square to trails in the heart of the Hoosier National Forest, you can make Bloomington your own. Whether it's a weekday trip or a weekend getaway, discover your B-Town using our 36-hour itinerary below.
3:00 PM: CHECK-IN
Where you stay depends on the type of trip you are hoping to have. Nature lovers will enjoy a stay at the Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina, situated on the beautiful shores of Monroe Lake. Enjoy a meal at Tradewinds, rent a boat for the day, or relax by lounging at their spacious pool. For a meditative experience, consider staying in a traditional-style yurt, complete with modern conveniences, at the 108-acre Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. If a stay in downtown is what you're looking for, consider Hyatt Place or Graduate Bloomington, the newest hotel in town. Hoosier fans will enjoy staying in the heart of Indiana University's campus at the Indiana Memorial Union's Biddle Hotel and Conference Center. For an urban bed and breakfast experience, enjoy the Grant Street Inn, complete with wrap-around porches that are perfect for relaxing with a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening. Wampler House Bed & Breakfast is another cozy option complete with a full breakfast.
4:00 PM: Energy Boost
After all that traveling, it is understandable that you are low on energy. You have a big weekend ahead so it's important to get some sugar and caffeine in your system. For a sugar rush, check out female-owned bakery Two Sticks Bakery. They bake their delicious goods every morning, we're talking everything from cupcakes and cookies to bread and scones. Hartzell's Ice Cream is also a solid choice. They have classic flavors, but where they shine is in their specialty ice creams like cotton candy and matcha-flavored. For a caffeine buzz, there are a few places to go. Crumble Coffee and Bakery is a coffee shop in town that makes a perfect latte and has some tasty pastries to give you the boost you need. Soma Coffeehouse and Juice Bar, which is a favorite with IU students, is a chill place to grab a pastry from a local bakery and try one of their unique coffee concoctions. Not a coffee drinker? No worries! Cup & Kettle Tea Co. is a cute tea shop and the tea is made right here in Bloomington.
5:00 PM: Walk & Shop the Square
Bloomington’s downtown is centered around “The Square.” There, you are within walking distance from just about anything. Bloomington prides itself on keeping it local and with shops like Gather Handmade Shoppe, Goods for Cooks, and JL Waters, it makes it easy and fun to do so. This Midwest town is also a great place for budding musicians with three record labels in town. Right off the Square, check out Landlocked Music for a huge selection of vinyl and tapes from local and international artists.
7:00 PM: Dine Like a Hoosier
It's fall which means one thing in a college town: football. Even if you are not an alum of IU, feel prepared to live like a Hoosier on the weekends. The best place to start is at Nick's English Hut. Nick's is one of those places where students, past and present, love to catch up with their friends over a game of Sink the Biz (which should be at the top of your B-Town bucket list). The atmosphere is infectious. There are IU memorabilia on every wall and everyone from servers to guests expresses that Hoosier Hospitality. To add icing on the cake, their food is top of the line as well (don't forget to add Biz Fries to your order). Down the street from Nick's is the new Lennie's Kirkwood. Just like the old Lennie's, the stromboli is some of the best and the beer from Bloomington Brewing Company is untouchable. The new patio is also perfect for you to enjoy a good meal and a cold one while looking out onto bustling Kirkwood Avenue.
9:00 PM: See a Show
Bloomington is the perfect place for new musicians to test out their work and is a favorite tour stop for award-winning artists. The Bluebird has concerts almost every night of the week. Artists from Rod Tuffcurls & The Benchpress to John Mayer have performed at the bar. The Bishop is another venue for bands to rock out with a more intimate crowd. Hoping to dine while enjoying a show? The Orbit Room is the newest bar and live music venue in town. They're quickly becoming known for their gourmet hot dogs and one-of-a-kind pinball machines.
9:00 AM: Breakfast of Champions
Spend your Saturday morning at one of Bloomington's beloved breakfast spots. There is sure to be a line at Village Deli on the weekends, but it more than worth the wait. Their pancakes are the size of your head making it seemingly impossible to eat the entire thing. Trust us, after one bite you will be surprised how quickly you conquer the massive pancakes. Runcible Spoon is also a favorite. The quaint breakfast joint is located in an old house and serves up some of the best classic breakfast dishes around. Not a far walk from either place, you will find the Bloomington Antique Mall. You can always find unique treasures and collectibles in this historic building.
11:00 AM: Explore the B-Line
The B-Line Trail is a 3.1-mile linear park that runs through the downtown area. The trail is lined with public art, murals, and businesses. You can also rent scooters and bikes that are perfect for taking a stroll down the B-Line.
12:00 PM: Lunch
To really understand Hoosier spirit, you have to check out BuffaLouie's. Once ranked as a top ten wing joint by USA Today, this Bloomington staple definitely doesn't disappoint. On any given day, you can find the owner taking orders, serving food, and making each guest feel welcome. Upland Brewpub is also a favorite among locals. Upland Brewing is one of Bloomington's five breweries. They create their delicious beer at the brewpub, but The Wood Shop next door is where they brew their sour beers (head there any day of the week for a tasting). Back to the food; Upland is known for using local ingredients to whip up globally-inspired fare. For a healthier, diet-friendly option, check out The Owlery. The vegetarian restaurant has a diverse menu including tacos, sandwiches, and other ethnic foods. They also have vegan baked goods!
3:00 PM: Choose Your Adventure
Bloomington has two wineries for you to take advantage of. Butler Winery is a family-owned winery that uses Hoosier-grown grapes and fruits. Enjoy a picnic or a glass of wine on their new patio at the vineyard or have a tasting at their location downtown. Interested in making your own wine? Check out their tasting room for all your home brewing and winemaking needs. The other winery in town is the state's largest and oldest winery (and the largest east of the Mississippi). Oliver Winery has an extensive award-winning wine list that's available for you to try at their tasting room. Taste anything and everything from their Soft Red to their Cabernet Sauvignon to their Beanblossom Hard Cider. You can even try a vintage wine from their 54-acre Creekbend Vineyard. We suggest trying their pilot project. It's a new flavor or style they are testing so it changes often, making the tasting even more fun. Oliver Winery also has gourmet foods and spots to have a picnic in their picturesque garden.
Bloomington is home to over a dozen museums. Traveling with kids? WonderLab is a science and technology children’s museum that will hold their attention for hours. History buff? Check out Lilly Library, home to a number of artifacts such as one of the original Gutenberg Bibles. Die-hard Hoosier? Cook Hall showcases the history of IU basketball coaches and notable players through artifacts and trophies. It's also where both the men and women's basketball team practice. Assembly Hall, which to us needs no introduction, is where IU's five banners hang. The legendary stadium also has interactive screens for learning about IU basketball history. Then, of course, there are cultural museums in town. The Mathers Museum of World Cultures is a museum of cultural history and ethnography and the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center is over one hundred acres of land to learn and dive into another culture.
It's impossible to come to Bloomington and not explore the outdoors. Hoosier National Forest (HNF) is over 200,000 acres of hills and trails with a variety of outdoor experiences. Within the HNF, is the Charles C. Deam Wilderness. Across the 13,000 acre area, there are about 37 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding. You can even spend a night out under the stars and experience primitive camping. The infamous Hickory Ridge Fire Tower is also in Deam Wilderness. There is nothing better than climbing the 110-foot tower on a beautiful day to view the hills of southern Indiana. Don't forget to snap a photo (and tag @visitbtown)! If you're looking for a more scenic walk or bike, check out the Bloomington Rail Trail. The two-mile gravel trail located just off the B-Line is perfect for you to get your fitness on. Just off the Rail Trail is Clear Creek Trail. This paved path is also about two miles and gives landscapes that vary from woods to farmland. On Clear Creek Trail you will also see the historic Warren Truss iron bridge -- another place perfect for a picture.
6:00 PM: Time to Eat
After all that exploring, we're sure you have worked up an appetite. For a variety of options, simply head down Fourth Street. There are plenty of ethnic restaurants down this one street. Everything from the expected like Chinese and Mexican to the unique like Tibetan and Afghan. It is fall, however, so we understand if you need some meat and potatoes. Janko's Little Zagreb is the place to go for a perfectly made steak. The classic steakhouse also has spicy meatballs and baked potatoes you can't pass on. Quick Tip: make reservations if you are coming on a gameday weekend because this place will fill up fast.
8:00 PM: Arts + Culture in Bloomington
Looking to laugh, cry, or sing along? Check out one of the many theaters around town. Cardinal Stage is Bloomington's professional theater company that performs seasonal productions at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Also at BCT are concerts, films, and lectures. If you're looking for a good laugh, The Comedy Attic is home to some of the best stand-up comedy acts. Bloomington has a notably underrated comedy scene (Livability) which is odd considering acts such as Tiffany Haddish, Amy Schumer, and local Mat Alano-Martin frequent the comedy club. On campus, there are two theaters: the IU Auditorium and the Musical Arts Center (MAC). The IU Auditorium is home to off-Broadway productions, big concerts, and speaker series. The MAC is home to (top-ranked) Jacobs School of Music productions. We suggest getting dressed in your Sunday best and enjoying a night at the opera or ballet.
11:00 PM: Hit the Town
Before you leave town, you have to experience Bloomington's nightlife. You can find everything from dive bars to nightclubs. For a more laid back night, there are a number of options. Crazy Horse, home to 80 beers from around the world and 225 whiskeys, is a favorite among locals. To feel like a student again (and enjoy the best cheesy breadsticks ever made), Kilroy's on Kirkwood is the spot for you. Switchyard Brewing Co. is a new brewery in town. The space is made for socializing and dogs (yes, dogs!). The pup-friendly brewery has trivia, yoga, and live music, what more can you ask for? For those who love to dance the night away, The Back Door gives you all the freedom to do so. On a Saturday night, you can find this queer bar filled with people dancing and singing along with the resident DJ.
1:00 AM: Late Nite Bites
Hungry again? Check out one of the many downtown restaurants that are open until the wee hours of the morning. Rockit's Famous Pizza also has everyone's favorite cheesy dish. This hole-in-the-wall has pizza available when everyone leaving the bars needs a late-night snack. If you have a sweet tooth, head back to your hotel and order Baked! cookies. The best part is that you can make your own cookie creations, dough and all; so let your inner child loose and have fun creating some crazy concoctions. IU student startup, Campus Craves is also open pretty late into the night. This shop has all the random munchies we dream about late at night. There are sweet treats like ice cream donut sandwiches and fried foods like mac and cheese bites.
11:00 AM: Brunch
After a long night out, consider skipping breakfast and enjoy brunch instead. Uptown Cafe's brunch menu features classics such as eggs benedict and huevos rancheros and creole-inspired dishes like the andouille omelet. You can also venture onto campus for a delicious brunch at The Tudor Room located in the Indiana Memorial Union (only offered on Sundays). The space is as elegant as the Great Hall inside Hogwarts Castle.
1:00 PM: Explore IU
Bloomington is home to Indiana University. IU is 1,800 acres of beautiful limestone buildings and meticulously landscaped grounds. If you are an IU grad, the nostalgia will immediately start flooding back. If you made the mistake of not attending IU, you will instantly regret that decision as you walk around campus. Make sure to hit the oldest part of campus that's shaped like a crescent also known as Old Crescent. While you're there, shake Herman B Wells hand or share a kiss with a loved one under the Rose Well House for good luck. On the other side of campus is the IU Arboretum. This open green space is meant for students to work or relax and for you to admire. The arboretum has every tree native to Indiana, a pond, and a waterfall to create a tranquil place in the middle of campus. Because a majority of students aren't in town for classes, summer is the perfect time to explore and admire Indiana University. You can even take in the greenery on a rainy day. At the Jordan Hall Greenhouse, you can experience gardens and the jungle. The greenhouse features an array of unique and exotic plants from around the world.
Plan Your Trip
Hotels & Motels
There are a variety of hotels and motels to choose from in the Bloomington area, and we're here to help you find the perfect one for your trip.
Bed & Breakfasts
Bed & Breakfasts
These unique properties provide a great alternative to traditional hotel accommodations.
There's always something happening in Bloomington. Check out our comprehensive event calendar to plan your trip.