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We want to take you behind the scenes, to give you insider information you won't find anywhere else. This is where we pull Bloomington's hip happenings together with recommendations from our team, first-hand accounts from project producers, and guest blogs by local gurus.  The Backstage Blog helps you stay in front of it all.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

36 Hours in Bloomington: Spring

Categories: General, Arts & Culture, Live Music, Outdoors, Wine & Culinary

Spring is a special time in Bloomington. Rising temperatures allow us to get back out in nature, dine on outdoor patios, browse the Farmers Market under the sun's rays, and explore the glory of old IU once more. Simply being witness to the miles upon miles of beautiful, blooming landscape is enough to take your breath away. Even on rainy days, B-Town offers an abundance of museums and shows to its visitors. That's the charm of Bloomington: no matter the weather or interest, you can make Bloomington your own. So whether it's a weekday trip or a weekend getaway, travel to our rolling Southern Indiana hills and discover spring in B-Town

Day One

3:00 pm: Check In

Where you stay depends on the type of trip you're hoping to have:

  • The nature stay // Nature lovers will enjoy a stay at the Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina, which puts you right on Monroe Lake. If you're here to see the blooms and bask in spring's air of rebirth, there's no better place to reside.
     
  • The rest & reset // Seeking a sense of rejuvenation? The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center has modern yurts available for booking on their 108-acre property for a unique, grounding experience.
     
  • The downtown dweller // If you're looking to stay close to downtown, check out the Graduate Bloomington, which puts you at the center of our best dining, local shopping, and nightlife.
     
  • The Cream & Crimson crew // For IU alumni, prospective students, and university visitors, The Biddle Hotel & Conference Center is the place to stay. Attached to the second largest student union and the largest Starbucks in the Midwest, the Biddle offers a convenient location in the middle of campus, fully immersing you in our beloved Cream & Crimson culture.
     
  • The quiet cottage // Looking for peaceful, quaint lodging? The Century Suites are comprised of a small village of adorable cottages that look out to a courtyard of flowering trees and blooming daffodils during spring.
     
5:00 pm: Walk and Shop The Square

Gather & Lola + Co. on The Square

Bloomington’s downtown is centered around “The Square.” There, you're within walking distance from a variety of local shops, where you can browse everything from clothing to outdoor recreation to music and much more. If you're in the market for a spring wardrobe refresh, check out Mirth and Cherry Canary Vintage Clothing. Stop by J.L. Waters & Co. for all of your outdoor recreation needs — it's a great place to pick up new hiking gear before you set off on any of our nearby trails!

If you haven't fully scratched your shopping itch, take a short walk from The Square to Kirkwood Avenue and 4th Street. Those looking for a cool IU tee or hoodie should pop into Tracks — they produce trendy, often-quirky apparel designed by students. If you love music, be sure to also check out their extensive CD and vinyl collection while you're there. Interested in adopting a plant baby or purchasing a new pot for your current green child? Definitely stop by oak.Bloomington, our town's newest plant store on 4th Street.

RELATED CONTENT: DOWNTOWN BLOOMINGTON
 

7:00 pm: Dine Downtown 

Bloomington has a growing and insanely diverse culinary scene. Ask a local for a recommendation and they will probably suggest you try FARMbloomington. The popular eatery is known for its seasonal, American-style dishes, which are inspired by local & global flavors and are sustainably-sourced from local farmers. Craving something other than American cuisine? Try Grazie Italiano, an upscale-yet-casual, authentic Italian restaurant. It's been voted Bloomington's best Italian restaurant for 14 years in a row, so you just know the food is molto bene. Speaking of international cuisine, check out 4th Street for more than a dozen ethnic restaurants — Anatolia is a local favorite that serves incredible traditional Turkish fare.

RELATED CONTENT: A WORLD OF FOOD
 

9:00 pm: See a Show

Bloomington is home to many indie musicians and is a favorite tour stop for award-winning artists, so you can always find a great show at one of our popular music venues. The Bluebird has concerts almost every night of the week — artists including Jimmy Eat World, Hairbangers Ball, and John Mayer have performed at the bar. Interested in enjoying live music while also playing pin-ball and enjoying a late-night gourmet hotdog? Check out the newest dive bar in town, The Orbit Room.

 

Day Two

9:00 am: Breakfast of the Champions

two sticks

Bloomington knows its stuff when it comes to breakfast. Runcible Spoon is a well-loved local favorite, and it's somewhat of a hidden gem for visitors. The cozy and whimsical eatery offers your typical breakfast options — biscuits & gravy, eggs-toast-and-protein combos, pancakes & French toast — but where it really shines is in its specialty dishes. We highly recommend the smoked salmon & croissant bennie, the chef's choice omelet, and the smoked salmon hash if you're interested in trying something a little different. Expect nothing less than unbelievable deliciousness regardless of what you order.

Looking for more of a grab-and-go type option? Head over to another hidden gem, Two Sticks Bakery. The small, from-scratch bakery churns out incredible sweet and savory treats that make for the perfect quick breakfast. All items are baked fresh every day, so the menu is constantly changing, but you can expect to be impressed by anything you try. If available, we recommend their mushroom focaccia, orange cardamom cinnamon rolls, jalapeno & cheddar scones, and any variety of their coffeecake. Two Sticks also offers coffee, tea, and house-made espresso beverages to pair with your breakfast of choice. Take a stroll around downtown while you enjoy your treats, or make the short trek to Waldron, Hill, and Buskirk Park to eat your breakfast picnic-style.

RELATED CONTENT: BLOOMINGTON'S BEST BREAKFAST
 

10:30 am: Bloomington Community Farmer's Market

Many farmers from around the region come to B-Town to sell their foods and goods at the Saturday morning farmers market, which include produce, dairy products, meats, maple syrup, jellies & jams, honey, and much more. You'll also see local prepared-food vendors serving up food & drink items at the west end of Farmers Market Plaza and along on the B-Line Trail for attendees to enjoy while shopping at the market. If you happen to be visiting on the second Saturday of the month, you'll also be able to browse A Fair of the Arts. The event is comprised of local and regional artists showcasing and selling their works. Even if you aren't interested in making a purchase, you'll still have a great time browsing the art, soaking in the spring sunshine, and enjoying the festival atmosphere.
 

12:00 pm: Walk an In-Town Trail

b-line in spring

B-Town offers a variety of paved trails and paths to explore in town, but two of our springtime favorites are the B-Line Trail and Clear Creek Trail. 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, and in spring, you'll find many flowering trees & gorgeous blooms to admire along the way. If you're not in the mood for a walk, you can rent a scooter or bike to ride, or if you're into rollerblading or skateboarding, you can bring your blades or board and roll on down the line.

While the farmers market is conveniently located on the B-Line, Clear Creek Trail is a short drive away — although it's worth the 10-minute trip. A 2.5-mile stretch, Clear Creek Trail winds through woods, farm lands, and over the 150-foot historic Warren Truss iron bridge. You'll spot beautiful redbud trees during the spring season, so breathtaking you won't be able to resist stopping to take a quick photo. The quieter trail is perfect for a peaceful walk or bike ride with kids — strollers are also welcome.
 

1:30 pm: Time to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Did you know that B-Town is nationally recognized as one of the best small beer cities? Check out any of Bloomington’s fantastic boozy eateries for lunch. Upland Brewing Company is one of five breweries in town. Take a tour of The Wood Shop, then enjoy lunch and a cold one in the restaurant. We suggest you try the pork tenderloin sandwich to feel like a Hoosier through-and-through. Function Brewing is another great local brewery to check out. In addition to their in-house beers, they also offer a variety of appetizers, gourmet sandwiches, and a small kids menu for those traveling with littles.

Not interested in the brewery scene? Bloomington has plenty of other fantastic restaurants to choose from at lunchtime. Those who enjoy eating healthily without sacrificing any flavor will love Hive — their Yoga bowl is a fan-favorite! If you're craving Mexican food, Juannita's serves up authentic tamales, tacos, and horchata. IU fans should definitely stop by Yogi's, a legendary Hoosier restaurant that serves traditional-yet-elevated bar & grill grub. 

RELATED CONTENT: EAT LIKE A LOCAL
 

3:30 pm: Choose Your Adventure: Museums, Parks, Wineries, and More

Beanblossom Bottoms during early spring

No matter your interest, Bloomington has something fun to offer every type of visitor during the spring season:

  • For the nature enthusiast // It's impossible to come to Bloomington and not explore the outdoors, especially after being cooped up inside all winter! Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve is incredible during spring. The wetland preserve is owned by Sycamore Land Trust and features a two-mile-long raised platform with several observation decks throughout the habitat. It's home to 20 endangered & protected species, 350 varieties of orchids, and tons of morel mushrooms. The first thing you'll notice once you reach the wetland is the deafening chorus of frogs — kids will especially enjoy frog-hunting (with their eyes only) on your adventure through the preserve!

    Those who love hiking should visit Leonard Springs Nature Park. The Leonard Springs Trail is a rugged 1.1-mile trail that passes by springs, caves, wetlands, and steep forested-slopes. There's something magical about hearing the trickling of the springs and the chirping of the birds during the spring season. Paired with the budding trees and roaming wildlife, you're sure to have an incredible experience while you're there. 
     
  • For the girls // Interested in more of a relaxing girls day? Head over the Butler Winery. Grab a table on their patio — they have outdoor heaters in case the weather is a bit nippy — and order a flight of six wines to sample. Sit back and take in their beautiful seven-acre vineyard while you chat with your crew and sip your wine-of-choice.
     
  • For the fam // Looking for some classic family fun? Visit the new Hoosier Putt Hole mini-golf course! The kids will have a blast playing a round or two of golf, and what would be better than visiting the nearby Jiffy Treet afterwards to wrap up the afternoon? 
     
  • For the rainy day // If the weather is chilly or rainy, we recommend checking out a museum or two — Bloomington has over a dozen to choose from! Traveling with kids? WonderLab is a science & technology children’s museum that will hold their attention for hours. History buff? Check out Lilly Library, home to a number of incredible artifacts, including one of the original Gutenberg Bibles. Cook Hall & Assembly Hall give you tons of history on Hoosier basketball through interactive screens and displays. If you aren't lodging at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, stop by to visit its 100+ acres of land and learn about Tibetan & Mongolian customs, art, and traditions.

RELATED CONTENT: A THREE-DAY GETAWAY THIS SPRING
 

7:00 pm: Dinner & Drinks

Treat yourself to an incredible dinner from one of Bloomington's best restaurants — Cardinal Spirits and Malibu Grill are two eateries that are sure to leave your taste buds impressed and your stomach satisfied. Cardinal Spirits is our only distillery in town. They pride themselves on their craft cocktails, award-winning spirits, and locally-sourced, seasonally-inspired food. While the distillery is currently carryout-only due to the ongoing pandemic, you can pick up your order — cocktails and all — and head over to nearby Switchyard Park to snag one of their many picnic tables.

Malibu Grill is a California-style restaurant that specializes in steaks & seafood. Voted best restaurant in Bloomington several times, Malibu Grill is a popular destination for those seeking delicious food and a casual atmosphere. Indoor & outdoor seating is available, and the eatery keeps families in mind by offering a kids menu. Their location on The Square is a plus if you're interested in having a night on the town after dinner.
 

9:00 pm: Out on the Town

Cropped Nick's English Hut

Before you leave town, you have to experience a few of Bloomington's best bars:

  • For a chill night of drinking // Crazy Horse, home to 80 beers from around the world + 225 whiskeys, is a favorite among locals. The bar has a much more relaxed atmosphere compared to some in town, but still offers up a great time and plenty of drink choices.
     
  • For the IU enthusiast // Nick's English Hut has been in B-Town for over 90 years and should be crossed off everyone's Bloomington bucket list. Playing a game of Sink the Biz over a bucket of Biz Fries is basically a rite of passage. Across the street are two other popular local bars you should grab a drink from. Upstairs Pub (which is literally upstairs above a Jimmy John's) is about as Bloomington as you can get: a diverse mix of students & locals all having fun over games of pool & darts. Located next door is Kilroy's on Kirkwood. If you want to relive the college days (and enjoy the best cheesy breadsticks ever made), look no further than KOK.
     
  • For those who like to boogie // Want to dance the night away? Head to The Back Door. This queer bar is the spot for dancing and singing along with resident DJs, MADDØG and Pixie. The Back Door is currently building a back patio for all things outdoor fun, so look forward to that coming soon!

RELATED CONTENT: 5 DIVE BARS TO EXPERIENCE IN BLOOMINGTON
 

1:00 am: Late Night Bites

Hungry again? Check out one of the many food trucks lining the streets until the wee hours of the morning. The Big Cheeze is a crowd favorite after a night of libations, as they serve up a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. Choices include a chicken-bacon-ranch grilled cheese, a BBQ pulled pork grilled cheese, a mac 'n' cheese-stuffed grilled cheese, and more. If you have a sweet tooth, head back to your hotel and order the Munchie Special (six cookies and two cartons of milk) from Baked! The local cookie shop sets itself apart by allowing its customers to make their own custom cookie creations, dough and all. Let your inner-child loose and have fun creating your perfect cookie concoction! 

 

Day Three

11:00 am: Brunch Squad

After a long night out, skip breakfast and enjoy brunch instead. Bedräk Cafe is a brunch staple in B-Town. All recipes are original & made from scratch in-house, and ingredients are locally-sourced whenever possible. They offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options, which is great for those with dietary restrictions & food allergies. Crowd favorites are their French toast bites, jalapeno & cheddar cornbread waffle, and crab cake benedict. Don't forget to order a juice flight or a mimosa flight — all juices are freshly pressed in-house!
 

1:00 pm: Explore IU

Sample Gates during early spring

You likely know that Bloomington is home to Indiana University, 1,900-acres of beautiful limestone buildings and landscaping. If you're an IU alum, simply being in B-Town creates a rush of nostalgia. If you did not attend IU, you'll wish you did as you walk around the beautiful campus.

While you're exploring the university grounds, take part in school traditions such as shaking Herman B Wells' hand or sharing a kiss with a loved one under the Rose Well House for good luck. Be sure to visit the IU Arboretum, an open green space where students often study or relax. The arboretum features every species of tree native to Indiana, as well as a pond and waterfall, creating a tranquil garden in the middle of campus. Don't forget to stop for a photo in front of the iconic Sample Gates — depending on when exactly you visit in spring, you'll find either daffodils, pansies, or tulips in the concrete planters surrounding the landmark. With everything starting to bloom, spring is the perfect time to explore and admire the beauty of old IU before you leave town.

RELATED CONTENT: TOP 10 PRETTIEST SPOTS ON IU'S CAMPUS

 

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa is Visit Bloomington's Digital Content Coordinator. She's also a proud IU alumna, mom to four cats, and a travel enthusiast. When she isn't at work, you can find Alyssa checking out the newest restaurants in the area with her husband, curled up at home with her cats and a great book, or on the couch binge watching Netflix's latest trending show.

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