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Thursday, February 28, 2019

36 Hours in Bloomington: Spring

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

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 Square to the trails, you can make Bloomington your own. So whether it's a weekday trip or a weekend getaway, come discover your B-Town. 

Day One

3:00 pm: Check In.

Where you stay depends on the type of trip you are hoping to have. For the nature lovers, Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina puts you right on Monroe Lake. Enjoy a meal at Tradewinds, rent a boat for the day, or just lounge by the pool. The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center has modern yurts on their 108-acre property for a unique experience. If you're looking to stay close to downtown, check out the newest addition to the town, Graduate Bloomington, which puts you in the center of it all. Also located near downtown are The Biddle Hotel and Conference Center, which is attached to the 2nd largest student union and largest Starbucks in the Midwest, and Grant Street Inn, an intimate bed and breakfast.

5:00 pm: Walk and 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, Good 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: Time to Eat 

Bloomington has a growing and insanely diverse culinary scene. Ask a local and they will probably suggest you try The Tap. The pub has over 450 craft beers from around the world including some made in-house. Expect trivia during the week and live music on the weekends. On the opposite side of the Square, Trojan Horse is well-known for its American and Greek fare. Speaking of international cuisine, check out 4th Street for more than a dozen ethnic restaurants.


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 dive bar in town and is known for gourmet hot dogs and one-of-a-kind pinball machines.


Day Two

9:00 am: Breakfast of Champions

Bloomington goes all out for breakfast to make sure you enjoy the most important meal of the day. From asiago bagels at Bloomington Bagel Company to cinnamon roll pancakes at Village Deli, we’ve got you covered. For a healthier breakfast menu, head over to Runcible Spoon

10:30 am: Bloomington Community Farmers' Market

The largest farmers' market in Indiana is here in Bloomington. There are over 100 farmers from around the region selling foods and goods such as produce, dairy products, meats, and sauces. Ten prepared food vendors can be found at the Farmer's Market Plaza on the B-Line Trail, serving up delicious food and drink items for attendees to enjoy while shopping at the Market.  

12:00 pm: Walk the B-Line 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. You can also rent scooters and bikes that are perfect for taking a stroll down the B-Line.

1:00 pm: Time to Eat, Drink, & Be Merry

Yes, Bloomington has a growing music scene. Sure, it is becoming a prominent foodie destination. But did you know, it is nationally known as one of the best small beer cities (Thrillist)? Spend lunch checking out any of Bloomington’s boozy restaurants. Upland Brewing Company is one of five breweries in town. Take a tour of their facilities (the brewery or The Wood Shop) then enjoy lunch in the restaurant. We suggest you try the pork tenderloin sandwich to feel like a Hoosier through and through. If beer is your thing, Function Brewing is another place to check out. The owner wears a second hat as the only brewer at the brewery. Looking for more? Cardinal Spirits is another great place. The boutique distillery will quickly become one of your favorites. Take a tour of their facility and tasting room before enjoying their elevated American-style menu.

3:00 pm: Museums, Museums, Museums

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. The Monroe County History Center sends you down the long and winding tunnel of Monroe County’s past. Wylie House, once home to the first president of Indiana University, is another history museum worth exploring. Speaking of IU, Cook Hall and Assembly Hall give you tons of history on IU basketball through interactive screens and displays. 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.

3:00 pm: Get Outside

It's impossible to come to Bloomington and not explore the outdoors. Hoosier National Forest is over 200,000 acres of hills and trails with a variety of outdoor experiences. Enjoy the afternoon hiking, camping, horseback riding, or fishing. Monroe Lake, managed by the Department of Natural Resources, also has trails and recreational activities, but you can rent a kayak or boat to spend a sunny Spring afternoon on the water. Beanblossom Bottoms is a nature preserve owned by the Sycamore Land Trust that's perfect for hiking and exploring. It is home to 350 varieties of orchids and tons of morel mushrooms. 

Note: Bloomington lakes may currently be above regular levels. This would mean beaches, docks, and possibly other amenities are not available. For the most up-to-date information, check here. However, hiking and camping are always open. 


6:30 pm: Comfort Food

Bloomington has a lot of things that would make you think you're in a big city, but you're still in the Midwest which means good, down-home comfort food. Mother Bear's Pizza is a classic Bloomington staple. Enjoy award-winning pizza and breadsticks with nacho cheese (yes, nacho cheese). There is nothing that goes better with pizza than wings. BuffaLouie's is a rite of passage in Bloomington. The restaurant is filled with Big Ten memorabilia, TVs, and Hoosier spirit. 

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. 

10:00 pm: Out on 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. Nick's English Hut has been in Bloomington for over 90 years and should be crossed off everyone's Bloomington Bucket List. It is always a fun Saturday night when you head to Nick's, grab a table, and play a game of Sink the Biz over a bucket of Biz Fries. Across the street are two more bars that you should check out. Upstairs Pub (which is literally upstairs above a Jimmy John's) is about as Bloomington as you can get: a diverse mix of people all having fun over games of pool and darts. Located next door is Kilroy's on Kirkwood. If you want to feel like a student again (and enjoy the best cheesy breadsticks ever made), this is the spot for you. 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 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 serves up all kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. Rockit's Famous Pizza also has a cheesy favorite: pizza! 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. 


Day Three

11:00 am: Brunch Squad

After a long night out, skip breakfast and enjoy brunch instead. Uptown Cafe's brunch menu features the classics such as eggs benedict and huevos rancheros, and other creole-inspired dishes. If you're craving some good chicken and waffles, Sweet Grass and Lennie's have some of the best in town. Another brunch favorite, Scenic View, lives up to its name giving you a beautiful view of Monroe Lake. There's nothing better than sipping a mimosa while looking out onto the lake. 

1:00 pm: Explore IU

Bloomington is home to Indiana University. IU is 1,900 acres of beautiful limestone buildings and landscaping. If you are an IU grad, the nostalgia will start rushing in. 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. With everything starting to bloom, Spring is the perfect time to explore and admire Indiana University.


Nia Jones

Nia Jones

Nia is Visit Bloomington’s Content Coordinator. As soon as she stepped foot on IU's campus, she realized she found a forever-home in Bloomington. Her favorite thing about B-Town is the diversity and culture that is found in this small town in the Midwest.  She enjoys exploring new places around town and cheering on the Hoosiers.