Tuesday, May 14, 2019
36 Hours in Bloomington: Summer
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. For nature lovers, Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina puts you on the beautiful shores of Monroe Lake. Enjoy a meal at Tradewinds, rent a boat for the day, or enjoy lounging by 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 Graduate Bloomington, the newest hotel in town. Located in the heart of Indiana University's campus and housed within the Indiana Memorial Union is The 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.
5:00 PM: Happy Hour
You've made it to town and you're all checked in, now what? We suggest you live like a local and check out happy hour downtown. Function Brewing is known for its inviting atmosphere, top of the line craft beer, and tasty apps. Looking for a salty snack? Their kettle chips pair perfectly with their Digit Red Ale. In the mood for gigantic hand-battered cheese sticks? Crazy Horse has you covered. The newly renovated tavern is known for their "80 beers around the world" options and is also home to more than 200 types of whiskey. If a memorable martini is what you're in the mood for look no further than Malibu Grill. Between their perfectly made cocktails and delicious appetizers, you are all set for the happiest of happy hours.
7:00 PM: Time to Eat
Now that you've got your fix of booze and bruschetta, it's time for a good meal. Irish Lion is a traditional Irish restaurant. We suggest a Guinness, their Blarney Puffballs, any of their authentic Irish dishes, and maybe even Whiskey Pie for dessert. Have a taste for American food? Lennie's is a great option for artisanal pizza. The Bloomington staple uses unique ingredients and a wood-fired oven to push their pizzas over the top. If you're taking a weekend trip to Bloomington, you have to check out Food Truck Friday. Located at the Dimension Mill, and only a short walk from the Courthouse Square, all the food trucks in Bloomington come together. You can have anything from tacos to grilled cheese sandwiches to Mediterranean food.
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.
10:30 AM: Bloomington Community Farmers' Market
Spend your Saturday morning at Indiana's largest farmers' market. Over 100 local vendors sell a variety of foods and goods that are grown or made in our region. For breakfast, pick fresh fruit, a savory crepe, or a sweet pastry from one of the ten prepared food vendors set up on the plaza area. While you're there, you should grab a bouquet of flowers, handmade soaps, or some of the best honey you can find in the Midwest.
12:00 PM: Explore 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: Lunch
What pairs better with lunch than a craft beer tasting? Upland Brewpub features comfort foods of all kinds with a twist. We suggest you try the pork tenderloin sandwich to feel like a Hoosier through and through. While at Upland, take a tour of The Wood Shop next door. It's the production facility and tasting room where their sour ales are brewed, aged, and packaged. During the weekends at Cardinal Spirits, you can also take a tour and tasting. The local distillery produces 14 kinds of spirits to cover everyone's go-to spirit. Then, of course, Cardinal Spirit's menu is a must-try. It changes with the season guaranteeing you are tasting the best and freshest ingredients.
3:00 PM: Choose Your Adventure
Bloomington has two wineries for you to advantage of. Butler Winery is a family-owned winery that uses Hoosier-grown grapes and fruits. Enjoy a picnic 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 Hardblossom 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 spirit 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. 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.
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. The state's largest inland lake, Monroe Lake, has this and more. Spend the day at the beach or rent a boat with friends. Just minutes from downtown, Griffy Lake is 1,200 acres of beautiful sights and fun activities. Rent a kayak, go fishing, or go for a hike. The third beach in Bloomington is Lake Lemon and home to Riddle Point Park. The park is open from sunrise to sunset every day giving you ample time to chill at the beach or have a picnic.
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.
6:30 PM: Time to Eat
Whether you went on a wine tasting or relaxed on the beach, surely you've worked up and appetite. Variety really is the spice of life when it comes to picking a dinner option in town. Just take a walk down 4th Street and see for yourself. Down this road, you will find anything from Thai to Thibetan to Turkish. Not sure if you want to go all out on the international cuisine? Check out the hybrid restaurant, Trojan Horse. The Bloomington staple serves Greek food (this is the place for a great gyro), but they also have American classics such as burgers and tenderloins.
8:00 PM: Arts & Culture in Bloomington
Looking to laugh, cry, or sing along? Check out one of the many theaters around town. 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. You can find comedy and more at the iconic Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Over the summer, BCT also features film, theater, and musical acts. Looking for more drama? The IU Summer Theater is worth checking out. Because many students are gone for the summer, this theater is made up of students, professional actors, and IU Theater & Drama faculty.
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 calm night out, check out Atlas Ballroom. It's everything you need in one spot: perfectly-made drinks, a great atmosphere, and skee-ball. We're you hoping to dance all night long? Just walk around the corner through the alley to The Back Door. The queer bar is always filled with people dancing and singing along to old and current hits.
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.
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 creole-inspired dishes like the andouille omelet. FARM Bloomington has grown to be a Bloomington favorite because of their farm to table favorites. A must-try any time you're visiting is a giant bowl of their Farm Famous Garlic Fries. Just make sure that everyone at the table indulges so you won't be able to tell who's got garlic breath! If you're craving some good chicken and waffles, Sweet Grass has 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 to see the lake in the distance.
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
There's always something happening in Bloomington. Check out our comprehensive event calendar to plan your trip.
Bloomington by the Seasons: Summer
Bloomington by the Seasons: Summer
Experience life on the water at one of our three lakes.