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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, July 15, 2021

48 Hours in Bloomington: Fall

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

There's nothing like fall in Bloomington. Between Indiana University football, seasonal festivals, and the stunning fall foliage that paints our city in golden tones, an autumnal visit to B-Town is a must on any traveler's fall bucket list. Take a scenic drive through the rolling hills of Southern Indiana to spend two days basking in the beauty and magic of the season in Bloomington — you'll keep coming back every fall after you experience it once.

Hoosier National Road in Fall

Day One

3:00 PM: CHECK-IN

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

  • The secluded stay // Enjoy a stay in the fall foliage by booking a yurt at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. For those seeking solitude in nature, this is one of Bloomington's best offerings. Only three yurts are available, so book your stay well in advance of your trip, and consider booking a mid-week stay for the best chance of securing one of these highly-sought-after accommodations. Find other secluded vacation rentals here.
     
  • The boutique boarder // Into the boutique hotel experience? A stay at the Graduate Bloomington is a must. Just two blocks east of The Square and three blocks west of Sample Gates, the hotel puts you at the center of our best dining, local shopping, nightlife, and college campus.
     
  • The voyage with a view // Looking for a hotel with amenities and a great view? The Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina could be just what you're after. Located on the shore of Monroe Lake, the resort offers a view of the fall-toned forestry like none other in town.
     
  • The cozy comfort // Those who enjoy a bed & breakfast stay should check out the Showers Inn. The charming and historic property features beautiful architectural & design details, and is located just three blocks from The Square and five blocks from campus.
     
  • The Cream & Crimson crew // In town for a football game? Fully immerse yourself in Hoosier culture by staying on campus at The Biddle Hotel & Conference Center, conveniently located less than one mile from Memorial Stadium.
     
5:00 PM: Enjoy a Glass at Oliver Winery

Oliver winery

Oliver Winery is one of the top wineries in the nation, and their Apple Pie wine is one of Bloomington's signature fall features. Enjoy a pre-dinner glass (or two) of the seasonal wine on their beautiful patio, surrounded by colorful mums and fiery trees. It's one of the best ways to relax after your arrival, allowing you to settle into your trip and set the tone for the fall experience in store over the next two days.

RELATED CONTENT: Bloomington's Best Fall Flavors
 

7:00 PM: Savor FALL FLAVORS AT A LOCAL RESTAURANT

Bloomington has a growing and insanely diverse culinary scene with plenty of options for a phenomenal dinner — many of which feature special fall-flavored dishes in honor of the season: 

  • Casual yet elevated plates // Upland Brewpub, Osteria Rago, and The Tap are some of B-Town's best casual restaurants that serve elevated classics. Upland and The Tap both serve upscale pub food, but their menus are quite different. Osteria Rago is a quaint Italian restaurant hidden in an alley just off of Kirkwood Avenue that serves authentic pizza, sandwich, and pasta plates. You can't go wrong with any of the three — each usually offers a menu of seasonally-inspired dishes as well.
     
  • Pizza Friday // Do you follow the tradition of having pizza for dinner on Fridays? Keep the tradition alive while you travel and experience Bloomington's best 'za at Mother Bear's Pizza. Awarded the accolade of fourth best pizza in the nation, the slice joint serves over 20 signature pies, a variety of appetizers, a slew of hot subs, a handful of pasta dinners, and some shockingly delicious salads. You haven't truly experienced B-Town until you've experienced Mother Bear's.
     
  • An upscale experience // Craving more of a fine-dining experience? Janko's Little Zagreb and C3 are great choices. Janko's is a beloved local steakhouse that serves — you guessed it — a variety of perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks. C3 is a bit of a hidden gem, located on the east side of Bloomington, that prides itself on serving handcrafted cocktails and chef-driven cuisine — their menu is always changing, so you're likely to try something new each time you visit.
     

RELATED CONTENT: Eat Like a Local
 

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. Enjoy smaller-scale artists at The Bishop, or skip the music scene entirely and opt for a stand-up performance at The Comedy Attic, where comedians including Amy Schumer and SNL's Melissa Villaseñor have performed.

RELATED CONTENT: Where to Hear Music in Bloomington
 

Day Two

9:00 AM: Pumpkin Pancakes for BREAKFAST

Pumpkin pancakes from Village Deli

Like Oliver Winery's Apple Pie wine, Village Deli's pumpkin pancakes are a signature Bloomington fall flavor. The fluffy, plate-sized pancakes are made with local Dillman Farm Pumpkin Butter, served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a bottle of maple syrup for drizzling to your liking. Don't like sweets in the morning? Village Deli offers a variety of savory plates — we especially love The Hoosier Scramble, Corned Beef Hash, and Buttermilk Biscuits & Sausage Gravy during fall!

RELATED CONTENT: Bloomington's Best Breakfast
 

10:00 AM: Experience the Magic of Harry Potter

Bloomington is home to many places that have an uncanny similarity to parts of J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World, and fall is the perfect time to explore them. From the Jordan Hall Greenhouse mimicking Professor Sprout's Herbology classroom to the Irish Lion feeling akin to The Leaky Cauldron, Bloomington has more destinations paralleling Harry Potter's universe than you might expect — which makes for a fun-filled fall and Harry Potter-themed adventure.

Now, hear us out if you're not into the lore of The Boy Who Lived: while there are many parallels to Harry Potter's universe in Bloomington, that doesn't mean these locations aren't worth visiting simply because you're not a fan. Disregard the Harry Potter aspect of the adventure and visit these fantastic attractions anyway — you'll enjoy them as they are, without any magical connections. If you are a fan or you have children who love the story, you're in for an epic day.

Walk over to the Indiana University campus once you're finished with your breakfast at the Village Deli. You'll begin with some sight-seeing shortly after you walk through Sample Gates: the Student Building Clock Tower will be on your left, which mimics the Hogwarts Clock Tower. The beautiful campus landmark chimes every quarter-hour and makes for a gorgeous photo. Just up the hill, you'll see Maxwell Hall, which feels like a mini-Hogwarts in itself. Its grand, castle-esque exterior and rotunda tower give it a striking resemblance to the wizarding school.

Maxwell Hall during fall

Continue strolling across the fall-colored campus until you reach the Lilly Library. Akin to the restricted section of the library at Hogwarts, IU's Lilly Library is home to millions of rare books, manuscripts, puzzles, and more, including a Gutenberg bible, Shakespeare's First Folio, over 30,000 comics donated by Batman producer, Michael Uslan, the first printed edition of The Canterbury Tales, George Washington's letter accepting the presidency of the United States, typescripts from many of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, four of John Ford's Oscars, Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Bill of Rights, 94 of Sylvia Plath's poems, and much, much more. It's regarded as an internationally-revered collection of millions of cultural & literary artifacts that documents some of humanity's highest achievements. The best part? The library's contents are available for observation & admiration to all in Bloomington, incredibly, at no cost.

After spending an hour or two pouring over such incredible artifacts, walk down 7th Street to the Indiana Memorial Union. Head inside and up the staircase to the main level of the student union — stop in the IU Bookstore for a Hoosier souvenir, then walk up another flight of stairs to rest for a moment in the South Lounge. Paralleling Hogwarts' Study Hall, the South Lounge is one of the most popular study spots on campus. After you've admired its Hogwarts vibes and warmed up next to the grand fireplace, walk back down the hallway for your next stop on the adventure: lunch.

RELATED CONTENT: Experience the Magic of Harry Potter in Bloomington
 

12:30 PM: Lunch at the Tudor Room

tudor room

Enjoy a buffet-style lunch at the Indiana Memorial Union Tudor Room. The university itself boasts the space's similarity to Hogwarts' Great Hall, with its rich oak-paneled walls, bright stained-glass windows, and colorful banners representing the different schools on campus. Enjoy a delicious fall feast at the legendary IU dining hall — fuel up for the adventure to come in the afternoon.
 

1:30 PM: Back to the Magical Adventure

Before leaving campus, there's one more Potter-esque destination to visit: the Jordan Hall Greenhouse. Mimicking Professor Sprout's Herbology classroom, it's a great place for visitors of all ages to explore the greenhouse's unique plant life, from desert to tropic species. You'll see orchids, banana plants, and giant ferns, but no screeching mandrakes. It's also considered one of Bloomington's most Instagrammable places, so be sure to snap a few shots for the grid before you leave. 

If you're craving a post-lunch sweet treat, head over to Hartzell's Ice Cream. The local-favorite scoop shop is akin to Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, which was never shown in the movies but is a popular Diagon Alley hangout spot in the books. While they've never come out with a butterbeer flavored ice cream, Hartzell's does offer mouthwatering fall-flavored scoops, such as pumpkin pie and salted caramel.

View of the Charles C. Deam Wilderness from the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower during fall

With a belly full of yummy fall flavors, get in the car and drive to Indiana's sole wilderness area: the Charles C. Deam Wilderness within the Hoosier National Forest. A parallel to the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts, the Deam Wilderness is one of the most stunning sights in all of Monroe County during fall, offering beautiful views of fiery-toned foliage — some of which are quite unique. The Hickory Ridge Fire Tower, located within the wilderness, offers visitors an incredible view of the tree tops and rolling hills from 110 feet in the air. It's one of, if not the most, sought-after photo destinations in Bloomington.

After you've scaled the 133-step staircase, head back to the ground for a scenic hike through the forestry to Monroe Lake. Mirroring Hogwarts' Black Lake — just swap the surrounding mountains in the wizarding world for the rolling hills of Southern Indiana — Monroe Lake can be journeyed to on-foot from the fire tower via the Deam's 2.6-mile Peninsula Trail. Be sure to wear proper shoes and bring plenty of water — we promise the view at the end of the trail is well-worth the trek.
 

7:00 PM: DINNER at The Irish Lion

irish lion

After an active afternoon in the wilderness, head back into town for a hearty meal at The Irish Lion. Akin to The Leaky Cauldron, a popular pub frequented by professors, wizarding families, and other interesting magical folk, The Irish Lion has been a Bloomington mainstay since the early 1980s. It's frequented by the same types of people — just without the magic. You can even get a taste of some of Britain's best food with the authentic Irish fare served at the B-Town pub. There's nothing like a hearty bowl of coddle on a cool fall day, and the Blarney Puffballs are an absolute must no matter the season.
 

9:00 PM: Grab a Drink at Crazy Horse

Interested in a night-cap before you call it a day? Check out The Irish Lion's neighbor, Crazy Horse. The tavern is one of the oldest watering holes in town, and is Bloomington's best rendition of Hogsmeade Village's The Three Broomsticks. While they don't serve butterbeer, they do offer 80 beers from around the world, in addition to their wine list, full bar, and domestic brews.

RELATED CONTENT: Drink Like a Local
 

Day Three

10:00 AM: BRUNCH with a View

If you're in town for the most fall experience possible, take a gorgeous drive to Scenic View Restaurant for brunch. The eatery features a delicious menu of elevated American fare and a large patio that overlooks a breathtaking view of Monroe Lake and the surrounding forestry. Enjoy their signature Bacon Bloody Mary and Crab Cake Benedict while admiring the fall-toned vista for an incredibly unique Bloomington experience.
 

12:00 PM: Pick a Pumpkin at Fowler Pumpkin Patch

Fowler Pumpkin Patch

The most quintessential fall experience is picking a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch. Drive to neighboring Greene County's Fowler Pumpkin Patch to enjoy the beautiful autumn atmosphere, pick a few pumpkins and/or gourds to decorate your home with or carve into jack-o-lanterns, go on a hay ride, befriend farm animals at the petting zoo, and navigate your way through a corn maze. There's no better way to end your fall three-day getaway in Bloomington!

 

 

 

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa is the Digital Content Coordinator at Visit Bloomington. She's a proud Indiana University alumna, mom to four cats, and Formula 1 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 a great book, or planning her next trip to a destination near or far.

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