Thursday, April 13, 2023
48 Hours in Bloomington This 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 farmers' markets 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, shows, and other indoor attractions to enjoy. That's the charm of Bloomington during spring: no matter the weather or interest, you can make it 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.
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 rejuvenation? The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center has modern yurts available for booking on their 108-acre property for a unique and grounding experience.
- The downtown dweller // If you're looking to stay downtown, check out the Graduate Bloomington Hotel, which puts you at the center of our best dining, local shopping, and nightlife on Kirkwood Avenue.
- The Cream & Crimson crew // For IU alumni, prospective & incoming students, and university visitors, the Indiana Memorial Union Biddle Hotel & Conference Center is the prime place to stay. Attached to the second-largest student union in the nation and the largest Starbucks in the Midwest, the Biddle offers a convenient location in the middle of campus, fully immersing you in the university's 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.
- The local bed and breakfast // Looking to stay at a classic bed and breakfast? The Grant Street Inn is a historic bed and breakfast made up of five different buildings and 40 one-of-a-kind rooms. The Showers Inn is a charming bed and breakfast that focuses on comfort and service, and is within walking distance to Indiana University and Kirkwood Avenue.
5:00 pm: Walk and Shop The Square
Bloomington’s downtown is centered around what's known as The Square. There, you're within walking distance from a variety of local shops, where you can browse everything from clothing and outdoor recreation gear to music and much more. If you're in the market for a spring wardrobe refresh, check out Mirth and skullznbunniez. 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? Pop into oak., Bloomington's newest plant store on 4th Street.
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7:00 pm: Dine Downtown
Bloomington proudly boasts an insanely diverse culinary scene that's gained national recognition from several esteemed publications, including Forbes. Ask a local for a recommendation and they'll likely suggest Uptown Cafe, Upland Brewing Co., or Mother Bear's Pizza. You'll probably also hear about the beloved 4th Street, home to nearly a dozen ethnic restaurants serving a wide range of cuisine including Burmese, Thai, Korean, Turkish, Indian, and far more.
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9:00 pm: See a Show
Bloomington is home to many 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 hosts concerts almost every night of the week — artists including Jimmy Eat World, Jason Aldean, and John Mayer have performed at the music hall. Interested in enjoying live music while also playing pinball and enjoying a late-night gourmet hotdog? Check out the newest dive bar in town, The Orbit Room, which hosts local artists in an intimate setting several nights each week.
9:00 am: Breakfast of the Champions
Bloomington knows its stuff when it comes to breakfast. The 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 option? Head over to another downtown 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 daily, 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, and any variety of their hand pies, scones, or coffeecake. The bakery also offers coffee, tea, and house-made espresso beverages to wash down 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.
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10:30 am: Browse a Farmer's Market
Many farmers from around the region come to B-Town to sell their food goods at local farmers' markets, which get up-and-running once more during spring. If you're visiting on a Saturday, head to one of five farmers' markets to browse produce, dairy products, meats, maple syrup, jellies & jams, honey, and much more. Even if you aren't interested in making a purchase, you'll still have a great time browsing the locally-made goods, soaking in the spring sunshine, and enjoying the festival atmosphere.
12:00 pm: Walk an Urban Trail
B-Town offers a variety of urban trails to explore, but two of our springtime favorites are the B-Line Trail and Clear Creek Trail. The B-Line Trail is a 3.1-mile path that runs through the downtown area. The trail is lined with public art, local businesses, and the sprawling Switchyard Park, 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 an electric 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.
Take a 10 minute drive south to the 2.5-mile Clear Creek Trail, which winds through woods, farmlands, 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 has been nationally-recognized as one of the best small beer cities? Check out any of Bloomington’s fantastic boozy eateries for lunch. Upland Brewing Co. is one of five breweries in town, their brewpub and sour ale brewery, The Wood Shop, located on the same property. Take a tour and enjoy a tasting at the specialty facility, then head across the parking lot for lunch and a cold one at the brewpub. Metal Works Brewing Company is another great local brewery to check out. In addition to their in-house beers, they also offer a variety of appetizers and gourmet sandwiches,
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.
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3:30 pm: Choose Your Adventure
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, ADA-compliant 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 to Butler Winery and grab a table on their patio — they have outdoor heaters in case the weather is a bit chilly — 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 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 Museum is a children's science & technology center that will hold their attention for hours. History buff? Check out the Lilly Library, home to millions of incredible artifacts, including one of the original Gutenberg Bibles. Cook Hall and Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall give you tons of history on Hoosier Basketball through interactive screens and displays.
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7:00 pm: Dinner & Drinks
Treat yourself to an incredible dinner at one of Bloomington's most upscale 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 sole distillery; taking pride in its craft cocktails, award-winning spirits, and locally-sourced, seasonally-inspired food.
Malibu Grill is a California-style restaurant that specializes in steaks & seafood. Voted the 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
Before you leave town, you have to experience a few of Bloomington's best bars:
- For a laid-back night of drinking // Crazy Horse, home to 80 beers from around the world and 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. The Upstairs Pub (which is literally upstairs above a Jimmy John's) is about as Bloomington as you can get: a diverse mix of students and 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 their back patio is a hot spot for fun when the weather warms up — you won't want to miss it!
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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. 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!
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 and made from scratch in-house with locally-sourced ingredients 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
You likely know that Bloomington is home to Indiana University, a grand campus comprised of 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 Cox 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.
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