Tuesday, May 9, 2023
48 Hours in Bloomington This Summer
Every season is special in Bloomington, but summer is perhaps the most unique of them all. With the majority of the Indiana University students absent until mid-August, Bloomington becomes quieter, slower-paced, and more tranquil than it is at any other time of year. Summer in B-Town includes lake days, patio dining, some of our favorite annual events, a serene campus, outdoor adventure, and so much more. Navigate through the rolling hills of Southern Indiana to spend two days with us this season — we have a feeling they'll be two of the best days of your entire summer.
3:00 pm: Check-In
Where you stay depends on the type of trip you're hoping to have:
- The lake lover // If you're in Bloomington to enjoy a few days on the water, book your stay at the Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina. Located on the shore of Monroe Lake near the Fairfax State Recreation Area beach and Paradise Boat Rentals, there's no better place to reside.
- The city crew // If you plan to spend the majority of your time downtown, check out the Graduate Bloomington. Just two blocks from The Square on Kirkwood Avenue, the hotel puts you at the center of our best dining, local shopping, and nightlife.
- The quaint character // Looking for a charming stay full of personality? The Grant Street Inn is a Bloomington-favorite boutique bed & breakfast located right between campus and downtown.
- The best of both worlds // Plan to spend time in the city and on the lake? Book your stay at the Holiday Inn Express. Located right off of Interstate 69, the hotel is in the most convenient location to drive to both downtown and Monroe Lake.
5:00 pm: Explore Downtown
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 IU gear and outdoor recreation to plants and locally-made goods.
There are a variety of places to find unique IU fanfare & apparel in Bloomington, but some downtown favorites are The Indiana Shop, Greetings, and the IU Varsity Shop. If you need to pick up any outdoor gear before heading out to the lake, J.L Waters & Co. is your one-stop-shop. Plant, trinket, and art lovers should definitely visit Gather, a store that sells a variety of goods, such as stickers, pins, keychains, t-shirts, art prints, and much more, created by local artisans.
7:00 pm: Enjoy Dinner at a Local Restaurant
Bloomington has a growing and insanely diverse culinary scene with plenty of options for a phenomenal dinner:
- The elevated classic // Those craving American-style food should head over to Yogi's Bar & Grill. They serve American classics, but every plate features an upscale twist, be it a gourmet dipping sauce, unique topping combinations, or creative seasoning, taking Yogi's food to the next level.
- The wing connoisseur // For those who need to get their wing fix everywhere they go, BuffaLouie's is a must. They serve patrons up to 50 wings in a single order with nearly 20 different sauce choices. Those who challenge themselves to the hottest of sauces will have to take on the Loucifer, and those who don't jive with buffalo of any kind should try the teriyaki sauce.
- The adventurous diner // Enjoy some of Bloomington's best authentic international cuisine at Bangkok Thai Cuisine, a hidden gem just ten minutes from campus. They serve a large menu of Thai specials, including Tangerine Duck, Pad Thai, and Larb.
9:00 pm: Grab a Brew
Bloomington is home to five breweries, all of which are located in the downtown area. Grab a beer at Metal Works Brewing Company, The Tap, Switchyard Brewing, Upland Brewpub, or Lennie's which serves Bloomington Brewing Company (BBC) — if you want to enjoy a brew from more than one location, The Tap, Metal Works, and Lennie's are all located within a five-block stretch of one-another.
9:00 am: Farmers' Market Breakfast
Bloomington is host to five different farmers' markets across town on Saturdays. On your way to Monroe Lake, stop by one of the markets to grab a quick breakfast and enjoy the community atmosphere of the event. All five of the Saturday markets offer goods from local farmers and food vendors — purchase a basket of fresh berries and an assortment of baked goods for your crew to devour before beginning your lake-day adventure.
10:00 am: By the Water
Begin your lake day with a morning hike before the temperature reaches its peak. Monroe Lake offers a variety of hiking trails for varying experience levels. For beginner hikers or those with small children, try the 0.5-mile Tree Trek Trail, an easy, forest ecosystem interpretive trail. For those looking for more of a challenge, traverse the moderate, 1.75-mile Turkey Trot Trail. If you complete your hike of choice before lunchtime, head to the beach at the Fairfax or Paynetown State Recreation Area (SRA) to lay out in the sun, cool off in the water, pass a volleyball back-and-forth, or build a sandcastle.
12:00 pm: Lakeside Lunchtime
Refuel your tank after your morning hike with a picnic on the beach or a meal at the Fourwinds' Windjammer Bar & Grill. If your group chooses the picnic route, stop by Dagwood's Deli & Sub Shop to pick up a sandwich & chips for everyone in your troop before you head out to the lake. If a relaxed meal at the lakeside resort restaurant is more your speed, grab a table on the large outdoor patio so you can enjoy your fare without missing any lake time. Treat your group to a beachside cocktail — virgin-style for the kids, of course!
1:00 pm: Afternoon Boat Float
Both the Paynetown and Fairfax SRAs offer boat rentals — choose from speed boats, pontoons, kayaks, jet-skis, and other watercrafts for your afternoon of boating. Both rental facilities also offer boating accessories, including tubes, wakeboards, kneeboards, and skis. If your crew is craving a high-speed adventure, rent a speed boat and some watersports equipment, and/or a pair of jet-skis. For those with kids or those who desire a relaxing afternoon of floating in the water, rent a pontoon and throw out your anchor in one of the lake's boat coves. Be sure to rent a few tubes or bring a few noodles for optimal floating relaxation. Craving hands-on exploration along the shores? Rent a few kayaks or a canoe and spend the afternoon paddling around the lake.
7:00 pm: Dinner & Drinks
After your day full of fun in the sun, venture back into town to treat yourself to a delicious dinner at one of Bloomington's best restaurants. FARMbloomington, considered one of the best restaurants in Indiana by Travel Indiana, offers upscale, seasonally-inspired, sustainably-sourced plates catering to flavor palettes both near and far. Those wanting to try one of the famous 4th Street international restaurants have eight authentic cuisines to choose from — find a full restaurant round-up in this blog. Those craving something quick and fresh should try a customizable poke bowl from Sunny Poke Tea.
9:00 pm: Out on the Town
Before you leave town, you have to experience a few of Bloomington's best bars:
- For the gamer // Those who love classic arcade games, pinball, and pool have to check out The Cade, The Video Saloon (lovingly know as "The Vid"), and The Orbit Room. The Cade, located below The Vid, offers over 20 arcade classics, such as Super Mario 64, Rampage, and Pac Man, as well as weekly trivia nights and live music. Head upstairs for a game of pool and/or darts at The Vid, one of Bloomington's favorite dive bars. Pinball aficionados should visit The Orbit Room for a robust selection of pinball machines, as well as live music and gourmet hotdogs.
- For the underground experience // The Root Cellar Lounge is one of Bloomington's best hidden gems, located in the basement of FARMbloomington. The underground bar has a speakeasy-vibe and is known for their live music by local talent and karaoke nights. If you opted for an upscale dinner at FARM, simply head downstairs to enjoy a few drinks in what feels more like a Chicago or New York bar than one in Bloomington.
- For the dancing queen // 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. Catch live music, drag shows, cabaret performances, karaoke, and more every week. The bar also offers a large outdoor patio, which is fabulous during warm summer nights.
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. Doner Kebab is a crowd favorite after a night of libations — they serve customizable gyros, which are some of the best Bloomington has to offer. Z & C Teriyaki & Sushi is another late-night favorite, located on Kirkwood Avenue. Something about chicken teriyaki topped with a fried egg just feels so right at 1:00 am. 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 day under the sun followed by a late night of (responsible) drinking, skip breakfast and enjoy brunch instead. The Village Deli is a well-loved breakfast joint known for their plate-sized pancakes, homemade granola, and Paxton's potatoes (home fries topped with sausage gravy, cheddar cheese, and fresh chives). Their menu also includes a variety of omelets, combo plates, scrambles, sandwiches, waffles & French toast, biscuits & gravy, and more.
If you're looking for something quick rather than a sit-down meal, check out inBloom Eats + Juice. The local eatery offers an assortment of incredible smoothie bowls that fill you up and satisfy your appetite without sending you into a post-meal food coma. Plus, few things beat a cold smoothie bowl on a hot summer day!
1:00 pm: Explore IU
You likely know that Bloomington is home to Indiana University, 1,900-acres of beautiful limestone buildings and lush landscaping. Summer is a very special time on the Hoosier campus — it's quieter than ever, more tranquil than any other time in the year. Walking around IU's grounds is a wonderful experience no matter the season, but during summer, there's a quiet regality to the stunning, sprawling campus that isn't as pronounced during the schoolyear.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll on the university's brick paths and winding sidewalks before you leave town — 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. If the day is especially warm, stop to dip your feet or hands in Showalter Fountain to cool off. Don't forget to snap a photo for Instagram in front of the iconic Sample Gates to commemorate your summer visit to B-Town. We hope to see you back in the land of the Cream & Crimson this fall!
Best Outdoor Attractions
Best Outdoor Attractions
Bloomington offers an abundance of incredible outdoor attractions, and we've rounded-up the best of the best.
Guide to Summer in Bloomington
Guide to Summer in Bloomington
Enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, and more on Monroe County's three lakes.
Check out our events calendar to find out what's happening now and later in B-Town.
Hotels in Bloomington
Hotels in Bloomington
Whatever type of accommodations you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.