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Head Backstage to be in the know. 

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, March 18, 2021

ABCs of Bloomington

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

There are so many ways to discover all Bloomington has to offer. Between the trails, lakes, iconic Indiana University spots, local eateries, museums, festivals, and more, you can always find something new to do around town. To make the adventure extra interesting, explore Bloomington by the alphabet!

A is for Assembly Hall...

Copy of assembly

Spirit and tradition run through the veins of Indiana University, and it all starts at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The electric energy in the stadium has the power to make anyone fall in love with the Hoosiers, even those Boilermakers. 


B is for Breweries...

Upland Wood Shop Pour

Voted by Thrillist as one of the "Best Small Beer Cities in the USA," trust us when we say Bloomington knows its brews. 

  • Bloomington Brewing Company made history as Southern Indiana's first brewpub. Stop by their tasting room inside Lennie's and experience a Kirkwood Cream Ale or Rooftop IPA. 
  • The Tap is a popular spot on game days, and fans in town have over 80 beers to choose from, including several that are brewed on-site. 
  • Upland Brewing Company may be most famous for their signature Upland Wheat and Dragonfly IPA brews, but at any given time, you'll find a dozen different options in the brewpub, including seasonal, specialty, and side trail beers. After you've enjoyed a stop at the brewpub, be sure to visit the Wood Shop Brewery next door to experience some of the best sour beers in the country.  
  • Function Brewing draws you in with their selection of awesome beers, but you may be surprised to find yourself just as charmed by the eatery's ambiance and incredible food.
  • The newest addition to Bloomington's beer scene is Switchyard Brewing Company, a family-friendly brewery that also acts as a co-working space. Beer isn't all they serve though: order a delicious New York-style pizza, baked fresh in-house, if you start to feel snacky. 

C is for Culture...

international row in bloomington

Nestled in the rolling hills of Southern Indiana, you'll find a mix of ethnicities, orientations, and backgrounds from countries around the globe. Home to nearly a dozen cultural centers, representing everyone from the Americas to Asia, Bloomington is a community that welcomes all. Visitors will especially enjoy the cultural food experiences available in Bloomington — home to more than 80 international restaurants representing cuisines from 18 different countries, there is no shortage of opportunities to experience the world without a passport while you're in B-Town.


D is for Downtown Bloomington...


When you come to Bloomington, an afternoon spent walking around downtown is a must. At the center of "The Square" is the iconic limestone courthouse. Surrounding The Square are dozens of local shops, restaurants, and bars. You would be surprised how many hours you can spend on just these few blocks!

E is for Everybody...

You are welcome here rainbow graphic

As the home of Indiana University, people regularly travel from around the world to visit Bloomington. Whether you love the outdoors, a good show, or a unique culinary experience, Bloomington has something to offer to every single person who steps foot in town. 

F is for Farmers Market...

farmers market flowers

Did you know Bloomington is home to the state's largest farmers market? There are actually six farmers markets that take place in our town! Throughout the year, residents and visitors can spend their Saturday mornings picking produce and goods from farmers from the region. From June through September, the Tuesday Market allows everyone to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables in the middle of the week.

G is for Gallery Walk...

Grunwald Gallery of Art

On every first Friday of each month, visitors can experience an exciting night of the arts as 13 distinct galleries stay open late to host special exhibits. Gallery Walk is the perfect opportunity for art lovers to travel from gallery to gallery, mixing and mingling over a shared interest with other exhibit-goers.  

H is for Hiking...


Bloomington is known for many things, and hiking is one of the most prominent. There are multiple trails across town, at all levels, for you to get your fix. For an urban walk, stroll down the B-Line Trail. The 3.1 mile-long trail winds through downtown, passing many shops and restaurants — justifying a quick break or two along the way. For a more traditional hike, the Hoosier National Forest is a popular destination. The 200,000-acre forest features miles of hiking and includes the Charles C. Deam Wilderness and the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower. 


I is for Indiana University...

iu campus

Founded just two years after the city, Indiana University and Bloomington run hand-in-hand. Over the years, Bloomington has become the perfect quintessential college town. The Big Ten powerhouse is also a top-ranked university — multiple schools are ranked in the top ten of their kind, making IU one of the best universities in the region. 


J is for Jordan Hall Greenhouse...


The Jordan Hall Greenhouse is basically a jungle in the middle of Indiana. Located just outside the School of Biology, you can find the temperature-controlled greenhouse filled with a variety of plant species. Enjoy a self-guided tour any time of the year and, of course, snap a few photos while you're at it — don't forget to tag us!

K is for Kirkwood Avenue...

Tulips and Car on Kirkwood

Kirkwood Avenue, the street the Sample Gates look onto, is lined with many legendary bars, restaurants, and shops, deeming it a must-see location for all visitors. Take a stroll down the street and enjoy a cup of Joe at one of the many coffee shops, a meal from a local restaurant, and a drink from a local brewery. Oh, and don't forget to grab some Hoosier gear!

L is for Lakes...

Monroe Lake Kayaker

Bloomington is home to three major lakes:

  • Monroe Lake is the largest inland lake in the state and is host to several activities, including pontooning and jet-skiing.
  • Griffy Lake is the perfect spot for canoeing and fishing.
  • Lake Lemon is your go-to for a beach day, as it's home to a number of beaches for swimming and relaxing. 


M is for Music...

records at Landlocked Music

You can find live music in town any day of the week thanks to musicians, local and international, frequenting the various venues around Bloomington. The Jacobs School of Music is arguably the best music school in the country, which means you can easily discover music, dance, and theatre by some of the best young artists in the nation. Curious about other music opportunities? There are also a few record labels in town for those who want to pursue music on a larger scale. 

N is for Nick's...

Sink the Biz at Nick's

Nick's English Hut is an iconic Bloomington establishment, especially for IU students and alumni. It's one of those places you never forget — the entire pub screams cream & crimson, making it the perfect place to watch the Hoosiers play basketball while taking part in a game of Sink the Biz. 

O is for Organic...

bloomington farmers market

Bloomington has many farmers markets, so organic food options are pretty important here. Many of the local restaurants use organic and local produce in their restaurants every day. 

P is for PRIDE Fest...


It's no secret that Bloomington is an LGBTQIA+-friendly city. Of all the places and events that support and celebrate the community, the most prominent is the annual PrideFest. Every August, people come together for a festival complete with a parade, drag shows, performances, and parties dedicated to celebrating the beauty of the LGBTQIA+ community. 


Q is for Quarry...


Indiana University. The Empire State Building. The Pentagon. These iconic landmarks all have one thing in common: Indiana limestone. New York City alone has several examples of Indiana Limestone in use, including at Ellis Island, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Grand Central Station. We value the local limestone industry so much that we celebrate Limestone Month each summer! Throughout June, you’re invited to take part in tours through limestone quarries and architecturally notable places, witness the craft of limestone carving at workshops, browse extensive collections at exhibitions, and join in on many other festivities.

R is for Rose Hill Cemetery...

Rose Hill Cemetery

Rose Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of many celebrated Bloomingtonians. Jazz aficionados often visit the gravesite of Hoagy Carmichael and leave pennies in the grooves on top of the headstone. Other gravesites of interest to visitors include the red granite stones of Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his wife Clara, as well as IU Mathematics Professor, Daniel Kirkwood, for whom Kirkwood Avenue is named.


S is for Sample Gates...

Sample Gates Tulips

A list about exploring Bloomington simply wouldn't be complete without mentioning Indiana University's most iconic landmark, the Sample Gates. The gates act as an entry to campus, representing the connection between the university and the city. They're the backdrop for graduation and wedding photos. They're a popular meeting place, a tourist's most coveted photo destination. They're a source of incredible nostalgia for all IU alumni and a beacon of hope and excitement for incoming students. They're the heart of the community.


T is for the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center...

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center TMBCC 2

The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, TMBCC for short, is one of a kind. The TMBCC was established by Indiana University professor and brother to His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama Emeritus Thubten J. Norbu, in 1979 to acquaint people with the history and culture of Tibet and to support Tibetans everywhere. On top of being an essential addition to the town, the TMBCC is stunningly gorgeous. At the cultural center, you'll find Tibetan Chortens, Mani Korlo, yurts, and so much more. 

U is for USA Sports...

usa swimming

Did you know Bloomington also hosts world-class athletes of a variety of sports? The city has hosted multiple competitions that feature champions and Olympians in sports such as USA swimming, track & field, and softball. 

V is for Visit Bloomington...

Bloomington Visitors Center

"V" is for us, of course! Visit Bloomington is the one-stop shop for all things Bloomington. It's our job to showcase all of the wonderful things Bloomington has to offer. Stop by the Visitors Center to get more information on anything you're curious about, and pick up some B-Town gear while you're here (or you can buy some online).

Not in town, but still looking for information on Bloomington? Request guides and maps here

W is for Wineries...

oliver winery

Bloomington has two wineries in town:

  • Butler Winery, established in 1983 and operated by the Butler family, specializes in wines made from Indiana-grown grapes and a variety of other fruits. Their in-town tasting room is a whimsical hidden gem, featuring a secret-garden-esque patio that takes your experience to the next level.
  • Oliver Winery is the state's largest and oldest winery. After one sip of their soft red or their incredible seasonal Apple Pie dessert wine, you'll understand why the local winery is award-winning. Ranked the 29th largest winery in the country, Oliver is a must on your destination to-do list!

X is for Pizza X...

A slice of cheese pizza being served at a table at Mother Bear's Pizza

There are an abundance of places to enjoy a slice of 'za in Bloomington. In the mood for a super unique pizza? Aver's Cream and Crimson pizza is the go-to. Looking for a quality yet straightforward slice? Pizza X is the spot. And then there's Mother Bear's: most popular among college students and named “Best Pizza in Indiana” by USA Today, the pizzeria has some of the best pies and breadsticks in the nation. 

Y is for Yoga...

yoga bloomington

Bloomington is the perfect getaway destination for all things meditation and "woosah." Whether you're into yoga, salt caves, or essential oils, you'll be able to tune in to your zen in B-Town. 


Z is for Zagreb...


If you're a steak-and-potatoes kind of person, Janko's Little Zagreb is for you. The iconic steakhouse in downtown Bloomington is known for many things, including their amazing spicy meatballs, perfectly-grilled steaks, and laid-back atmosphere.

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa is the Digital Content Coordinator at Visit Bloomington. She's also a proud Indiana University alumna, mom to seven cats, and Formula 1 enthusiast.