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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Be You In Bloomington

Categories: Arts & Culture, General, LGBTQ+

One of the best things about Bloomington is that it’s incredibly accepting. You might not think of a small Midwestern city as a melting pot for people of every sort of culture and identity, but that’s exactly what Bloomington is.

Bloomington is a place where you don’t have to be afraid to be you. We are consistently ranked as one of the best places in the Midwest to live and have received a perfect score on the Municipal Equality Index for four years in a row. Look around town, and you’ll see rainbow flags hanging in shop windows all throughout our city.

Whether you’re looking to move here or staying for just a few days, Bloomington is the perfect place for you. Here’s the best way for you to spend some time with us and see just how well you fit into our home.

Two PRIDE Festivals

Consider planning your trip around one of Bloomington’s celebrations of being out and proud! At the end of February, we host the PRIDE Film Festival, an event celebrating the diverse LGBTQ community through films, dancing, and speaker series. The PRIDE Film Festival shows international and local films, both shorts and full-features, and covers a variety of issues and experiences within the LGBTQ community.

If you’re looking for a warmer celebration, come check out PrideFest in late August. Our PRIDE festival is full of fun for all ages and includes live music, drag performances, art exhibits, food trucks, and celebrating what makes us different and unique as an LGBTQ community.

No matter when you choose to visit, there are plenty of ways to make sure your trip is authentically Bloomington.

Things to Do

Bloomington prides itself on how well we listen to the voices of our residents and how livable that makes our little city for everyone. From cutting-edge academic opportunities to hiking on protected lands, we have always stayed ahead of the curve when it comes to providing a space our residents and our visitors love.

If you’re a history lover, the Kinsey Institute is a great place to spend an afternoon. A visit to the landmark destination for studies on love, sexuality, and wellbeing will provide a unique insight into the past and future of how we view all things relating to gender and sexuality. Check out their calendar to catch an acclaimed speaker or peruse the Kinsey Institute Library & Collections for a bit of history about the institute and Alfred Kinsey, a pioneer in the field.

Bloomington is home to some beautiful protected lands. From the Sycamore Land Trust’s swaths of beautiful Hoosier forest to the preserves surrounding Griffy Lake, nature is a Bloomington priority and we make sure to keep our natural resources accessible, beautiful, and healthy.

Related: Unique Hikes in Bloomington

Monroe Lake has more to it than just boating! Take a trip out to Bloomington’s largest lake to do some horseback riding, kayaking, or hiking. Check out Fairfax Beach if you're looking to spend some time lounging in the sun or swimming in our beautiful lake. When you’re done exploring the waterscape, grab a bite to eat at the Windjammer Grill or Trailhead Pizzeria.

Where to Stay

Anywhere where you stay in Bloomington, you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Here are a few of our favorite places to stay when we’re looking for a cozy night in Bloomington.

Fourwinds Lakeside Inn is the place to stay if you want to be in the thick of nature during your time in Bloomington. Overlooking Monroe Lake and in the midst of some pretty gorgeous forest, you’ll feel like you’re in the lap of luxury hidden away in Southern Indiana.

If you’re looking to reminisce on the college days, check out Graduate Bloomington. Their rooms are full of Hoosier memorabilia and walking through the lobbies and hallways feels like you’ve stepped into an IU Icons Hall of Fame. The convenient location on Kirkwood Avenue lets you stay close to some of Bloomington’s many wonderful restaurants and shops.

Bloomington has many amazing bed and breakfasts. If you like feeling like you didn’t leave home with the ease of being a walkable distance from Kirkwood Avenue, the Grant Street Inn or Persimmon Inn are the perfect places to stay.

Dinner and Drinks

Walk around Bloomington, and you’ll notice rainbow flags hanging from the windows of many of our restaurants and businesses. It’s not just because the flags complement our color schemes, but because many of our key community members are LGBTQ and allies. We’re a place where anyone has the opportunity to make an impact on the community and be a leader for others to look up to.

A favorite place to grab dinner and drinks is Cardinal Spirits. Cardinal is an intimate space off the B-Line Trail, so it’s a great place to walk or bike to when you’re out around town. Their from-scratch kitchen makes superb small plates and their spirits are to die for. They even have a Pride Vodka—its proceeds go to local LGBT nonprofits in the areas where it’s sold in Indiana, Chicago, New York, and Kentucky. A good drink for a good cause—plus, the white grape flavor in the vodka makes it pretty darn delicious.

Oliver Winery is famous for a reason. Experience a wine tasting to see what all the buzz is about their award-winning wine, or enjoy some jazz and charcuterie on the deck during the summer.

If tequila and tacos are more your speed, head over to Social Cantina on the Courthouse Square. Their selection of tequila is unmatched in Bloomington and the margaritas, full of limes squeezed freshly for you, pair divinely with some street-style tacos. They even have vegan options so everyone can get in on the fun!

Go Out

Bloomington may be a small town, but it has an expansive nightlife. Dance parties, live music, and a thriving craft beer scene mean that there are gems around every corner when the sun goes down and the lights do too.

The Back Door is Bloomington’s queer bar and the place to be any night of the week. From screenings of RuPaul’s Drag Race to karaoke to plays and local drag extravaganzas, the Back Door’s calendar is packed with ways to connect with the queer community in Bloomington and have some good, honest, rainbow-colored fun.

The Root Cellar Lounge is Bloomington’s speakeasy. If you’re looking to get away from the sports bar crowds, this 85 person space is perfect for you. Dance the night away to local DJs or boogie through the hours in a bar taken back to the 70s, or come enjoy the drink specials—they’re seriously good.

If you want to keep it low-key, The Tap is the place to go. Small, specialty brews from around the world and Indiana are available, and they have their own delicious variety of seasonal beers, made right next door in their own brewery. Tap fries are a local obsession, and live local entertainers stop by on weekends to make every experience memorable.

Related: Drink Like a Local

Next Morning

Not feeling full-on brunch festivities? Head down to Rainbow Bakery for some delicious vegan treats in an Insta-worthy space. Their variety of cupcakes, donuts, hand pies, cookies, and breakfast sandwiches are completely cruelty-free and full of fun flavors, like lemon-lavender, salted caramel, and matcha. Plus, they serve Hopscotch coffee, which happens to have some of the best java Bloomington has to offer.

A classic breakfast stop in Bloomington is Michael’s Uptown Café. Their bougie weekend brunches are full of Cajun-inspired dishes and delicious specialty drinks. From crawfish to crème Brulee French toast, they’ve got something to leave you walking away satisfied.

Related: Bloomington’s Best Breakfasts

Spend some time downtown

Bloomington is an incredibly walkable city. Start at the courthouse on the square and you’ll be able to find your way to arts and culture, food and drink, and a host of unique shops.

If you’re in town during the first weekend of the month, check out the First Fridays Gallery Walk. Galleries all around town open their doors and let visitors in to see works from local artists as well as pieces from across the globe, all for free.

Bloomington shops provide a ton of ways to support local vendors. Head to Goods For Cooks if you’re looking to snazz up your kitchen or get some new gadgets to make your next homemade dinner really special. Gather is Bloomington’s place for all things lovingly homemade and is conveniently located near the Fountain Square Mall, surrounded by a ton of other Bloomington shops. J. L. Waters is where you’ll want to head if you’re looking to gear up for an adventure, or just need a new pair of Chacos, and Landlocked Music is your source for all things music, from CDs to LPs, vinyl and cassettes.

A short walk from the square will get you to the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market, which happens to be the state’s largest! There, you can get tamales and coffee to munch on while you walk around and peruse fresh produce, flowers, and the music at the market.

Anywhere you choose to spend your hours, eat your meals, and rest your head in Bloomington, you’ll find Hoosier hospitality and small-town charm brought together with our passion for making this a place for everyone. We hope you love it here as much as we do.



Gillian Fulford

Gillian Fulford

Gillian Fulford is a southern Indiana native and Visit Bloomington’s marketing and media intern. Gillian loves Bloomington for its diverse community, outdoor opportunities, and the wealth of possibilities in everyone’s not-so-small small town. On any given day, you can find her hiking around Lake Griffy, dog spotting, or searching for her new favorite coffee shop.