Thursday, May 5, 2022
Bloomington's Best Outdoor Attractions
Bloomington is known for it's stunning natural beauty and abundance of outdoor offerings, both near the hustle & bustle of the city and in the heart of our surrounding nature. The outdoors is for everyone in B-Town because we offer an expansive range of destinations and activities for every interest, from the adventure-addicted to the relaxation seekers, and everyone in between. While every outdoor destination in Bloomington is worth a visit, these are the best outdoor destinations our humble home has to offer — a must-visit list for anyone spending time in B-Town.
The B-Line Trail is a 3.1-mile paved trail that runs through the heart of downtown Bloomington. The urban trail is a popular destination for running, walking (leashed dogs and strollers are welcome), biking, rollerblading, and more. It winds by several shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, making it a one-stop-shop for outdoor adventure and experiencing some of downtown's best offerings.
Bluespring Caverns Park
While Bluespring Caverns Park isn't technically in Monroe County, it's located just 20 miles south of Monroe Lake in neighboring Lawrence County. The park is home to a cave system, Indiana's largest karst plain sinkhole, American's longest navigable underground river, and a half-mile nature trail. The park offers hour-long electric boat tours and three-hour-long guided kayak tours of the caverns, as well as a mining sluice for kids and a beautiful, short hike around the sinkhole above-ground.
Wapehani Mountain Bike Park
Wapehani Mountain Bike Park offers five miles of mostly single-track trails across 46 acres of wooded and grassy land. The park's trails offer challenges and reprieves for every experience level, although most of the trails are geared toward intermediate experience. Adventurers will pass a sinkhole, a log ride, a wood ramp over a tree, an Eagle Scout bridge, a rock jam feature, and more. The park is open to hikers as well — simply keep an eye out for bikers passing by.
Indiana University, in all its stunning, historical, limestone glory, is absolutely one of Bloomington's best outdoor destinations. Although there's much to be done indoors at the many buildings scattered across the Hoosier campus, simply traversing the campus grounds is a treat like none other in town. Stroll the brick paths and paved sidewalks during summer or a weekend morning for a peaceful tour, or walk around during a game day to experience the buzzing energy of IU's school spirit. Either way, see how many of the prettiest campus locations and IU icons you can visit during your Cream & Crimson tour.
Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center
The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (TMBCC) is one of — if not the most — unique outdoor destinations Bloomington has to offer. Dedicated to fostering, preserving, and sharing the Tibetan & Mongolian cultures, the gorgeous grounds feature cultural architecture, decor, and design that make you feel as if you've left the Midwest and traveled to the other side of the globe. Like IU, the TMBCC is an outdoor destination like none other in Bloomington, making it a must on your list of things to do in B-Town.
The Bloomington Speedway is a quarter-mile dirt oval track that hosts sprint, modified, super stock, and other varieties of racecars. Local food trucks frequent the races, and those with RVs can even camp on the speedway grounds. If you happen to be in town during Independence Day, you can enjoy the speedway's annual fireworks show as well.
The Pfau Course at Indiana University
Ranked in the Top 100 Golf Courses in North America by GOLF.com, The Pfau Course at Indiana University is at the top of the list of Bloomington's best outdoor destinations. The 18-hole, Par-71 course was designed to be accessible to players of all skill levels from the championship golfer to the casual golfer, with six tee options and a practice & training area that includes a driving range, practice bunkers, a short-game practice area, a putting green, and more.
Originally opened in 1955, the Starlite Drive-In is Bloomington's only drive-in movie theater. They book both new movies and special screenings of beloved classics, showing movies Tuesday through Sunday — on Friday through Sunday, they screen a double-feature. Starlite's concessions booth charmingly looks as if it's the 1955 original, complete with a partial Herbie Volkswagon Beetle replica. All ticket prices are under $10.00, and students & kids receive a discount — it's a great activity anyone, but especially for families with young kids and teens & young adults under 21 years old.
Comprised of nearly 58 acres in downtown Bloomington, Switchyard Park boasts a splash pad, a community garden, a dog park, a skatepark, a very large playground, a pavilion, an amphitheater, a picnic shelter, numerous fitness stations, a shaded bosque with bistro tables & chairs, a stage & performance lawn, as well as basketball, pickleball, and bocce ball courts. One mile of the B-Line Trail runs alongside the park, and the Bloomington-favorite Food Truck Friday event gathers every week from April through October at the outdoor destination.
Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve
Beanblossom Bottoms is an 800-acre wetland nature preserve, home to a variety of endangered species including the Indiana bat, Kirtland's snake, and rare orchids. The 2.5-mile raised boardwalk trail and four observation decks throughout the habitat allow for observation, exploration, and admiration of the grounds and the creatures that live in the preserve. Kids will especially enjoy the frog pond — challenge them to count how many frogs they can spot camouflaged in the grassy, shallow water.
Charles C. Deam Wilderness in the Hoosier National Forest
The Charles C. Deam Wilderness is a protected area in the Hoosier National Forest, covering nearly 13,000 acres. The wilderness offers over 35 miles of hiking and horseback-riding trails, primitive camping, and a lookout tower that provides a view of Monroe County like no other and is an extremely popular photo spot for that reason. Its close proximity to Monroe Lake also offers unique views of the waterfront through the forested land.
As the largest body of water in Indiana, Monroe Lake also sits at the top of the list of Bloomington's best outdoor destinations. Outdoor adventure is aplenty on the nearly 11,000-acre lake and its surrounding 13,000+ acres of land. Rent a pontoon, jet-ski, speed boat, or kayak for a day of boating & water sports. Laze in the sand and have a picnic at one of Monroe Lake's two beaches. Cast a line in one of the lake's many coves from a fishing boat or a public pier. Hike the Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula or one of the many other trails surrounding the lake. Pitch a tent or set-up an RV at the Paynetown State Recreation Area. There's no shortage of outdoor activities to partake in!
Butler Winery is the fourth oldest winery in Indiana, with two locations in Bloomington. Their vineyard, located just 10 minutes north of downtown, overlooks a serene landscape of growing grapes, surrounding forestry, and a picturesque pond. Their downtown tasting room offers tastings in their wine garden, a private, secret garden-esque oasis offering a reprieve from the hustle & bustle of downtown and life in general. If you're planning on spending some time downtown, we recommend the tasting room. If you're looking for a bit more of a getaway, make the short trip to the vineyard.
Griffy Lake Nature Preserve
Griffy Lake is a 109-acre lake surrounded by a 1,200-acre nature preserve. The stunning grounds are located mere minutes from Indiana University's campus — a shocking discovery for those who have never stumbled across the serene property. Rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard from the lake's boathouse, go fishing for bass, bluegill, and catfish, or hike one the many trails throughout the nature preserve for a peaceful afternoon among the elements.
Bloomington's other winery, Oliver Winery, is one of the largest in the United States — it was even ranked among Travel + Leisure's Top 25 wineries to visit in the nation in 2017. They offer reserved wine flights and picnic experiences on their incredible grounds, which are immaculate year-round. The winery feels very much like a secret garden hidden away in the forest, making it the perfect place to take a break from everyday life and unwind for a few hours in nature.
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