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Friday, May 21, 2021

Little 500: Not Just For Students

Categories: Indiana University

The Little 500 is known as "The World's Greatest College Weekend" across the country. There’s no denying that it’s one of the most lively and fun weekends in Bloomington each year, but the event is so much more than its reputation as a big party. The races are exciting, filled with history and tradition. Downtown is vibrant, with the magic of spring and the return of warm weather in the air. The tulips on campus are blossoming beautiful cream & crimson blooms, and the sun is (hopefully) shining down on Old IU.

Mens Little 500

Whether you’re a curious visitor, an IU alum, or a Bloomington local, you can experience this legendary weekend to its fullest without having to pretend you’re 21 again — unless you want to; do your thing! The following Little 500 weekend itinerary is perfect for both visitors and locals: experience the races, downtown's culinary scene, and a healthy dose of nightlife, all within walking distance of your hotel.

Insider Tip: Before you come to Bloomington for the races, watch the 1979 movie, Breaking Away. The story of working-class friends coming together to compete in the Little 500 will get you excited for the weekend, and will probably make you want to buy a “Cutters” t-shirt from Tracks on Kirkwood.



Women's Little 500 Winners

The big weekend kicks off with the Women’s Little 500, starting at 4:00 pm at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The race traditionally opens with an a cappella version of Back Home Again in Indiana, which is goosebump-inducing.

The women’s race is fast & exciting, with a mixture of independent teams and sorority teams funneling their months of dedicated training into an adrenaline-pumping, nail-biting 100-lap race. Pick a team to cheer for, or simply take in the experience as a spectator. The competition is so fierce, you won’t want to take your eyes off the track. Make sure you stay until the end of the race — the trophy is presented immediately afterward, and the winning team takes a victory lap on their bikes. After seeing how grueling this race is, you’ll definitely want to give them a standing ovation!

Insider Tip: Avoid long lines and a $10.00 ticket price increase by buying your ticket in advance for $35.00 on the Indiana University Student Foundation website. Day-of tickets, purchased at the gate, are $45.00. One ticket is good for both the women’s and men’s races.



Lower your blood pressure after the race with a relaxing dinner at a locally-owned downtown restaurant. If you’re feeling upscale, try Malibu Grill. The restaurant, located on The Square, offers elevated California-style cuisine. For a more casual atmosphere, head over to Lennie's on Kirkwood for wood-fired pizzas or the Irish Lion for traditional Irish dishes & classic pub fare.

Saturday will be a big day, so have a laid-back nightcap at any of the three restaurants before you head back to your hotel. Malibu Grill offers a selection of hand-crafted cocktails and elegant wines; Lennie's carries locally-made Bloomington Brewing Company beers, and the Irish Lion serves an assortment of Guinness stouts, Irish cocktails, and other Irish beers & ciders. 




Hopscotch Coffee from the B-Line

Get a solid start to a busy day with a walk on the B-Line Trail. Head south on the trail towards Hopscotch Coffee, where you can grab a cup of locally-roasted coffee and a vegan donut made by Rainbow Bakery. If you’re looking to start the party early, head across the street to Cardinal Spirits for boozy brunch and pastries. If sleeping in is more your style, roll out of bed and stop by Soma on your way to campus for great coffee, juices, and a cookie (or two).

Spend the rest of your time before lunch browsing the unique shops downtown. If you decide to go the B-Line route, check out the Bloomington Antique Mall, another venue on the trail. If you head over to Soma, stop by Bicycle Garage — we're betting you’ll be pretty inspired to take up biking after the weekend is over, if not already! You can also pick up a "Cutters" tee from Tracks while you're on Kirkwood.


Men's Little 500 at Bill Armstrong

Have a quick lunch downtown before heading over to the Bill Armstrong Stadium to cheer on the men's teams. We highly recommend any restaurant on 4th Street — known as "International Row," the street offers Thai, Cajun, Burmese, Indian, Turkish, Korean, and even more international cuisines. Taste of India and Anatolia are both local-favorites, but every restaurant on the street is phenomenal. 

Wrap up lunch no later than 1:00 pm so you can get to the stadium ahead of the Men’s Little 500 starting at 2:00 pm. You'll want to arrive a little bit early to find a seat in the stands since it's typically busier (and a little rowdier) than the women’s race. Cheer on your favorite fraternity, underdog, or independent team. Keep an eye out for the notoriously speedy Cutters team, formed after the release of Breaking Away. Take in every moment: the pace lap modeled after the Indy 500, the mass of neon-clad students screaming support for their friends, and the mud-splattered riders hoisting their winning bike in the air. 


Upland Brewing

After the excitement of the men’s race, relax with a laid-back dinner downtown. Forget domestic beers and instead experience Bloomington’s hopping craft beer scene. Enjoy some great local brews and artisan food right off The Square at Function Brewing or The Tap. If the weather is nice, stroll north on the B-Line Trail to Upland Brewpub, a favorite of both locals and visitors, with a pit stop at the Wood Shop to try the brewery's sour beers. Grab an Upland bike jersey while you're there so you can rep your favorite B-Town brewery on your next ride.


Nick's English Hut

Saturday night after the men’s race is always the most lively night of the weekend. You can relive the college glory days at Kilroy’s on Kirkwood, hang out with other IU alumni and play Sink the Biz at Nick’s English Hut, or enjoy your drinks on the Crazy Horse patio for a more laid-back night out. If you're feeling competitive in the hours following the race, challenge your friends to pool and darts at the Video Saloon, skeeball at the Atlas Ballroom, or some classic arcade games at The Cade. Wrap up the night by dancing your way to closing time at The Back Door or The Bluebird.




IU Campus Paths - Summer

Before you head out of town, grab an energizing brunch and great coffee with unlimited refills. The Village Deli, and Runcible Spoon will bring you back to life with their scrumptious breakfast creations — we recommend the Village Deli's Famous, Colossal, Fresh Buttermilk Pancakes and the Runcible Spoon's Salmon & Croissant Bennie. Before you leave town, walk off your food beneath the towering trees on IU’s beautiful campus, and start planning everything you want to do during next year’s Little 500 trip.

Looking for more information about the Little 500? Check out these pages:
Alyssa Davis

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa is the Digital Content Coordinator at Visit Bloomington. She's a proud Indiana University alumna, mom to four cats, and Formula 1 enthusiast. When she isn't at work, you can find Alyssa checking out the newest restaurants in the area with her husband, curled up at home with a great book, or planning her next trip to a destination near or far.