24 Hours in Bloomington, Indiana: What to See, Do, & Eat
Bloomington is the one place that I was recommended to visit when traveling through the state of Indiana.
During a business trip to Indianapolis, I found the opportunity to travel one hour South to Bloomington to see what all of the hype was about.
My experience in Bloomington, or B-Town, was one for the books. Though a bustling college town, Indiana University’s students were on summer break, the town was still abuzz with high energy and fun.
Here is how I recommend you to spend 24 hours in Bloomington, a Certified Main Street community (read more about that here).
What to See in Bloomington, Indiana
Bloomington is home to Indiana University or IU as it is more commonly referred to. IU is a public research university with nearly 50,000 students. The campus is the biggest in the state of Indiana and offers programs such as law, medicine, theater, business, and music (second only to Juilliard).
The IU campus is beautiful, so you will definitely want to take a tour. Make note of the highly ornate and photogenic gates and fountains. Coincide your visit with a home sporting event and cheer on the Hoosiers. Stop in the seven-story (six are underground) Lilly Library and see the huge Abraham Lincoln collection, changing exhibits, and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (one of ten remaining in American collections).
The mammoth 1907 limestone Monroe County Courthouse building is certainly worth a look. In the heart of downtown, it is flanked by four streets full of local shops, boutiques, and eateries.
Be sure to watch for the art installments and murals painted throughout Bloomington. This really is an artsy city to appreciate and explore. Theater enthusiasts should check IU’s Auditorium schedule for Broadway musicals, Opera, Cinema, and Ballet offerings.
If you are in B-Town on a Saturday, stop by the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market, the largest in the state of Indiana.
What to Do in Bloomington, Indiana
Electric bikes are all the rage and Bloomington is definitely in the Ebike market. The concept is that you can pedal as much or as little as you want. With an Ebike, you change the dial (settings from 1 to 5) for more help or just use the throttle to give you a boost of speed, such as with uphill riding. Rent your Ebike from the Pedego Bloomington bike shop, where a specialist can give you more information. Hop on your bike and explore Bloomington on one of their scenic Urban Trails. **this location is permanently closed as of 2019
Visit The Wood Shop at Upland’s Sours Brewery for a tasting and tour. Known for sour ales (try the cherry!), this local brewery has dozens of choices to satisfy craft brew fans.
Fancy some shopping? Fountain Square has a collection of specialty stores located directly across from the courthouse. Stop in The Book Corner for the large variety of magazines, coffee table books, and traditional favorites. The kid’s section is noteworthy.
What to Eat in Bloomington, Indiana
Set your sights on Upland Brewing Co, one of Indiana’s most beloved brewpubs. The patio fills up quickly, so be mindful of the time that you choose to dine. Two dishes that are palate pleasing are the Mediterranean Salad (tri-colored quinoa, olives, pickled red onions, red pepper feta spread, and more!) and the Turkey & Guacamole Sandwich (bacon, cheddar, chipotle aioli, spring mix on Cuban bread). Dipping fanatics should try a side of the Blue Flame sauce, a blue cheese jalapeño spread. Yum! While you are there, opt for one of Upland Brewing Company’s multiple beer choices.
For those seeking a lighter fare, try Darn Good Soup, with changing freshly made soup choices daily. Another dining option would be to pick your favorite international cuisine (such as Thai, Indian, or Italian) from the restaurants on International Restaurant Row.
At snack time, visit Rainbow Bakery, a vegan shop with killer flavor combinations. Their version of an Arnold Palmer (green tea with lavender lemonade) is spectacular and the lavender donut (see a trend here?) is da-bomb! If you think you might not like these sweet treats because they are vegan, think again. I was bowled over by how moist and tasty they were. While you are there, test your 1980’s video game skills with Ms. Pac-Man.
Where to Stay in Bloomington, Indiana
Grant Street Inn, with 40 luxury rooms, is in the perfect location for walking to downtown Bloomington. The Inn has white rockers on a wraparound porch, which are perfect for enjoying the weather, a good book, or people watching. The Grant Street Inn has coffee and tea available 24-hours a day, sodas for purchase, scrumptious free breakfast, and a warm, welcoming staff.
My huge room had a decorative fireplace, desk area, bay window, two sitting chairs, and a lovely carved sleigh bed. The King sized bed was made with high thread count sheets, a down duvet, decorative blanket, comforter, and then decorated with several contrasting throw pillows. I never wanted to leave!
Bloomington, an Honest to Goodness Indiana Destination
I have found Indiana to be an Honest to Goodness (state tourism tagline) a great place to visit for both business and pleasure. The state is making a name for itself in the food and brewery scene. With their influence and creativity, IU students are helping to turn Bloomington into a hotspot for urban tourism. Check it out on your next weekend getaway. Bloomington, Indiana will surprise you!
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