Bloomington is well known as a bustling college town, but it is also one of Indiana’s largest cities, teeming with fun activities and things to see. Here are must-visit attractions.
IU Bloomington is unofficially known as a “public ivy-league school,” which means this public university is on par with top ivy-league colleges. The campus spans for almost 2,000 acres and is worth a visit, whether you’re checking out the limestone architecture (made from the very limestone quarried nearby) or attending a show at the campus theater. With museums, athletic arenas, galleries, and outdoor grounds to explore, you’ll never run out of fun activities.
The B-Line Trail is a popular outdoor, urban trail that cuts through the heart of Bloomington. This trail is 3.1 miles (4.9 kilometers) long, spanning from Adams Street up to Country Club Drive, where it eventually meets up with the Bloomington Rail Trail. LED lights illuminate the trail from sunset to sunrise, making it ideal for cycling any time of day. It’s also completely paved, offering a smooth, predictable biking experience.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest
Bloomington is lucky enough to have entry points to Indiana’s second largest state forest: Morgan-Monroe State Forest. This outdoor wooded area features a variety of hiking and biking trails, though the Low Gap and Three Lakes Trails are some of the most popular. Both are looped trails and span a total of 10 miles (16 kilometers) each. Expect the terrain to be a little rougher than paved trails, but it’s perfect for bikers who love seeking adventure.
Eskenazi Museum of Art
Formally known as the Indiana University of Art, this campus art museum is an excellent place for taking in new, up-and-coming artists’ works. This gallery features three floors of art and sculptures, with both permanent and rotating exhibits and 45,000 objects to uncover. They also offer online catalogues and collections of art for visitors to explore. While the museum is currently closed for renovation, it is offering walking art tours around campus.
WonderLab is a museum of science, health, and technology that sits along the B-Line Trail in downtown Bloomington. A creative science museum geared towards children, it offers exhibits that provide opportunities to witness the excitement and overall wonder that science and technology can bring. The Bubble-Airium, Fitzgerald Hall of Natural Science, Discover Garden, How Things Work, WonderGarden, and Coral Reef Aquarium are some of the fascinating exhibits families will find.
Hoosier National Forest
The Hoosier National Forest is a 203,000-acre woodland that runs through Bloomington, with a main entry point in Bedford. This outdoor haven features picturesque rolling hills, rugged back-country trails and pathways, and rare ecosystems. Visitors can camp within this beautiful forest, staying in cabins, RVs, or along designated campground areas. This forest also features 260 miles (418 kilometers) of trails just begging to be explored. Hoosiers can also enjoy fishing and horseback riding here.
Fountain Square Mall
Located in a historic building in downtown Bloomington, this unique mall is a shopping destination for locals and a tourist attraction. Its offerings extend beyond those of a typical mall, with eclectic stores like the Game Preserve and family-owned eateries such as Stefano’s Cafe.
Mother Bear’s Pizza
Heralded as the best pizza in Bloomington (and possibly southern Indiana), Mother Bear’s is a must-visit. This rustic restaurant is decorated in traditional pizzeria style, with stained-glass light fixtures and no-frills, wooden tables, chairs, and benches. Enjoy a 6″ pie if you’re not looking to share or larger sizes to split between family or friends. Don’t forget to try their mouthwatering breadsticks and wings.
Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market
The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market is a must-visit that’s beloved in Bloomington. You can enjoy unique prepared foods and sweets, as well as local coffee. You’ll also find fresh produce, cheese, and bread, as well as jewelry, gifts, and plants. It’s a great way to experience some of Bloomington’s best local food and art, all in one stop.
If you’re looking for a healthy dose of the outdoors while visiting Bloomington, you’ll want to swing by Monroe Lake. Here, you can enjoy fishing, swimming, and a variety of boating activities. It’s an ideal place for a fun beach day, a picnic with family, or a day out in the sun with friends. You’ll also find hiking trails, tennis courts, and areas perfect for overnight camping.
This showstopping theater is one of Bloomington’s many National Historic Places. The building was designed in the Spanish Mission Revival style and was formerly a theater for silent pictures. Now, the popular venue is a bustling theater and performance center offering concerts, shows, or comedic performances. This theater is also the site of regular community events, so be sure to browse their website for upcoming productions.
Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center
Bloomington is also home to a number of cultural attractions like the colorful and relaxing Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. Located approximately five miles (eight kilometers) south of downtown, it offers guided tours and plenty of opportunities for meditation and relaxation. Enjoy the incredibly detailed architecture and statues, explore the peaceful outdoor grounds or participate in a workshop, seminar, or retreat during your visit.
Wylie House Museum
Run by the Indiana University Libraries, this historic museum offers incredible guided tours to the public. Built in 1835 by Indiana University’s first president, Andrew Wylie, this living museum pays tribute to this historical figure and the city of Bloomington. Enjoy the beautiful and heirloom gardens and a glimpse back in time to the 1840s.
BBQ Train sits in a gas station parking lot, and the meat smoker is shaped like a train. Incredible pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, mac and cheese, and other homemade sides – the food is actually legendary in this college town.
Oliver Winery & Vineyards
Looking for a relaxing getaway? This gorgeous winery and vineyard is a peaceful retreat that will help visitors unwind. Taste some of their most famous wines in the tasting room, and enjoy a guided tour to learn more about how your favorite wines are made. Also, savor drinks and food while overlooking the scenic vineyard.
The Runcible Spoon
With whimsical décor and a welcoming ambiance, The Runcible Spoon combines the best parts of upscale and low-key dining. The eatery is known for its classic breakfast entrées, including French toast and omelets, and is the only coffee roastery in town, boasting a variety of coffee and tea selections.
Looking to grab a great local brew? Bloomington Brewpub is the proud home of Upland Brewing Company. Here you’ll find snacks, food, and a variety of popular, locally brewed beers. Enjoy a beer flight to find your favorite beer or their seasonal, rotating options. Check out their website for local shows and performances.
Monroe County Courthouse
Nestled right in the center of Bloomington, the Monroe County Courthouse is an architectural landmark. The building offers visitors an incredible tour of Beaux-Arts architecture. During the holiday season, another spectacle awaits visitors: the historic building decked out in Christmas lights.
Bloomington is a mecca for local and popular art. The Pictura Gallery is a nonprofit art gallery that explores and celebrates photography in a variety of forms. This gallery, established in 2008, focuses on showcasing photography through years of evolution. With a plethora of contemporary photography exhibits, Pictura also hosts numerous free events for the public throughout the year, along with educational programs, workshops, and lectures designed to help spark conversation and creativity within the community.
A funky, modern farm-to-table-inspired restaurant, FARMbloomington uses global flavors to create a variety of delicious, hearty recipes that feature the home-cooked cuisine of southern Indiana. Their colorful menu offers dishes with global flavors, ranging from a local bison burger to a Caribbean-inspired salmon filet.
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