An Indiana University visit many, many years ago brought me to Bloomington Indiana but I never left the campus, so it was fun to explore the city itself recently. Bloomington is home to a vibrant college community, but still retains small town charm, and the thriving art, cultural and foodie scene make it a destination well worth visiting.
Visiting Bloomington Indiana
Monroe County Courthouse – This 105-year old courthouse with its stained glass ceiling and limestone walls defines the historic courthouse square in downtown Bloomington, so be sure to take a walk around and peek inside. It’s quite beautiful!
Monroe County History Center – I discovered this historical school house and museum as I walked around the Courthouse Square area. It was originally designated to educate African-American children during the years of segregation, and now has been turned into a Bloomington history center museum and genealogy library. It’s well worth your time to stop in. If you enjoy architecture, there are also some other beautifully designed buildings and churches in the area.
Pictura Gallery is just one example of the thriving art scene in Bloomington. Open since 2008, they have an impressive and always changing collection of photographic art. Currently on exhibit are photographs from the ultra talented Steve McCurry, who’s quite well known for his work in National Geographic magazine. The gallery also features up and coming artists.
B-Line Trail – Peppered with public art, the B-line trail is a peaceful, non-vehicle trafficked way to walk around Bloomington. I stayed in the Courtyard by Marriott and could either walk through the downtown streets or on the B-Line Trail to get to/from the hotel.
Fountain Square Mall – This historically housed shopping center is the cornerstone of the massive revitalization effort Bloomington has undergone successfully in recent years, and it features a unique variety of specialty stores.
Morton Street Shopping – between Courthouse Square and the B-Line Trail, there’s an array of locally owned shops.
A.Z. Vintage – Unique vintage furniture, housewares, clothing and accessories. The store specializes in mid-century modern, but everything from the ’40’s to the ’80’s can be found here.
Bloomington Antique Mall – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was originally the John R. Figg Wholesale Grocery Company and served as a distribution center for foodstuffs. It was converted to an antique mall in 1987, and now houses three floors of antique treasures.
Relish – This loft-like environment showcases an ever-changing curated collection of contemporary home furnishings, light and art objects as well the city’s most creative selection of women’s apparel and accessories. Big box stores ain’t got nothin’ on the fresh looks and finds in this independent marketplace.
Uptown Café has a funky, casual New Orleans vibe with its exposed brick walls and amazing artwork. It’s been a downtown fixture since 1976 and serves Cajun and Creole-style comfort food with bold flavors.
I ordered one of the house classics, Red Beans & Rice, and it tasted even better than what I’ve eaten in New Orleans.
FARM Bloomington serves locally sourced food with global influence, and the menu changes seasonally. We dined on gourmet farm-to-table everything!
I was there for a special event, so we were greeted by a juggler upon arriving and the restaurant and staff were bedecked in modern circus decor.
If you’d like to venture out beyond downtown, take a trip over to Oliver Winery for a tasting, some relaxation and a quiet stroll in the beautifully landscaped grounds. I don’t usually stray far from my Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay (which they had), but the other varietals were too alluring to resist.
I love when a college town proves itself to be much more than the university itself, and Bloomington Indiana does just that. It’s definitely worth visiting!
What are your favorite things to explore when visiting a new city?