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Top Places to Visit in Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington, Indiana, is a vibrant college town filled with cultural diversity and natural beauty. Home to Indiana University, its lively atmosphere is shaped by locals, students, and faculty. The downtown area has a variety of shops, cafes, museums, and restaurants. It also has a rich history in the arts, with theaters, galleries, and music venues scattered around the city. Outside of the hustle and bustle, Bloomington also has many lakes, trails, parks, and forests for outdoor enthusiasts to venture to. As you can see, there are a variety of places to visit while you’re in Bloomington. So, we put together a list of the top places you should go to!

Must-see attractions in Bloomington

Indiana University Bloomington
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Founded in 1820, Indiana University is one of the oldest public universities in the United States. It is renowned for its academic programs and research initiatives and is home to numerous cultural institutions. This includes the Jacobs School of Music, which is one of the most prestigious music schools in the world. Indiana University also has art galleries, theaters, and performance spaces where an array of cultural events take place throughout the year. One of the most popular places to visit in Bloomington for a photo on campus is the Sample Gates.

Indiana University also has a rich athletic tradition, with competitive NCAA Division I sports teams. Attending a game at Assembly Hall or Memorial Stadium can make for an unforgettable experience. It is also home to the annual Little 500 cycling race which draws thousands of spectators to campus each year. 

The Buskirk-Chumley Theater
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The Buskirk-Chumley Theater underwent renovation in 1995, transforming it from its original 1922 construction as a vaudeville known as the “Indiana Theatre.” It currently hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including live music concerts, theatrical productions, film screenings, dance performances, and more. It showcases local, regional, national, and international talent. The theater also offers educational programs, workshops, and outreach initiatives for people of all ages.

Monroe Lake
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Created in the early 1960s, Monroe Lake spans over 10,000 acres, making it Indiana’s largest lake. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, and camping. Monroe Lake and its surrounding woodlands have diverse wildlife species. From bald eagles and herons to deer and turtles—birdwatchers and hikers may cross paths with an animal or two. Additionally, Monroe Lake hosts events year-round including guided hikes and nature workshops. This provides visitors with the opportunity to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the area.

WonderLab
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WonderLab is a science museum that emphasizes hands-on learning. The staff encourage visitors to touch, explore, and experiment with its 80+ exhibits. These exhibits teach visitors about electricity and magnetism, light and color, water dynamics, sound waves, and live animals. In addition to exhibits, WonderLab also has educational programs with activities such as science demonstrations, lab experiments, and STEM challenges. WonderLab promotes science education by partnering with local schools, libraries, and other organizations. The museum also hosts field trips, summer camps, and other outreach programs.

Hoosier National Forest
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Established in 1936, the Hoosier National Forest covers over 200,000 acres of land. It sits in the hills of south-central Indiana and covers nine counties, including Monroe County where Bloomington is located. The Hoosier National Forest has diverse landscapes which include hardwood forests, sandstone cliffs, scenic rivers, and more. It has numerous trails that range from easy strolls to challenging hikes. Visitors enjoy a range of recreational activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.

Places to eat in Bloomington

Nick’s English Hut
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Located on Kirkwood Avenue, Nick’s English Hut has been an iconic gathering spot for students, alumni, and B-town residents since its establishment in 1927. With a traditional pub feel and IU memorabilia lining its walls, it has become one of the popular places to visit in Bloomington to watch the Hoosiers play. Its signature dish, the “Stromboli,” is a local favorite. It also offers pub-style food such as burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and their popular “Biz Fries.” It also has a full bar with a variety of beverages and its popular “Sink the Biz” game.

Uptown Café
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Established in 1976, Uptown Café is a popular dining destination known for its creative cuisine. From Cajun and Creole dishes to Classic American comfort food, there is something for everyone on the menu. Popular favorites are the Cajun jambalaya, blackened tilapia, pasta, and vegetarian options. In addition to these dishes, this café is famous for its weekend brunch options including omelets, pancakes, French toast, and eggs benedict. Uptown Café prioritizes using fresh, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible to support local farmers.

Mother Bear’s Pizza
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Since its founding in 1973, Mother Bear’s has become a popular restaurant in Bloomington to grab a slice of pizza. The menu features a wide variety of pizzas, including traditional favorites and unique combinations of toppings. It is particularly famous for its “The Bear’s Den” pizza. It also offers calzones, sandwiches, appetizers, and salads. Mother Bear’s Pizza prides itself on using dough made fresh daily and quality ingredients, sourced locally.

The Irish Lion

Since opening its doors in 1982, The Irish Lion has become a staple in Bloomington and is the perfect place for those wanting an authentic Irish pub experience. The menu features traditional Irish fare such as shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, and corn beef and cabbage. In addition to its delicious food, The Irish Lion is also a popular spot for entertainment. It often hosts live music performance from local and regional artists that play traditional Irish music and other contemporary songs. The Irish Lion also hosts trivia nights, tastings, and holiday celebrations.

Farm Bloomington
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Established in 2008, Farm Bloomington prioritizes sustainability and supporting local farmers. The restaurant emphasizes this value through its farm-to-table philosophy and its effort to support the local economy and reducing the carbon footprint associated with food transportation. The menu changes regularly due to the seasons and availability of local ingredients. It often includes salads, entrees, artisanal cheeses, and desserts. Farm Bloomington also hosts farm dinners, tastings, and cooking classes.

Places to stop for a sweet treat

The Chocolate Moose
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Since its establishment in 1955, The Chocolate Moose has grown into one of the top places to visit in Bloomington for locals and visitors seeking delicious frozen treats. The menu offers a wide variety of homemade ice cream flavors including vanilla, chocolate, black raspberry chip, cookie dough, and moose tracks. It also offers sundaes, milkshakes, floats, banana splits, ice cream sandwiches, and even vegan/dairy-free options. The Chocolate Moose has a walk-up window and counter ordering.

Baked! of Bloomington
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Established in 2012, Baked! of Bloomington is the perfect place for a sweet treat at during the day and even late at night. It offers freshly baked goods including cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, pastries, and bread. It also offers gluten-free and vegan options for those with dietary restrictions. The best part? You can order a carton of milk to enjoy alongside your cookies. Plus, it is open until 3 a.m. on most days for those looking for a late-night treat.

Hartzell’s Ice Cream
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Hartzell’s Ice Cream is a family-owned ice cream parlor that has been serving the community since 1969. It produces a wide variety of ice cream flavors made fresh in-house. The menu includes classic favorites as well as creative flavors such as butter pecan, mint chocolate chip, peanut butter cup, and other seasonal flavors. They also offer sundaes, milkshakes, and floats. Hartzell’s Ice Cream has counter-ordering only.

Brightside Café
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New to the Bloomington community, Brightside Café is a 100% gluten-free restaurant. In addition to being gluten-free, Brightside Café has many dairy-free and vegan options as well. It offers a variety of baked goods including muffins, cakes, bread, brownies, cookies, and even quiche. The café also offers different types of tea, soda, coffee, and espresso.

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Image sources:

Featured image: https://www.visitbloomington.com/things-to-do/downtown/

Indiana University: https://bloomington.iu.edu/index.html

Buskirk-Chumley Theater: https://www.visitbloomington.com/listing/buskirk-chumley-theater/168/

Monroe Lake: https://www.visitbloomington.com/listing/monroe-lake/115/

Hoosier National Forest: https://www.visitbloomington.com/listing/hoosier-national-forest/118/

WonderLab: https://wonderlab.org/

Nick’s English Hut: https://nicksenglishhut.com/gallery/

Uptown Cafe: https://twitter.com/UptownCafe

Mother Bear’s Pizza: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g36942-d12089347-Reviews-Mother_Bear_s_Pizza_West-Bloomington_Indiana.html

The Irish Lion: https://www.irishlion.com/

Farm Bloomington: https://www.visitindiana.com/blog/post/dining-at-farm-bloomington/

The Chocolate Moose: https://moosebtown.com/menu

Baked! of Bloomington: https://www.visitbloomington.com/listing/baked!-of-bloomington/1165/

Hartzell’s Ice Cream: https://www.hartzellsicecream.com/

Brightside Café: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=122121204248195979&set=a.122119082426195979

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