Somewhere between walking the grounds of a Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Center, devouring sweets at an all-vegan bakery and scootering down a few miles of a car-free multi-use trail you realize Bloomington, Indiana isn’t your typical midwestern town. And that’s what makes this college town a perfect weekend getaway. Here’s a travel guide to Bloomington, Indiana with recommendations on things to do, sightsee and where to eat and drink.
Things to Do in Bloomington, Indiana
Hunt for murals on a scooter along the B-Line – The B-Line is a multi-use trail that travels 3.1 miles throughout the city. You can hop on it at any spot and enjoy the journey.
Visit the Farmer’s Market – There are markets all throughout the year for fresh produce and homemade treats.
Travel Across the World at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center – This was such an unexpected and unique experience. We explored the grounds and then enjoyed a tour inside the cultural center. You can even stay here overnight in a yurt and try guided meditations and more.
Brewery Hop – With a bevy of breweries to choose from there is something for everyone whether you’re a fan of ales, stouts, IPAs or even sours. A few to try are: Switchyard Brewing, Function Brewing and The Tap Brewery.
Jordan Hall Greenhouse – Hop into this greenhouse for a quick and FREE self-guided tour. You’ll find flowers of all sorts, cacti and more.
The Comedy Attic – This comedy spot is often on Top 10 lists and has had some of the most well-known comedians perform here, like Amy Schumer, Hannibal Buress and more.
Outdoor & Nature Activities
Our visit to Bloomington was a rainy one, unfortunately. It started right after we left the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center and was pretty much steady until we left. We still had a blast, but missed out on some other outdoorsy activities. It is definitely a place where you can get out and enjoy nature and I imagine the city is stunning in changing colors during the fall season.
Here’s the ones I’d recommend:
Rent a canoe or kayak at Griffy Lake Boat House
Hike the one mile loop trail at Leonard Springs Nature Park
See the views Hickory Ridge Fire Tower
Places to Shop
Caveat Emptor – Used and rare books. I’m a Harry Potter fan but somehow never added my own copy of Order of the Phoenix to my collection. It never felt right to me to purchase a new one since all my copies are worn. So I was very happy to find a gently used copy in Caveat to complete my collection. You’ll find much more than Harry Potter in the stacks here because there’s really something for everyone down the aisles.
Gather – Perfect for souvenir shopping. This store was my jam. It had cute giftable items like homemade soaps, candles, air plants and loads of stickers and pins. I was also a big fan of their statement tees.
Goods for Cooks – as the name says, it’s full of items for the chef or home cook. Goods is the place to treat yourself to a kitchen or home item that feels curated and unique, such as a tea set shaped like a kitty. Or it’s the spot to get a special gift for someone. Whatever you’re looking for just stop in this store. The staff was friendly and ready to help you find whatever you needed. See all neighborhood shops here.
Where to Eat in Bloomington, Indiana
Irish Lion – Go for the Blarney Puff Balls which were little pillowy nuggets of cheese. Enjoy an Irish cocktail and take in the surroundings.
Mother Bear’s Pizza – This one is easy. Get the pizza! Mother Bear’s is spacious and great for groups and I love all the “graffiti” on the walls.
Social Cantina – For street tacos and margaritas! I would also recommend checking out Social for brunch.
Lennie’s – For the Ahi Tuna Salad and sandwiches! Lennie’s is home to the Bloomington Brewing Company so you’ll also find a great selection of craft beers.
Anyetsang’s Little Tibet – I told you there’s a lot of variety in this city! Stop here for some momo’s.
Click here for a full list of restaurants in Bloomington.
Sweets and Treats to Try
Rainbow Bakery – An all-vegan bakery! We had the cinnamon rolls at the bakery and took some donuts to go.
Hartzell’s Ice Cream – All the ice cream! This spot is right beside the Bloomington mural too, so you can get a sweet treat and enjoy the view. They have some classic flavors, but I personally loved the vegan (dairy-free) options.
Soma – You can get a specialty coffee here, but I recommend a smoothie or juice made fresh!
Satisfy your sweet tooth with all of these shops.
Where to Drink
Needmore Coffee Roasters – for when you need a caffeine fix! Needmore is a woman-owned business that gives back to the community and the environment. The coffee is certified organic and fair or direct trade. They donate used coffee grounds to local farmers and gardens and fund a lunch program in Nicaragua as well as provide in-kind donations to other nonprofits. Clearly, it’s coffee you can feel good about drinking and it doesn’t hurt that it tastes delicious too.
Irish Lion – mentioned above for it’s food, but this would also be a great spot to kick back and savor a whiskey sample or Irish cocktail
The Atlas – For some skeeball and shuffleboard. This spot is open until 3 am and they do not have a TV because they’re encouraging conversation and fun. So keep your phone away too!
Switchyard Brewing – We enjoyed a flight and a glass of wine at Switchyard while hiding from the rain. The brewery had plenty of games and loads of tables to sit and chat with friends, plus lots of pups to pet!
The Cade – I love an arcade bar and the one in Bloomington didn’t disappoint. My favorite part is all the games you can enjoy sitting at your booth in addition to all the classic arcade games around you. Plus, the bartenders were super friendly!
Where to Stay in Bloomington, Indiana
The Hilton Garden Inn puts you right in the middle of downtown Bloomington and in walking distance to almost all of my recommendations. The hotel is cozy and quiet. There was a conference or event being held at the hotel the weekend we visited so while it was busy, it didn’t feel like it to us. The front desk staff was friendly and accommodating. My favorite part is that we were able to sleep well all night without hearing a peep from other guests.
My visit to Bloomington was sponsored by Visit Bloomington with gift cards to some local vendors. As always, my guide, opinions and suggestions are all my own.
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