Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Bloomington, IN

  • Published 2021/09/20

Nestled in Monroe County and home to Indiana University, Bloomington has many things to offer.

Its allure comes from the unique identity produced by its strong sense of community and its prevalent culture.

Many protected areas of natural landscape surround the city, making it scenic in its own right.

Additionally, many educational attractions call this city home, thanks to IU forming a big part of its community.

While it may be considered a university city, you can still find a lot of touristy things to do in Bloomington.

Here are the 15 best things to do while in Bloomington, IN:

Watch Out for Amazing Architectural Structures in Downtown Bloomington

Downtown Bloomington

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Easily the most accessible thing you can do while in Bloomington, you can find a lot of things at the heart of this city.

Like many wonderful cities across the globe, Downtown Bloomington leaves you spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants, cafes, stores, and hangout spots.

Try out some of the outstanding cafes in the area, or pick up a charming little souvenir from one of the many shops here.

Monroe County Courthouse

CiEll /

Apart from providing your needs during your visit, you can also find many awe-inspiring architectural designs in the city center.

If this type of art interests you, consider paying a visit to the Courthouse Square Historic District, where you’ll find several amazing buildings.

Some buildings you may want to check out include Monroe County Courthouse, Wicks Building, and Bloomington City Hall.

Stroll Through the B-Line Trail

A great way to travel across this city is on foot, and you can conveniently do so by following the B-Line Trail.

Essentially a paved pedestrian walkway, this 3.1-mile path helps you navigate Bloomington even if you don’t have your own vehicle.

Before becoming a walkway, this trail once served as a railway connector.

What makes the B-line Trail special is the number of attractions that you can reach just by walking through this path.

By strolling through it, you can reach the city’s Farmer’s Market, the downtown district, and other attractions, such as the WonderLab museum.

The path is equipped with energy-efficient lighting, making the pathway safer for people at night.

You can also find fitness stations scattered along the path.

Learn About Nature at the Indiana University Arboretum

Lotus pond at Indiana University Arboretum

User:Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Apart from students, many tourists and locals like to flock to Indiana University, as one can find a lot of attractions there.

A relaxing and tranquil spot that both locals and visitors love here is the university’s arboretum.

Prior to becoming an arboretum, this area on campus served as the site of the original Memorial Stadium.

First established in 1984, the Arboretum now provides anyone who visits it a quiet and open space to relax and slow down their pace.

If you want to see the arboretum in its most beautiful form, note that the plants here start blooming around late April.

Ride Across Wapehani Mountain Bike State Park

Looking for some challenging biking trails that will get your adrenaline going?

Head on over to Wapehani Mountain Bike Park.

This place features almost 5 miles of tough single-track trails that you can complete on your mountain bike.

It’s not for the faint of heart, as the tracks here are more suited for intermediate and advanced riders.

Prepare for a thrilling ride with beautiful nature as your backdrop.

For those who still want to see the area’s beauty, you can still visit this place.

There are hiking and trekking trails on 46 acres of parkland that you can enjoy.

Discover New Cultures at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center

Entrance to Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center

Dave Kleinschmidt, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about an amazing and colorful culture from Asia by visiting the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center.

Nestled in the southeastern part of Bloomington, this cultural center lets you have a glimpse into a different culture.

This destination was established back in 1979, and it has continuously evolved through the decades.

Mongolian yurt in Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center

User:Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Currently, it aims to preserve and nurture Tibet’s and Mongolia’s culture in America.

If you want to learn more about them and do your part in keeping this culture alive, check out some of the events hosted by the center.

It offers classes, workshops, and retreats, as well as gatherings that would teach you prayer, meditation, and yoga.

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center

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The cultural center’s grounds feature intricate embellishments, and you can explore the area by strolling through it.

Apart from classes, you can also learn more about these cultures, as you can find works of art and architecture from that part of the world within this center.

Get in Touch With the Past at the Wylie House Museum

Constructed way back in 1835, the Wylie House Museum served as the home of Andrew Wylie, Indiana University’s first president.

Currently, the Indiana University Libraries run the operations of this museum.

It aims to share the life of Wylie and his family back in the mid-1800s.

When visiting the museum, you can book a tour to find out more details about life back in the said era.

Additionally, you can find a gift shop here where you can purchase heirloom seeds of the plants grown in the museum’s garden.

Explore Science at WonderLab

Nestled at the heart of Bloomington, learn about the wonders of science at Wonderlab.

This establishment aims to promote the beauty of science among visitors of all ages by letting them experience its wonders.

It features a myriad of exhibits, displays, and programs, many of which are proven to be immersive and hands-on, effectively piquing the curiosity of all its visitors.

Some notable WonderLab exhibits include a discovery garden, a natural science hall, the “bubble-arium,” and an area explaining how things worked.

Apart from science exhibits, the WonderLab also showcases pieces of art that people of all ages can appreciate.

This museum also hosts numerous age-specific programs, workshops, and activities throughout the year.

So, discover how wonderful science can be by visiting the WonderLab in Bloomington.

Discover Art Throughout History at the Eskenazi Museum of Art

Eskenazi Museum of Art

Kzollman (Kevin J.S. Zollman)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you like art, stop by the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Here, you can take a trip around the globe and through history without leaving the building.

Situated at the heart of the Indiana University Bloomington campus, this museum houses over 45,000 pieces of artifacts.

Displays at Eskenazi Museum of Art

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From Greek pottery to Jackson Pollock works, you will find many masterpieces here that will leave you awe-struck.

Its collection consists of works that let visitors discover every art-producing culture to ever exist.

Painting at Eskenazi Museum of Art

Katolophyromai, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also find works made by famous visual artists like Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso.

It also features jewelry and treasures as old as 5,000 years old.

Its vast collection will ensure that you have something new to discover throughout your visit to this museum.

See What’s Inside The Garret

Not a lot of people know about this interesting place.

However, if you’re a fan of obscure things and unique destinations, you’ll certainly know The Garret.

One of the oldest ornate limestone buildings in the city, the Garret formerly served as the headquarter of BG Hoadley Quarries.

Originally called the “Batman House,” the Garret family repurchased this place in 1974.

Inside, this building features the family’s curio collection consisting of geologic specimens, antiques, and, surprisingly, many lamps.

First constructed in 1895, this structure is considered by many as the most multifaceted Victorian house in the city.

So, if you’re a fan of the obscure, definitely check this place out.

Come Upon Interesting Historical Books at the Lilly Library

Lilly Library

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For bookworms and history nerds, the Lilly Library needs to sit at the top of your itinerary.

Located in Indiana University’s Fine Arts Plaza, this place houses over 8.5 million manuscripts and 450,000 books.

It also serves as the home for 150,000 pieces of sheet music and even 30,000 mechanical puzzles.

It’s a haven for scholars and book enthusiasts from around the world.

Some interesting items in its collection include 16th-century manuscripts from Asia, the copy of the Bill of Rights owned by Thomas Jefferson, and The Canterbury Tales’ first printed edition.

Its archives also contain items from many famous authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Sylvia Plath, and Orson Welles.

It even has a copy of the Gutenberg Bible that was printed in the 15th century.

Just from the sheer size of its collection, this place is definitely worth checking out.

Catch a Movie at the Starlight Drive-in

Starlite Drive-in first started its operation in 1955.

Currently, it serves as the only drive-in theater in Bloomington.

Here, they screen movies both new and old.

You can either catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster here or attend a special screening of acclaimed classics.

Apart from screening amazing movies, it has a concessions booth, which appears to be similar to the establishment’s original stand.

It even has a partial replica of the famous film Volkswagen beetle, Herbie.

Check this place out for a unique film-viewing experience.

Watch a Stage Performance at Buskirk-Chumley Theater

Buskirk-Chumley Theater

EQRoy /

When in Bloomington, you can enjoy a show at the wonderful Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

It organizes many different amazing performances for the local community throughout the year.

From world-famous musicals to amazing dance recitals, there is a stage show that you can enjoy at this theater.

Buskirk-Chumley Theater

EQRoy /

Apart from hosting amazing shows, you can also find this place conveniently located in downtown Bloomington.

You may also find it interesting that this theater sits on the list of the National Register of Historic Places, as it used to be a silent movie theater.

Today, many know this place as one of the most active community theaters in the United States.

Shop for Goods at the Bloomington Community Farmer’s Market

Fresh flowers at Bloomington Farmer’s Market

Kim Lewis Photography /

Looking to buy local fresh produce while in Bloomington?

Don’t forget to check out their weekly Farmer’s Market, as you can find fresh produce and handcrafted items directly from the farmers and artisans who made them.

It features more than 40 vendor stalls where you can discover various products.

Fresh Beans at Bloomington Farmer’s Market

Kim Lewis Photography /

These include fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade artisanal items just as jam, jellies, and pickles, as well as gourmet products like cheese and sweets.

To further enhance your shopping experience, you can listen to live music being played here while you shop for the greatest finds around.

Relax at the Lower Cascades Park

Sometimes you just want to sit down, relax, and spend some time with your companions after a long day of visiting attractions.

One great place to do this in Bloomington is Lower Cascades Park.

Given its peaceful ambiance, you can hang out with the entire family but stay close to many recreational facilities that you can visit.

For kids, it has a large playground where they can have fun, while the adults can chill and appreciate the gorgeous landscaped creek.

If you want to go on a picnic, you can find picnic areas available for you to use.

It’s a fantastic place to spend a slow day with your loved ones.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Pay a Visit to Monroe Lake

Monroe Lake

elliekr22 /

Spanning 10,750 acres while being surrounded by 24,000 more acres of protected areas, make sure to check out Monroe Lake.

Located just 20 minutes south of Bloomington, this lake offers both locals and visitors outdoor opportunities for some recreational activity.

It’s one of the best places near Bloomington where you can spend time and appreciate the great outdoors.

Monroe Lake

Adrian Ashwah /

All year round, people here can enjoy fishing on the lake, boating, kayaking, and even jet skiing.

It also serves as a venue for programs and events organized by nature experts that you can attend in the summer.

When visiting the area, make sure to spend some time at Monroe Lake.

Final Thoughts

From outdoor sites to highly educational destinations, Bloomington is a place that caters to every type of person.

While the allure of bustling cities is tempting, check out a smaller, more relaxed place to spend your holiday in, all while having access to most of the things you have in a metropolis.

Consider Bloomington as your next holiday destination.

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