20 Best Things to Do in Bloomington, IL

Bloomington, Illinois

The vibrant colors of the changing seasons, the warm friendliness of the people, and the rich history that's painted in every corner - that's Bloomington, Illinois, for you.

As someone who has called this city home for years, I can tell you that amidst its quiet charm, Bloomington is a city pulsing with life and activities.

Whether you're visiting for the weekend or planning to settle down, this city has a way of making you feel like you belong.

Now let's look at the 20 best things to do in Bloomington, Illinois!

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How this article was written: Our team first analyzed the scores and feedback across major platforms like Google Maps, Yelp, and Trip Advisor, considering not only the ratings but also the consistency of positive feedback. Following this, we conducted interviews with over 30 local residents who have been to these attractions and places to gather authentic, first-hand experiences. You can read more about our research process here.

While this list showcases some remarkable attractions, it's important to note there are many other exceptional places in Bloomington that are not featured here. Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Revisit History at the David Davis Mansion

Entry way to David Davis Mansion
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

I've lost count of how many times I've strolled through the beautifully manicured gardens of the David Davis Mansion.

There's something soothing about the neat flowerbeds and the imposing Victorian architecture that makes me feel like I've been transported to another era.

The mansion is rich in history, and every nook and cranny tells a part of the story of the prominent 19th-century family that once lived there.

The period art and technology on display serve as a vivid reminder of the opulence and grandeur of that era.

I particularly enjoy the guided tours - they start at the top of the hour and are absolutely free.

Be sure to catch the video before the tour; it provides a fascinating overview of the mansion’s history.

The volunteers do an amazing job keeping the place running, and their passion is infectious.

David Davis Mansion with lawn, benches and trees in the foreground
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

They are always eager to share interesting tidbits about the mansion and the family, and their tours are always informative and engaging.

What I enjoy most, however, are the quiet afternoons when I simply walk around the exterior of the mansion, admiring the architectural details and the lush gardens.

There's an undeniable charm to the David Davis Mansion that tugs at my heart every time I visit.

And while the interior is inaccessible without a guide, the exterior itself is worth a look, especially in the golden glow of the setting sun.

Sure, it's just a house, but to me, the David Davis Mansion is a physical embodiment of our city's rich history and heritage.

Exterior view of David Davis Mansion
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

Pay a Visit to Iron Coyote Challenge Park

As the summers approach, I find myself heading back to my favorite oasis in the city, the Iron Coyote Challenge Park.

There’s something about the adrenaline rush and the spirit of adventure that calls to me.

Over the years, my family and I have had the privilege of participating in their exciting day camps and even a school-sponsored night event.

But this year, we've upgraded our experience by becoming summer members.

What I'm most excited about is watching my kids push their boundaries in a safe and well-supervised environment.

I still remember the look on my 8-year-old's face when he completed the harness course upstairs - it was a perfect blend of fear, excitement, and triumph.

The park caters to children of all skill levels, encouraging them to try their best and fostering an environment that celebrates every small victory.

The park’s cleanliness and ease of entry have always been a highlight.

On a typical day, a helpful manager is at the front, ready to assist with the check-in process.

One of the best deals Iron Coyote Challenge Park offers is a 2-hour plan with pizza.

It's perfect for a day out with several kids. With endless activities to engage in, it feels like time flies by.

And the pizza? An absolute hit with the young ones.

Enjoy an Afternoon at McGraw Park

I've lived in central Illinois all my life, and let me tell you - there's something special about McGraw Park.

It's more than just a park, it's a sanctuary, a place to unwind and recharge your batteries.

Last weekend, we packed a picnic and spent the entire afternoon there.

The day was perfect, the sky clear, and the weather just right.

Our picnic spot was nestled amongst large swaths of beautiful acreage, shaded by towering trees.

We spread our blanket, laid out our sandwiches, and relished the peace and quiet, interrupted only by the occasional chirping of birds.

Strolling along the walking paths, we discovered a small garden hidden away - a lovely spot filled with blooming flowers and buzzing bees.

But what caught my attention the most was the Sister City Memorial, a poignant reminder of the bond of friendship between nations.

The park also caters to the younger crowd.

It's a hit with our kids, thanks to the playground and water playground.

The splash pad was a riot of laughter and joy as little ones darted in and out of the water sprays.

Our friend's 2-year-old was especially enamored with it, squealing with delight.

And let's not forget about our furry family members.

We brought along our dog, who had the time of his life chasing squirrels and exploring the park.

There were plenty of shaded areas and benches, so the pooch had a place to rest, and we could keep an eye on the kiddos.

Pictures don't do justice to McGraw Park.

You have to see it with your own eyes.

Explore the Cruisin with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center and Gift Shop

Every so often, I find myself craving a slice of local history.

On such days, I make a beeline for the Cruisin with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center and Gift Shop.

There's something invigorating about immersing myself in the rich tapestry of our local history.

The center is a treasure trove of exhibits and videos exploring auto travel and Abraham Lincoln's ties to Bloomington.

Thankfully, they manage to present these in a playful, engaging way, taking the stuffiness out of history.

Walking into the center is like stepping into a time machine.

The architecture, the marble, the vintage vibe - it's like being transported back to an era when life seemed simpler.

Not to mention, the center offers a fantastic deal - admission is completely free on Tuesdays.

The four floors of exhibitions are intriguing, but there's one that always stands out to me - the 'Court Room' exhibit.

Standing there, I feel an odd mix of awe and fascination, it's like getting a front-row seat to history.

But it's not all about the past.

Cruisin with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center and Gift Shop, showcasing beliefs and values, offers a window into the struggles and triumphs of individuals from different walks of life.

It's a powerful reminder of the diversity and resilience of our community.

And let's not forget, the center is a photographer's dream.

The lighting, the artifacts, the ambiance - every corner is a picture waiting to be captured.

Spend an Evening at The Castle Theatre

It was midsummer when I finally decided to catch a show at The Castle Theatre.

I'd heard a lot about the place - its historic charm, the eclectic mix of live music, and the full bars that served an array of refreshing drinks.

The evening I decided to visit, Philip Phillips was performing live.

I'd always enjoyed his music, so the anticipation was high.

As I walked into the venue, I was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the security and check-in process.

It was quick, professional, leaving us ample time to soak in the ambiance before the performance.

There was a buzz in the air, people chattering, drinks clinking - the excitement was palpable.

The theater is pretty spacious, but seating is quite limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The floors are slanted, ingeniously designed to offer a good view no matter where you stand.

One of my most memorable nights was when I went to see the Hair Bangers Ball on a Saturday night.

With the energy of the crowd and the electrifying performance, it was the perfect night out.

In fact, the experience was so good that I returned the very next Tuesday to watch Buck Cherry perform.

The Castle Theatre offers more than just great performances.

It's a place where you can lose yourself in the music, meet diverse groups of people, and make some magical memories.

Explore the City's History at the McLean County Museum

Exterior of the McLean County Museum
Michael from Palatine, Illinois, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Who would have thought that a Saturday morning trip to the McLean County Museum of History could turn into an unforgettable adventure through time?

The museum, located in an eye-catching century-old domed building, has been my go-to place for a quiet weekend.

Right from the moment I enter, the seven galleries filled with more than 19,000 objects and archives transport me to different eras.

I am always amazed by the careful preservation of artifacts, the incredible attention to detail, and the easy-to-understand factoids that accompany each display.

The museum isn't just about looking at antiquities; there's plenty to do as well.

The four floors full of exhibits offer numerous engaging activities.

The miniature farm exhibit, a depiction of the 'good old days,' is a personal favorite.

It's like stepping into a time machine and experiencing farm life from decades ago.

The library is also an absolute treasure trove.

It houses books ranging from contemporary publications to volumes dating back to the 1800s.

A tilbury flash plane displayed inside the McLean County Museum
Stephaniepier, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you're researching something, all you have to do is call ahead.

They will find any relevant information and have it ready for you upon your arrival.

I can't help but mention the historical playroom for kids.

My nieces and nephews love McLean County Museum of History, and it's a joy seeing them learn while having fun.

Grab Some Beers at Lil Beaver Brewery

Ever since Lil Beaver Brewery opened its doors in Bloomington, its become my go-to spot for a laid-back evening.

Let's kick things off with the food. Their chicken wings are a crowd-pleaser.

I particularly enjoy them with honey BBQ sauce - it's a mesmerizing mix of sweet and tangy that your taste buds will thank you for.

And did I mention the pretzel? It's massive! Trust me, it's not just about the size, it's incredibly delicious too.

A brewery isn't a brewery without a fantastic display of beers, right?

Lil Beaver Brewery doesn't disappoint with their extensive selection.

From the usual to the unconventional, they offer an array of options.

I recently tried their inferno beer, and let me tell you, it's a fiery treat worth trying for anyone who enjoys a bit of spice.

The ambiance, too, is worth mentioning.

It's a bit on the noisy side, but that's part of the charm - it's lively, bustling, and filled with laughter and cheer.

Have a Peaceful Stroll in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery has always been an integral part of my life.

Tucked away in the corner of our city, this place holds more than just memories.

From my daily morning walks to the occasional visits to my family's plots, this cemetery has always brought me peace.

They maintain the cemetery beautifully - the grass is always green, and the trees provide a soothing shade.

It's such a serene place that even joggers and dog walkers frequent the property.

One unique aspect about Evergreen, which I adore, is the scavenger hunt they offer.

It's not something one commonly associates with a cemetery, but it's a charming activity.

They provide you with a list of items you can find around the cemetery - from stars to lambs, acorns to hearts, all etched into the tombstones.

You can pick up the list from a wooden structure near the entrance.

This quirky feature truly sets Evergreen apart and gives it a lively, interactive feel.

Another event close to my heart is the annual Cemetery Walk held every autumn.

The changing colors of the leaves, the crisp fall air, and the stories etched into the stones make this walk a poignant experience.

While Evergreen is a place of tranquility for many, it's also a place of reflection.

It's important to remember to respect each other's space and beliefs.

Stroll Down Ewing Park I

Consider this, my favorite sanctuary in the city, Ewing Park I.

Nestled in the heart of the city, this oasis of tranquility offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

As I walk the many winding paths, I find myself lost in the diverse array of plant life that surrounds me.

The tall, stoic trees act as my canopy, protecting me from the harsh sun while providing me with an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors throughout the year.

Each trail in Ewing Park I has its unique charm.

One of my favorites leads to a rustic shelter formed from a beautiful arrangement of logs.

It's the perfect spot to sit and reflect or enjoy a book, all while being surrounded by the sounds of nature.

For families with children, Ewing Park is an absolute delight.

The playground is a wonderland filled with swings and slides, along with various climbing structures.

The squeals of joy and laughter echo throughout the park, adding to its cheerful atmosphere.

I've also enjoyed many a summer afternoon with friends and family, barbecuing at one of the grills scattered across the park.

The park offers both covered picnic tables and open-air ones, ideal for any weather condition.

And fear not about the amenities, they have clean indoor restrooms with running water as well.

Lastly, for the adventurous souls, there's a secret trail in the park waiting to be discovered.

Its allure has always fascinated me, and each venture feels like a brand-new adventure.

Enjoy a Day at Grady's Family Fun Park

When the weekend rolls around, there's no better place to spend a sunny day than at Grady's Family Fun Park!

Nestled right here in our hometown, it's a one-stop destination for wholesome family fun.

With offerings like bumper cars, go-karts, mini-golf, carnival rides, and an arcade, this place has something for everyone.

You can even practice your swing in the batting cages.

One sunny weekend, I decided to treat the kids to a day out at Grady's.

We happily loaded up on individual tickets and headed for the go-karts first.

There's something thrilling about the roar of the engines and the wind rushing past your face as you race around the track.

We darted across to the bumper cars afterward, where the kids and I laughed and shrieked as we bumped and jostled each other around.

After a while, we took a break from the rides to try our hand at the mini-golf.

The course is beautifully designed, complete with water features and tricky slopes.

Even though we're no golf pros, we had a great time competing and laughing at our less-than-perfect shots.

The charming thing about Grady's is the old-school carnival feel of the place.

The colorful arcade, filled with classic games, was our next stop.

The kids enjoyed a few rounds of skeeball and video games while I tried my luck at the claw machine.

While waiting, we often found ourselves striking up lively conversations with fellow visitors.

Just a quick note - don't forget to pack some snacks!

It's a local gem that serves up a hearty helping of nostalgia and fun.

Journey Through Time at the Prairie Aviation Museum

Planes in front of the Prairie Aviation Museum
Eric Friedebach, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You know, there's something quite extraordinary about the feeling of a plane soaring through the open skies.

That's why the Prairie Aviation Museum holds such a special place in my heart.

As a kid, I was always fascinated by anything that could take me to the skies.

My fascination only grew as I got older, and this museum has been the perfect place to feed my curiosity.

Located just off a busy road in Bloomington, a stone's throw away from the airport, this museum may not be the largest in size, but it's packed full of history.

It's a great place for anyone interested in the history of aviation or even for those just looking to do something a bit different with their day.

It's like stepping into a time capsule, each exhibit showcasing a different era of flight.

The inside of the Prairie Aviation Museum is filled with a wealth of information about aviation.

There's a dedicated section for NASA filled with props, displays, and graphs that paint a vivid picture of our journey into the stars.

But the real treat lies outside.

There, you'll find an impressive collection of grounded aircraft, each one with its own story to tell.

On one of my trips, I had the amazing luck to stumble upon a volunteer tour guide.

The tour was an even deeper dive into the fascinating world of aviation.

We explored the planes, jets, and other aircraft on display, each one a testament to the progress of aviation technology over the years.

The admission fee is a small price to pay for the wealth of knowledge and experience this museum offers.

Unwind at Tipton Park

The sleepy morning sun and the chirping of birds are my regular companions as I jog in the tranquility of Tipton Park.

It's not just a recreational area, it's a sanctuary that I call my own.

The park, which you can explore on City Bloomington's official site, has been my breath of fresh air in the everyday hustle and bustle.

Every weekend, I make sure to arrange a small picnic with my family.

We prefer to settle under the shaded shelter by the playground, where we can keep a watchful eye on the kids.

It's always a competition amongst us, who gets to grill the best barbecue on the park's charcoal grills.

The park's splash pad is a summer favorite among the kids.

Although it's pretty small, it never fails to bring a smile to their faces.

I remember one time when a couple of its parts were out of order, but the kids didn't seem to mind, they were busy making the most of what was available.

For sports enthusiasts, Tipton Park also houses a basketball court.

I usually engage in a friendly match or two in the evening.

The vast expanse of the park also allows the kids to run around and play to their heart's content.

Not to be missed is Tipton Park's adorable barn-theme playground.

I adore watching kids from our neighborhood play and form lasting friendships here.

In between their fun, they pause only to grab a bite from the tables nearby.

I also love the serenity of the park's walking trail, where you can often find me walking my dog or cycling.

The serene environment is just perfect for a leisurely stroll or an energetic run.

Occasionally, I also indulge in a bit of fishing, the calmness of the activity is quite therapeutic.

Go Skating at Bloomington Ice Center

Ever since I discovered the Bloomington Ice Center, my appreciation for ice sports has grown exponentially.

I mean, have you seen the college rink? It's a thing of beauty.

Don't even get me started on the box seats – you get a perfect view of the game, and you can grab a bite from the restaurant right there without missing any of the action.

Visit Altitude Trampoline Park Bloomington

Jumping into my weekend, I decided to spend an afternoon at the Altitude Trampoline Park Bloomington.

My first impression was that it was a lively place buzzing with energy.

Kids were bouncing around, and it was a joy to see them having fun.

However, things took a turn when I lost my keys in the foam pit.

Good thing the kids were kind enough to assist me in my search.

Experience Bowling Nights at Pheasant Lanes Family Fun Center & Kegler’s Pub

I can't deny that Pheasant Lanes is my favorite spot for a weekend bowling session.

Weekends have this unique energy, bustling with people, and you can feel the buzz as soon as you step inside.

But here's a tip, you might want to make a reservation the day before.

Trust me, it's a pretty popular place around here, and it gets busy real quick.

Once you're in, you're welcome to pick your weapon - I mean, your bowling ball.

Take your time finding the weight that suits you best.

Oh, and you get to choose your game mode as well, with or without gutters.

And here's a nugget of wisdom from an old hand, avoid white or light-colored socks.

I learned it the hard way when a friend got a stain from the rental bowling shoes.

They also have a knack for hosting events.

A company I know held a private gathering here, and the folks at Pheasant Lanes Family Fun Center & Kegler’s Pub took excellent care of them, despite the last-minute booking.

The food for the event was a buffet, kept warm, and served just right.

They even reserved parking spots for the attendees.

Trek the Constitution Trail

Long narrow paved road with trees on both the sides
Mauro Andre / Shutterstock.com

There's something incredibly serene about the occasional rustle of leaves overhead as the wind blows through the trees and the crunch of gravel under my running shoes.

This is a familiar sense of calm, something I feel every time I set foot on the Constitution Trail in Bloomington, Illinois.

Located right in my backyard, the Constitution Trail is more than just a walking path for me.

It's a living gallery showing off the changing seasons with such flair and flamboyance.

I've watched the leaves turn from the vibrant greens of summer to the warm hues of autumn, seen the trail blanketed under snow in the heart of winter, and then watched as the first buds of spring bring everything back to life.

The trail, however, is not just about nature. It's about history and culture too.

I still vividly remember the first time I stumbled upon the art installations scattered along the pathway.

There's something quite surprising about turning a corner and suddenly finding yourself face-to-face with a vibrant mural or a thought-provoking sculpture.

But beyond the scenes and sights, what makes Constitution Trail truly special is the sense of community it fosters.

From early morning joggers to families out for a casual stroll, the trail brings together people from all walks of life.

Pay a Visit to Den at Fox Creek

It was just an ordinary Tuesday, and I decided to check out the Den at Fox Creek, a renowned golf course in my beloved city.

The golf course is indeed a sight to behold.

If I were to rank the courses in the twin cities, I'd confidently say this is the best.

As a frequent visitor to the Den at Fox Creek, I can say that the course is absolutely stunning.

The peaceful surroundings, especially around the 6th hole, never fail to transport me to a tranquil realm.

It's my go-to place when I need a chill day out.

One of the things that stand out about this place is its uplink service.

It provides you with yardage and a map of other carts nearby - a feature that I find quite unique.

The prices are reasonably cheap, and the passes they offer are quite a steal - a real treat for someone like me who golfs a lot.

A word of caution, though - don't let your ego get the better of you on hole 5!

It's a notorious ball muncher and has claimed quite a share of my own golf balls.

But isn't that part of the fun?

In all my visits, I've seen the course in top shape, cared for, and well-kept.

I even scored one of my best games here!

Unwind at Miller Park Lake

There's a certain tranquility that washes over you when you step foot into Miller Park Lake, a vast expanse of green beauty in our city.

A popular site for a host of activities, I often find myself drawn to the lake's calming aura.

The park is a haven for the flocks of geese that grace its waters.

They add a touch of life to the serene environment, their chatter echoing across the lake.

I love taking my kids there; they get a real kick out of feeding the geese.

It's a lively scene that's always a joy to be a part of.

Time seems to slow down when I'm casting a fishing line into Miller Lake, the sun setting behind me.

It's a peaceful pastime that offers a much-needed escape from the day's hustle and bustle.

The morning sunlight shimmered on the sign of Joann Goetzinger Art Studio and Gallery.

I could hardly contain my excitement.

Living in such close proximity to such a cultural gem is a constant source of inspiration for me.

I've always been a fan of art, so whenever I have free time, I make a point to drop by, indulge in the surrounding tranquility, and charge my creative batteries at Joann Goetzinger Art Studio and Gallery.

As I stepped onto the wooden floors, the smell of paint and linseed oil immediately hit me - an intoxicating blend that never fails to make my heart flutter.

I felt a ripple of anticipation as I began to explore.

Joann's works were scattered all around, some in progress, others finished.

Each piece seemed to tell its own story, and I found myself drawn into each narrative.

I spent hours immersing myself in the tranquility and inspiration that the gallery provides.

The visit was not just about admiring art, it was a therapeutic experience, a journey that I embark upon often, given its convenience and proximity to my home.

I left the gallery with a sense of rejuvenation, my mind brimming with ideas, the artistic energy fueling me for days to come.

Final Thoughts

Bloomington, with its rich history, exciting entertainment, and serene nature spots, has a place for everyone.

Whether you're a history buff, nature lover, adrenaline junkie, or art enthusiast, you'll find something that suits your preferences.

It's the city I call home, and it's a place that never ceases to surprise and delight me with its hidden gems.

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