WHAT TO DO
Look, there’s no way we can fit all the cool places in Bloomington. And half the fun of living here is exploring Btown’s nooks and crannies! So here’s a few of our favorites. Looking for something specific? Check out Visit Bloomington for trip ideas and even more fun things to do!
BEER, WINE, & SPIRITS
Cardinal Spirits is a craft distillery that makes award-winning vodkas, gins, rums, liqueurs, and canned cocktails. Check out the tasting room, cocktail bar, and restaurant. Sip a Maui Mule on the patio overlooking the B-Line Trail.
Upland started as a small brewpub and has grown into a regional brewery that produces more than 50 beers a year. They wrack up awards! Try a sour ale, if sour is your thing, a Double IPA, or a Naked Barrel Hard Seltzer. Trust us, it’s all good, including the food.
New on the scene, Small Favors is a neighborhood gathering place, serving wine, food and wine-based cocktails unique to Bloomington. They source locally, invest in farm partners, and pay staff a livable wage. Did we mention it’s delicious?!
C3 is a neighborhood bar and restaurant with fresh, hand-crafted cocktails and chef-driven cuisine. They make swank mocktails with house-made shrubs and infusions, too. Grab dinner or just eat a mountain of frites, we won’t tell.
Function offers a rotating selection of 12 made-in-house beers and some truly killer sandwiches. They get funky with flavors! Try the Szechuan Peppercorn Pale or the Smoked IPA with a Mysterious Stranger sandwich.
The largest winery outside the West Coast, Oliver sits on gorgeous grounds and offers outstanding friendly service. Treat yourself to a picnic package, bring a blanket, and while away an afternoon with wine, cheese, and good company.
Social Cantina stocks over 135 tequilas (including some on tap!) and also serves up cocktails, sangria, and regional craft beer with modern Mexican street fare. Get a flight of salsa with house-made tortilla chips, too! Vegan-friendly menu.
So much to love about Switchyard! The all-ages taproom, live music, the dog-friendly patio, great beer, and on top of all that, they care about their employees earning a living wage and believe business can and should be a catalyst for positive change.
COFFEE & TEA
Sit on the porch overlooking the B-Line Trail, take freshly roasted beans home, or attend one of their fun events like the monthly movie challenge or game night. Try a Cobra Verde, Black Sesame Latte, or Nitro Cold Brew. You can’t go wrong.
Soma Coffee House and Juice Bar
With multiple locations around town, Soma is a great place for connoisseurs looking to sample single-origin espressos, loose-leaf fancy teas, iced matcha, and fresh juice and smoothies.Try their honey lavender latte, made with in-house honey syrup.
Cup & Kettle Tea
Explore the world of specialty teas and infusions in the café or subscribe to their monthly tea club. From Paris Breakfast, Turmeric Ginger, Moroccan Mint, to Earl Grey, they carry the unexpected and the familiar. Friendly, quiet space.
Located in a charming 1920s house filled with couches, Bloomingtea is a great place to go when you want to spread out. Get a pot of tea and a dessert sampling, and take it out on the porch. They’ve got kombucha on tap, too!
BAKERIES & CAFES
Two Sticks Bakery
Not gonna lie. Two Sticks is a local obsession. You better get there early, because the line goes out the door, and the wait is sooooo worth it. Stock up on pecan bars, goat cheese scones, pizza focaccia, and cinnamon rolls for the weekend.
So much delicious! Try a broken yolk sandwich with avocado or bacon on a waffle, or the Horsey scramble with Gouda and horseradish. Located on the square downtown, The Inkwell is the perfect place to meet a friend and talk and nosh.
All vegan, all delicious, totally fun. Cute retro decor, too! Rainbow’s donuts are legendary and available in regular and gluten-free. They’ve also got handpies, cookies, cupcakes, and house-made Granola Masala. Addictive even if you’re not vegan.
Crumble Coffee & Bakery
Locally roasted cofee and fresh pastries, with locations downtown and on the east side. Everything at Crumble is good, but the quiche is transcendent: custardy filling, buttery crust, tender and scrumptious. Also try the pistachio baklava latte or a pink fizz.
The Runcible Spoon
A Bloomington tradition close to campus, the Spoon has strong coffee and serves breakfast all day (but you can get lunch or dinner, if you prefer). Eclectic and Bohemian, it offers a lot of vegetarian options and has a rustic, home-cooked vibe.
Feast Market & Cellar
Feast is many things. A bakery, yes, but one with a terrific curated wine selection, an elegant Sunday brunch, hand-pulled espresso shots, specialty tamales. Always visually stunning food with organic and local ingredients.
Muddy Fork Bakery
Muddy Fork is Indiana’s only wood-fired bread bakery. They mill organic whole grants on a stone mill out on at their farm. Take their baking class! Or just stuff yourself on almond croissants or seeded kamut, or their signature granola.
FOOD (JUST A TASTE)
Vegetarian and vegan comfort food, craft beer, and vegan baked goods. Try the coconut macadamia tofu, the sweet potato fries, or the “fish” tacos.
Asian fusion spot, heavy on Korean and Japanese, featuring hot pot, Korean BBQ, bibimbap (get the crispy rice!), and galbi ribs.
The Uptown Cafe
A great spot for any meal or a drink, but breakfast is particularly yummy. Try the Eggs Maryland with crab and hollandaise, or the biscuits and gravy.
Taste of India
Family-owned Southern Indian restaurant with an awesome lunch buffet. Many vegetarian and vegan options, and all meat is certified Zabiha Halal.
Family-owned and operated, Juannita’s offers delicious authentic Mexican fare. Try the barbacoa street tacos or the mixiotes, with a pitcher of margaritas.
Janko's Little Zagreb
Janko’s is all about the steak: hand-cut and grilled and juicy. Sit at picnic tables with red-checked tablecloths and enjoy traditional steak house sides.
Fast, fresh, and healthy! Comfort food with an international flair. Order at the counter and eat in or take out. Hive’s bread is sold throughout the city.
Japanese and Korean food, with top-rated sushi, noodles, and bento in a cozy atmosphere. Close to campus and a student and local favorite.
Traditional Turkish specialities. Try the guvac or iskender, or a pide. Locals are fanatical about the red lentil soup. Yes, soup. Try it and see!
Top Shotta Jerk Chicken
Greetings massive! Top Shotta is a Jamaican owned, authentic, and fresh food truck serving up heaps of delicous chicken and rice.
Excellent Afghani and Middle Eastern food. The big lunch buffet comes with outstanding hummus appetizers and baklava dessert. . Try the manto or pallao at dinner.
Artisan pops made with all natural ingredients in small batches. Try strawberry lemonade or spicy chocolate! Chase the cart or buy at the Bloomingfoods co-op.
Pili's Party Taco
Pili’s is a friendly Mexican-owned and operated deli and two food trucks that sell authentic Mexican tacos such as pork, árabes, steak, and other Mexican food.
The Chocolate Moose
A beloved Bloomington tradition. Homemade ice cream (vegan options too) plus coney dogs and their famous Spanish burger.
The B-Line Trail is 3+ happy, busy miles of multi-use trail that runs through the heart of the city, through Switchyard Park, eventually connecting with The Bloomington Rail Trail. It’s studded with benches, human & pet drinking fountains, and bike stations.
Bloomington Rail Trail
The Bloomington Rail Trail is a shady, tree-lined gravel trail that connects with the Clear Creek Trail at one end and the B-Line Trail at the other. Peaceful and cool in hot Indiana summers, good for running, walking, and most bikes.
Clear Creek Trail
Clear Creek is a 2.5 paved, mostly sunny path for biking, walking, jogging, rollerblading that ends at the 150-foot historic Warren Truss iron bridge. Look for the heart-shaped lock. If you’re a little bit lucky, you’ll spot a blue heron!
The Charles C. Deam Wilderness area within the Hoosier National Forest is 13,000 protected areas with 37 mils of trails (hiking and horses only, no bikes there). Some primitive camping is allowed.
PARKS & REC (HEH HEH)
Take a blanket to the 33-acre park to watch movies or a concert at night. Swim or play tennis, try out the baseball field or basketball court, or jog around the paved loop.
The city’s newest park, located on the B-Line Trail, Switchyard Park has basketball, pickleball and bocce ball courts, a skate park, a splash pad and playground, a pavilion for festival space, and more.
Griffy Lake Nature Preserve
Located on a 1,200-acre nature preserve, Griffy is a perfect place for a hike. Stop at the boathouse to rent a canoe or kayak, or try a paddleboard.
Fairfax and Lake Monroe
Fairfax State Recreation Area is operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and is located on the west side of Monroe Lake (locals call it Lake Monroe). The recreation area features a swimming beach, boat ramp, and picnic areas.
Fairfax SRA is also home to Fourwinds Resort and Marina, which offers overnight accommodations and dining options as well as a full service marina and boat rental service.
Karst Farm Park
Karst Farm Park is a beautiful 120-acre park with several outdoor amenities for your convenience including The Commons, with a fully equipped, kitchen and climate-control, eight additional open air shelters, a zero depth splash pad, several playgrounds, basketball courts, shuffle board courts, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, a 9-hole disc golf course, ponds and natural areas.
IU Men's Basketball
We are fanatics about basketball. Hoo-hoo-hoosiers! The highly ranked IU mens’ team consistently delivers heart-stopping, riveting games. Climb the bleachers at Assembly Hall, or watch at home with friends!
IU Womens' Basketball
The IU Womens’ team is hot hot hot and climbing the rankings! Enjoy superb athetics, affordable tickets, and great crowd spirit at the womens’ games.
You know it’s a home-game weekend when alumni come to town because everyone you see is wearing a red sweater. Hardcore IU football fans are loyal, win or lose!
Set against a backdrop of fall colors, the Hilly Hundred attracts over 4000 cyclists for a classic bicycle event across rural roads. Highly rated and highly anticipated for over 50 years!
Need a pro sports fix? The Indianapolis Colts are always competitive and just an hour away. Painting your face blue is optional.
Basketball is an Indiana obsession. For over 50 years the Pacers have provided hot ABA and NBA action!
It’s not just one of the greatest races in the world, it’s a three-day party. Over a century of IndyCar excellence. Also check out the Brickyard 400 if NASCAR is your thing.
A FEW OF OUR FESTIVALS
Thrillist ranked Bloomington’s PrideFest the best college town pridefest in the nation in 2017, and it continues to be fabulous! Music, dance, workshops, merch, and more. Bloomington PRIDE offers year-round community and activities.
Limestone Comedy Festival
The Limestone Comedy Festival is three days of stand-up comedy and dozens of performers across multiple venues. Past stars include Maria Bamford, Patton Oswalt, Margaret Cho, W. Kamau Bell, Tig Notaro, and others.
Lotus World Music Festival
Established in 1994, Lotus is one of the oldest world music festivals in the U.S. and attracts more than 12,000 people to downtown Bloomington annually each fall, for 4-5 days of music and arts from around the globe. Get ready to dance!
Little 500 Weekend
Little 500 is an IU and community tradition immortalized in the Academy Award-winning film Breaking Away. It’s the nation’s largest collegiate bike race and attracts 25,000 viewers!
SECS Fest Midwest
SECS Fest Midwest presents highlights from SECS Fest, a sex-positive, international film festival celebrating the artistry of erotic cinema, focusing on work by feminist and queer filmmakers.
Bloomington Craft Beer Festival
Sample hundreds of craft brews from 45+ Indiana and Midwest breweries at the historic Woolery Mill, a former limestone milling facility. Indiana has 160+ breweries, and some of the best are right here in Bloomington.
Taste of Bloomington
Bloomington’s most delicious festival! Taste is your chance to take a bite out of the city. Sample dozens of restaurants as well as local beer and wine. Live performances, too.
Fourth Street Festival of the Arts
Fourth Street Arts Festival is a Labor Day tradition that just keeps getting better. Head downtown to browse fine arts and crafts from 100+ artists from around the nation.
Canopy of Lights
This iconic event serves as an official kick-off to the holiday season in Bloomington. Celebrate the season as Santa flips the switch to transform downtown Bloomington into a sparkling winter wonderland.
IU Cinema is an art-house cinema venue that screens all kinds of interesting films and hosts free public talks by filmmakers like Ava DuVernay, Werner Hertzog, Mira Nair, Tod Solondz, and others. Screenings are ticketed but often free.
Bloomington Academy of Film & Theater
Do you want to get behind the camera? BAFT is Indiana’s first comprehensive training institution. Kids and adults can train at the highest level with experienced professionals, using industry-standard equipment.
Black Film Center/Archive
The BFC/A was established in 1981 as the first archival repository dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available historically and culturally significant films by and about Black people. Outstanding guest lectures, too!
Hoosier Films supports the independent filmmakers of Indiana. Check out their streaming service, or attend their annual film festival to see a surprising variety of locally produced shorts, documentaries, and feature films.
If your taste runs toward festival winners, activist documentaries, or personal movies not shown at the multiplex, check out the Ryder. The Ryder screens films at various places, including Bear’s Place, a cozy pub. Pick up its monthly free arts magazine, too.
Pigasus is an independent film production company founded by actor Zachary Spicer. They are the real deal, right here in Bloomington! And their parent nonprofit, the Pigasus Institute, sponsors screenwriting competitions and other cool stuff.
Date night at the Auditorium is always special! Head to the heart of campus to see Broadway shows, top performers, and special events with guests like David Sedaris and Laverne Cox.
Cardinal produces high-quality professional theater for diverse audiences and offers educational programming, too. Fun, affordable, and sometimes musical!
The Bus-Chum is a historic downtown theater that hosts live music, film, and more from national acts and local favorites. Its vintage neon sign is a Bloomington landmark. Check out the annual Trashion Refashion show!
The Musical Arts Center
Want to see performances by future stars studying at the world-class IU Jacobs School of Music? Head to the MAC. It seats 1,460 and features acoustical design and technical capabilities that are among the best in the United States.
Bloomington Playwrights Project
Looking for something more unusual? The BPP is the only professional theater in Indiana focused solely on new plays. Head to the Black Box Theater to be the first to see new productions.
Eskenazi Museum of Art
Located in an iconic building designed by I.M. Pei, the Eskenazi Museum of Art contains treasures from antiquity and sub-Saharan Africa; paintings by Monet, Picasso, and Pollock; works from contemporary artists; and more.
FAR Center for Contemporary Arts
FAR brings together photographers, poets, sculptors, illustrators, musicians, painters, and dancers in a multi-use space. Here, the arts are both shared and taught, through exhibits, lectures and workshops, and performances.
Artisan Alley is an art co-op that provides a wide range of work studios, co-work spaces, classes, equipment, tools, essential amenities, and volunteer opportunities for community members interested in the arts.
Grunwald Gallery of Art
Located on the IU campus, the Grunwald Gallery of Art shows contemporary exhibits by both professional and student artists. Exhibits incorporate art from a variety of genres and approaches, and can be experimental or traditional.
The Video Saloon
A perennial favorite, the Vid is a great dive bar and a favorite place for locals to shoot pool, play darts, and drink beer. Mike the doorman is an internet legend.
The Back Door
A queer bar and more, The Back Door promotes Queer Liberation through community building, mutual aid, performance, revelry, and dance.
The Atlas Ballroom
Awesome bartenders and cocktails, top-shelf liquor, good beer, what’s not to like?
The Bishop is a bar and an event space. Live music, craft beer on tap, and house cocktails, too.
The Bluebird Nightclub
The Bluebird is a live music venue & a Bloomington institution. Rock out, dance, drink beer with friends.
Nick's English Hut
An IU alumni favorite, Nick’s is a great place to grab burgers and a pitcher and hang out with friends.
The Root Cellar Lounge
The Root Cellar is a no-cover bar offering a wide variety of entertainment: live jazz & blues bands, DJ dance parties, karaoke, rock & roll cover bands & more.
How does a small city in southern Indiana end up with two Tibetan monasteries? His Holiness the Dalai Lama came here many times to visit his brother. You might still spot His Holiness’s nephew at a local paint store, or cross paths at Starbucks with a monk in saffron robes. Check out the Tibetan Cultural Center, and if the monks are working on a sand mandala, be sure to see it before it’s wiped away!
SECRETLY CANADIAN, DEAD OCEANS, & JAGJAGUWAR
It’s actually not that secret: Bloomington is home to Secretly Canadian, one of the coolest indie record labels, founded by two college kids who grew it into the Secretly Group. They’re home to artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Cherry Glazerr, Bon Iver, Alex Cameron, Anohni, and more. Bloomington’s rich and varied music scene has been surprising newbies for a long time. Secretly captures our indie spirit and its range.
Indiana limestone clads the Empire State Building and monuments all over the nation. It’s the literal bedrock we’re built on, and the scrappy ingenuity of quarrymen—”cutters”—lives on. Locals remember swimming in abandoned quarries on hot summer days of yore. They’re off limits to swimmers these days (for good reason—too dangerous) (we mean it, don’t swim there illegally, we don’t want you to get hurt). But you can relive their glory in Breaking Away or take home a quarry painting by local artist Meg Lagodski, and if you move here, we hope you’ll embrace the cutter spirit!
FAMOUS CITIZENS & RESIDENTS
Captain Kathryn Janeway, Kate Mulgrew’s character on Star Trek: Voyager, hailed from Bloomington. Check out her statue on the B-Line Trail. Not into statues of fictional citizens? Visit the IU campus to put a flower in the hand of the Hoagy Carmichael statue, or sit next to the statue of Nobel Prize-winner Elinor Ostrom. Download some Joshua Bell music, or snag some swag featuring beloved celebrity cat Lil Bub. Will you see rocker John Mellencamp around town? Probably not. Pulitzer Prize-winning cognitive scientist Doug Hoftstadter? Maybe. Poet Ross Gay? We like your odds. Actor Jesse Eisenberg? Definitely possible (his wife is from here, and they visit a lot).
Want to see what Bloomington looked like in 1979? Check out the Academy Award-winning movie Breaking Away (featuring a young Dennis Quaid). A lot of things have changed since then, but our obsession with the Little 500 bike race continues. Then watch Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman and written by Bloomingtonian Angelo Pizzo, to understand Indiana’s passion for basketball. Then check out Ms. White Light, released from Bloomington’s own Pigasus Pictures in 2019. Wrap it up with Kinsey, the film about the pioneering sex researcher who founded the Kinsey Institute at IU.
THE ASHRAM, THE COMMUNE, & THE CO-OP
Long-time residents remember that back in 1970s, Bloomington was home to an ashram. It’s a long story (read about it here in this insert produced by our local Bloom magazine), but it influenced local culture for decades. Former ashram members have developed iconic local restaurants (The Uptown Cafe and Yogi’s) and businesses (Sunrise Publications, home of Mary Engelbreit cards). The May Creek Farm ( a commune/intentional community), also founded in the 70s, still exists just outside Bloomington, in Harrodsburg, and our beloved Bloomingfoods Co-op has multiple locations around town.