I truly think that Bloomington is one of the loveliest communities in the country. But in my conversations with friends and family, I often find that those without a connection to Indiana University never visit. What a shame! Perhaps it’s because sometimes visiting a college town is a bit intimidating. Parking challenges, one-way streets, and just a general sense of not knowing what to do once you get there seem to hold people back.
So if you’ve always wanted to visit Bloomington but didn’t know where to start, here are my suggestions of a few “walks” you can take to really experience the heart and soul of this town.
Even if cream and crimson aren’t your colors, Indiana University is such a beautiful campus that you really shouldn’t miss it. A helpful map of the I.U. Bloomington campus is here. A lot of other information for those visiting campus is here. My suggestions:
- Park at the Fee Lane Parking Garage (corner of Fee and 11th, behind the Godfrey Graduate and Executive Education Center), head south through the Arboretum west of the library, pass by the Indiana University Art Museum and the IU Auditorium (better yet, stop in at one or both of these great cultural landmarks!), then walk west on 7th Street to the IU Memorial Union. Spend some time exploring the beautiful Union, which has a lot of amenities for visitors.
- From the Union, explore the Old Crescent area of campus. Cross Kirkwood and walk between Maxwell and Owen Halls to Dunn Woods. You’ll see the Rose Well House, a limestone gazebo. An old legend says that female IU students don’t become true co-eds until they’ve been kissed in its confines. Continue through the Woods to the Kirkwood Observatory. Then walk north past Bryan Hall to the Sample Gates. No trip to IU is complete without passing through this iconic landmark.
Aside from the campus/college atmosphere, Bloomington itself has a thriving art, culinary and music scene. Tons of events take place here, including both Taste of Bloomington and Arts Fair on the Square on June 23. An interactive map of the town is available here.
- Kirkwood is definitely the quintessential Bloomington street for food, shopping and merriment. It is anchored by the Sample Gates at the east end and the Courthouse Square. Along Kirkwood, stop for a bite to eat at the Village Deli or the Trojan Horse, or if you’ve got adult fun in mind, try to “sink the biz” at Nick’s English Hut. For a really special evening, dine at FARM Bloomington.
- In recent years, Bloomington has made its mark as a foodie town in part due to the popularity of the Bloomington Community Farmer’s Market. It was recently featured in USA Today as one of the country’s best. It takes place every Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market Plaza at 401 N. Morton Street, just south of Bloomington’s City Hall. From the market, take the B-Line Trail, a 3.1 mile paved path, through town. (A map of the trail is available here.) Along the way, you can read all about Bloomington’s history and marvel at some of the public art on display. If you have kids with you, I’d recommend stopping at WonderLab, a hands-on science museum (I wrote about WonderLab here).
Southern Indiana is known for its gorgeous rolling hills and natural scenery. Bloomington is a hub for all this beauty.
- Yellowwood State Forest: This property has a lot of trails and hiking options, from short 1/2 mile hikes to a 42-mile trail for experienced backpackers.
- Morgan-Monroe State Forest: Lots of people know of Monroe Lake, a popular boating area. But this nearby forest is home to some great easy to moderate hiking trails and a couple of rugged, 10-mile trails.
While you can’t do all these great walks in one day, pick 1 or 2 and then make sure to do the rest on subsequent trips! What’s your favorite walk around Bloomington?
Photo credit: Nicole Wiltrout