Midwest Living Review
Bloomington-Normal may be twin cities, but they're far more fraternal than identical. Bloomington is the more historic, more old-fashioned of the two. With a beautiful downtown courthouse (once part of Abraham Lincoln's "circuit" as a lawyer) and a downtown that has not changed architecturally much from the 1800s. There's a faded charm here that's both interesting and endearing. Bloomington is the seat of McLean County, so you'll find lots of downtown bars and restaurants catering to the legal trade and the many employees of State Farm Insurance, which is based here. Be sure to check out Station 220, a great farm-to-table restaurant, Kelly's Cafe and Bakery and The Chocolatier Inc. There's limited shopping, but Crossroads Global Handcrafts is a do-not-miss store with free-trade goods and exceptional prices. If live music is your thing, check out the Castle Theater, an old silent-movie house converted into an intimate concert venue. In Bloomington, you'll also find the wonderful Ewing Cultural Center, home to the annual summer Illinois Shakespeare Festival -- a worth-it outdoor theater experience. Normal is a college town -- home to Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan universities -- and feels like Bloomington's suburban counterpart. If you go "uptown" from the ISU campus, you'll find the wonderful Discover Children's Museum, the Art Deco Normal Theater, which shows art and classic films, the always-changing Garlic Press gourmet food-kitchenware-gifts-accessories store, Acme Comics, three "record" stores and the stunning Medici restaurant. There's also a new Marriott Hotel, which makes it easy to spend a weekend on campus.