Summer Shakespeare in Bloomington-Normal | Midwest Living

Summer Shakespeare in Bloomington-Normal

An inventive summer-long Shakespeare festival—including created-on-the-spot plays—stars during weekends in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois.


Photo courtesy Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Two-day getaway

Day 1

Start in Bloomington, the county seat, at the McLean County Museum of History inside the Renaissance-style courthouse. Exhibits recount settlers’ daily lives and politics influenced by area residents Abraham Lincoln, David Davis and Adlai Stevenson. Admission charged. (309) 827-0428;

You’ll find unique souvenirs in a handful of downtown Bloomington storefronts: Fair-trade shop Crossroads carries handcrafted gifts from around the world (, and The Chocolatier Inc. makes turtles, creams, toffee and Italian ice. (309) 821-0277

For lunch, try the grilled smoked gouda and turkey sandwich with a kicky raspberry-jalapeño spread at Kelly’s Bakery and Cafe, a bustling European-style bistro. (309) 820-1200;

East of downtown, the Beer Nuts Company Store sells flavored, chocolate-covered and mixed nuts and shows videos of the process for making the famous nuts. (309) 827-8580;

Guided tours of the 1872 David Davis Mansion, a restored Victorian-style home and garden built by an influential judge, bring fresh perspective on that era. (309) 828-1084;

Dine on house-made Andouille sausage and seasonal specialties at Station Two Twenty, a farm-to-table restaurant in an old firehouse. (309) 828-2323; Or pack a picnic to take to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. (309) 438-2535;

Five historically themed guest rooms at Vrooman Mansion feature down pillows and microfiber robes; guests also enjoy gourmet breakfast. From $100. (309) 828-8816;

Day 2

Don’t head home without checking out Illinois State University and its Uptown neighborhood, where you will find dozens of shops. The Garlic Press combo cafe-kitchenware shop features fun gifts and artsy home decor. (309) 452-8841; Next door, Uptown Gifts and Accessories sells colorful scarves and jewelry. (309) 452-7999

Uptown has more than two dozen restaurants. The menu at Medici includes upscale pub fare and entrees like salmon over smoked Gouda mac ’n’ cheese. For dessert: a warm skillet cookie with chocolate chips and cherries. (309) 452-6334;

See reviews and ratings of The Chocolatier Inc., Kelly’s Bakery and Cafe, Station 220, Illinois Shakespeare Festival and Vrooman Mansion.

For more information: Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 433-8226;

(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® May/June 2013.  Prices, dates and other details are subject to change, so please check specifics before making travel plans.)





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