In central Illinois, seemingly all roads lead to Bloomington-Normal, which is crisscrossed by interstates 39, 55 and 74, as well as historic Route 66. The twin cities are home to Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University and nearly two dozen art galleries. Check out our trip guide.

What to do

Besides Abraham Lincoln, 1800s U.S. Supreme Court Justice (and Lincoln friend) David Davis lived here. You can tour his elegant Victorian mansion in Bloomington. Learn more about Abe and the historic Mother Road at the Cruisin' With Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center in Bloomington.

The Quad at Illinois State University in Normal includes castle-like Cook Hall, built in 1897 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Top Things to do in Bloomington-Normal
The Quad at Illinois State Uniersity. Photo: Bob Stefko

Kids love the art studio at the Children's Discovery Museum in Normal, where three floors of exhibits allow hands-on learning through play.

Ewing Cultural Center in Bloomington includes an outdoor theater for the highly regarded summer Illinois Shakespeare Festival plus a mansion and gardens to tour.

Ewing Cultural Center
Ewing Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Illinois Office of Toursim.

Support artisans and farmers of developing nations at Bloomington's Crossroads Handcrafts of the World, which sells fair-trade goods and food.

Find artisan chocolates, women's fashions, jewelry and handmade cards at The Garlic Press, a longtime Normal cookware store and now one-of-a-kind gift shop.

Where to eat

More than 200 restaurants, 65 unique to the region, tempt diners.

Next to Illinois State University, revitalized Uptown Normal boasts an eclectic mix—record stores next to outfitters next to student-friendly eateries, such as calzone-slinging DP Dough.

Epiphany Farms hosts meals for special events and grows food for its namesake French-influenced eatery, set in an old Bloomington firehouse. Anju Above occupies the building's upper level and serves Neapolitan-style pizza.

Epiphany Farms
Epiphany Farms. Photo courtesy of Illinois Office of Tourism.

Farther from campus, order a flight of local brews and a bite from the shareables menu in the cavernous, industrial beer hall at Destihl Brewery.

Indulge your sweet tooth with turtles, creams and toffee at The Chocolatier Inc. in Bloomington. The shop sells bulk candy and Italian ice, too.

Where to stay

Architecture and history make for a fascinating stay at the Vrooman Mansion. Guest rooms offer a taste of 1900s-style luxury. Eat breakfast at the table where Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan once dined.

The Hyatt Place, conveniently located in Uptown, boasts a rooftop terrace and indoor pool. Plus, it's pet-friendly.

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