The hills of south-central Indiana cradle a college town that nurtures vibrant arts and food scenes.

By The editors of
May 28, 2014

What to do

BEAD (Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District) You’ll find museums, galleries and performing-arts venues along with nearly 90 restaurants and more than 100 shops in these 60 blocks. Make sure to stop for a handmade treat at BLU Boy Chocolate, a self-guided tour of the Beaux Arts courthouse anchoring the district, and a peek at local history at the free Farmer House Museum.

B-Line Trail A 3.1-mile converted railroad carries walkers, joggers, bikers, skateboarders and strollers from the woodsy north and south to the heart of town. Public art adds interest.

B-Line Trail

Forests More than 230 miles of hiking, horseback and mountain bike trails traverse Hoosier National Forest's 200,000 acres. Or drop a fishing line or take out a rowboat in Yellowwood State Forest.

Indiana University The limestone Sample Gates form a gateway from campus to downtown. Take time to see the just-renovated I.M. Pei-designed Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, with a lighted totem that glows rainbow colors at night. The Lilly Library—home to a world-class book and manuscript collection that includes one of the world’s 14 original Gutenberg Bibles and Ian Fleming’s James Bond manuscripts—is expected to reopen in 2021.

Indiana University

Most High Adventure Outfitters Let staff gear you up and lead you on an outdoor adventure via canoe, kayak or mountain bike.

Oliver Winery One of Indiana’s best-known wineries pours generous tastings of their award-winning wines. For a bit of background, take a free 25-minute walking tour.

The Tap This place is all about the beer; choose from 90 gleaming taps or off the list of 400. Enjoy live music many nights, and nibble on fare like Tap Fries with four dipping sauces or a house-made pizza.

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center For an introduction to Tibetan culture and artforms, schedule a tour or take the self-guided tour of the 108-acre grounds and its structures.

Wonderlab Museum of Science, Health and Technology Kids learn how things like bubbles, sound and solar power work with two floors of hands-on exhibits and the outdoor WonderGarden space.

Wonderlab Museum of Science, Health and Technology

Where to eat

FarmBloomington Its farm-to-table comfort food has garnered this restaurant a reputation as one of the best in Indiana. Start the day with a plant-based breakfast or come for dinner entrees like lamb stew or honey sesame chicken.

Mother Bear's Pizza The affordable pizza is “just right” in a casual setting. Try hot subs and pasta too.

Nick’s English Hut It’s neither British nor a hut, but a 93-year-old Bloomington staple (especially on game day) for beer in Mason jars and meaty Stromboli.

The Runcible Spoon Cafe and Restaurant This longtime local favorite still offers the fresh-ground coffee that first drew students and locals, but also has a solid, affordable menu that covers the bases from vegan to corned beef hash.

SmokeWorks The new spot draws raves for its dry rub barbecue smoked on Indiana hickory, as well as from-scratch sides and an extensive list of bourbon, whiskeys and moonshine.

Sweet Grass Strings of lights and fake palm trees set a laid-back feel perfect for BBQ.

Uptown Cafe Dine on food with a Cajun-Creole flair in an artsy setting.

Upland brewpub Pair craft beer with seasonal fare or pub favorites like blue corn chip nachos or a Hoosier pork tenderloin sandwich.

Where to stay

Biddle Hotel and Conference Center It’s all about location at this lodging in the heart of Indiana University. The 189 guest rooms form part of the Indiana Memorial Union complex; choose from smaller rooms to boutique two-room suites.

Graduate Bloomington Light fixtures shaped like basketball hoops and quilts with picket-fence designs reflect the Hoosier influence at this Kirkwood Avenue hotel, one of the newest in the Graduate collection.

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