Tandem Travel Tips: Bloomington, Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA

Bloomington, Indiana was home before starting our adventure. It has always been my home and Brittany joined after undergrad.
Our little oasis in Indiana is home to Indiana University and the heart of Hoosier Country. In this town, we are all spoiled by the amenities and industry that surround such a junction. For being a town of nearly one hundred thousand folks, there is a bounty of arts, restaurants, and recreational parks. As a long-time resident, I am excited to share some of our favorite places to visit in my hometown.

Steve’s mom, Robin, water skiing on Lake Monroe, August 2018.

Lake Monroe

Nestled in South Central Indiana, Bloomington sits cradled amongst the hills and hardwood forests of the American Midwest. One should not overlook the bountiful wilderness that surrounds the town. A great representation of this is Lake Monroe.
Utilized for recreation and Bloomington’s municipal water supply, Lake Monroe became Indiana’s largest damned water source after being completed in 1965.  The lake is dotted with state recreational parks, Hoosier National Forest, marinas, and private residences. Lake Monroe has been a part of many of my recreational endeavors and will continue to be a special part of Bloomington.

The Le Petit Cafe Window on The B-Line Trail.

The B-Line

Bloomington continues to evolve and become more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. The biggest development has been the main greenway through the town, the B-Line Trail.
The B-Line Trail took the place of an old abandoned railway running north to south, right through the heart of downtown. In recent years the town has begun to embrace the greenway and is continuing to develop shops, residences, and parks along its path.
The B-Line Trail is inspiring and allows safe and convenient access to the town by foot or bike which is great for your daily commute or recreational jaunt.

Where to stop along The B-Line Trail:

The Le Petit Cafe Window on Saturday mornings, Cardinal Spirits, Hopscotch Coffee, Artisan Alley, Friendly Beast Cidery

One of the market stalls at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market.

Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market

Like any good city or aspiring town, Bloomington has done an exceptional job allowing direct access to local and fresh produce through its farmers’ markets. Depending on the season, you can find the main event either downtown in the City Hall parking lot or in Harmony School. There is also a Tuesday Market next to the downtown Bloomingfoods June through September.
The Market routinely pairs itself with a showcase of artists, buskers, and local campaigners to showcase the variety of characters in Bloomington. Brittany and I’s connection to our community often shines through during our visits to these markets. Beyond access to local greens, eggs, and coffee, we routinely find ourselves basking in the company of our peers, friends, and family.

Our favorite stands to visit at the market:

  • Risin’ Creek Creamery for the eggs
  • Hunter’s Honey Farm for the honey sticks
  • Brown County Coffee for a cup of hot coffee or cold brew
  • Heartland Family Farms for flowers or produce
  • Barnhouse Farms for local soap
  • Padgett’s Plants for seedlings and garden goodies

Upland Brewpub on West 11th Street in Bloomington, Indiana.

Upland Brewing Company

One of Bloomington’s six microbreweries, Upland is the largest in town and also where Brittany and I met while working together. For craft enthusiasts and craft curious alike, Upland is a hub for Bloomingtonians to gather, eat, and relax.
The first location is just northwest of downtown and has grown into somewhat of a compound. The brick-faced, yellow-sided structure is the original building and is still home to the brewpub. Any first-time visitors should begin here. You’ll immediately feel the lively atmosphere walking through the doors. New and old faces can be found casually sharing enjoying one another’s company while staff quickly and efficiently zips around the large dining room and patio. It’s a special place to meet, unwind, eat delicious food, drink tasty beer, and gather with friends. I’m sure you’ll find something to come back for once you visit.

Oak foeders in The Woodshop, Upland’s sour brewing facilty and tasting room.

Just west of the brewpub you’ll find a niche experience for those over who are 21+. The Wood Shop is Upland’s sour beer production facility complete with tours and a tasting room. The space is outfitted with half a dozen massive wood tanks, called foeders, that are quite the showpieces. Beyond the foeders are hundreds of old whiskey and wine barrels.
This mecca for sour beer is a place to appreciate, understand, and get your hand on this curious, distinct, and elusive beer. And if you’re lucky your tour guide or bartender might be a head brewer, member of quality control team, or beer savant.
Last, but not least, if you’re looking for a little adventure on the west side of Bloomington and a part of Upland that is a bit off the beaten path for non-locals, go check out the Profile Parkway tap room. Located at the main production brewery, the taproom has ten lines and access to a variety of takeout beers and sours. If you’re around on Sundays and want to see the local crowd, go check out $2 pint days.
Food to try: The Blue Flame Burger, nachos, brew fries, The Three Little Pigs
Beer to drink: Dragonfly IPA, Bad Elmer’s Porter, Teddy Bear Kisses
Sours to explore: Revive, Crimson, Sour Reserve.

Showalter Fountain and Lilly Library on Indiana University Bloomington’s campus.

Indiana University Bloomington

The IU Bloomington campus is the linchpin of our town and the reason Bloomington has its identity. Founded in 1838, just 20 years after Bloomington became a town, the university has educated and shared with students and its community for over 180 years.
Having so many years to grow in tandem, the town and campus cradle one another beautifully. The town square is just west of The Sample Gates and oldest buildings on campus. Know best for its Jacob’s School of Music, Kelley School of Business, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Maurer School of Law, the university pulls from across the country and around the globe.   

Kelley School of Business on Indiana University Bloomington’s Campus. </font

The large presence of the university creates another interesting phenomenon. Bloomington itself breathes with the cycles of the university. The arrival of the students in the fall brings the onset of the town’s high season. During the school year, less the breaks, the town is bursting with youth and the local businesses hum along vibrantly. When summer comes, the town becomes quiet and only a fraction of the university operates. As a local year-round resident, it’s surely a treat to enjoy the town through its cycles. However, there are things to enjoy in town any time of year.
Where to stop on campus: IU Arboretum, Showalter Fountain, Lilly Library, Grunwald Gallery, Jordan Hall Greenhouse, Kirkwood Observatory, Assembly Hall

Lily pads and flowers in the IU Arboretum.

Entertainment and Nightlife

Like any good college town, Bloomington has a variety of theaters, galleries, wineries, breweries, and dance venues. The options are vast for a town of 85,000 residents, accounting for the transient student population of over 40,000 young adults. There should be no difficulty finding an experience or event to look forward to.
Our favorite places to grab a drink: Upland Profile Parkway, The Woodshop, The Bishop, The Tap, Function Brewing, Switchyard Brewing, Oliver Winery
Where we dance: The Backdoor
Where to see a show: The Bluebird, The Bishop, The Blockhouse
Out on the town: The Comedy Attic, IU Cinema, The Buskirk Chumley, Cardinal Stage

Many of our favorite faces from Bloomington at our farewell dinner.

Restaurants

Want to expand your culinary experiences while just wandering down the street? There is a restaurant or treat for everyone in Bloomington. Beyond your traditional Midwestern American cuisine, you will find eateries of worldly influence, distinguished creameries, and spots that cater to all dietary needs. Don’t hesitate to read a few menus along the way.
Our favorite breakfasts: The Runcible Spoon or Bloomington Bagel Company
Where to get a sweet treat: Cresent Donuts, The Rainbow Bakery, Hartzell’s Ice Cream, The Chocolate Moose, The Runcible Spoon
A great vegetarian or vegan bite: The Owlery
Quirky little grocery spots: Lucky’s Market or Bloomingfoods
The best international fare: Korea Restaurant, Siam House, Little Tibet, Burma Restaurant, Rush Hour Cafe, Anatolia
Where to get a cuppa joe: Hopscotch Coffee or The Pourhouse Cafe
Cheese, please: The Goat Conspiracy
Mmm, pizza: Rockit’s Famous Pizza

Just a small part of the Bloomington Community Farmer’s Market.

All in all, we’re proud to call Bloomington home and happy to be able to share some of our favorite spots. If you’re looking for something unique to do or people to spend time with, we always have suggestions. And for those of you from Bloomington, we’d love to hear about some of your favorites in the comments below.
Up next: Reykjavik, Iceland.
Travel on, friends.
Stephan

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