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Bloomington, Indiana

By Ashley Wrye

People don’t normally choose Indiana as a travel destination unless they’re drawn to racing or basketball, the state’s two most notable by-products. However, nestled among the soft hills of southern Indiana and just out of reach of the Indianapolis to the north lies a town with much to offer.
Bloomington, Indiana is most notably a college town; and with good reason since the population doubles when school is in session. Indiana University is not only Bloomington’s heart, but also its fingerprint, leaving its unique impression on travelers.

Although the rest of the state is not known for having great depth in culture, Indiana University continually ranks the highest among the nation’s top music schools. Consequently, music spills over into the entire town and generates such locally and internationally known music festivals as the Bloomington Early Music Festival every May and the Lotus World Music Festival in September. Bars around town, most notably The Bluebird, are also known for offering an eclectic array of acts.

Adding to the charm of the small town are many locally-owned stores and restaurants. Kirkwood Street, which runs into the entrance of campus, and the town square are the central locations for many of these shops. Local residents and students are almost vigilant about keeping the majority of this area inhabited by local merchants; so much so, that protestors initially camped out on the sidewalk when the first Starbucks in town was put near Kirkwood. However, the outskirts of town consist largely of national chain stores and restaurants.

The best times to visit Bloomington are spring and fall, when it truly lives up to its name. Many signs declare it as a “Tree City, USA” and that title is not taken lightly. The city enforces many restrictions when it comes to the care of trees and past patrons have donated land to the university with the stipulation that it may not be developed upon. Backpackers can also enjoy hikes in the nearby Hoosier National Forest, the Brown County State Park and around Lake Monroe.

Those who prefer only a taste of the outdoors can get a good sampling at nearby Oliver Winery. The winery offers year-round wine tasting and opens its grounds up to those who want to buy a bottle and enjoy an afternoon. The winery is just one of many places that offer entertainment and goods at a reasonable cost. Many of the businesses cater to the low-income life of students. That combined with the already low costs of small-town living produce hundreds of bargains in entertainment and dining. Getting around town and around campus is easy with two separate bus systems.
Bloomington is a little-traveled treasure to those who don’t attend or know someone who attends Indiana University, which is shameful because of all the culture, entertainment, dining and shopping it fosters. Those willing to make the trip to Bloomington will find a place that offers the amenities of a city without the drawbacks that come with metropolitan travel.

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