Home to Lil’Bub the cat, record labels JAGJAGUWAR and Secretly Canadian, the famed Kinsey Institute, and John Cougar Mellencamp, Bloomington feels hidden away although it’s pretty centrally located. It’s far enough from the city to feel like farm country, but close enough to a major airport to make getting there super easy. And once you’re there—we’re told—you won’t have a reason to leave. (“There’s no reason to go to Indi ever,” is common advice around there.)
We had a blast on our weekend trip to Bloomington this fall, thanks in large part to the people we met there. Although college basketball has been Bloomington’s major claim to fame in the past, we found that there’s an energetic and growing community of people who are working to establish the college town’s identity apart from the university through theater, art, music, and tech stuff. There are also some pretty tasty restaurants & fun bars, including a brewery, not to mention a food co-op, a farmer’s market, a beautiful vineyard, and a walkable downtown just outside campus.
There’s a lot going on in Bloomington — the week we were in town, rapper Danny Brown performed at the Bluebird, and bands from all over the world performed at Lotus Fest, one of Bloomington’s many, many festivals. The university is home to a renown school of music, and while the city has a permanent collection of public art along the 3.1 mile B-Line trail and throughout the city, the city also invests in local artists through multiple grant cycles a year.
Bloomington is also near a lot of places you should probably visit like Nashville, TN, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
- Around 40% of Bloomington’s population of 80,000 people is students, who tend to vacate the city for the summer.
- Bloomington is 45 minutes from Indiana International Airport.
- Bloomington has public transit and 69 miles of bikeways, trails, and paths.
Downtown & surrounding neighborhoods: A small cross hatch of major avenues stretches between the town square and campus. Along these streets you’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, theaters, bars, record stores, and thrift shops, as well as a few parks, the B-Line bike trail, and Bloomingfoods food-coop. Just outside the downtown center, Bloomington streets are lined by trees and gorgeous old Craftsman and Victorian style homes with shady lawns and porches. Look for rentals in the Hawthorne area 10 minutes from downtown and the Bryant Park area, farther south.
Bloomington Playwrights Project: The BPP is the only theater company in the state that does only new plays, high-level productions with professional actors. Playwrights: submit!
Lake Monroe: Double-decker pontoon boats. Double-decker pontoon boats. Double-decker pontoon boats. There’s also camping, kayaking, canoeing, and camping at Monroe Lake in the Hoosier National Forrest, about a 20 minute drive from the center of town.
Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center: In 1979, the Dalai Llama’s brother founded the Tibetan Buddhist Cultural Center; today a monastery, a cultural building, two traditional Tibetan Stupas, and miles of walking paths are spread out over 108 acres. You can walk the trails or practice various kinds of meditation or yoga here, and rumor has it you can rent a yurt to sleep in for up to a few days at a time.
SproutBox: Bloomington’s start up incubator is a mix of product developers, creatives and business experts who set up shop in Bloomington in 2009 and have been creating companies ever since. This year they’ll be a sponsor of The Combine, a technology and innovation conference held in Bloomington each year, where the keynote speaker will be Wikipedia founder and CEO Jimmy Wales.
Oliver Vineyards: Oliver is the perfect place for a picnic (or a wedding). It’s small but idyllic, tastings are real cheap, and you can make a lunch at the meat & cheese counter before uncorking a local wine out on the lawn.
International Restaurant Row: Along 4th Street extending east from the university is a surprising variety of international restaurants fostered by the academic community, serving Tibetan, Burmese, Chinese, Indian, Turkish, or Thai food. (But you should still get the biscuits & gravy from FARMBloomington. Yum.)
- Rents: 1 bedrooms for between $580 and $800 a month
- Coffee: Large brew for $2.55
- Brunch: $12
- Bar: beer, $3; booze, $4
- Gas: $3.48/gallon
Indianapolis: 50 miles, 1 hour.
Louisville: 100 miles, 2 hours.
Chicago: 230 miles, 4 hours.
St. Louis: 250 miles, 4 hours.
Nashville: 250 miles, 4.5 hours.
Detroit: 340 miles, 5 hours.
Summer Commune 2014
July 1-31, 2014