We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to begin a regular, monthly section to feature destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips enriching and entertaining.
Driving a little more than five hours West of Charleston brings you to one of Indiana’s most beloved areas, Bloomington. Bloomington (“B-Town”) has less than 100K residents, but also numerous students at Indiana University, a stellar institution with a beautiful campus. Hoosier pride is apparent in the red and white color schemes throughout the town. Hospitality is a big deal in Indiana and from the moment you arrive in Bloomington, you feel welcome. Here are some recommendations to help inspire a weekend traveler getaway in Bloomington.
Where to Stay in Bloomington
Bloomington has several hotels, motels, and bed & breakfasts. Traditional hotels, such as the Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn, are priced just right. Specialty inns, like the Grant Street and Showers Inn, have a little more character and attention to detail than typical hotels. The historic Showers Inn has modern conveniences and upscale amenities, while the Grant Street Inn is within waking distance of town, offers free parking, and has 40 uniquely styled rooms.
Where to Dine in Bloomington
Mother Bear’s Pizza tops the list of eats in B-Town, serving gourmet pizzas, vegetarian dishes, subs, salads, and pastas. Their pizza sauces range from traditional red sauce to sriracha and parmesan garlic white sauce and the flavor combinations are sure to please serious foodies. Mother Bear’s Pizza is impressive!
If craft beer is your pleasure, the Upland Brewing Company, with six locations (many offering tours), is a killer spot. My favorite is the Cherry Barrel-Aged Fruited Sour Ale. Sit on their brew-pub’s art-lined patio and enjoy contemporary pub-grub such as the Mediterranean Salad (quinoa, Kalamata olives, pickled red onions, & roasted red pepper feta spread) or the Turkey & Guacamole Sandwich (Cuban bread with bacon, Cheddar, & chipotle aioli). Ask for a side of Blue Flame sauce!
For a quick bite and cheap prices, visit Darn Good Soup. Their soups (such as Chicken Tortilla, Smashed Pumpkin, and Manhattan Clam Chowder) are a favorite among college students and 9 to 5’ers. Darn Good Soup has creations for vegans, vegetarians, and those who are gluten-free, too.
What to Do on Your Weekend Trip
Two hundred miles of bike trails, several golf courses, and boating opportunities await you in Bloomington, Indiana. Boat and kayak rentals are available at Monroe Lake. BTown’s urban trails allow for bike and foot traffic. Take the B-Line Trail, that runs through town and connects to the rail trail (even more trails to explore), for lovely scenery and great exercise.
The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center is a one-of-a-kind place to visit on the South side. The Dalai Lama has visited this peaceful setting seven times in the past.
If you visit Bloomington in the fall, attend a college football game. Cheer on the IU Hoosiers, a Big Ten team.
Those traveling with children will love WonderLab, one of the top 25 science centers in the country. Don’t miss the live animals on the second floor! Urban Air is another family favorite with dozens of wall-to-wall indoor trampolines, fitness classes, and sports training.
My favorite thing to do in BTown is to rent a Pedego electric bike and ride around town, enjoying Indiana University’s stunning campus. Take a photo at the Sample Gates, the picturesque entrance to IU. Stop in the campus’ Lilly Library (bike lock is provided) and see this internationally known jewel with a fascinating rare book section. Exhibits vary but you can almost always see a copy of the Gutenberg Bible and many of John James Audobon’s “Birds of America” prints. When you’ve worked up a thirst, drop by Rainbow Bakery, an all vegan shop with tasty treats, for cold sodas, flavored waters, teas, and coffee drinks.
Bloomington is also home to boutique shopping, wineries, art museums, and farmers’ markets.
Weekend Trip to Bloomington, IN
Bloomington, Indiana is a fabulous place for a weekend getaway. I missed out not traveling to Indiana when I lived in West Virginia and now I realize just how much I missed. While myself and friends often traveled to Southern and Eastern destinations, a trip to the West of our state was hardly ever considered. A trip to Indiana is a must. BTown will convince you of that. Safe travels.