Though IU is often the focus of visitors to Bloomington, the town itself has more to offer than people usually expect. The off-beat cultural offerings usually found only in big cities are what keep people coming back, and the campus has tons to explore. Check some things off this list, and we guarantee you’ll start falling in love too.
Take a hike.
Bloomington is full of beautiful, typical southern Indiana vistas. Take a hike around or a swim in Lake Monroe, which is 23,952 acres of water that stretches across 3 counties. Or, for something a little closer, try Griffy Lake. There, you can take in the scenery and get a little exercise, too. If you’re feeling ambitious, rent a kayak and explore the lake.
Ride a bike.
Home to the renowned Little 500, biking in Bloomington is a pretty popular pastime. If you can’t actually make it to the race itself, which is held in April every year, try exploring the town by bike. You can pedal through IU’s campus or utilize one of the bike trails in the city. Either way, you know you’re paying homage to Bloomington’s strong cycling history.
Have fun at a festival.
Bloomington’s many festivals happen almost year-round, and there’s no better way to get a taste of the culture. With samplings of food from restaurants all over town, Taste of Bloomington is great for those who aren’t afraid to loosen their belts a notch or two. Lotus, which usually happens in early fall, brings a burst of culture through visual and performing arts. The Fourth Street festival exhibits artists and craftsmen, and the annual Week of Chocolate is perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Sink the Biz.
Nick’s English Hut is an English-style pub on Kirkwood Avenue, and Sink the Biz is its signature drinking game. You’ll grab a bucket of beer and take turns pouring into a floating cup. Whoever sinks it, drinks. It might sound simple, but the relaxed atmosphere and mild competition will bring on some great memories. Sinking the Biz at Nick’s is a Bloomington staple for students, residents, alumni and even visitors, and it’s an absolute Bloomington must.
Check out the Farmers’ Market.
Stretching from April to late November, the Farmers’ Market can almost always provide you with some of the freshest locally-grown and organic foods you’ll ever eat. The emphasis on health and environment is strong in Bloomington, and the market is a great way to see that spirit. Even if you’re not buying, walking through will give you the chance to catch a glimpse of true Hoosier pride.
Stop by Showalter Fountain.
If you’re taking a late night walk around campus, stop by and gaze at the Showalter Fountain. It’s located in the heart of campus, and the statues are famed for being constantly “misplaced” by rowdy students.
If you’re really adventurous, take a swim. You might get yelled at by security, but the illicit dip will be worth it.
Go to a basketball game at Assembly Hall.
IU is famous for many things, but nothing is bigger than basketball. The Hoosiers might not be making it into the NCAA fnals next season, but don’t tell that to the fans.
Assembly Hall is still one of the most treasured stadiums in the country, and the five championship banners are like a museum exhibit that’s not worth skipping.
Turn a page at the Lilly Library.
Not your average library, the Lilly holds some of IU’s (and the world’s) greatest treasures. This place specializes in rare books, and it has one of the most impressive collections in the world, including a Gutenburg Bible and Audubon’s “Birds of America,” a copy of which sold for $11.5 million. Best of all is the fact that the library allows people to use most of the books, so after a short registration process, you could be holding a first edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
Lounge like a student at the Indiana Memorial Union.
If you really want to see what students do in between classes, stop by the IMU. The multiple lounges offer a great place to rest, people watch or even take a nap — you’ll see plenty of students doing just that.
Pick up an official IU sweatshirt — or any other collegiate gear your heart desires — at the three-level bookstore. Afterward, take a seat in the marketplace and pick from a variety of both fast food and healthy eating options.
See the stars at the Kirkwood Observatory.
Almost every Wednesday, the Kirkwood Observatory is opened to the public. Come at night to stargaze, but make sure you check the online schedule. Viewings may be canceled suddenly due to bad weather.
Looking for a cheap date? Take your lady or guy here. It’s the most romantic — and free — place on campus.
Get frisky at the Kinsey Institute.
Put down that Cosmo and head over to the Kinsey Institute. One of the world’s foremost sexual research facilities, the Kinsey Institute has art exhibits where you can see stuff older than your dad’s Playboys.
This is a fun activity for a lazy afternoon, but just make sure to leave the kids at home.
Take in the scenery at the Arboretum.
Arguably the most beautiful place on campus, the Arboretum is perfect if you’re relaxing with a good book or cramming for an exam.
Even for the most rushed visitor, this area will make you stop with awe.