Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington, Indiana

Things to do - general

Bloomington is a city in and the county seat of Monroe County in the southern region of the U.S. state of Indiana. It is the seventh-largest city in Indiana and the fourth-largest outside the Indianapolis metropolitan area. According to the Monroe County History Center, Bloomington is known as the “Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana.” The city was established in 1818 by a group of settlers from Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Virginia who were so impressed with “a haven of blooms” that they called it Bloomington.

Bloomington is the home to Indiana University Bloomington. Established in 1820, IU Bloomington has 49,695 students, as of September 2016, and is the original and largest campus of Indiana University. Most of the campus buildings are built of Indiana limestone.

Bloomington is also the home of the Indiana University School of Education, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University Press, the Kelley School of Business, the Kinsey Institute, the Indiana University School of Optometry, the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute, and the Indiana University School of Informatics.

Bloomington has been designated a Tree City for 32 years, as of 2015. The city was also the location of the Academy Award-winning 1979 movie Breaking Away, featuring a reenactment of Indiana University’s annual Little 500 bicycle race. Monroe County’s famous limestone quarries are also featured in the movie.

What to see what to do

Nature’s Splendor

  • Hoosier National Forest. The Hoosier National Forest, in the hills of south central Indiana, is a property managed by the United States Forest Service. It has a total area of 201,047 acres and provides a wide mix of opportunities and resources for people to enjoy. Rolling hills, back-country trails, and rural crossroad communities make this small but beautiful forest a favorite.
  • Lake Monroe (Monroe Resevoir). Lake Monroe is a reservoir located about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Bloomington, Indiana. The lake is the largest in Indiana with 10,750 acres (44 km²) of water spread over the counties of Monroe and Brown. It is also home to 13,202 acres (53 km²) of protected forest and three recreational areas (Fairfax, Hardin Ridge, and Paynetown). Rock musician John Mellencamp is a native of the area, and resides on the shore of the lake. The largest marina situated on the lake is the Fourwinds Resort and Marina with over 800 boats. The reservoir provides abundant fishing throughout the year, and recreational opportunities such as boating and water skiing attract visitors from throughout Indiana and the Midwest.


  • Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center and Kumbum Chamtse Ling Temple (Tibetan Cultural Center. Located on 108 acres in the southeast corner of Bloomington, the property contains the Kumbum Chamtse Ling Monastery, the Cultural Center, two traditional Tibetan Stupas (Tib. Chorten), four retreat cottages, and a teaching pavilion. Guided tours of the buildings and grounds are regularly available for individuals, with large group tours of 10 or more given for a modest fee of $35. Don’t miss the Tibetan Butter Sculpture, large library of books on Buddhism, and the gallery of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Jangchub Chorten and the Kalachakra Stupa are traditional Buddhist monuments to the Enlightened Mind of the Buddha and were dedicated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his visits to the TMBCC.


Theatre, dance and classical music

  • Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP). Most shows run Thurs-Sat 8 pm; Sun 2 pm. This not-for-profit arts organization is dedicated to the furthering of new original plays and theatre. The fair is almost exclusively original work and often by local writers. BPP is also home to several playwriting contests and youth theatre workshops. This is a great place to both see theatre and get involved as a volunteer. Partially Accessible.
  • Brown County Playhouse (The Playhouse). S Just a 20 minute drive from downtown Bloomington and nestled in the heart of Brown County, the Playhouse serves up light summer fare including musicals and contemporary classics. The theatre is in historic Nashville, a 19th century artist colony made famous for its fall foliage. Have dinner, see a show, and check out Nashville’s 350+ shops and galleries.
  • Cardinal Stage Company. There may be additional matinee performances for children’s shows. Cardinal Stage Company is Bloomington’s only dedicated professional regional theatre company, producing both classical and contemporary works, along with shows for young audiences, musicals, and new works still in development. The company also offers extensive outreach programs in an effort to cultivate a lifelong passion for the arts in audiences of diverse ages, cultures and economic backgrounds.
  • IU Auditorium. Be sure to see what’s playing at this 3,200-seat theatre, home to a wide range of events including touring Broadways productions, (often free) lectures, student events, conferences, church services, university ceremonies, and popular music concerts. While you’re there, check out the The Hall of Murals, home to the priceless and newly-restored Thomas Hart Benton murals, also a regal setting for wedding ceremonies and intimate receptions. Accessible.
  • Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center (IU Department of Theatre & Drama). Since 1887 there has been a vibrant and active theatre community at Indiana University, and the present day Department of Theatre and Drama continues that tradition by performing two musicals and six “straight plays” each year at the newly constructed Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center in the heart of the campus arts corridor. Enjoy the plush seating and traditional proscenium of the Ruth N. Halls Theatre or find edgier fair in the black box at the Wells-Metz. All productions feature our graduate MFA students and their work in addition to a large pool of talented faculty and undergraduates. Coming soon (in 2011), the newly renovated University Theatre will feature more student-work in actors’ studios and a brand new cinema.
  • Musical Arts Center (the MAC). The Musical Arts Center, known as the MAC, is Indiana University and the Jacob’s School of Music’s premier performance facility. It features acoustical design and technical capabilities that are among the best in the nation. The backstage area occupies more than half of the building and provides state-of-the-art technical space for producing eight fully staged operas a year. The MAC is also home to the School of Music Department of Ballet. The main stage, which is often compared to that of the Metropolitan Opera, has European-style seating for 1,460. Opera and concert goers at the MAC enjoy intermissions in the Hoagy Carmichael Foyer, named for the Indiana native who enjoyed an illustrious career as a composer/songwriter. Concerts are also held in the lobby area.
  • Simon Music Center (IU Jacob’s School of Music). The SoM has two smaller, lesser-known concert halls that are home to their recitals, chamber concerts, and solo exhibitions. Auer concert hall, a 400-seat auditorium with a gorgeous high-beamed, coffered ceiling, and two side terraces along with Ford-Crawford Hall, a more intimate 100-seat auditorium, are the place to go to see world-class classical music in Bloomington for free. As a top-ranked school in music performance, IU and the SoM not only attracts superstar performers, but it educates them. Keep an eye out for Joshua Bell in particular, who is a resident instructor. Performances happen several times a week, watch the SoM newsletter Prelude for a calendar.
  • Theatre of the People (TOP). Since 2008, Theatre of the People (TOP) has been a non-profit community arts organization founded in to showcase modern art for community’s sake. Producing new and original performance art from both new and old works to facilitate creative artistic processes in an ensemble setting within the community. TOP focuses on “inclusive theatre” meaning that no interested party is turned away, and all who wish to participate are given some role in a production. 

Museums and galleries

  • Indiana University Art Museum. No matter what your perspective, you can experience art from all angles at the Indiana University Art Museum. From world-renowned architect I.M. Pei’s soaring triangular atrium, to galleries filled with extraordinary works of art from all corners of the globe, the IU Art Museum will engage, stimulate, and satisfy your curiosity about the worlds of art. Since its establishment in 1941, the IU Art Museum has grown from a small university teaching collection into one of the foremost university art museums in the country. Today, the IU Art Museum’s internationally acclaimed collections, ranging from ancient gold jewelry and African masks to paintings by Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, include over 40,000 objects representing nearly every art-producing culture throughout history.
  • Kinsey Institute for the Study of Sex, Gender, and Reproduction (The Kinsey Institute). Founded in 1947, the mission of The Kinsey Institute is to promote interdisciplinary research and scholarship in the fields of human sexuality, gender, and reproduction. The Institute carries out this mission through its archives, research faculty, education and of studentsand the community. There are often public art exhibits, concerts, and demonstrations at the Institute’s 3rd St. location. Visit the website for information on events. 
  • Mathers Museum of World Cultures. The Mathers Museum’s collections consist of over 20,000 objects and 10,000 photographs representing cultures from each of the world’s inhabited continents. These materials have been collected and curated to serve the Museum’s primary mission as a teaching museum within a university setting. The Museum’s collections strengths include traditional musical instruments, photographs of Native Americans and the Bloomington community, Inupiaq and Yupik Eskimo materials, and Pawnee material culture, among others.
  • WonderLab (The Museum of Science, Health, & Technology). WonderLab is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to provide opportunities for people of all ages, especially children, to experience the wonder and excitement of science through hands-on exhibits and programs that stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration, and foster lifelong learning. Voted one of Parents Magazine’s top 25 Science Museums in the country, WonderLab is a great place to bring kids for an hour or an afternoon. Some favorite exhibits include Grapevine Climber, a dramatic two-story climbing maze, The Bubble-Airium, and the Cosmic Dance, a dancefloor composed of five translucent floor panels which briefly light up as cosmic ray particles hit them from outer space. Accessible.
  • Lilly Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. This internationally known rare book library contains more than 400,000 books, more than seven million manuscripts and 100,000 pieces of sheet music. Exhibits vary throughout the year. On permanent exhibit is the Gutenberg Bible (printed before 1456) and John James Audubon’s Birds of America prints.

Bloomington university

Country United States of America
Languages spokenEnglish
Currency usedU$ Dollar
Area (km2)60.70 km2

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