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20 Fun & Best Things to Do in Bloomington, Illinois

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Known for its vibrant, historic museum square, Bloomington, Illinois, is full of interesting shops, delicious restaurants including farm-to-table options, and bars and nightlife. Located in Central Illinois, almost smack-dab between Chicago and St. Louis, this Illinois city has the benefit of being just a few hours from both.

Even so, there is much to do from Bloomington, such as visiting the McLean County Museum, taking a tour of the Miller Park Zoo, or going on a scenic walk or bike ride on the Constitution Trail. 

If you’re looking for even more activities, there are several historical sites including the David Davis Mansion and the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.

Don’t let this petite city’s size fool you into thinking there isn’t plenty to do here. History buffs may have a deeper appreciation for Bloomington, but many kinds of travelers can find their bliss here, too.

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – David Davis Mansion
  • Park to visit – Constitution Trail
  • Free activity – 3rd Sunday Market
  • Activity for kids – Miller Park Zoo
  • Activity for adults – Lil Beaver Brewery
  • Place to eat – Epiphany Farms Restaurant
  • Nightlife – Downtown Bloomington
  • Place to stay – Eastland Suites Hotel and Conference Center

Things to Do in Bloomington, Illinois

1. Visit Miller Park Zoo

A red panda at Miller Park Zoo
Miller Park Zoo / mpzs.org

Address: 1020 S Morris Ave, Bloomington, IL 61701

The Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington is a great place to take the whole family for a day out. Founded in 1891, the zoo has over 300 animals in its care.

Those resident critters include lions, tigers, bears, red pandas, and monkeys. There are also plenty of activities for the kids, including a petting zoo, a playground, and a train ride.

If you want to spend the day with family while having fun as an adult or a kid, then the Miller Park Zoo is the perfect place. You can even see the zoo staff feed the resident animals daily to add to the fun.

This zoo is hailed for its dedication to education and conservation, so you can know that you’re supporting a good cause while simultaneously having a good time. Are you looking for an all-day adventure? Look no further!

See Related: Day Trips from Chicago

2. Explore Downtown Bloomington

The Old Courthouse downtown
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock

Address: 517 N Main St, Bloomington, IL 61701

Outside of the museums, history buffs will love downtown Bloomington — particularly the White Place Historic District.

Wandering the historic streets of this city will give you the rush of being somewhere of significance, especially from beside the beautiful Old Courthouse building. You can even spend the day perusing the historic houses along White Place, North Clinton Boulevard, or Fell Avenue.

Especially if you decide to stay at the gorgeous Vrooman Mansion B&B built in 1869, nearby the mansion is the highly-rated Lucca Grill, an Italian-American dining and pizza joint operating since 1936, with an old-school vibe, antique bar, and tin ceiling.

For a different set of vibes, Jazz UpFront is downtown’s premier venue for live jazz, blues, and bluegrass featuring local artists. The intimate venue has friendly bartenders and incredible staff and is a hidden gem in Bloomington.

See Related: Things to Do in Illinois & Places to Visit

3. Visit the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site

David Davis Mansion State Historic Site Bloomington

Address: 1000 Monroe Dr, Bloomington, IL 61701

The David Davis Mansion is a must-see for any history lover, as it was finished in 1872 and is one of the protected historic places in Illinois. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Supreme Court Justice David Davis and his wife, Sarah Davis, once owned this beautiful Victorian home. The Mansion is now open for tours and is a popular spot for weddings and events. The grounds are also beautifully landscaped and there’s a lovely garden to explore.

Although Judge David Davis’ name might not be a household one, the historic mansion reminds visitors that Illinois played a monumental part in America’s history in the 19th century. So this Italianate and Second Empire-inspired home with a Victorian flare is a stunning reminder of Illinois’ place in history.

See Related: Places to Visit in the Midwest

4. Hike the Constitution Trail

Hike on the Constitution Trail bloomington
Pinaywife / TripAdvisor

Address: 200 N Main St, Bloomington, IL 61701

The Constitution Trail is a historic route and trail network covering 37 miles between Bloomington and Normal town. It is named as such because it was dedicated on the bicentennial anniversary of the United States Constitution in 1987.

The trail is perfect for hiking, biking, and rollerblading and is a great way to explore the area. It follows the abandoned line of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, so there are many different places to access the trail. If you’re looking for a challenging hike, some sections of the trail are more difficult than others.

But if you’re just looking for a stroll, plenty of flat sections make for an easy walk. No matter your fitness level, the Constitution Trail is a great way to get some exercise and fresh air.

See Related: Best Hiking Trails in the World

5. Pay a Visit to the Children’s Discovery Museum

Children’s Discovery Museum

Address: 101 E Beaufort St, Normal, IL 61761

The Children’s Discovery Museum is perfect for a fun day out with the kids and is only a six-minute drive from downtown Bloomington. This interactive museum is designed for toddlers through preteens and is a great way to spend a rainy day.

This museum is three stories of hands-on exhibits, and the kids will love exploring all the different areas, from Luckey Climber to the Art Studio or Dig It, as well as the many other exhibit areas. This interactive learning experience is a fun time for all.

In addition to the regular exhibits, the museum also offers special events and workshops throughout the year. There is also a sensory-friendly exhibit for children with autism or those who need sensory help.

Plus if you want to stay very nearby to the museum, head over to the Hyatt Place Bloomington/Normal. This hotel has a large swimming pool, chic accommodations, and is only a few miles from the Central Illinois Regional Airport.

See Related: Museums in the US You Need to Visit

6. Check Out the McLean County Museum of History

McLean County Museum of History

Address: 200 N Main St, Bloomington, IL 61701

The McLean County Museum of History is where you’ll learn about the local history of Bloomington/Normal. The museum is housed in a beautiful Victorian building showcasing preservation dating back to 1892 when the historical society was founded.

Across the seven galleries, the history museum houses over 18,000 artifacts, including over 15,000 rare books. The shining star of the McLean County Museum of History is the Abraham Lincoln in McLean County exhibit. This showcases Lincoln’s time in the area as a lawyer before becoming president.

Ticket prices hover around a few dollars per person unless you visit on a Tuesday. Tuesdays are free days at the McLean County Museum of History! If you’re curious about the Bloomington/Normal area’s history, you need to check out this museum.

See Related: Things to Do in Joliet, Illinois

7. Explore the 3rd Sunday Market

People buying stuffs at 3rd Sunday Market
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 1106 Interstate Dr, Bloomington, IL 61705

The Third Sunday Market is a monthly market for six months out of the year from May through October that takes place in downtown Bloomington. This market is perfect for visitors on a journey to find unique gifts, local produce, and handmade goods from over 450 vendors.

You’ll also find plenty of food and drink vendors, so you can grab a bite while browsing the market. Admission to the market is free, making this an excellent, free thing to do on your Bloomington vacation.

For easy access to this unique market, consider staying at the nearby Hawthorn Suites Bloomington. This hotel is just a short drive from the market, and it offers plenty of amenities to make your stay comfortable, such as a hot breakfast to get you going and an indoor pool.

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8. Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts

Address: 600 N East St, Bloomington, IL 61701

The Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) was built in 1921 to be the home of the American Passion Play, which performed for a century before ending in 2023. In its early days, it was known as Bloomington’s Scottish Rite Temple and was home to the largest stage west of New York with over 1,300 seats.

Throughout the year, the BCPA presents national and international touring artists, and between classes, presentations, and more, holds over 500 events annually. One of their frequent performing groups is the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, though you’ll also see plenty of theatrical offerings from community groups, students, or national tours.

There aren’t a lot of hotels in the area by BCPA, but you can stay somewhere just a few minutes away. The Quality Inn & Suites Bloomington will be your closest option to the center. This comfy accommodation is close to the BCPA and has an indoor pool, free parking, and a daily continental breakfast.

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9. Prairie Aviation Museum

Jet planes parked at Prairie Aviation Museum

Address: 2929 E Empire St., Bloomington, IL, 61704

The Prairie Aviation Museum (PAM) has been a place to learn about the history of aviation for decades. Fittingly, you can find the museum right by the area airport. PAM is housed in a World War II-era hangar and dates back to the early 1980s when it was originally founded.

You can also see a variety of restored aircraft, including a B-52 Bomber, air shows, and aviation events throughout the year. Prairie Aviation Museum also offers a variety of educational programs for kids and adults.

Best of all, the museum is also a way to learn about servicemen and women, and admission to the museum is free for military members. Not to mention the museum is great to explore with children since they are free to touch the aircraft and sit in the cockpits.

If you are visiting with little ones who love airplanes, consider staying near both the museum and the airport. For example, the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson is right by PAM and has both an indoor pool as well as a free daily breakfast.

See Related: North America Travel Guide

10. Visit Illinois State University

Fell Hall at Illinois State University
Willjay / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

Address: 100 N University St, Normal, IL 61761

Founded in 1857, Illinois State University is the oldest public university in Illinois. It is a top-ranked public university that hosts over 200 majors for its nearly 18,000 students. There are plenty of things to do at ISU, such as attending sporting events, visiting the library, or participating in the Illinois Shakespeare Festival at the Center for Performing Arts.

While here, you can also explore the surrounding town of Normal. Although it has over 50,000 residents, you’ll get a small-town feeling in Normal. This town is known largely for being home to ISU, but it’s also a great place to see boutiques, independent restaurants, and so much more.

Admission to tour the school is free, making this a great activity for visitors of all ages. If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby, consider the Courtyard by Marriott Bloomington-Normal. This hotel is just a short drive from campus, offering plenty of amenities to make your stay comfortable, such as an indoor pool, free parking, and much more.

See Related: Unknown Places to Visit in the US

11. Visit the Lil Beaver Brewery

Custom taps at Lil Beaver Brewery
Lil Beaver Brewery / lilbeaverbrewery.com

Address: 5 Finance Dr., Bloomington, IL, 61704

If you’re looking for a local spot to eat, drink, and play, you need not look further than the Lil Beaver Brewery. This local brewery offers 24 rotating beers on tap, and a variety of delicious food options such as burgers, wings, sandwiches, and a gaming room.

Most offerings change by season, though they always have a wide range of beverages on tap. From IPAs, Pilsners, Stouts, and many more, there are tastes for every beer aficionado.

The Lil Beaver Brewery is also perfect for watching a game or enjoying an evening with friends. They also have a pup-friendly patio to enjoy the weather and people-watch. Plus, kiddos are welcome to visit with their parents.

See Related: Best Breweries in Wisconsin

12. Prairie Vista Golf Course

The green at Prairie Vista Golf Course
Bloomington Parks / bloomingtonparks.org

Address: 502 W. Hamilton Rd., Bloomington, IL, 61704

Prairie Vista Golf Course is a Golf Digest “Places to Play” 4-star Golf Course. This course offers 18 holes of golf and a driving range where you can practice your swing.

Opened in 1991, Prairie Vista is in the American Contemporary Style. Its United States Golf Association Course and Slope Ratings are 72.2 and 129, respectively.

The course is also located in a beautiful setting. Bentgrass tees, greens, and fairways make this golf course a treat, plus there are water hazards to avoid on 16 of the 18 holes. These varieties of environments make for a slightly more challenging course.

If you need anything, you can also shop for low-priced gear at the nearby golf shop. Kids also play free after 2 pm, so Prairie Vista Golf Course is a great place to take the family. If planning a trip with the kids or on your own, be sure to check out their rates, tee times, and lessons for the whole family.

See Related: Best Golf Bachelor Party Destinations in the US

13. Evergreen Memorial Cemetery

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in the autumn
Evergreen Memorial Cemetery / evergreenmemorialcemetery.com

Address: 302 E Miller St, Bloomington, IL 61701

While all of Bloomington is full of history, there is undoubtedly more history in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. Founded in the early 1830s, the cemetery is the final resting place of many of Bloomington’s most notable residents.

Those late notable persons include Justice David Davis, MLB Hall of Famer Charles Radbourn, and former Vice President Adlai Stevenson. This cemetery is also far from macabre. It is a place of contemplation surrounded by shade trees, winding walking paths, and a wide range of grave sites to peruse–with courtesy.

Visitors will find many war memorials, such as the Civil War Veterans Section, the Spanish-American War Veterans Section, and about a dozen others. Because it collects memorials and the cemetery’s age, Evergreen is one of the most historical sites in Bloomington.

See Related: Visiting the Woolridge Monuments

14. Iron Coyote Challenge Park

A man doing a course at Iron Coyote Challenge Park
Iron Coyote Challenge Park / Facebook

Address: 4113 Oakland Ave., Bloomington, IL, 61704

For thrill-seekers and adventure lovers, Iron Coyote Challenge Park is the perfect place for you in Bloomington. This 20,000 sq/ft park offers a variety of obstacles and challenges for you to overcome, such as a rock climbing wall, zip lines, and more.

Among their offerings are high ropes courses with over 35 elements and four Ninja Warrior-inspired obstacle courses. A full-service cafe is also on-site to fuel you and the whole family for a day of adrenaline-powered activities.

Iron Coyote is one of the best places to celebrate if you plan on celebrating a birthday during your trip to Bloomington. It’s a favorite among kiddos and adventurous souls of all ages.

See Related: Best Places to Travel For Your Birthday

15. Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market

Address: 200 N Main Street, Bloomington, IL 61701

The Bloomington Farmers’ Market is perfect for fresh, local products in a producer-only market setting. This farmers market offers a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and more. You can also find locally made honey, cheese, bread, and other goods.

The outdoor Bloomington Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., May through October. Not to worry for visitors during the other half of the year since the indoor market takes place at the Grossinger Motors Arena from November through April.

Whether you visit the indoor market at Grossinger Motors Arena or the outdoor market along Main Street, you’re sure to find some locally-produced treasures. Among the dozens upon dozens of vendors in both markets, you’re bound to uncover something to suit everyone’s tastes in your travel party.

See Related: Thrifty Traveler Review

16. Normal Theater

Normal Theater

Address: 209 North Street, Normal, IL, 61761

Located in the heart of Uptown Normal, Illinois, the historic Normal Theater is an authentically restored 1937 Art Moderne cinema. This historic theater curates a mix of vintage as well as contemporary films. These showings include classic cinema, art house films, cult favorites, and international titles.

There aren’t showings every night, and frequently, each show is a one-and-done scenario, so keep your eyes out for favorites among the showtimes. Normal Theater is perfect for watching a movie or attending a live performance of music, dance, and more.

You can also find a concessions stand with snacks and drinks in the theater because no film viewing is perfect without popcorn. As it continues, the theater remains a vibrant piece of the city’s history.

See Related: Travel Movies for Inspiration to Explore

17. Pheasant Lanes Family Fun Center & Kegler’s Pub

Pheasant Lanes Family Fun Center & Kegler’s Pub
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 804 N Hershey Rd, Bloomington, IL 61704

Pheasant Lanes Family Fun Center & Kegler’s Pub is a family-friendly bowling alley with a mini-golf course, sand volleyball, and a pub. You can also find arcade games, virtual reality, and more at this family-centered location.

Their mini-golf course is open during spring, summer, and fall but is closed for winter. So, if you’re visiting with the snow, you’ll have to partake in one of the many other activities offered at the center.

Kegler’s Pub, located inside Pheasant Lanes, has a wide array of draft beers, a full bar, and big-screen TVs perfect for watching the big game — whatever your game may be. Their Beer Garden is also a fan-favorite location. Pheasant Lanes Family Fun Center & Kegler’s Pub hosts special events like live music and comedy shows.

See Related: Best Family Travel Hacks

18. Enjoy a Meal at Epiphany Farms Restaurant

Epiphany Farms Restaurant
EpiphanyFarms / TripAdvisor

Address: 220 East Front Street, Bloomington, IL, 61701

If you’re looking for high-quality, farm-to-table dining, look no further than Epiphany Farms Restaurant. The restaurant is best described as an open, rustic-chic eatery offering seasonal farm-to-table cooking with international influences.

Epiphany Farms stems from its namesake full-service farm and sources all its ingredients from local farms, so you know you’re getting the freshest food possible. Epiphany also works with regenerative farming techniques, which means they are as kind to the land and soil as possible. Regenerative farming helps keep the land usable for years to come.

Although they don’t have a massive menu, there is a range of options for dietary restrictions like vegan, pescatarian, and vegetarian eaters. You can also know that eating at Epiphany Farms Restaurant is a great way to support the local community, support sustainable farming, and enjoy a memorable meal with your loved ones.

See Related: Things to Do in Chicago

19. The Castle Theatre

Address: 209 E Washington St #1, Bloomington, IL 61701

First opened in 1916, The Castle Theatre has been the site of many music acts, live performances, tours, and more. It is most widely known as one of the foremost live music destinations in the region.

In addition, this venue also has three full bars offering a terrific selection of draft beers and wine along with your favorite spirits and non-alcoholic beverages. You can rest assured that if you need a refill during a show, you won’t have to wait too long with more than one bar to visit.

If you’re catching a show here, you can stay at the Parke Regency Hotel & Conference Center, only about 5 miles away. Among its amenities, this hotel has a free airport shuttle, dining at Central Parke Bar & Grill, and free parking.

See Related: Inspiring Songs About Traveling

20. Get Outside at Tipton Park

Swan in TipTon Park
donhorner9 / Flickr

Address: 2201 Stone Mountain Blvd, Bloomington, IL 61704

Tipton Park is one of the natural areas you can enjoy while visiting Bloomington. This 50-acre park is home to waterways and wildlife, and most green space is natural Illinois prairie land.

Among the park’s amenities, you can also find plenty of activities, including a playground for kids to enjoy. You’ll also have access to basketball courts, a softball diamond, walking trails, and a splash pad to enjoy during the summertime.

Should you want to stay near Tipton Park and its neighbor, Eagle View Park, there are several hotels nearby. One that is perfect for the whole family is the Hampton Inn & Suites Bloomington – Normal. At the Hampton Inn, you get an indoor swimming pool and free breakfast, and you are conveniently only a mile from the children’s museum.

See Related: Best National Parks to Visit in the US

Places to Stay in Bloomington

1. Eastland Suites Hotel & Conference Center Top Recommendation

Eastland Suites Hotel & Conference Center is situated near the Central Illinois Regional Airport, just 3.2 km from the hotel. The hotel offers free airport transfers and a 24-hour fitness centre. Free Wi-Fi in rooms and suites and cable TV with 25 channels are provided at this Bloomington hotel. Guests can enjoy a free breakfast buffet during their stay. A free cocktail hour is offered Monday through Saturday at the on-site bar, which features a fireplace and large screen television.

2. Hampton Inn & Suites Bloomington Normal

Hampton Inn and Suites Bloomington/Normal, IL is a 3 star hotel situated in Bloomington, Illinois. The hotel has 153 air-conditioned rooms that are equipped with television, desk and coffee/tea maker. You can enjoy a hot breakfast every morning at this hotel. Take advantage of the complimentary pool and fitness center to stay fit and healthy during your vacation.

3. Hyatt Place Bloomington / Normal

Hyatt Place Bloomington - Normal is located in Bloomington, a 3-minute drive from the University of Illinois. Free Wi-Fi is available and all guest rooms have air conditioning, as well as a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. A seating area and refrigerator are also standard in each room at Hyatt Place Bloomington - Normal. The 24-hour front desk can provide local information on the surrounding area.

FAQ

What are the best attractions to visit in Bloomington, Illinois?

Many people visit Bloomington for the Constitution Trail, one of Illinois’s oldest walking trails. The Evergreen Memorial Cemetery is also an interesting place that’s rich in history with lots of memorials to view, while Miller Park Zoo is a great place to take the kids for a day out. Also, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival is a hit in the summer.

Are there any outdoor activities or parks to explore in Bloomington, Illinois?

Between the various parks like Tipton or Eagle View, walking Constitution Trail, or exploring the historical streets of Bloomington, there’s a lot to do outdoors. The farmers market thrives in its outdoor space from May through October, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival performs in an open-air theater.

Are there any museums or cultural centers to explore in Bloomington, Illinois?

Some of the most fun things to do in Bloomington include indulging in the historical and fine arts found around the city. Historic buildings dot the downtown and historic districts, which are fun to view. So, too, is the McClean County Museum showcasing local history and the former mansion home of Justice David Davis.

Is there a local brewery or winery worth visiting in Bloomington, Illinois?

Lil Beaver Brewery is one of the most popular spots in Bloomington. They rotate 24 taps throughout the year, serve food, and have a game room and patio to enjoy during the warm months. Children are also allowed to visit with their parents.

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