Top Things to Do in Bloomington-Normal | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Bloomington-Normal

In central Illinois, seemingly all roads lead to Bloomington-Normal, which is crisscrossed by interstates 39, 55 and 74, as well as historic Route 66. The twin cities are home to Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University and nearly two dozen art galleries. Check out our trip guide.

What to do

Besides Abraham Lincoln, 1800s U.S. Supreme Court Justice (and Lincoln friend) David Davis lived here. You can tour his elegant Victorian mansion in Bloomington. Learn more about Abe and the historic Mother Road at the Cruisin’ With Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center in Bloomington.

The Quad at Illinois State University in Normal includes castle-like Cook Hall, built in 1897 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Quad at Illinois State University

The Quad at Illinois State Uniersity. Photo: Bob Stefko

Kids love the art studio at the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal, where three floors of exhibits allow hands-on learning through play.

 Ewing Cultural Center in Bloomington includes an outdoor theater for the highly regarded summer Illinois Shakespeare Festival plus a mansion and gardens to tour.

Ewing Cultural Center

Ewing Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Illinois Office of Toursim.

 Support artisans and farmers of developing nations at Bloomington’s Crossroads Handcrafts of the World, which sells fair-trade goods and food.

The historic Art Deco Normal Theater, which opened in 1937, shows classic, indie and foreign films.

Find artisan chocolates, women’s fashions, jewelry and handmade cards at The Garlic Press, a longtime Normal cookware store and now one-of-a-kind gift shop.

Where to eat

More than 200 restaurants, 65 unique to the region, tempt diners.

Recently revitalized Uptown Normal, near the Illinois State campus, offers eclectic entertainment venues, dining, shopping and lodging.

Epiphany Farms hosts meals for special events and grows food for its namesake French-influenced eatery, set in an old Bloomington firehouse. Anju Above occupies the building’s upper level and serves Neapolitan-style pizza.

Epiphany Farms

Epiphany Farms. Photo courtesy of Illinois Office of Tourism. 

Indulge your sweet tooth with turtles, creams and toffee at The Chocolatier Inc. in Bloomington. The shop sells bulk candy and Italian ice, too.

Tour Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works in Bloomington-Normal, which serves beer crafted on-site and food for sharing.

Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works

Photo courtesy of Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works. 

Where to stay

Architecture and history make for a fascinating stay at the Vrooman Mansion. Guest rooms offer a taste of 1900s-style luxury. Eat breakfast at the table where Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan once dined.

The Hyatt Place, conveniently located in Uptown, boasts a rooftop terrace and indoor pool. Plus, it’s pet-friendly.

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