Welcome to Bloomington!
The beginning of the school year brings a lot of new faces to town, so I wanted to take this month to share some of our favorite places and things to do in Bloomington. We’re in a unique position as both students and parents of a toddler, so our favorite places may not be the typical choices of students without children or parents who are not students.
This is our third and last year living in southern Indiana, and while we have done quite a bit, we still have a lot left on our adventure list, especially now that Gus is more mobile!
Throughout the month of September, we’ll be sharing our favorite places and what we like or what we like to order there, so keep an eye out, but until then, you can check out this list I’ve made on Google Maps.
I’ll also include the links to subsequent articles in this post, but for now, I thought I would share some Bloomington basics.
I wanted to mention getting around in Bloomington. There are several ways to get around Bloomington, and pros and cons for each method of transportation. All of these will depend on what brings you to town (if you’re a visitor, new resident, or student) and where you are living or staying.
A lot of Bloomington is walk-able. That being said, there are a few things to consider.
Getting around Campus: IU is a big campus. The courthouse (and hotels near it) are about a 10-15 minute walk from the Sample Gates. But if you’re visiting campus as a prospective student, it will take you much longer to get to the location where the campus tours begin.
Weather: Bloomington is hot and humid in the summer and early fall, and can have several inches of snow and the temperature can drop low with the windchill in the winters. You’ll need to take this into consideration and dress accordingly if you’re trekking around campus or town.
Grocery Shopping: Another thing to consider is that the town is spread out—housing near campus isn’t within walking distance of a grocery store, so you’ll have to take the bus or a Lyft/Uber to get to these locations.
Distance from Campus: If you’re a resident, there’s a chance you might not live near campus (the housing prices are more affordable the further you get from campus.) Walking may not be an option if you’re trying to get to a specific destination.
Safety: I think it’s important to mention that in the past six months there have been two aggravated assaults in Bloomington, and there is a female who went missing in 2011 who has never been found. Please do not walk outside at night. If you’re going out, take a Lyft / Uber to your destination or home, and walk with others for any distances.
Please don’t use these. They are the bane of every driver’s existence.
Bikes are always a nice way to get around. That being said, please be careful while you are biking. There are bike lanes on some roads, but not all. Biking to the shopping area isn’t something I would recommend. Another thing to consider if you are biking is to make sure you have a good way to lock up your bike. There is a pretty serious theft problem in Bloomington when it comes to bikes, so keep your bike locked up, or on your own porch/balcony if you have one.
Lyft / Uber
When I was working in hotel management, there were a lot of guests who asked about taxi services. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough business to support a reliable taxi service, so I would suggest visitors use Lyft or Uber instead. If you’re visiting campus, I’d recommend staying in the square—you’ll be walking distance from most of Bloomington’s best restaurants and a ten to fifteen minute walk from the Sample Gates.
Bloomington has a pretty good bus system. If you’re a prospective or incoming student who plans to get around without a car, proximity to a bus stop will be an important factor in your apartment selection. IU students have free bus access with their student ID card. For more information on the bus system, visit their site here.
Something most people don’t know is that there is a shuttle system that has several stops in Bloomington before taking its riders to the Indianapolis airport. It’s $23 each way, so it’s a pretty good deal. Check the schedule and buy tickets here.
This store is a national chain I haven’t shopped at much, but it’s supposed to be cheap.
There are two Bloomingfoods locations in Bloomington—one near the Farmers’ Market, and another near Target. Bloomingfoods is a co-op that specializes in health foods and local merchandise. Each location offers a $3 meal once a week. (Which is great for student budgets!) You can check out their menu here.
Fresh Thyme is a chain that is on the up and up—it offers health foods and conventional foods. There are two in Bloomington, one in College Mall, and another on the west side of town.
Kroger is another national chain, and the store near College Mall is the second largest Kroger in the country. It has a massive selection and is a cheaper option (I’m not sure how it compares to Aldi.) for essentials. There are several locations in Bloomington, but my favorite is the College Mall location—be warned it takes me at least an hour to get from one side of the store to the other. Kroger also offers a grocery pick up service, where you can place an order online, someone will select your groceries, and you just drive up during your scheduled hour to pick up your groceries.
Lucky’s is my favorite grocery chain to the point my friend makes fun of me for it. It’s a health food store, a small chain, and offers high quality meat and products. That being said, it’s expensive to exclusively shop here, so I tend to buy my basics at Kroger, and then select my meat and specialty products from Lucky’s.
There’s not much to say about these chains, but if you’re new to the US, you can find a lot of your apartment / home essentials at these stores. If you can make it to Indianapolis, there’s also an IKEA, which offers cheap furniture.
Additionally, if you’re looking for furniture, consider renting a furnished apartment or home, renting furniture, or buying it used at a store, on the IU classifieds, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. If you are buying furniture from individuals, please read up on how to safely purchase items from these websites.
Bloomington has a mall, and while it doesn’t have a great selection, you’ll be able to find basics if you need an interview outfit at the last minute. I prefer shopping at Castleton and Keystone Malls in Indianapolis if you can make it up there. There is also Edinburgh outlet mall about forty miles east of Bloomington.
There are also a variety of specialty stores you’ll find in Bloomington like Best Buy, TJ Maxx, At Home, etc. Most of the chain stores you’ll find near the mall or on the west side of town.