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Ready to plan your Midwestern getaway, but not quite sure where to start? Although this area is not known as a tourist area, Bloomington was recently rated one of Money Magazine's 80 best places to live in the United States, and activities abound here, especially for families. There are plenty of resources available to help you plan an interesting stay in this urban area amongst the cornfields.
The Bloomington Normal Convention & Visitors Bureau provides a wealth of information about the area. Information on their website includes a calendar of events, along with information about places to stay, where to eat, and what to do while in the area.
For general information about the city, check out the City of Bloomington's website. Here you will find all the background information you could ever desire about the city and the various departments that make up its infrastructure. Bloomington's sister community of Normal also has a website.
For even more general information about the state in general, head to Enjoy Illinois, the state's tourist information website. Here you will find transportation information and links to attractions in the region.
For print resources, there are several titles to look for. In addition to state-specific guidebooks, you may also want to turn to more general guidebooks that focus on the Midwest. Travel series that never fail include Frommer's, Fodor's, and Mobil guides.
In addition, you can request information about the region from the Bloomington Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau to help you plan your trip.
Depending on your interests, these are suggested attractions in the Bloomington area:
Family with children: Children’s Discovery Museum (2-3 hr.), Miller Park Zoo (2 hr. weather permitting), Illinois State University Planetarium (1-2 hr., call for show schedule), Illinois State University Funk Rock and Mineral Museum, Moraine View State Park (3-4 hr., weather permitting), and the log cabins of Lincoln’s New Salem at Petersburg (2-3 hr.). Make a quick stop to see Dorothy’s (of Wizard of Oz fame) grave at Historic Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, and spend a couple of hours on the rides at Grady’s Fun Park (seasonal, for younger children). On various weekends, there are presentations of interest to children at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts and other area venues. These would include touring shows like Disney on Ice, Sesame Street Live, etc. In late July and early August, the nation’s largest 4-H County Fair includes animal displays and an amusement Midway that is appropriate for younger children and teenagers. There are also a number of festivals in the spring and fall months.
Family with teenagers: Scale the rock walls at one of the nation’s largest indoor climbing centers. Built in a disused grain processing silo, the Upper Limits Climbing Gym is suitable for novices and experts alike. Highly rated by both Discovery Channel and Travel Channel, it is located in an industrial area on Bloomington's west side. (309) 829-8255. About an hour north of the city, explore the wooded canyons at Mathisson and Starved Rock State Parks . On various weekends, there are presentations of interest to teenagers at U.S. Cellular Coliseum, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, and Illinois State University . These would include concerts by nationally-known musical groups.
Historical interests: McLean County Historical Museum, David Davis Mansion, Funk Prairie House, and Historic Evergreen Memorial Cemetery . The city also offers a self-guiding tour of various Lincoln sites (inquire about “Looking for Lincoln ” at the McLean County Historical Museum ).
Cultural interests: The Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, and theatres at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University offer various presentations almost every week. In the summertime, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival presents at its outdoor theatre at Ewing Manor. Rotating art exhibits are offered at the McLean County Arts Center and Illinois State University . There are a number of independent artists’ galleries in downtown Bloomington .
Industrial tours: Mitsubishi Motors Assembly Plant Tour (call for times), State Farm Insurance Corporate Headquarters Tour (call 309-766-2311 for times).
Sports buffs: Professional indoor football or ice hockey at U.S. Cellular Coliseum. College sports at Illinois State University or Illinois Wesleyan University . State Championship high school playoff events, State Farm “The Rail” WPGA Tournament (Labor Day Weekend). Play golf on the area’s courses, rated in the top five nationally by Golf Digest.
Couples get-away: Any of the above activities per interests. Night life is centered around downtown Bloomington, but is also located around the community on the east side and in Normal . Check out the comedy routines at the Treehouse Lounge or Funnybones Comedy Club. The Par-a-dice riverboat casino is located 32 miles west along the Illinois River . Various hotels have getaway packages for both standard rooms and suites. Shopping is best at Eastland Mall and the Shoppes at College Hills, but there are many smaller shops scattered around the community, especially in downtown Bloomington and Normal .