Whether you or your student are considering attending Indiana University (IU), are relatively new or visiting campus for the first time, or you just want to embrace becoming an IU fan – this handy dandy guide will point you in the right direction to help curate the ultimate experience!
WHERE TO BEGIN
For starters, Bloomington, aka B-Town, is where Indiana University calls home. The university’s Bloomington campus often has the privilege of boasting because it is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. Upon arriving, you’ll want to make sure your phone is fully charged; it’s likely, you’ll be picture happy.
Your first visit must begin at the Sample Gates. This is the most iconic entrance to IU and where students often take their first and last commemorative photos to mark their IU journey. Carved from limestone (south-central Indiana’s number one building material; also coined the nation’s building stone), the Sample Gates represent the gateway between the university and the town’s communities. The entrance is at the intersection of Kirkwood and Indiana Avenues.
Upon entering, keep your eyes open for IU’s iconic red clocks – there are only four on campus. There’s an abundance of IU symbols plastered across campus, many hidden in various structures as well. Collectively, see if you can find all the IU clocks and keep track of how many IU symbols you can find – it’ll be similar to “where’s Waldo?”
IU HOT SPOTS
Once you’re through the Sample Gates, Dunn Meadow faces north, while Dunn’s Woods is to the south. The meadow is a well-manicured lawn where students enjoy soaking in the warmth from the sun, tackling their homework under a tree, playing catch in the open field, and more.
Southwest of Dunn Meadow is Indiana Memorial Union (IMU). In 1909, the student union was formed to encourage unity and collegiality amongst students. In 1932, the university built Indiana Memorial Union to house the organization. Today, the union building provides more than 500,000 square feet and is the second-largest in the nation! While the union offers many things, the top places you’ll want to seek out are the south and east lounges. While both offer quite study areas, the south lounge offers a roaring fireplace ideal during the winter months and comfortable chairs to curl up in as you sip your coffee (also a few steps from Starbucks). Make time to stroll into the Memorial Room, where the Golden Book is on display. It showcases handwritten names of the IU community who served in America’s wars dating back to 1812. Last but not least, the IU Bookstore, where you can find all-things IU, aside from just books!
A bit further south is Beck Chapel. This charming non-denominational chapel is something you’d expect to see in a Thomas Kincade painting! It’s filled with ornate designs and stained-glass windows. Over the years, this little chapel has gained popularity for IU alumni weddings.
From the chapel, head northeast to the Fine Arts Plaza. Dedicated to the arts, at the center of the plaza’s circular drive is Showalter Fountain – a representation of the birth of Venus. The backdrop is excellent for photos! Along the circular drive is The Lilly Library, the IU Auditorium and Cinema, the Grunwald Gallery of Art, and the Eskenazi Museum of Art. One can easily stay busy for a couple of hours here, depending on your interest. If you’re a jazz lover, check out the Hoagy Carmichael statue in front of the IU Cinema – it’s a great photo prop!
North of the Eskenazi Museum of Art is the IU Arboretum. This 11-acre area is filled with walking paths, waterscapes, native and international plant life, including the Metz Carillon Tower. No matter the time of year, this tranquil area is excellent for exploring. Hint, hint… there’s something tall and red with two hands here.
Circling back around, if you head southeast, back toward the Sample Gates, you’ll run into Old Crescent, one of the oldest and most beautiful places on campus. Within the area, nine of the university’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Do yourself a favor and stroll by Maxwell Hall. This Richardsonian Romanesque-styled building built in 1895 exemplifies 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish, and Italian Romanesque characteristics, complete with some gnarly gargoyles sporting the IU symbol. Needless to say, it’s very castle-like!
Directly across Maxwell Hall is Dunn’s Woods. True to the name, this wooded area provides several trails that meander through century-old trees. Ideal for a light jog or a scenic scooter ride! This peaceful scenery is also where you’ll stumble across the Rose Well House (caddy-corner, southeast from Maxwell Hall). The gothic revival-styled well house built in 1908 has sections of stained-glass windows and is well known for its romantic legend. The legend states that those who share a kiss at midnight become partners for life. Choose whom you kiss wisely!
TRADITIONAL RESTAURANT FAVORITES
For this full-handed countdown (+1), there’s something for a variety of taste palates.
Facing south and just caddy-corner from the Sample Gates is…
Buffa Louie’s, a two-story sports establishment well-known for its iconic wings. You can expect floor-to-ceiling sports memorabilia, vintage goods, and several TVs broadcasting seasonal sports.
From the Sample Gates, heading west on E. Kirkwood Avenue is…
Lennie’s & The Bloomington Brewing Co. since opening in 1989, is locally known for its relaxed tavern atmosphere, including its craft beer and pizza.
A few skips down the sidewalk is Kilroy’s on Kirkwood. Often referred to as the KOK, this classic college pub has been a popular hangout since 1975. Visitors rave about its breadsticks, sliders, great specials, and the fun on the outdoor patio.
For your sweet tooth, caddy-corner from the KOK is Hartzell’s Ice Cream. Here you can expect to find incredible, small batches of ice cream handcrafted with locally source ingredients and seasonal fruit. All flavors are one-of-a-kind because the owner has never written down a single recipe! If only finals could work like that!
Up next is Nick’s English Hut – a Bloomington mainstay since 1927. This popular IU tradition is well-known for its stromboli sandwich and seasoned french fries. The two-story casual bar is decorated heavily from floor-to-ceiling with sports and Hoosier décor, including several TVs playing multiple games.
A few feet further west is Café Pizzaria, the very first pizza establishment to open in B-Town. They have been serving the community pizza and stromboli since 1953. Additional classics include the “Hot Submarine” sandwich, garlic cheese bread, breaded mushrooms and zucchini slices.
Off of 6th Street…
Runcible Spoon has been gracing B-Town with its freshly roasted coffee since 1976. They make their desserts in-house, including pancakes, corn beef hash, and hollandaise. This quirky, Bohemian atmosphere ties in with the children’s storybook, “The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear.” The storybook characters are easy to spot throughout the restaurant. This is a popular breakfast hangout in the morning, especially since it also offers a patio and deck for outdoor seating.
On the Downtown Square…
At the southwest corner of the downtown square, W. Kirkwood and College Avenues, the 21 and over establishment The Tap is considered a lively place in the evenings, especially on the weekends. This American sports bar provides a whopping 400+ varieties of bottled beer, 90 beers on tap, offers several wines and ciders options, and has a brewery on the lower level. Aside from their artisan pizzas, popular burgers, and Tap fries with a parmesan garlic aioli sauce, they’re known to offer a great brunch menu as well.
Just North of the Downtown Square…
There are two well-known places just off of N. Walnut Street. Yogi’s Bar & Grill offers a hip and urban sports atmosphere ideal for any age who wants to support the cream and crimson on the big screen! Snap a few pics in front of their hand-painted indoor murals or neon lights. They offer the classics such as burgers, wings, and spinach artichoke dip. They are known for having several unique Long Island mixtures, signature cocktails, wine, including a long list of locally crafted beer.
Next up is a spinoff of the KOK, Kilroy’s Sports. This two-story college sports bar is a hopping nightclub with vibrant lights, live music and claims to host the best DJs in the Midwest. Their 4,000 sq ft atrium has a retractable roof – ideal for dancing under the stars. If you need to cool off, step out onto their large outdoor patio. Their menu offers seasonal dishes, customer favorites, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.
South of Campus…
For international and national award-winning pizza, you’ll need to try Mother Bear’s Pizza. It’s a B-Town staple that opened in 1973 and is consistently rated one of the best! The campus location is the original establishment and is located across from the IU Jacob School of Music. This cozy joint offers 20 signature pizzas, or you can choose to customize your own!
Head south to…
4th Street, aka International Row, is a strip lined with some of the best seasonings and flavors from around the world! Choose from Burmese, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Tibetan, Turkish, and more. Whatever you’re stomach desires, you’re likely to find it here.
Embrace the cream and crimson spirit by attending an IU game. IU is home to 24 different sports comprised of athletes from around the globe, so finding something of interest is relatively easy. The university holds an impressive Olympic record claiming 55 gold, 17 silver, and 32 bronze medals. The Hoosier (person from Indiana) State boasts 223 Olympic berths and 15 coaches. There must be something in the water – drink up!
If you have an interest in pursuing any of IU’s championship trophies, banners, and other team memorabilia, check out Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and Cook Hall. Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall hosts the home basketball games on Branch McCracken Court, which seats over 17,000 roaring fans! While Cook Hall is the headquarters for the basketball programs and showcases the legendary history of Indiana basketball at the Pfau Shine Legacy Court.
In preparation for any game day, you’ll want to store the lyrics for these two spirited IU mantras – “Indiana, Our Indiana” and “Hail to Old IU” – in your phone to serve as a quick cheat sheet until you memorize the words! Alumnus have been singing “Hail to Old IU” since 1893 and “Indiana, Our Indiana” since 1912, not to mention, it’s also played at every IU football and basketball game.
Keep in mind that this is a college town; thus, game day attracts thousands of spectators! So, do yourself a favor by arriving early. The best part about arriving early is the tailgating! So, bring your IU gear, including all the bells and whistles, and have some pre-game fun.
No matter the activities on or off-campus, you should wear and display your IU gear proudly! The IU spirit runs deep in Bloomington, especially on game day. It’s common to see candy-striped pants, painted faces, foam fingers, crazy hair, and more. Everything goes on game day, so it’s essential to be prepared!
The Indiana Shop offers a large section of licensed apparel, accessories, and décor. You can find everything from the individual university school t-shirts to jerseys to the candy stripe pants, license plate covers, mugs, and more. This shop is located next to Nick’s English Hut.
For quirky, fun gifts, including the additional IU gear options, check out Greetings. They’ve been open since 1983 and have welcomed many visitors through their doors. Greetings is just east of Nick’s English Hut and caddy-corner from Kilroy’s Sports Bar.
Aside from the IU Bookstore mentioned earlier inside Indiana Memorial Union, the last place you may want to venture into, off E. Kirkwood Avenue, is Tracks. It’s next door to The Indiana Shop (facing west). Tracks offers trendy, student-designed spirit wear, a mix of new and used vinyl, including some off-the-wall bands you may not expect.
ANNUAL IU EVENTS
While there are always many events and special activities throughout the year, there are some prevalent events that should be marked on the calendar.
April – The Little 500 is the largest scholastic cyclist race in the nation that began in 1951. Today, the race attracts more than 25,000 fans to the Bill Armstrong Stadium!
May – The most popular graduation month where soon-to-be graduates indulge their last moments at IU and celebrate their incredible achievement of becoming a Hoosier alumnus!
September – Family Weekend welcomes parents to explore its gorgeous fall campus, including other IU-hosted events, with their student.
October – School spirit is at its peak during Homecoming Weekend! The IU Alumni Association hosts several events throughout the weekend, including a parade and a members-only Hoosier Huddle tailgate.
December – The final graduation month and a swell way for an accomplished IU alumnus to end the year!
These annual events are heavily attended and attract thousands of visitors every year; thus, it’s wise to book your travel accommodations well in advance. Especially graduation weekends, reservations for these weekends are made a year in advance.
WHERE TO STAY
For a one-of-a-kind experience entrenched with Bloomington history – the Grant Street Inn is highly recommended. IU Alumnus have graced the halls for over 30 years. In fact, IU students were initially responsible for rescuing the inn’s original building, The Ziegler House, built in 1883.
This charming boutique inn is a rare gem bursting at the seams with character. The inn has five buildings collectively and offers 40 rooms that range in style from victorian-chic to old-world elegance. You can view a gallery of their rooms here.
While staying at the inn, you can expect a homemade breakfast. The great part is – the dining room is illuminated with enchanting chandeliers. Think of the tea party in the Disney classic “Alice in Wonderland.” Any time of the day, you’re welcome to help yourself to a hot cup of tea or coffee and gaze at the green spaces through its large windows. While in the lobby, you’ll be delighted to find little afternoon goodies made from scratch. They change every day, so you never know what you’re going to find!
One perk you’ll want to exhaust is time spent in the rockers. Every porch offers multiple rocking chairs. Many guests have enjoyed lively conversations accompanied by a bottle of wine. This is also a hot spot for sipping your morning coffee. You can listen to the birds and watch the rabbits as they hop around the grass.
Another great attribute of the inn is its location. It’s directly between campus and downtown, so the ease of enjoying both is very convenient. To learn more about the inn, visit their website here.
NEAR THE INN
While you’re not on campus, additional places to explore should include the downtown square. In the center of the Historic District is a Beaux Arts-style Courthouse built in 1908. There are 57 buildings around the square dating from 1857 – 1936 that are now home to restaurants, shops, rare goods, and art galleries. The downtown square is full of charm!
Take Fountain Square, for example. The entire south side of the downtown square was once ten buildings and merged into one during the 1980s. Today, this quaint shopping center contains two retail wings filled with boutique shops. The main atrium displays a charismatic, 4-story yellow staircase, including a red, British phone booth. While the lower-level offers a cascading, one-story fountain with lights – all serving as excellent photo backdrops!
Nearby, the B-Line Trail, Hoosier National Forest, and Griffy Lake Nature Preserve, are some additional outdoor destinations to check out.
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Happy tagging and happy exploring!