Basking in Bloomington
Indiana college town’s charm, cosmopolitan feel will warm your winter getaway

By Peggy Ammerman

When the southern Indiana hills that surround Bloomington sparkle from a dusting of snow, and stars shine their brightest across the velvety winter sky, it’s easy to see how composer Hoagy Carmichael was inspired to compose the dreamy jazz standard, "Star Dust."

It was in 1927 that inspiration struck Carmichael on a starry night along a popular spot for lovers on the Indiana University campus. Carmichael then headed to the Book Nook, where he sat down at an old piano and composed the melody.

Spend a wintry weekend in Bloomington and you too will be charmed by this college town’s historic downtown and by the campus of Indiana University four blocks away, a postcard-pretty setting with a cosmopolitan feel.

From stones come beauty

Limestone blocks from nearby quarries built much of Bloomington and the 1,860-acre campus. Nine ornate Victorian buildings from the original campus stand along the Old Crescent Historic District, near where Carmichael was first struck with inspiration for "Star Dust."

Bloomington’s rich history began in 1818 atop of a gentle knoll, which today is at the center of the 11-block downtown area. By 1820 a seminary college was opened in town and then relocated a few blocks away to Dunn’s Woods near Jordan Creek and renamed Indiana University. Today, this city of 60,000 seems to meld easily into the woodsy 30,000-student campus that it surrounds.

You can stay at the Indiana Memorial Union in the center of campus, perhaps the country’s largest student union with a 190-room hotel, seven dining areas, a bookstore, billiards and more. It’s a comfortable walk to downtown and to the university’s Art Museum, Musical Arts Center and Auditorium.

From the edge of campus, where the Union and red-tiled rooftops of the Limestone Crescent district rise above the treetops, Kirkwood Avenue leads you west along four blocks of shops and restaurants to the courthouse square downtown. The domed 1902 Monroe County Courthouse crowns the square and looks across to the historic college buildings, rivaling them for attention.

In the 1980s, the gleam was put back on the grand Beaux Arts courthouse, triggering an intensive revitalization downtown. Facing the courthouse is Fountain Square Mall, set behind historic storefronts and housing three floors of merchants, among the 125 shops, restaurants and music clubs downtown.

Metropolitan mystique

Though the antique fish weathervane topping the courthouse tells you that Bloomington has an easygoing hometown appeal, Indiana University adds cosmopolitan flair. The university’s School of Music is world-renowned and “Opera News” places IU’s long-time Opera Theater “alongside the Metropolitan Opera.” You can attend the opera and musical performances and be no more than 80 feet from the stage at the Musical Arts Center, among the nation’s top-ranked venues.

A block from the Union, the Indiana University Art Museum displays art from the Byzantine period to modern times. At another six museums in town and on campus, you can see antique cars, historic costumes, and artifacts and art important to the Great Lakes region and local history.

A few miles from town yet worlds away is the Tibetan Cultural Center, and at Cascades Park near downtown is the Tibetan Dagom Garden Tensung Ling Monastery, the nation’s first such monastery. At both sites you can learn more about Buddhism or simply meditate and reflect.

For outdoor fun, you can try ice fishing at huge Lake Monroe about 10 miles southeast of Bloomington, and at nearby Lake Lemon and Griffy Lake. Or, you can take a whirl around the rink at Bloomington’s Frank Southern Center, which offers roller blading in the summer. And you can walk trails at several city parks, or hit the slopes at two nearby ski facilities.

The picturesque setting and Bloomington’s charm will make your winter getaway a warm and memorable one.

Peggy Ammerman is a new contributor from Indianapolis, Ind.

Best Bets in Bloomington

Dining and Nightlife

The Irish Lion with authentic Irish pub fare and music, (812) 336-9076; the Bluebird, a 25-year tradition for lively rock and roll concerts in a club setting, (812) 336-3984; Scholars Inn Gourmet Cafe & Wine Bar for fireside dining in a century-old mansion, (812) 332-1892; Ladyman’s Café for home cooking and fresh baked pies, (812) 336-5557.


Contact the visitors bureau for chain establishments; Indiana Memorial Union for hotel rooms on campus, 1-800-209-8145; The Grant Street Inn offers 24 traditionally decorated rooms with private baths, 1-800-328-4350; the Scholars Inn is an antiques-filled bed and breakfast with private baths and gourmet breakfast, 1-800-765-3466.

Visitor Information

For more details, contact the Monroe County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2855 N. Walnut St. 47404; (812) 334-8900 or 1-800-800-0037; email cvb@visitbloomington.com; Web site: www.visitbloomington.com.

Published Jan/Feb 2000

College photo

Before You Go
For visitor information, call the Monroe County Convention & Visitors Bureau at
(812) 334-8900, or visit www.visitbloomington.com.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

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