Things to Do in Bloomington, IL
Like any community, there are plenty of great things to do in Bloomington, IL. Sometimes these events, attractions and restaurants are well known, while other times it takes a well-trained eye or local guide to introduce you to them. If you are looking for more variety, the more populous cities in Illinois are certain to accommodate your desires of activities.
When it comes to looking for something fun to do‚ McLean County kids have no excuses. They have the benefit of three main attractions that provide education through entertainment: the Children’s Discovery Museum‚ Miller Park Zoo and Challenger Learning Center.
The Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Illinois attracts 40‚000 visitors each year with a myriad of exhibits designed to enhance interactions between young and old and create a sense of wonder.
A popular place for family fun is Miller Park Zoo‚ which has been around since 1891. The Bloomington-Normal landmark features dozens of animal exhibits‚ a “Junior Zookeeper” program and organized parent-child activities. “ It’s really neat to wander through the zoo with your children‚ and then go to the educational programs together and learn more about the animals‚” Lynnette Bixby says.
Professional baseball arrived in Normal when the Normal CornBelters took the field as part of the independent Frontier League, which has been around since 1993. More than 125,000 fans watched the CornBelters play during their inaugural season in 2010.
It’s hard to think of Bloomington-Normal without thinking of golf. The neatly manicured greens of the golf courses have become almost as prevalent in the Midwestern state as its ever-growing crops of corn and soybeans. “Golf is big in this area‚” says Laura Provost‚ associate director of the Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University. “Traditionally this area has been a business community and a lot of business people play golf. It’s also a health-awareness type community‚ and people enjoy walking outside for the spirit of it.”
It’s a long way from the lights of Broadway, but when it comes to the performing arts, McLean County competes with the best. Whether it’s symphony, jazz, theater or even Shakespeare, residents of Bloomington and Normal can enjoy a professional performance on just about any evening of their choice. The Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts hosts an impressive roster of shows. Past lineups have included performances by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the African Children’s Choir and Broadway’s Footloose.
Shopping is indeed hopping in Bloomington, with several retail destinations for both amateur and professional shoppers to frequent. Here are some of the top destinations: Eastland Mall
No matter the season, the reason for special events in Downtown Bloomington remains the same: to get people involved. Downtown Bloomington is the heart of the community – still that Main Street where people go when they want to spend time with friends and family. A downtown organization begun in the 1970s eventually spawned the Downtown Bloomington Association, officially created in 1998 and still going strong sponsoring events that bring the community together.
When Bloomington and Normal residents need an outlet for their creativity, all they have to do is enroll in a class at the McLean County Arts Center. Its most popular classes are in ceramics, sculpture, photography and watercolor. The center also hosts art camps for kids during the summer that are well attended. Founded in the 1880s, the McLean County Arts Center is one of the oldest community arts organizations in the Midwest. It was incorporated in 1922 and has been located in a historic 1909 building in downtown Bloomington since 1979.
When you start your meal at DESTIHL Restaurant & Brew Works with the Ropp Jersey Cheese Curds, hand-breaded and fried and served with roasted garlic and tomato sauce, you’re taking part in McLean County’s version of the farm-to-table movement that is sweeping the nation. The same goes for an appetizer of Ropp cheese curds with spicy marinara at Swingers Grille, the restaurant located at All Seasons, a Normal golf center.
The nostalgia of historic Route 66 – the fabled highway that winds through the prairies of Illinois on its way to the Pacific Ocean – is alive and well in towns along the decommissioned byway, including stops in McLean County.
Adults in McLean County are getting in touch with their youthful side‚ and they have plenty of help. The area offers an endless supply of family activities and chances for parents and children to bond. “We have a lot of opportunities in town‚” says Lynnette Bixby‚ who lives in Bloomington with her husband‚ Dan‚ and their three children. “We feel blessed to live in such a unique community.” Among the Bixby family’s favorite stops are the Miller Park Zoo and the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Illinois.