#5. Bloomington IN
Bloomington got its start in the early 1800s when President James Madison selected the area to be the home of Indiana Seminary, officially becoming a city in 1818 (Monroe County, where Bloomington is located, got its name from the president, too). The seminary later became Indiana University, which is what Bloomington is best known for today. Like many college towns, Bloomington is a great place to raise a family — it’s full of cultural activities, sporting events and trendy restaurants. It’s no surprise that Bloomington also made Livability’s list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live this year.
For families that like to get outside, there are ample outdoor recreation opportunities in Bloomington, from the B-Line Trail that runs right through town to the 13,000-acre Charles C. Deam wilderness area. And with a median home price of roughly $245,000, Bloomington is still a relatively affordable place for families to live.
Best Way to Keep Everyone Entertained on a Saturday Afternoon: Go hiking, have a picnic lunch or just enjoy the view at Monroe Lake, a large reservoir southeast of the city’s center.
Kid-Friendly Restaurant: Bloomington kids are big fans of the pizza at Mother Bear’s Pizza. (And it doesn’t hurt that they can draw all over the walls and the furniture, either.)
Best Date Night Spot (for frazzled parents): A romantic evening of stargazing at Kirkwood Observatory at Indiana University.
Where to Score the Sweet Stuff: The Chocolate Moose, a classic ice cream shop with roots dating back to 1933. You can order sundaes, soft serve, milkshakes, ice cream floats, banana splits and tons of other treats here.
Coolest Indoor Playground: For little ones, the Kids Play Gym is the place to be in Bloomington. It offers 4,500-square-feet of interactive play, including a climbing wall, ball pit, zipline, trampoline, jungle gym, sensory rooms and more.
Dog-Friendly Hangout Spot (because they’re part of the family too!): While you sample a flight of six wines for just $3(!), your furry friends can also relax and take in the scenery at Butler Winery.