How did Bloomington, Ill., make our list of the best affordable places, but not its twin city, Normal? Good question.
While residents in both cities spend nearly the same amount on things like gas, groceries and utilities, people in Bloomington don’t use as much of their salaries on housing. And while the median annual household income in Bloomington is $10,000 higher than Normal, the city also has greater income equality. Oh, and one more thing that makes Bloomington stand out: It’s where Beer Nuts are made.
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But in all honesty, Bloomington and Normal play well together. They’ve joined forces to promote economic development across both cities, along with transportation options, and most residents cross borders on a daily basis. Located in one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country, Bloomington-Normal’s economy includes State Farm Insurance, BroMenn Medical Center and AFNI as top employers, along with Illinois State University, Country Financial and Mitsubishi. Most newcomers have been able to find jobs, and the unemployment rate remains low.
More than 40 parks in Bloomington provide residents with many opportunities to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Venues like the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, US Cellular Coliseum and Redbird Arena host concerts, musicals and sporting events. The Coliseum hosts an indoor farmers market during winter months, which includes performances by local musicians. Restaurants in Bloomington include gastropubs, open-air grills and cafes. Among the low-cost options for family outings in Bloomington are trips to Grady’s Family Fun Park, which includes miniature golf, batting cages and go-karts; the Pepsi Ice Center, an indoor ice rink; Miller Park Zoo; and Upper Limits, an indoor rock climbing gym. The Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal draws more than 40,000 visitors each year. Golf courses in Bloomington deliver exceptional value and variety to those who enjoy hitting the fairways.
The Best Restaurants in Bloomington
The average price of a home in Bloomington and Normal is just under $150,000, a great value considering the attractions, quality of life and assortment of restaurants and recreation you’ll find here. Hospitals in Bloomington-Normal rank high in service and care, yet remain among the most affordable in the country.