Bloomington, Ind., offers plenty of appeal for new residents if you’re planning a move or thinking about changing locations. With a population of more than 80,000, Bloomington is the Monroe County seat and offers stellar higher education opportunities along with a burgeoning tech sector. While, according to Erin Erdmann of Visit Bloomington, the city may be best known to outsiders as the locale for the iconic movie Breaking Away and the place where basketball icon Bobby Knight coached, there’s so much more to it than that. Here are a few reasons to consider moving to Bloomington.
Bloomington is an economic center in the region, with its largest employer being Indiana University, according to Erdmann. That’s followed by medical equipment manufacturer the Cook Group, founded by the late Bill Cook, who created the first modern heart stint. The company has grown to world-wide prominence, funding buildings across the campus and community, and Gayle Cook continues her husband’s tradition of giving back throughout the area. Bloomington also has a budding tech sector, a great health-care system, and is the largest producer of limestone in the U.S.
“Twenty-nine of the country’s 50 state capital buildings used limestone quarried here,” Erdmann says. “As did the Biltmore Estate, the Empire State Building and the Pentagon rebuilding following 9/11.”
University Community Benefits
“Lifelong learners can really enjoy themselves here,” Erdmann says. And she’s not just referring to all the students and professors. Rather, having a big university brings benefits to everyone, including “amazing lecture series across disciplines – we had Secretary of State John Kerry recently; films, shows, all kinds of things that allow residents to broaden their horizons. It’s a huge continuing education opportunity.”
The university includes the famed Kinsey Institute, the Maurer School of Law, and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, among other draws.
Libraries and Museums
Bloomington boasts the rare book-filled Lilly Library, including a private Abraham Lincoln collection, originals by Jack Kerouac and Kurt Vonnegut, children’s books, and cookbooks – among many others. Admission is free. The Wonder Lab Museum of Science, Health and Technology provides kids and kids at heart with a marvelous learning experience. Indiana University’s great School of Education ensures area schools maintain high standards.
Bloomington has its fair share of exciting annual events, among them a Limestone Month in June that allows for a variety of smaller events, including the Limestone Comedy Festival held at the Comedy Attic, one of the best comedy clubs in the nation, whose guests have included Kevin Smith, Patton Oswald, Tig Notaro and Janine Garofalo. The September Lotus World Music and Art Festival is a vibrant downtown street festival filled with world music. The Taste of Bloomington Festival allows 40 local restaurants to showcase their menus and offers two live music stages for 10-15,000 attendees.
International and Local Cuisine
“Farm to fork has been the norm in Bloomington always, since we’re in the middle of the country and spoiled by Indiana’s rich soil,” Erdmann says.
There are 350 restaurants in Monroe County, with 110 downtown alone – many locally owned. The influx of students from other countries who have settled here means the ethnic and international cuisine is abundant.
“We have restaurants offering Indian, Burmese, Turkish, pan-Asian, Thai, Japanese, Tibetan, Middle Eastern – it’s very diverse. Bloomington is home to the only U.S. Tibetan Cultural Center, and our authentic Tibetan restaurant has served His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he visits.”
Additionally, Bloomington has a growing collection of coffee roasting coffee shops, great microbreweries and Cardinal Spirits, a crowd-funded craft distillery (producing killer honey vanilla vodka with the help of rooftop bee hives).
Monroe Lake, a more than 10,000-acre lake in Monroe County is the largest in the state, situated next to 202,000 acres of the pristine Hoosier National Forest. Whether your thing is boating, hiking, fishing or swimming, this kind of exceptional wilderness adds amazing quality of life to the area.
Erdmann says, “It’s 15 minutes from our house in the middle of town, and my boyfriend and I like to drive up to the Deam Wilderness Area, and hike up the 12 story-high fire tower. It’s incredible open-air hiking with indescribably beautiful views and vistas.”
If you want to get out in town, Bloomington has been designated a Tree City for 30 years now, thanks to its greenery. Walking or biking is made pleasant by the 3-mile linear Beeline Trail, created from an old rail line, and marked by public art and plazas for public performance.
Aside from the previously mentioned festivals, the city has a thriving vibrant arts community. “This is one of the rare places where artists can make a genuine living,” Erdmann says. “So from visual to conceptual to music, we’ve got it.”
That means plenty of in-town galleries and venues. The Indiana University’s Art Museum is a 40,000-piece collection encompassing art from every art producing period in history. The University’s Jacobs School of Music offers concerts, operas, ballets and more. The University auditorium hosts roadway shows, and the independent Bloomington Playwrights Project offers up solely new plays while the Cardinal Theatre Company focuses on favorites. Of note is the city’s commitment to public art, which can be found nearly everywhere.
The acclaimed 1979 film Breaking Away depicted the University’s celebrated Little 500 bicycle race, held each April. Sports fans can also take advantage of the University’s legendary basketball program, with five national championships under its belt. The men’s soccer team also has eight national titles. There are a plethora of both men’s and women’s sports to meet fandom needs, from track to football.