Bloomington, pop. 77,000 (2010 census), is a city in the Midwestern state of Illinois in the United States of America, on the classic Route 66 highway across the country. With neighboring Normal, pop. 52,000 (2010 census), it forms a combined community of about 130,000 known locally as the Twin Cities. Illinois Wesleyan University is in Bloomington, and is not to be confused with Illinois State University in Normal.
The Bloomington-Normal area is in the heart of Central Illinois, approximately 125 miles southwest of Chicago, 155 miles northeast of St. Louis, and 64 miles northeast of Springfield, the State Capital. Bloomington is the County Seat of McLean County, the largest county in Illinois (approximately 762,240 acres). Interstates 39, 55 and 74 converge on Bloomington-Normal, as well as US Route 51 and State Route 9.
Bloomington-Normal is also serviced by four major railroad lines and Amtrak, as well as air transportation at the Central Illinois Regional Airport, one of the fastest growing airports in the country, which services commuter, corporate, and private aircraft.
The Twin Cities are located in one of the most productive agricultural areas in the nation, but the economy is diverse and well-balanced. In addition to the major manufacturers and industries, there are two universities, two hospitals, a convention center, two indoor malls, an outdoor outlet mall, and many banks and Savings & Loan Associations located in Bloomington-Normal. The metropolitan area continues to grow; in 2013, the city of Bloomington was the country's 11th-fastest growing city. New construction continues to enhance residential, industrial and commercial growth.
The 1 Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal (BMI IATA) has daily arrivals from Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Dallas, along with 4-times-a-week service from Orlando and Denver. A smaller airport, Peoria International Airport (PIA IATA) is 45 minutes away and offers arrivals from additional cities. Parking is free at both airports.
Interstate highways 39, 55 and 74 converge on the south side of Bloomington and divide again on the north side of Normal. I-55 follows the historic route of Route 66 through central Illinois, except that Route 66 bypassed Bloomington-Normal on the east rather than on the west as the interstates do. Veterans Parkway, the east-side bypass (formerly called "Belt Line Road", was renamed in the 1980s), was the Route 66 route in the immediate pre-Interstate period. Earlier, 66 passed through downtown Bloomington and into residential Normal. The route given in the Route 66 page reflects this original alignment, known as "Business 66" after Veterans Parkway was built.
- 2 Amtrak, 11 Uptown Circle (Uptown Station). Station hours 6:30AM-9:30PM daily, ticket counter closes at 9:15PM. You can easily take an Amtrak train from Chicago or St. Louis, with five daily departures. Track improvements are now being constructed to offer high-speed rail service from Bloomington-Normal on a planned eight trains a day in each direction. The Texas Eagle / Sunset Limited long-distance train provides daily service to Dallas and tri-weekly service to Los Angeles. The Bloomington-Normal rail station is near the Illinois State University campus in Normal, in a combined facility with Normal's city hall. It is the fourth busiest Amtrak station in the Midwestern United States behind Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis.
- Greyhound buses serve Bloomington-Normal from Indianapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis.
- Peoria Charter runs buses to Bloomington-Normal from Chicago and Peoria.
- Burlington Trailways serves Bloomington-Normal from Indianapolis to the east and as far west as Denver.
- Connect Transit. Buses cover most of the community. Downtown Bloomington is well walkable, but most shopping, etc., is on the eastern side of the towns and is best reached by car or bus.
- 1 Children's Discovery Museum, 101 E Beaufort St, ☏ . Th F 9AM-8PM, Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 1-5PM. Full of hands-on exhibit for children. Features an agricultural exhibit, a clock tower and science exhibits.
- 2 David Davis Mansion, 1000 East Monroe Drive, ☏ . W-Su 9AM-4PM. An elegant, ornate mansion that dates back to 1872. Suggested donation: adult $2/, child $1.
- 3 Downtown Bloomington, 106 W Monroe, ☏ . The McLean County Courthouse, capped by a stately dome, serves as a landmark to identify the historic core of the city. Turn-of-the-20th-century buildings, many with interesting historical pasts, flank the courthouse square. A visitor can find museums, banks, a legal and governmental center, residential living, a large artists' community, plus an assortment of specialty retail businesses and supportive services in Downtown Bloomington. There is an abundance of restaurants and a lively night scene.
- 4 McLean County Museum of History, 200 North Main St (Bloomington), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Tu 10AM-9PM, also Sep- May: Su 1-5PM. Allows one to see the customs and work practices of settlers to McLean county, along with exhibits featuring residents such as Abraham Lincoln and Adlai Stevenson. Adult $5, Senior $4, child or student free.
- 5 Miller Park Zoo, 1020 South Morris Ave (Bloomington), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Daily 9:30AM-4:30PM (closed Thanksgiving & Christmas). A pleasant place for a picnic and hosts a small but interesting zoo, with a good rain-forest exhibit. Adult $4.50, child 3-12 of senior 60+ $3.50, child under 3 free.
- 1 McLean County Fair, 1106 Interstate Dr, ☏ . August 3-7th 2022. A large county fair hosted on the McLean County Fairgrounds west of Bloomington-Normal. $7 entre fee for adults.
- 2 Illinois Shakespeare Festival, 48 Sunset Rd, ☏ . The well-reviewed Illinois Shakespeare Festival is associated with ISU and runs from late June until early August, with multiple performances of (usually) three of the Bard's plays. Performances are on the grounds of Ewing Manor in east Bloomington, and can include pre-show picnics on the lush grounds. $25 for single entry ticket.
- 3 Constitution Trail, 100 E Phoenix Avenue, ☏ . Open daily from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. The Bloomington-Normal Constitution Trail is one of Central Illinois' most unique parks. This 50+ mile jogging, walking, cycling and rollerblading trail has become a hit with the community and visitors alike.
- 4 Upper Limits Climbing Gym, 1304 W Washington St, ☏ . M-F noon-10PM, Sa Su 10AM-6PM. Upper Limits has over 20,000 square feet of climbing area. Built in a set of old grain elevators, this is a great indoor climbing gym. The climbing includes: 65-ft-tall silo routes, a 30-ft main room with plenty of overhanging climbing (including the Wave Wall with at least three lead-only routes), slab routes, a climbing cave, training area, 110-ft outdoor routes, and an outdoor bouldering area. Route difficulties ranges from 5.5 to 5.13-, with boulder from V0 to V6+. $18 for a day pass.
- 5 Grossinger Motors Arena, 101 S Madison St, ☏ . The Grossinger Motors Arena (formerly U.S. Cellular Coliseum) was opened in 2006 and features minor league indoor football (Bloomington Extreme & Bloomington Edge), basketball (Bloomington Drive), and ice hockey (Bloomington Prairie Thunder, Blaze, Thunder). Additionally, many well-known bands and artists come to perform. Additional events include ice racing, circuses, monster trucks, and similar attractions. Attached to the Arena is the Pepsi Ice Center, which hosts many amateur hockey and ice events. Public ice skating is also offered with skate rentals available.
- 6 Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, 600 N East St, ☏ . Year round events. The Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts seats 1200 for stage plays, smaller concerts, and is home to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. It is located in the entertainment district of downtown Bloomington, which attracts over one million visitors a year to restaurants, clubs, and venues that feature comedy and musical acts.
- 7 Community Players Theatre, 201 Robinhood Lane, Bloomington (across from Eagle Station Post Office), ☏ . It is one of the oldest community theatres completely staffed by volunteers. Community Players has been able to present many shows shortly after their Broadway run and, on many occasions, presented the first amateur production of these shows in the United States. It is a not-for-profit community theatre dedicated to promoting the performing arts. Contact the Box Office (309/663-2121) or Website (www.communityplayers.org) for information about their current season.
- 8 The Castle Theatre, 209 East. Washington Street (Hhad north on Main Street in downtown Bloomington; turn right on to Washington Street), ☏ . 9AM-5PM, shows generally in the evening. A historic 1916 movie theater renovated and converted into a community hub for live music. The Castle Theatre features music artists of many different genres and levels of renown. Prices vary based on the show. $10-50.
- 1 Illinois State University (ISU), 100 N University St, ☏ . Illinois State University is Illinois' first public university. The town of Normal grew up around this school, known as a teachers college and formerly known as "Illinois State Normal University" (a "normal" school being one dedicated to educating teachers). It expanded enormously in the 1960s and is now a major university. The basketball program is strong, although most other sports are at the 1-AA ("sub-major") level. A trivium: the Watterson Towers complex on campus is, at nearly 300 feet high, the tallest college dormitory in the world.
- 2 Illinois Wesleyan University, 1312 Park St, ☏ . Considerably smaller and more selective than its neighbor, with strong liberal-arts programs. Illinois Wesleyan often appears on lists of the nation's best "regional" small colleges.
- 3 Heartland Community College, 1500 W Raab Rd, ☏ . Community college founded in 1991.
Downtown Bloomington has shops, including some that sell beads, crafts, used books, used clothes and other funky items. For more mainstream shopping, most of what you want can be found on the stores lining Veteran's Parkway.
- 1 Ryburn Place, 305 Pine St., Normal, ☏ . M-F 9AM-5PM. Route 66 information and souvenir shop on the first floor of Sprague Super Service, a Tudor-Revival style building constructed in 1931 as a fuel station with the owner's and attendant's quarters upstairs. Route 66 t-shirts, postcards, books, memorabilia and the work of local artists: original watercolors and prints, photographs, handmade cards, hand-dyed silk scarves, hand-woven baskets, creative crochet.
- 2 Eastland Mall, 1615 E Empire St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-8PM, F Sa 11AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. A large mall on the east side of Bloomington with many common mall amenities and options.
- 3 Shoppes At College Hills, 314 Towanda Ave, Normal, IL 61761, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 10AM-6PM. The Shoppes at College Hills is an open-air lifestyle center anchored by Von Maur, and Target. The exciting blend of retailers and restaurants includes more than 25 specialty stores like Bath & Body Works, Chico's, Beauty Brands, DESTIHL Restaurant, Francescas, LOFT, Yankee Candle, and more.
- 4 Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market, 200 N Main St, ☏ . May-Oct 7:30AM-noon. The Downtown Bloomington Association Farmers’ Market is a producer-only market offering a wide array of farm products — including vegetables, fruits, cheeses, pork, beef, free-range poultry and eggs, flowers, plants, herbs, and more grown and produced by the individual selling these items.
- 1 The Coffeehouse & Deli, 114 E Beaufort St (1 block East of ISU), ☏ . Daily 7AM-6PM. A vegetarian restaurant with many vegan options. Local art work is displayed on the wall, and changes every few months. Live music and poetry slams are held during the evenings.
- 2 The Lucca Grill, 116 E. Market St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 3AM-8PM. The Lucca Grill was established in 1936 by brothers Fred and John Baldini and was named for their hometown of Lucca, Italy. Located on Historic Route 66, customers enjoy the delicious thin-crust pizza as much as they appreciate the ornate tin ceiling and antique mahogany bar.
- 3 Avanti's Italian Restaurant, 407 S Main St or 3302 E. Empire St, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-9PM. Avanti's Italian Restaurant cooks and serves home style pasta, pizza, and sandwiches that are available through dine-in, carry-out, delivery and in the banquet room. Avanti’s trademark is wonderful, fresh Italian bread which is prepared and baked in the restaurant kitchen.
- 1 DESTIHL Restaurant & Brew Works, 318 S. Towanda Ave. (at The Shoppes at College Hills), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F 11AM-10PM, Sa 9AM-10PM, Su 9AM-8PM. Amazing brewery with exceptional food created in a unique way by the chef. Definitely worth the prices.
- 2 Fat Jack's Bar, 511 North Main Street, ☏ . Su-Th 3PM-1AM, F Sa 3PM-2AM. Bloomington. Offers live music, has a small, overcrowded dance floor where you can dance to current mainstream music, as well as a room for private functions.
- 3 Rosie's Pub, 106 E Front St, ☏ . Tu W 11AM-11PM, Th 11AM-1AM, F Sa 11AM-2PM. Quaint atmosphere. Offers a high-priced food menu. 106 East Front Street, Bloomington.
- 4 Brewe-Ha's, 102 S Linden St, ☏ . M 4-11PM, Tu-Th 11AM-1AM, F Sa 11AM-2PM, Su noon-7PM.
- 5 Firehouse Pizza & Pub, 107 E Beaufort St, ☏ . M Tu 4-9PM, W-F 4PM-midnight, Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-9PM.
- 6 Maggie Miley's, 126 E Beaufort St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-1AM, F Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-1AM.
- 7 Pub II, 102 N Linden St, ☏ . Tu-Th 11AM-1AM, F Sa 11AM-2PM, Su M 11AM-11PM. Enduring hangout near campus offering many TVs, pub grub & a beer garden for sports fans.
- 8 Medici in Normal, 120 W North St, ☏ . Tu-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 10AM-9PM. Bi-level restaurant & bar serving seasonal American fare, pizzas & over 30 drafts in a modern space.
- 1 Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, 401 Brock Dr, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Real value and convenience for both business and leisure travelers. Secure Online Reservations.
- 2 Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Bloomington, 1 Lyon Ct, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Guest amenities include a complimentary hot breakfast buffet each morning and an evening reception each Wednesday. Each guest room includes a queen size bed, microwave, refrigerator and wet bar or full kitchen, 25" television, hairdryer, iron, ironing board and a full size sofa sleeper, plus complimentary high-speed Internet access. For enjoyment, our indoor swimming pool and patio area as well as our exercise facility are available for all guests. $84 and up..
- 3 Quality Inn & Suites Bloomington University Area, 1803 E Empire St, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- 4 Best Western Plus Bloomington East Hotel, 604 1/2 IAA Dr, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. $89 and up.
- 5 Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Bloomington-Normal West, IL, 923 Maple Hill Rd, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. $79 and up.
- 6 Hampton Inn & Suites Bloomington-Normal, 320 S Towanda Ave, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. $88.
- Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake are two man-made lakes north of town that offer fishing, camping, and boating opportunities.
- If you're doing the Route 66 tour northbound, the next significant bit of Americana is in the small town of Pontiac, which hosts the annual "Thresermen's Reunion" tractor pull event and is home to the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum and other similarly themed tourist attractions. Southbound, stop in McLean at the Dixie Truckers Home, a prototypical (and, according to some, the nation's first) truck stop.
|Routes through Bloomington-Normal|
|St. Louis ← Lincoln ←||S/SW N/NE||→ Pontiac → Chicago|
|Rockford ← El Paso ←||N S||→ END|
|Chicago ← Lexington ←||N S||→ McLean → Springfield|
|Peoria ← East Peoria ←||W E||→ Champaign → Indianapolis|
|Rockford ← El Paso ←||N S||→ Jct W → Decatur → Carbondale|
|Springfield ← McLean ←||W E||→ Lexington → Chicago|