What must I see/do in Bloomington, Indiana?

I’m going to Bloomington for a conference next week.

I’m not really looking forward to it, as it will be disrupting my usual work schedule as well as putting extra strain on Mrs. Tonk - her having to leave work early each day to take care of the kids.

But go - I must. Surely, some Dopers can recommend some sights I must see, places I must go and restaurants I must dine in. Anybody?

I recommend you leave as soon as possible.

Ah, but I kid around. I’m sure Indianese Dopers will be by soon to help you out.

Did some grad school there. Let’s see (I was there 96-98), Nick’s English pub is interesting in a bar kind of way, if you just want a drink. If you are a humanities nerd check out the Lilly Library-- they have some rare books and will let visitors paw through them under extremely watchful eye. You seem to be straight, but if you want to go dancing still check out Bullwinkles (dance club in an old elk’s club). There are good antique stores there-- if you are around on a weekend head a bit east towards Gnawbone (not a joke) and check out the large flea markets. If you like architecture drive east to Columbus, which was a bit of a showplace for 20th c architects and sculptors. I’d tell you to check out the Kinsey Institute, but they are nigh-impenetrable to anyone. Oh, the university art museum is good for a university art museum (I wrote my thesis about a German flagellation scene there. . .). The music school is good if you feel like catching a concert of some sort. The town also has a bit of a folk-rockabilly scene. If you are truly bored (and cold) the greenhouse at the bio department is a pleasant stroll if you like plants.
Dinner—Someone will tell you to go to Janko’s (?) Little Zagreb. Expensive steaks. Overrated. Don’t do it. Michael’s Uptown Cafe on Kirkwood (gag, name) was ok. Irish Lion is ok for pub food. The Bagel place across from the U was ok as far as bagels go. For an overpriced deli sandwich the Bakehouse is ok, if it’s still around. A place on the square called California Cheesemonkeys or something is ok, but was very trendy and crowded. I’d avoid most mexican food there (a spot on the main N-S drag in the west that I can’t recall the name of. …is ok). The Bloomington Brewing Company is ok and has some good food. I think there was a newer brew pub as well on the west side that had ok food, too.
There’s a little of a start. I have no idea if these places still exist.
Oh, and Bear’s Place across from the south side of the school has mighty strong drinks (The Hairy Bear!) and shows films in the back room for a buck or so.

My recommendation is that you eat dinner at the Snow Lion and then leave. There really isn’t that much else worth doing there that you can’t do somewhere else in a more enjoyable atmosphere (Bloomington is a stifling town with ridiculous prices, very little choice, and even less imagination). You can get all the Bloomington culture you need by watching “Breaking Away” (which is on cable every couple of months anyway).

If you’re forced to stay for more than one meal, the only other places I can suggest are a place called Joe’s up on North College (decent steak and pasta combos), and the Laughing Planet Cafe (highly curious burritos).

Ah, the Snow Lion, right-- it’s a Tibetan restaurant run by the Dali Lama’s brother-in-law or something. Nice looking-- spendy.

A friend of mine lived in Bloomington for a few years. She saw John Cougar Melloncamp in the mall there, but she didn’t do him.

The IU Hoosiers (4-1) will be hosting Notre Dame (5-0) on Tuesday night, the 4th. It is a sellout at Assembly Hall like most all games, but tickets can easily be bought from scalpers in the parking lot. Good chance to see 5 NCAA Championship banners hanging, which is more than any other program which has never cheated/paid players (ummm, UCLA & Kentucky come to mind).

Should be a good game between in-state rivals. Too bad the ass-wipe prez of IU had to go and fire Coach Knight last year though.

Also, downtown Indianapolis is just about 50 minutes north of Bloomington up Hwy 37, so there are many, many more dining, shopping, entertainment options.

Any negative comments were obviously posted by someone with a big yellow P on their shirt. Bloomington is God’s country. I’d move back in a heartbeat if I could. I lived there for about 9 years, but that was back in the late 80’s. I still visit whenever I can find a good excuse. One of my H.S. buddies is now the mayor.

Anyway, I’ll agree with most of the places mentioned before (except Bullwinkles… I’m straight and I don’t dance). And since capybara said someone would recommend it… I will. Janko’s is terrific!! Red and white checkered tablecloths and the best steak you will find. I’ve got a Ruth’s Chris, Sullivan’s, and Morton’s all within a few minutes drive, but I’ll gladly make the 1.5 hour trek to get to Janko’s. Get some marinated mushrooms if they have them… they aren’t (or at least weren’t) on the menu, but are delicious. Had my wedding rehersal dinner there and Bob Knight stopped by to say Hi.

Mother Bear’s is worth a visit for pizza, and Bear’s Place used to have Comedy Caravan on Monday nights. It has the comedians that play Indy on the weekend and play there on Monday… used to only be a few bucks. And yes, a Hairy Bear will knock your socks off.

Just walk around the campus… it is beautiful. If you like nature, take a half hour drive south to Lake Monroe.

Nick’s is the Alumni bar and is a required stop on any of my visits. I used to hang out at Crazy Horse, but it changed owners and I’m not even sure it is still there.

Feel free to send me as your substitute anytime you are supposed to go there.

Bloomington is great. Let’s see, good places to eat: The Scholar’s Inn is pricey but very good. The Encore Cafe has decent food and great desserts. Janka’s Little Zagreb is awesome for steak, but don’t go expecting to order the chicken or anything…they have steak, steak, steak, and steak. And do NOT get the “cheese and crackers” appetizer…it is literally a hunk of cheese and some Saltines. Joe’s WAS great, but is closed now. Scotty’s Brewpub just north of the square has some decent food. I’ll think of more, I’m sure. Oh, and Lenny’s! Lenny’s is awesome!
Check out the downtown area, there are some interesting little shops. Be sure to check out the little place called “…in a Hand Basket” beneath Subway and JL Waters. You will find a great selection of handcrafted baskets along with a few nice soaps and candles made by yours truly, bodypoet. (Great gifts for you wife.)
Drop me an email if you like, let me know where you’re staying, etc, and I’ll see if I can think of any other ideas for you.
Trust me, compared to most of Indiana, Bloomington is a haven of diversity and culture. Spud is within driving distance, maybe we should plan a little dopefest…

Actually, I’m a double alumna of Indiana University (classes of 1995 and 1998). That doesn’t make me any more fond of Bloomington. Don’t expect to be seeing me at homecoming any time soon.