40 Before 40 Progress: Bloomington, IN

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40 Before 40 Progress: Bloomington, IN


Just under a year ago – and just a few months before my 35th birthday – I realized I only have a few years to go before I hit that black balloon holiday. (Which is entirely fine with me, btw. Black is my favorite color.) I’m all about experiences, so I compiled my list of things I’d like to do by the time I turn 40. This past Memorial Day weekend I got to check a couple of those off!

One of the most ambitious projects on that list (could be a bucket list on its own, probably) was visiting 40 cities as an adult – road trips with the fam didn’t count! After this trip I’m up to 23 – I’ll need to pick up the pace, but it’s a good start! To be perfectly honest, Bloomington wasn’t really on my radar as a contender. I’d been there briefly once before to shoot an engagement photo session, but it was after a 12 hour wedding the day before so we didn’t stick around to see the sights. But then I was invited up there by Visit Bloomington and got a chance to fix that. So Joseph and I packed up the car and made the three-ish hour drive up there.

Day 1 – All the food & drinks

It should come as no surprise to you that I spent almost the entire first day eating and shopping. It’s what I do!

First stop was Hive, where we got some delicious breakfast. Their cinnamon rolls sounded sooooo good but I decided to be responsible and not stuff my face full of carbs first thing in the morning (I know from experience that will just make me hungry again an hour later).

After that we dropped the car off at the hotel and headed into town. We stayed at the Home2Suites, which is about a 15 minute walk from downtown. It’s set up as a suite-style extended-stay hotel (gee, who would have guessed by the name? :-D) and let me tell you, it was SO nice to have a fridge that we wouldn’t get charged extra for storing things in (glares at Las Vegas resorts). Visit Bloomington also left us a little welcome gift of local chocolate, coffee and coffee liqueur. Possibly the world’s fastest way to win my heart.

Next up was the farmer’s market. We didn’t stock up on veggies because traveling, but we did come across a stall that had houseplants (be still my heart!). They even had some carnivorous plants which I was seriously tempted to buy because I’ve never seen them at home, but then I realized I have no bugs to feed them. Also I have no idea how to take care of them. Instead we left with a little ruby rubber tree and a mother-of-thousands kalanchoe. Apparently kalanchoe was one of the first plants sent into space. You learn something new every day. I’m glad to report that nearly two weeks later they are both still alive.

© Bloomington Antique Mall

As we were leaving the farmer’s market we came across the historic Bloomington Antique Mall, which I was so excited about I forgot to take my own photo of it (whoops). They had a ton of cool stuff, including a booth that sold live edge wood slabs for really reasonable prices. I meant to go back and get one to make a hanging shelf but I forgot. Womp womp. Guess I’ll just have to go back another time.

After that was a stop at Switchyard Brewing where I tried out a cider from a local cidery, and Joseph tried a flight of Switchyard’s own beers. I’m not a huge fan of beer outside of sours, but I’m told they were all delicious.

We did a bit of shopping then, mainly at Caveat Emptor books (which is an adorable and extremely well-stocked shop) and Gather, a little boutique where I admit I went a bit wild. Ended up with two pairs of earrings, two handmade bowls, a rattlesnake calathea plant and a pink scarf. A couple years ago I started buying a scarf in every new city I visit, and it occurs to me that I’m going to have to start finding new places to store them.

By that point we were pretty ready for a break and another bite to eat so we shared tacos at Social Cantina. I definitely AM a taco person so I can confirm these were delicious.

Ok, but then we were REALLY ready for a break, especially Joseph. He drove while I napped on the way up, so we headed back to the hotel so he could have a nap of his own. I’ve been on a really long streak of practicing yoga every day (over three months now, in fact) so while he did that I headed down the street for my first-ever hot yoga class at Vibe Yoga. I don’t know what it is about yoga studios, but for some reason every single one I’ve been to has been tucked away behind another building, or had the entrance down some alley, or something. It took me a few minutes to find the place, but once I did I very much enjoyed the class. They are not joking about the ‘hot’ part by the way. I was glad I still managed to get there a little early because it took me a few minutes to get acclimated to the room. During that particular class the teacher was leading everyone through prep for forearm stands, and I discovered very quickly that’s a bad idea when you’ve got a nasty cut on your elbow. So after I bled a tiny bit (was SUPER glad I took my own mat & towel instead of renting) I decided to work on my headstand instead and no one was weird about it. And no, I still cannot do a headstand, at least not without lots of support from blocks and the wall. Soon, though.

After just enough time for me to stop sweating and take a shower it was time for (what else) more beer and food! Upland Brewing happens to do pours from their sour bottles on Saturdays (win!) so we got to try out a whole bunch of them. They were all fantastic but I think my favorite was Serene, which is aged over cantaloupe and oolong tea.

Dinner after that was at Scholar’s Keep, a restaurant in a historic house with amazing food. I just barely remembered to grab a picture before we tore into it. I would eat their truffle mac and cheese every day if I could.

Post-dinner I wanted to check out Friendly Beasts, the cidery that makes the one I had at Switchyard. We shared a flight there and again, everything got my stamp of approval. They have some dry options, which is a nice change from the sweeter ciders that seem to be the only kind I’m able to find around here. Also they have a tea one called Squirrel Grey and I think that’s just the best name ever.

We still had a few minutes to kill before the comedy show we had tickets for, which was just enough time for a peanut butter cup sundae at Hartzell’s. I’m glad we decided to share because it would have been WAY too much for me. It was also the first real ice cream I’ve had since the beginning of the year and it. was. so. good.

Last stop of the night was at the Comedy Attic to see David Britton. Not only was it a fantastic show, the club has a no-talking-during-the-performance policy which was ah-mazing. That’s a huge pet peeve of mine, and I didn’t have to glare at a single person. We apparently missed the Limestone Comedy Festival by one weekend, which was a little tragic, but I’m keeping an eye out for next year’s schedule.

By the time we were done with that it was after midnight and we’d been up since 6AM, so we went back to the hotel and promptly passed out.

Day 2 – Re-visiting, seeing the sights

After the whirlwind of a Saturday we had, we opted to take it a little slower for our second and last day in Bloomington.

Breakfast at La Vie en Rose was definitely a throwback to our vacation in Paris last year, so now we’re itching to go back. I signed up for the premium account on Scott’s Cheap Flights a while ago (more about that at the end of the post) and now I’m watching my email like a hawk for any Paris deals.

The restaurant is right off the B-Line, which is a multi-use path similar to Lexington’s Legacy Trail. We took a stroll down it to Hopscotch Coffee, because can you ever really have too much caffeine? They have a covered patio and it wasn’t too hot yet, so we sat out there sipping our almond milk lattes for a while.

Afterward we headed back to the hotel to check out, then swung back by Upland Brewing on the way out to pick up some sour ale bottles to take back with us. Then it was off to Oliver Winery for some wine tasting, my favorite! Not only do they have beautifully landscaped grounds, the wine is really, really good. They make a full range of reds, white & roses, plus some ciders and dessert wines. Some were more to our taste than others, of course, and we found a couple of bottles that we had to take home with us.

That done, it was time to get back on the road to Lexington. I may have talked Joseph into stopping at Menard’s to check out their plant situation since we don’t have one here. They didn’t have quite as big a selection of houseplants as the internet led me to believe, but I did find a nice big sansevieria for a good price to take home with me.

I’m a sucker for great views, so we took a detour on the way back to climb up the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower in the Hoosier National Forest. It’s 133 steps to the top (according to the forest service website – I didn’t count) and once you’re up there, the view is just as breathtaking as advertised. We got there just barely before a storm rolled in, which made for some really awesome clouds. The tower & stairs are metal, so I wouldn’t recommend climbing it if it’s actually raining, or if there’s lightning going on. Sneakers aren’t a bad idea either – definitely no shoes with slippery soles here.

One thing I didn’t consider before we got there: I’m not afraid of heights, but open stair treads give me vertigo. That wasn’t a huge deal on the way up because I could focus on the next landing, but you can bet I had a white knuckle grip on the railings the whole way down. We made it down without incident, then finished the drive home.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see a lot of the outdoor recreation the Bloomington area has to offer – though given the weather, that’s alright. I’d definitely like to go back to check out the trails, nature preserves, and cultural centers (which are all on the Visit Bloomington site). We’ll make sure to do that if our schedule works out so that we can go to the Limestone Comedy Festival next year. We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to going back!

The rest of this year and early next year are also jam-packed with travel plans! I’ve got a quick work trip to Boston this month followed by a vacation to NYC with some friends. Most of the fall will be here because school, but then that’s where Scott’s Cheap Flights comes in. We found an incredibly good deal to Barcelona over New Year’s, and another one to Tokyo over my spring break in March so yeah, that’s happening. It’ll probably be a long while before we’re back in Asia, so I’m hoping to spend a few days in Seoul while we’re there – expect an epic skincare haul! If you have any recommendations on things to do or any stuff you’d like to see, let me know in the comments and I’ll report back!

1 Comment

  1. Erin

    June 12, 2019 at 11:25 am

    I loved reading this post, Nikki! It looks like you really enjoyed your trip to Bloomington :)

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