Bloomington, Indiana, is truly a college town. The city of 80,450 is home to Indiana University's 40,000 students; several top attractions are free and located on campus.
At the IU Art Museum, the 40,000 holdings include paintings by Picasso and Monet; free, guided tours happen by appointment. The Kinsey Institute Gallery, open on weekdays, shows art and artifacts from the Kinsey Institute's research in sex, gender and reproduction.
Inside the family-friendly Mathers Museum of World Cultures are collections of music instruments, textiles, photographs and artifacts from all over the globe. Free activity guides help children navigate the space with parents.
Exhibits from the Elizabeth Sage Historic Costume Collection are a fun study of museum-quality to present-day fashion.The collection began as the work of a faculty member who wrote one of the nation's first costume history textbooks.
This part of the Hoosier Nation also loves sports, especially basketball, and has won five NCAA basketball championships. Only the University of Southern California and the University of Kentucky have won more.
Notable alums include war journalist Ernie Pyle, actors Kevin Kline and Lee Majors, sportscaster Dick Enberg, soprano Sylvia McNair, violin virtuoso Joshua Bell and jazz composer/songwriter Hoagy Carmichael (look for a bronze statue of him, at the piano, outside of the campus auditorium).
Bloomington is known as the Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana. Thirty miles south is the 202,000-acre Hoosier National Forest, whose Wesley Chapel Gulf (a wide, collapsed sinkhole) is a National Natural Landmark. Twenty miles east is the artsy community of Nashville, population 800 and near Brown County State Park.
Popular with boaters and fishermen is Lake Monroe, which is Indiana's largest inland lake, just southeast of Bloomington and next to the state park. Also in the neighborhood are the shoreline cottages of Lake Lemon; some are vacation rentals.
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