BN Life

Here’s What the Locals Love | The Perfect BN Itinerary

Our locals know all of the best places in Bloomington-Normal. Come visit us and use this itinerary to get the full Bloomington-Normal experience. From Uptown Normal to Downtown Bloomington to everything in between, this itinerary gives you an idea of some of the best things to do and places to eat in our communities. Our locals love them, and we think you will to!

Favorite Breakfast Spot: Fort Jesse

1531 Fort Jesse Road Normal, IL 61761

Fort Jesse is a cheerful cafe serving hearty, diner-style breakfast, burgers & salads in bright, welcoming digs. This Cafe is a collaboration of longtime professional chef, Chris Bradley, and front-of-house special, Abby Strader. With 20 years of experience between them, they are pursuing their vision of fresh, homemade fare served in a casual eatery.  Chef Chris believes the best part about owning a restaurant is having a creative outlet for his ideas.  The menu offers combinations that are a little risky, a lot of fun, and as fresh as possible, and he is always pursuing new ideas and concepts through daily specials.


Favorite Locally Owned Shop: Garlic Press

108 W. North Street Normal, IL 61761

The Garlic Press has been part of Normal, IL for over 44 years as a women owned, independent brick and mortar.  While they have always been a specialty cookware store, the Garlic Press continues to seek  new, unique and creative items that make everyone’s lives enjoyable, more efficient, tastier, or comforting.

Favorite Attraction: Miller Park Zoo

1020 S Morris Ave Bloomington, IL 61704

Miller Park Zoo began to house exotic animals after a circus left behind a lion cub in the early 1900s. The Zoo offers many exhibits and zookeeper interaction opportunities that are enjoyed by the whole family. Zoo inhabitants include a Sumatran tiger, river otter, Galapagos tortoise, Amur leopard, sun bears, reindeer, sea lion, red pandas, lemurs, bald eagles, pallas cats and red wolves. The Zoo features many large exhibits such as a Wallaby WalkAbout, ZooLab, Children’s Zoo, Animals of Asia, and the Katthoefer Animal Building. The Zoo’s newest exhibit is the Tropical America Rainforest. Fun Fact — Miller Park Zoo is the only active zoo located directly on the original Route 66.


Favorite Lunch Spot: The Rock

203 W North St Normal, IL 61761

The Rock’s goal has been and continues to be this; to make the best Gyros, Mediterranean and American food, with the best service in town! Their friendly environment in Uptown Normal and quality service has become a favorite by locals and Illinois State students.

Favorite Outdoor Activity/Location: Constitution Trail

Weaves throughout Bloomington-Normal

The Constitution Trail is a 45+ mile hard surfaced trail running through the Twin Cities that has been developed for walking, hiking, jogging and biking, providing the community with an outstanding linear park for the entire family. The initial portion of the Trail has been expanded over the years from the first project located on an abandoned railway, to reaching out to most segments of both communities.


Favorite Dinner Spot: Epiphany Farms

220 E Front St Bloomington, IL 61701

Epiphany Farms Restaurant’s fun and unique atmosphere in Downtown Bloomington provides a perfect “date night” or family dinner spot. Epiphany Farms is committed to supporting, growing, and showcasing a thriving, local food culture. Their “farm to fork” concept represents a concern for every step of the process, linking the meal to the land that produced it. “Farm to fork” means keeping money in the local economy and using resources the community provides. “Farm to fork” signifies attention to excellence: from the farmer raising the crops to the family sitting down in our dining room to share a meal together.


Favorite Dessert: Carl’s Ice Cream

601 W Locust Street Bloomington, IL 61071

1700 W College Ave Normal, IL 61761

Carl’s Ice Cream has been a local favorite for sweet treats since 1980.Since the beginning, Carl’s has been making their own hard serve ice cream with fresh ingredients.  In addition to traditional flavors, they offer flavors such as Cookie Monster, Mud pie, and Moose Tracks. Be sure to stop by the Normal location to visit and take a picture with Carl, the 14 foot Muffler Man!


Favorite Nightlife Spot for Drinks: Nightshop

517 N Main St Bloomington, IL 61701

Nightshop is a live music venue and restaurant with vegetarian/vegan and omnivore fare. They also offer local and national craft beer and spirits. Nightshop has dart machines, video gaming, and a large, partially covered patio making it a fun place to have drinks and hangout with friends. Live music is featured multiple nights per week.


Favorite Nightlife Spot for Entertainment: Castle Theater

209 E Washington St #1 Bloomington, IL 61701

Immediately upon entering the main performing area, visitors are reminded of the days when no expense was spared in building a theater. Rich in architectural details such as gilded columns, ornate friezes and art deco-inspired chandeliers, the Castle is the perfect link between Bloomington’s past, present and future. Today, the entire venue is designed to provide the best experience for patrons and performers alike.


Favorite Hotel: Hyatt Place

200 Broadway Normal, IL 6171

Hyatt Place Bloomington/Normal is located in the heart of Uptown Normal, making it one of the best locations in the city. Walk to restaurants, colleges, and festivals, or make the most of our free five-mile shuttle and reach stadiums, art centers, and nature trails. Enjoy the Hyatt’s private rooftop, The Terrace, which is open to the public every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday starting at 5:00 PM! Enjoy a delicious menu and a variety of drink options while you hang with friends around the outdoor fire pit.


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