Are you looking for a place to get away from it all? Visit the Prairie State of Illinois on your next vacation and experience beautiful cities, delicious food and never-ending activities. A weekend trip or weeklong vacation to this state is sure to provide tons of fun, and the same is true for Bloomington. As the sister city to the neighboring town Normal, Illinois, Bloomington is the larger of the twin cities. Even with its size, it offers a local charm that’s hard to find in bustling municipalities.
Whether you’re a history buff or want to brush up on your knowledge, visiting historic sites in Bloomington is an excellent way to spend your free time. Take a look at this list of historic landmarks in Bloomington, Illinois, and make a note of the must-see locations. You’ll soon be on your way to experiencing an unforgettable blast from the past.
Historic Sites in Bloomington
Hop in your car and cycle through some of the most notable historic sites in Bloomington. These locations are sure to leave a mark in your memory, bringing you back for more on your next holiday.
Ewing Cultural Center
The Ewing Cultural Center is one historic landmark that hosts several notable features, including the Ewing Manor, the Theatre at Ewing and the Genevieve Green Gardens. The Illinois couple Davis Ewing and Hazle Buck Ewing built and owned the residence, infusing its design with elements of the different cultures they had experienced. After Hazle’s death in 1969, the property went to Illinois State University Foundation and has since served as a hub for intercultural learning.
Join a group or public tour of the manor, or head over to the theatre during the summer months to witness the annual Illinois Shakespeare Festival. You’ll get to enjoy some of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.
Evergreen Memorial Cemetery
The Evergreen Memorial Cemetery offers a humbling look at the lives of past Bloomington citizens — various demographics rest here, whether wealthy or poor. As one of the richest historical sites in Bloomington, it gives the everyday citizen or traveler an intimate perspective into generations past. Go on a self-guided tour of the cemetery’s 47 acres and visit the memorials and family plots of well-known Illinois residents.
Dorothy Louis Gage, the niece of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum, is one of many individuals who rests here. Stop by the cemetery’s mausoleum for a peaceful moment, or attend any one of the various events held throughout the year.
David Davis Mansion
Supreme Court Justice David Davis was an ally to Abraham Lincoln and proved instrumental in his 1860 presidential election campaign. Davis’s home is a compelling reminder of 19th-century values and tastes, as it served as a significant meeting point for politics and social activity. Stop by his mansion on your journey through Bloomington and catch a glimpse of history at its finest. The building incorporates elements of Italianate architecture and mid-Victorian design — fashions that emphasize its grandeur and sophistication.
Lincoln Oak Memorial
The Lincoln Oak Memorial sits just behind the Scott-Vrooman House and marks a location where Lincoln and his colleague, Stephen A. Douglas, often held political speeches. A shady oak tree marked this historic site, though it has long since died. Bloomington planted another oak tree there not long after its death to commemorate the original. The memorial itself is an inscribed plaque — also a replication of the original — featuring a quote from one of the U.S. vice presidents, Adlai Stevenson I.
Miller Park Pavilion & War Memorial
Pay your respects to veterans who served in the Vietnam and Korean Wars at Miller Park’s war memorial. The monument consists of black granite, while red sidewalks list the names of fallen or missing-in-action soldiers. The city restored the pavilion in 1977, and since then, it has become a popular spot for concert performances. Miller Park also features an outdoor bandstand — swing by in the summer to watch a thrilling play or an unforgettable concert.
Miller Park is also home to a Civil War monument that once stood in Franklin Square. After the statue began falling apart and became almost entirely illegible, Governor Joseph W. Fifer commissioned a new one to be built in this lush recreational area.
National Landmarks in Bloomington
These landmarks are buildings, sites, districts and more listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. Don’t miss out on the wealth of national landmarks Bloomington offers. Pay a visit to as many as possible, and see history as it once was.
This 19th-century bed and breakfast found its place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, serving as one of many national landmarks in Bloomington, Illinois. Explore its antique architecture while enjoying modern amenities such as massages, gourmet breakfasts and soothing mani-pedis. The Vrooman mansion combines historic elegance with contemporary charm in each of its suites, modeled after the Scott and Vrooman families who once inhabited it.
The mansion was built in 1869, and Julia and Matthew T. Scott purchased it in 1873. Julia continued managing the home after her husband’s death, becoming a prominent figure within the community as a businesswoman. One of their daughters — also named Julia — took over the mansion’s legacy after marrying Carl Vrooman, and it became her forever home.
Alternately referred to as a “park” and “square,” this national landmark began as Bloomington’s first park. Its current beauty paints a much different picture from what it initially looked like, proving a testament to the endurance of both the citizens and the park itself. It hosts various sorority and fraternity houses, which used to be the living spaces of many locally well-known individuals. These citizens would often receive visits from famous figures, including Theodore Roosevelt, Carl Sandburg and Ulysses S. Grant.
Visit Franklin Square while on your trip and follow the footsteps of many well-respected people who came centuries before. Unfurl your blanket and throw a picnic among the trees — and don’t forget to snap some pictures of the Romanesque- and Colonial-style architecture.
East Grove Street District
Why limit yourself to one or two national historic sites when you can visit an entire district of them? East Grove is another of Bloomington’s notable locations that has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It spans 400 to 700 East Grove Street and boasts a range of apartment complexes and houses. Many of these residences were once home to middle-class and wealthy citizens. Like the homes in Franklin Square, Queen Anne-style architecture is a staple of this area — perfect for exterior design geeks.
You may think this building looks like every other, but its title of “national landmark” sets it apart from the rest. It is a notable example of the Commercial architectural style within Bloomington. All other structures of this design no longer exist within historic landscapes or show less sophistication than the White Building. Furniture-seller Samuel R. White first owned the building, although the Heberling brothers and their pharmacy soon took over.
Selling a range of products from headache tablets to sewing machine oil, the Heberlings’ company ran strong until its close in 1958. Now the building stands as an apartment complex, a lingering testament to past businesses that operated there.
McLean County Courthouse and Square
The McLean County Courthouse halted legal operations in 1976 and has since served as a historical museum — a fitting occupation for its place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the fourth in a series of Bloomington courthouses, with its predecessor burning down in 1900. Builders erected the existing structure on the same foundations as the old one, and the McLean County Courthouse has stood ever since then. Swing by 200 North Main Street for an up-close look at this famed courthouse.
Scenic Places in Bloomington
If you need a break from exploring antique interiors, step outdoors and explore any of the scenic places in Bloomington, Illinois. There’s no shortage of grassy parks or recreational areas for you to check out. You’re sure to find Instagram-worthy scenery to take pictures of, experiencing the great outdoors like never before.
Lace up your sturdiest hiking boots and take a journey through Constitution Trail, one of the most well-known scenic places in Bloomington. This trail joins the twin cities Normal and Bloomington on its expansive route, and citizens of both areas use it for recreation and alternative transportation. The original project existed on top of an abandoned railway, the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. As you may have guessed, the trail takes its name from the U.S. Constitution.
The trail opens at one hour before sunrise and closes at one hour after sunset. Squeeze in an early morning jog while on your Illinois getaway, or take a moment to watch the sun before night settles in. Your pet will appreciate the chance to stretch their legs and explore, too.
Genevieve Green Gardens
Rest awhile and smell the flowers at the Genevieve Green Gardens, a landscaping masterpiece made to honor Illinois native Genevieve Green. The gardens consist of a few different plots of land, including the Compass Garden, Great Lawn and Woodland Garden. Don’t forget to check out the Moriyama Garden, which is a gift from Asahikawa, Bloomington’s sister city in Japan.
The gardens are a part of the Ewing Cultural Center — pop indoors for a history lesson after you’ve had your fill of lush greenery. Before you head into the manor, pause in the Formal Plaza and take in the Jacob-style architecture, as well as the colorful bushes and trees.
If you love to fish — or simply enjoy the serenity of a peaceful lake — head to Lake Bloomington for a day on the water. This natural water body boasts 18.5 miles of shoreline, giving you plenty of room to stretch out and indulge in a few hours of fun. Take to the waters for a round of water-skiing or rent a boat and relax in style. This water feature is about 15 miles from the city of Bloomington.
If you grab your fishing rod, you can snag a variety of fish both native to the waters and transplanted by the city, including:
- Largemouth bass
- Smallmouth bass
- Channel catfish
McGraw Park is the perfect spot for individuals, couples or families looking to enjoy some relaxation after a day of excitement — or bring the festivities to a new location. This park is especially appealing to young kids, as there are numerous ways to entertain them. McGraw Park features several amenities for visitors to enjoy:
- Softball diamond
- Drinking fountains
- Water spray park
- Soccer field
Historic Homes in Bloomington
There’s nothing quite like stepping into the past by visiting the homes of people who lived decades before you. It makes you think about how they used to live — what activities they participated in, what conversations they had and which games they played. Although we don’t have all the answers, visiting these historic homes gives us plenty of imaginative fuel.
The Dodson-Stevenson House is one of many historic homes in Bloomington, with a good portion of them concentrated in Franklin Square. Vice president Adlai Stevenson I lived in this residence, which earned the home the alternative name of the Adlai Stevenson I House. You may hear several variations of this name, such as the Stevenson House and the Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home, but surprisingly, these are all different locations.
Some of these other homes were occupied by Adlai Stevenson II, who was Stevenson I’s grandson. The Dodson-Stevenson House, however, sits on North McLean Street near the McLean County Courthouse. It boasts the same Italianate style as the David Davis Mansion, straightforward but sophisticated in its presentation. Drive through the area while you visit the courthouse and glimpse its fine exterior design up-close.
The Lillard residence is rich with Queen Anne-style elements that speak to its Victorian influence. Its original inhabitants were John T. Lillard and Sarah Davis, the daughter of Lincoln’s campaign manager, David Davis. This architectural design never fails to stand out, emphasizing a few key features that distinguish it from the rest:
- Dutch gables
- Asymmetrical building designs
- Towers in square, polygonal or round shapes
- Porches, sometimes on the second floor
- Bay windows
- Classical columns
The Fifer-Bohrer House was owned by Governor Fifer and his daughter Florence Fifer Bohrer, the first female senator in Illinois. You can recognize this abode by its Georgian Revival design, marked by an impeccable sense of symmetry and modest exterior ornamentation. Though the Georgian Revival style emphasizes modesty, this house will surely stick in your memories. Visit this historic home to witness the birthplace of history itself — women gaining a foothold in politics.
Visit Giordano’s in Bloomington
Your visit to Bloomington, Illinois, won’t be complete without trying some of the region’s delicacies — including a stuffed pizza from Giordano’s. We build our signature pizza from the crust up, adding toppings and cheese and creating another layer of crust to top it. The sauce is the grand finale, spread onto the crust to make a delicious pie that’s been winning hearts since 1974.
Indulge in our deep-dish Chicago-style pizza during your stay in Bloomington, or give one of our salads, pasta dishes or sandwiches a try. We offer something for everyone, providing you the perfect way to fulfill your cravings after a day of trekking. Stop in for a taste or order delivery online, and you may find your new favorite restaurant.