Situated in the heart of central Illinois, the upbeat cities of Bloomington and Normal have been intertwined throughout much of their histories. Together, each city is home to a major university: Illinois State University in Normal and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. These lovely cities are collectively referred to as the Twin Cities, and they're located along what used to be Route 66. There's plenty of heritage to be found here, and from the David Davis Mansion to the Children's Discovery Museum, visitors could spend several days exploring indoors, before venturing out into the best of Illinois wine country, or biking the Constitution Trail through the cities.
With a clock tower, agricultural exhibits, science displays and a wide range of fun, hands-on activities, the Children's Discovery Museum in Normal is a terrific place to take the kids. Everything is arranged over three floors, and it's easy to spend a good few hours there.
What the Miller Park Zoo lacks in size it more than makes up for in quality. This charming little zoo, which is located in Bloomington, is compact enough to be suitable for families with tiny tots in tow. A surprisingly eclectic array of animals call the zoo home, including tortoises, river otters, monkeys and bald eagles.
Also known as Clover Lawn, this ornate estate was built in 1872. The residence of Supreme Court justice and state senator David Davis, it has served as a museum since 1960. The grounds include Sarah's Garden, modeled after classical Italian and English gardens from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Just north of Bloomington-Normal, you can plunge back into nature with activities like boating, fishing and hiking in and around the two manmade lakes. Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake come to life in the spring and become a magnet for weekenders and those from out-of-town through Labor Day.
Since 1978, this popular Shakespeare festival has been held on the grounds of Ewing Manor in Bloomington. It's held from late June through the middle of August, and offers some of the finest performances of Shakespeare in the US. The lovingly recreated Globe stage and open-air amphitheater alone are well worth a visit.
From the north and south, you can get to the city via Interstate 39, Interstate 74 or Interstate 55, if you have your own wheels. From the east or west, Interstate 55, which follows the course of old Route 66, is the best option, as well as having the best bragging rights.
Flying into the area? Your best bet will be Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) in Bloomington. The airport offers regular service to and from Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago and Dallas with less frequent service to Denver and Orlando. Service to and from additional cities is available at Greater Peoria Regional Airport, which is about 45 miles away.
Amtrak offers service to and from Chicago and St. Louis for those who prefer to travel by train. Bus travelers can take their pick from Greyhound and MegaBus, which both operate terminals in the area.
The climate of Bloomington-Normal doesn't tend to be too extreme. However, summer temperatures can average in the mid-80s, and humidity can be consistently high. Winters are generally cold but without much snow disruption. Throughout the year, the region receives an average of 37 inches of rainfall, so you can expect fairly dry conditions whenever you visit.
There isn't really an off-season to speak of so Bloomington-Normal hotels' rates tend to be fairly consistent throughout the year. You can expect to pay a nightly rate of anywhere from $60 to around $150. If you're visiting the area to enjoy outdoor activities, late spring is a great time to visit. Fall brings cooler temperatures but a fiery landscape because of the changing leaves.
* Prices reflect the lowest "base rate" found over the next 30 days. Rates are subject to change and may not include taxes and fees, hotel service charges, extra person charges, or incidentals, such as room service. All rates are displayed in USD unless otherwise noted. Converted rates are provided for your convenience. They are based on today's exchange rate, but the hotel will charge you in the local currency.