There is a line that is becoming well-worn for Hoosiers — it’s so easy to get from Evansville to Bloomington now.
With the opening of Interstate 69, connecting our southern river city to the middle of the state in a straight shot, traveling to Bloomington, Indiana, is much easier than in days past.
In May, I took the quick route up north (a two-hour drive from Downtown Evansville to be exact) for a day-trip to explore some of the offerings of the town just south of Indianapolis. My first stop — and lodgings for the trip — was the new Graduate Hotel located along East Kirkwood Avenue.
This addition to the college-centric hotel chain brings the best of Indiana University and Hoosier hospitality into each room. The six floors of the hotel house 150 rooms, including a variety of 20 different suites. My room resembled a homey guest suite, with comfy furniture and unique decorative touches.
“Everything is custom-designed,” says hotel manager Shane Mobley. “Everything has a connection to IU, Bloomington, the state, or a famous Hoosier.”
My afternoon was spent mingling with others on the Jack & Diane Terrace on the fourth floor — an open event space featuring views of the city, shuffleboard courts, and various seating options.
The next morning, after grabbing a tasty breakfast sandwich and coffee at Poindexter Coffee (inside the lobby of The Graduate), I trekked off to my first stop of the day — Oliver Winery. Oliver’s roots reach back to 1969 when Indiana University law professor William Oliver decided to take his hobby of wine making a step further by purchasing property for his own commercial winery.
The winery now is the oldest and largest in the state, and the label will be familiar to any wine lover as Oliver is distributed and sold within 27 states.
I was given a tour not only packed with information on the processes of Oliver and its history, but tastings of a variety of its offerings. While a beautiful tasting room can get you to a drink that matches your preferences, it’s the grounds of Oliver that truly make it a destination.
“It is going to sound cheesy, but I look at people on the property having a good time and I think that’s because of our wine,” says Dennis Dunham, vice president of operations, director of wine making, and a 23-year employee of Oliver. “Events and our wine — all of that goes together, and it really makes what we do exciting.”
The experience was eye opening — from seeing the bottling building to taking in the large vats filled with Oliver’s delicious offerings. I think, however, my favorite part was learning about Oliver’s dedication to the craft, how employees nurture their vines, and how wine is more than just smashing grapes, adding sugar, and letting the concoction ferment.
I decided to end my trip with a visit to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (below). Encompassing 90 acres, the grounds include temples, sculptures, art pieces, and more. The stillness and quiet found at the center was peaceful. Walking along the paths and observing the temples, you can hear the light tinkling of bells on the structures as the wind blows. Many workshops, teachings, seminars, retreats, and more are offered regularly at the grounds and the public always is welcome.