Courtesy Graduate Hotel
Rate: $127 per night and up in March, $299 and up for busy April weekends
We recommend: A midweek deal on the Dining King Suite, a plush spread with a large living-and-dining area in addition to a separate king bedroom. At press time, it was just $125 per night April 14 to 16.
There’s only one hotel in the world where the Hickory Huskers greet you at the front desk. (Are we certain about this? No. But come on.) A painting of the team photo—the one shown at the end of Hoosiers as Gene Hackman’s voice-over chokes on the words “I love you guys”—is framed mighty and majestically behind the registration desk, itself a dark-wood paneled console that looks like it belongs in the Indiana Memorial Union.
Throughout the stay, you notice creative tributes to Indiana culture in the hotel’s colorful, riotous design. Look at that—the carpet pattern has the Indiana state seal in it. The Hunger Games quote? Oh, right, the author went to I.U. Bicycle-motif wallpaper, for the Little 500. Red plastic chairs suspended over a stairwell like a mobile. Basketball hoops as light fixtures. The touches are endless, and they add up to a big visual love letter to Indiana University and the state as a whole.
Beyond the Hoosier-ificness, the warm design charms with homey-cool bric-a-brac, including mismatched wallpaper, kitschy art, and shabby-chic table lamps. The layout breaks all chain-hotel molds with hangout spaces on the main floor, including a student-union type of lounge and a fantastic coffee shop. Located smack-dab in the middle of Kirkwood, the main drag outside the university’s Sample Gates, the Graduate is as much campus hangout as hotel.
Upstairs, where a stay really counts, rooms are plush and large. Gleaming wooden doors might serve as a headboard. Area rugs warm up the wood floors. The coverlet on the bed has a picket-fence design. Is that an Indiana thing? You’ll be Googling your brain for a Mellencamp song reference.
The Graduate chain flirts with every college town where it opens with the same hyper-local attention. We know we’re not the only ones Graduate loves. But we’re smitten, flattered, and well-rested nonetheless.
ACE THIS TRIP
Book: Take the kids and stay in the Big Five Family Suite, which has racecar beds like the one in Silver Spoons. There’s so much Indiana history here, kids should get fourth-grade credits for a stay. They’ll love a trip to Urban Air Bloomington, a trampoline park with a ropes course, zipline, jumping platform, and many more amped-up features.
Shop: Bloomington’s courthouse square is a hotbed of locally owned shops, like high-end Andrew Davis menswear, much-loved gourmet emporium Goods for Cooks, and artful women’s clothier Mirth Market. There are many more specialty stores in the area.
See: Check the schedule at The Comedy Attic, just around the corner. Nationally recognized stand-up acts come through regularly. Already this year, Alex Moffat and Mike Birbiglia have sold out shows.