Bloomington, population 64,808, and Normal, population 45,386, make up a twin city area intersected by three interstate highways. The area has an agricultural, manufacturing and industrial economy and is home to two higher education institutions, Illinois State University (ISU) in Normal and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
The ISU campus houses three art galleries and the area's top entertainment venue, Braden Auditorium, which hosts national acts. Downtown renovations in both cities are providing more shops, restaurants and attractions. In downtown Bloomington, the 1920s Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts hosts more than 400 events year round and the McLean County Arts Center showcases international, regional and local artwork. Normal's Children's Discovery Museum features hands-on exhibits and visitors can catch a movie in the restored 1930s Normal Theater.
Shopping centers include the Shoppes at College Hills, Factory Stores, and Eastland Mall. Other entertainment options include eating some locally made Beer Nuts snacks at the Beer Nuts and Bloomington Sale Barn, watching horse races from across the country at Bloomington off-track betting facility, getting an up-close view of a plane at the Prairie Aviation Museum or watching the animals at Miller Park Zoo. The David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, the restored 1872s Victorian home of the Lincoln advisor is also open for tours.
Bloomington and Normal are located 125 miles southwest of Chicago and 64 miles northwest of Springfield. They are accessible via Interstate Highways 39, 55 and 74. A variety of national hotel chains are available in both cities.