Fort Wayne is a city of over 250,000 people and the second-largest city in Indiana. From learning about your family history at the most resourceful sight in the country to a city responsible for producing the thousands of Vera Bradley purses and suitcases you see all over the world, Fort Wayne is a force to be reckoned with. Here are the best things to see and do in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as I’ve discovered.
Learn About Your Genealogy
The ACPL Genealogy Center is on the second floor of the Allen County Public Library. It holds the largest database of public records in the country. A professional staff of trained genealogists can help you trace your family graves or heritage at the center’s $4.5 million resources, and are glad to help for free. Browse through the 1.2 million items on hand or access the work’s largest database to learn the story of you or your loved ones’ lives.
A hidden gem is the thousands of original items related to Abraham Lincoln, owned by the Allen County Public Library. It includes 20,000 books, Civil War diaries, statues, signed memorabilia, and art. Many are on display at the library and are free to admire.
Fort Wayne’s Genealogy Center even has subscriptions to many online genealogy sites to use for free during your visit. Don’t want to put your finds and books away at closing? The staff is so thoughtful that they will save your space for the next day; ask. Many people come to Fort Wayne, stay across the street, and spend days learning about their roots at this incredible place that I find myself telling people all over the country about.
Cheer on the Tincaps and Mad Ants
The Tincaps, Fort Wayne’s minor league baseball team, is the Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Their stadium’s (Parkview Field) downtown location has been attracting visitors and locals since 2009. In May of 2017, TripAdvisor named Parkview Field the “Best Minor League Baseball Park.” You will adore the Tincaps’ Johnny “Tincap” Appleseed mascot. Opt for box seats as you will have access to a private lounge.
And speaking of Johnny Appleseed, perhaps Fort Wayne’s most famous figure who introduced apple trees to these parts, take part in the festival by the same name in September, with food, entertainment, and reenactments. You can pay respects at his gravesite, too.
What a blast it is to see a Mad Ants game at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. They are the professional basketball team that is the farm team to the Indiana Pacers. Seeing a game is a great and inexpensive way to attend a fast-paced family-friendly sporting event with tasty concessions, too. I enjoyed the Madame Ant Dance Team and half time entertainment, as well as the fan and audience interactions, as much as the game itself.
Beer and Art Trails of Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne is an incredibly modern city, with offerings for all ages and income levels. As a whole, Indiana has an impressive list and number of trails to explore, with many offerings in Fort Wayne. Explore the Northern Indiana Beer Trail at Hop River Brewing, 2Toms, Fortlandia, and Mad Anthony Brewing Company.
Eat your way through the city with a caramel apple at DeBrand’s all in the name of the Seasonal Apple Trail, or see the incredible murals on the Public Art Trail, including alleys and sculptures that reiterate Fort Wayne’s prominence as an art destination.
Attend the Annual Vera Bradley Sale
Fort Wayne is home to the annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale. This highly anticipated event takes place once a year over five days in April at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. During this sale, nearly 700,000 Vera Bradley pieces are marked down 40-60%, including accessories, handbags, luggage, and blankets. “Organized madness” best describes this event.
A VIP ticket is required to shop for the first three days of the Vera Bradley sale. Purchase yours in advance as they sell out quickly. Tickets are not necessary to buy the last two days, but be prepared to wait in line for hours to enter or checkout. This annual Vera Bradley sale contributes $5 million to Fort Wayne’s economy.
Explore the Arts of Fort Wayne, Indiana
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art (FWMOA) has a gorgeous focal piece of hanging Chihuily glassware. The museum is home to both permanent (American Brilliant Cut Glass items) and touring exhibits, contemporary art, and an Early Learning Center with plenty of hands-on activities for children. However, small in size, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art packs a powerful punch with their extensive offerings.
One of the gems of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Browse the indoor gardens (ranging from tropical flowers and trees to desert garden favorites) with a gorgeous cascading waterfall and admire the carefully labeled photo-worthy specimens.
As you wander through the botanical garden, keep your eyes peeled for fruit and cacao trees. My visit to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory was in the springtime when they had an impressive butterfly display. It has a gift shop and cafe, too.
Take in Fantastic Museums
Aside from the botanical garden and art museum mentioned above, there are oodles of fine arts and culture options in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Noteworthy ones include the Fort Wayne Comedy Club (intimate space with great comedy, food, and drinks), Embassy Theatre (National Broadway productions, concerts, and programming in a historic 1928 venue) and Fort Wayne Philharmonic (sharing classical music with over 300 concerts a year).
At first glance of the Fort Wayne Science Central, the whimsical, colorful crayon-looking pieces sticking up through the roof instantly make you want to visit. This hands-on museum encourages visitors to fully engage with their more than 130 experiments and displays that foster learning.
Science Central is doing big things with cutting-edge technology, most apparent by their Science on a Sphere special exhibit. Try to take a tour with the museum’s Executive Director, Martin. His passion for all things science is contagious!
Summer brings the Middle Waves Music Festival, with impressive headlining acts, plus art installations and loads of fun. Other favorite summertime activities are the Friday Nites Live and Summer Nights at the Embassy, offering more live music than you can shake a stick at. The new Sweetwater Band Shell at Promenade Park promises a great line-up, as well.
Enjoy Incredible Food
Fort Wayne’s dining scene is pretty fantastic. Its local food scene ranges from award-winning breweries to farm-to-table and everything in between. Here are some of the places we frequent:
- Junk Ditch Brewing Company (Chuck Roast Gnocchi)
- The Hoppy Gnome (Kimchi Chicken Fingers)
- Proximo (Carnita Benedict)
- Tolon (Duck Fat Frites)
- Don Chava’s Mexican Grill (Arroz Con Pollo)
- Nawa (Massaman Chicken Curry)
- Dash In (Avocado Toast)
- Zesto Ice Cream (Chocolate Dipped Cone)
- Hop River Brewing Company (Caramelized Onion Dip with Veggies)
- 816 Pint & Slice (Greeeen slice)
- Rise ‘N Roll (Sausage Roll)
- Copper Spoon (The Baron gourmet burger)
- DeBrand Fine Chocolates (anything!)
- Casa Ristoranti (Polpette- housemade meatballs)
For restaurant recommendations, see our restaurant guide to some fantastic Fort Wayne eateries.
DeBrand Fine Chocolates is a tasty Fort Wayne staple. This gorgeous business serves everything chocolate: from decadent handmade truffles to classic chocolates, ice cream desserts to cookies, and a fantastic offering of chocolate gifts.
DeBrand even offers a chocolate tour and tasting. If you visit the downtown location, grab a photo of the colorful Jeremy Selzer mural.
See Wild Animals
What is there for kids to do in Fort Wayne? One of the top things would be to get their animal fix at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, a place for kids and adults featuring 100 animals in five exhibit areas. Y
ou can see animals from around the world by exploring the Central Zoo, Indonesian Rain Forest, Australian Adventure, African Journey, and Indiana Family Farm areas of the zoo. A few of the exotics you will see are adorable meerkats, Colobus monkeys, otters, Tasmanian devils, and a California sea lion.
Though I didn’t ride the African Journey Sky Safari, it looked like a great way to see the entire park from an aerial view. Interactive activities or Wild Encounters (petting stingrays, caring for African birds, meeting penguins, or feeding giraffe) are real crowd-pleasers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
Plan to stay for lunch; the restaurant serves tasty sandwiches, gourmet salads, and snacks. Don’t forget to meet the red pandas, Oolong and Anne, some of the zoo’s newest members.
Riverfront Fort Wayne’s Promenade Park opened in the fall of 2019. The massive project is bringing a breath of fresh air to the city of Fort Wayne and the unique riverfront property where three rivers converge. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the kayaking and tree canopy trail, suitable for all ages and abilities.
Kids may prefer the kids’ water activities, fashioned for their fun level in mind at Kids’ Canal. Modern facilities can be found at Promenade Park, too.
Head over to Fort Wayne Outfitters to rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to take your visit to a new level. They also specialize in outdoor apparel, sunglasses, and gear. Enjoy the easy in/out ramp at the riverfront and paddle your way to fitness and picturesque docking system for kayaks along the way.
Fort Wayne’s new offerings include ten splash pads and three public pools throughout Allen County, with a huge one in Headwaters Park. You can also take a canal boat trip on the Sweet Breeze.
From community activities to swinging in hammocks, watching musical performances at the amphitheater to splashing in the kid’s canal, you are sure to have a wonderful time at Fort Wayne’s Riverfront.
You’ll find upscale shopping and great places to eat at The Landing, adjacent to the park, where the Erie Canal boats docked and unloaded in times past. Be sure to check out the gorgeous Wells Street Bridge while you are there.
Fort Wayne boasts 120 miles of trails and 87 parks to experience a real dose of the great outdoors.
Browse the Murals, Parks, and Admire the Architecture
You’ll be impressed at the sheer number of vivid and gorgeous murals, stately architecture, and spacious parks in Fort Wayne. You can follow the mural trail to see the great pieces of art for absolutely free. My favorites murals are the panda (124 W Berry St.) and buffalo (126 W Columbia St.).
Fort Wayne is a historical city, so the buildings are ornate and eye-catching. Just strolling around downtown Fort Wayne is a fun thing to do, admiring the blooming flowers and incredible landscapes. The city showcases the pride for its town via fresh flower displays, artsy bicycle racks, noble sculptures, and benches.
I wasn’t expecting to find Art Deco anywhere in the country outside of South Florida (where I live), but then I wandered into the Lincoln Bank Tower. What a pleasant surprise. The Art Deco murals are incredible, and color schemes divine. The 22-story high-rise was the tallest building in Indiana for quite some time and is one of the best-hidden gems and landmarks in the Midwest.
Along the Lincoln Highway (the first coast to coast highway), the Lincoln Bank Tower was a really big deal in its time. Today, the beauty of the decor alone is worth the visit.
Wondering Where to Stay in Fort Wayne?
One of Fort Wayne’s newest hotels is the baseball-inspired Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Wayne Downtown. I loved the simplicity of this hotel, which features many rooms with ballpark views. The chair and desk came in handy for working, and the bed linens were exceptional. You can walk to many places around town from this location. Also included are free hot breakfast, a 24-hour business center, an on-site restaurant, and Conner’s Rooftop bar.
The Holiday Inn (PFW-Coliseum), across from the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, is the perfect home-away-from-home while visiting Fort Wayne, Indiana. The staff is friendly, the rooms are comfortable, and the location is ideal for the Vera Bradley sale. There is also a free shuttle service.
The Hilton Fort Wayne at the Grand Wayne Convention Center is my pick for a luxury downtown hotel. This stately full-service hotel is also within walking distance to many city attractions and has a free airport shuttle with a reservation. There is a full-service restaurant and a real Starbuck’s on the Hilton Fort Wayne property.
Rooms have 55″ TVs, spacious living quarters, microwaves, and convenient $8 self-parking.
Opened in the spring of 2021, is the first and only hotel with Barbara Bradley Baekgaard’s (co-founder of Vera Bradley) stamp on it—The Bradley. She and Provenance Hotels have teamed up to create the 27 million dollar 124-room specialty hotel, a 5-story hotel with a restaurant, rooftop bar, and retail space. I cannot wait to see it!
Best of Fort Wayne by Neighborhood
North: Shop Sugar Love Boutique, Enjoy fine chocolates at DeBrand Fine Chocolates, cocktails at Black Canyon.
East: Try a Firefly Coffeehouse drink, add to your vintage record collection at Wooden Nickel, smell the roses at Lakeside Park.
South: Eat a chocolate-dipped cone from Zesto, enjoy a game of golf at Foster Park, see a musical performance at The Clyde Theatre.
West: Shop the selections at Jefferson Pointe, feast on a cinnamon caramel donut at Rise ‘n Roll, try locally-distilled alcohol and delicious cocktails at HT2.
Historic West Central (W of Downtown): Eat Scooby snacks at Mad Anthony brewpub, play a game of tennis at Swinney Park, shop local artists wares at Fancy & Staple.
Coliseum Blvd.: Take in a Mad Ants basketball game, enjoy a fine-dining experience at Cork ‘N Cleaver, visit Johnny Appleseed’s gravesite.
Downtown: Get a caffeine overload at Fortezza, see a show at the Embassy Theatre, ice-skate (in the winter) at Headwaters Park, or enjoy a meal at an authentic 1950s diner, Cindy’s, great for photo-ops.
Historic Wells Street (NW of Downtown): Browse the awesome selection of books at Hyde Brothers Booksellers, sip margaritas at Don Chava’s Mexican Grill, and take a boat ride at Promenade Park.
Fort Wayne: An Exciting Time to Visit
Fort Wayne is an exceptional city that will be a great addition to your travel itineraries. Be sure to check out the cool murals on the public art trail and see the unique bike rack sculptures scattered around town. With the opening of the newest attractions and businesses, Fort Wayne is going to explode! I hope you grow to love this Midwestern city as much as I do.
I was hosted by the Fort Wayne CVB for this familiarization trip. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. As with all posts on this site, all opinions and conclusions are 100% my own and unbiased.
To learn more about the Fort Wayne area, check out the Visit Fort Wayne tourism board.
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