Located in the northeastern corner of Indiana, Fort Wayne is the second largest city in the state. Sitting along the convergence of three rivers (the St. Mary’s, St. Joseph and Maumee rivers), Fort Wayne has been a thriving Midwestern city for more than 200 years. With a walkable downtown, an up-and-coming art scene, historical attractions, river activities and a delicious food scene, Fort Wayne welcomes visitors to explore its Midwestern charms. Here are my top 8 reasons to visit Fort Wayne, Indiana!
1. Downtown District:
I love visiting cities that have a walkable downtown district, making it easier to experience the true vibe of the city! Downtown Fort Wayne is compact and walkable with “Downtown Experience” signs clearly directing visitors to the main attractions of the area. Take a self-guided walking tour to view Fort Wayne’s architecture, stop by Visit Fort Wayne’s Visitors Center to gain insider knowledge of the best spots in the city and visit locally-owned shops and restaurants to support local businesses!
*Click here for the self-guided walking tour map!
With a history dating back more than 200 years, the Native Americans referred to Fort Wayne as “the crossroads” because of its unique setting at the convergence of three rivers. The Miami Indian Village of Kekionga, near the confluence of the three rivers, was once a major world trade center of furs and pelts, thus the number of early settlers increased in the region.
The city is named after General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, who in 1794, established the first American military fort along the confluence of the three rivers. The 1800’s brought the construction of the Wabash and Erie Canal and the railroad system causing industries to flourish. Fort Wayne continued to thrive throughout the early 1900’s and into present times.
Start your historical tour of Fort Wayne by visiting the Fort Wayne History Center, search for your ancestors at The Genealogy Center (the nation’s largest public genealogy collection), stroll upon the historic Wells Street Bridge, visit the Historic Old Fort and explore the legacy and final resting place of folklore legend Johnny Appleseed.
Wells Street Bridge
3. Art Scene:
With a dedicated area to all facets of arts, the Main Street Arts Campus consists of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, Civic Theatre at the Arts United Center (building designed by the famous architect, the late Louis Kahn), Artlink Gallery, Fort Wayne Ballet and the ArtsLab Black Box Theater. Although the Main Streets Arts Campus holds most of Fort Wayne’s art activities, art lovers will also find hand-painted murals, sculptures and statues throughout the city. I would also suggest visiting the historic Embassy Theatre and several of the local art galleries and boutiques (visitors can peruse more than three dozen galleries and boutiques) throughout the city!
Main Street Arts Campus
4. Waterfront/river activities:
Flowing for centuries, the three rivers have always been an integral part of the Fort Wayne community. Recent renewal of the riverfront allows locals and visitors alike to explore the natural outdoor setting. From exploring the trails along the riverbanks by foot, cycling or segway, to adventures on the water such as canoeing, kayaking or paddleboarding, to touring the river on the new historic canal boat, the duck boat, a pontoon or airboat rides, Fort Wayne offers lots of ways to enjoy the three rivers!
Future revitalization, by Riverfront Fort Wayne, will provide urban waterfront features, programs, events and concerts making the Fort Wayne riverfront a unique community experience.
Photo Courtesy of Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot
5. Sweetwater Sound:
In 1979, Chuck Surack began creating song mixes for local bands with his 4-track recording studio in the back of his Volkswagen van. Fast forward to today, Sweetwater Sound has been providing music and audio equipment for more than 35 years. With Sweetwater Sound’s headquarters located in Fort Wayne, visitors can tour the impressive musical complex. The tour includes the distribution center, music store, piano showroom, Sweetwater Studios, Performance Theatre, dining and cafes, the arcade and game area, and feature several employee amenities like the video lending library, fitness center, doctor’s office and salon. My personal favorite stops on the tour include the gorgeous piano showroom and sliding down the giant metal Sweetwater Slide! A guided tour of Sweetwater Sound’s campus is a music lovers dream!
6. Fort Wayne TinCaps Baseball:
Looking for a fun day at the ball park? Attend a TinCaps baseball game at Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne! The Minor League Baseball team is affiliated with the San Diego Padres and are named after the tin cap that local folklore legend Johnny Appleseed wore. Even their mascot, Johnny TinCap, pays homage to the local legend! With entertainment for the entire family, tickets start at just $5, a day at the ball park is an affordable and fun outing for everyone!
Parkview Field home to the Fort Wayne TinCaps
*As a TinCaps favorite, you can’t miss the “Bad Apple Dancers” between the 6th and 7th innings!
7. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:
What began as a small nature preserve in 1952, has become one of the nation’s best children’s zoos. With the intention of creating zoo habitats at the eye-level of children, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo welcomes visitors of all ages to experience the conservation efforts of the zoo. Featuring unique animals from three destinations; Africa, Australia and the Indonesian Rain Forest and farm animals at the Indiana Family Farm exhibit, visitors will find an array of animal species. Don’t miss the special giraffe feeding station and the VIP animal experiences which will surely make your visit to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo memorable!
Feeding the stingrays at Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
8. Food Scene:
Eating at a local restaurant is one of the highlights of visiting a new city! With a plethora of local restaurants, you won’t leave Fort Wayne hungry! Whether eating ethnic food, savoring delicious locally grown produce, enjoying a farm-to-table meal at a locally owned restaurant or satisfying your sweet tooth with handmade chocolates and ice cream, foodies will love every bite of their culinary experience in Fort Wayne!
A few of my favorite restaurants in Fort Wayne include: Casa Ristoranti Italiano, Tolon Restaurant and The Hoppy Gnome. To satisfy your sweet tooth visit DeBrand Fine Chocolates and The Yummi Bunni (if you are an ice cream lover, you need to try their ice cream sandwiched in a glazed donut…it is life changing! 😉 ).
Glazed donut ice cream sandwich at The Yummy Bunni
These are just a few of the many reasons why I loved my visit to Fort Wayne! With a walkable downtown district, beautiful architecture, thriving art scene, waterfront entertainment, outdoor activities, historical attractions, delicious dining, local shops and markets and welcoming locals, Fort Wayne is a delightful Midwestern weekend getaway!
A special thanks to Visit Fort Wayne! I was an invited guest of Visit Fort Wayne. As always on Ohio Girl Travels, all opinions are my own!