With great kid-friendly attractions, cultural venues, outdoor recreation, and a ton of interesting restaurants to discover, Indiana’s second-largest city holds all the makings of a fun getaway any time of year. Here are some of the best suggestions for what to do and see once you hit town.
Fort Wayne is the proud home of Vera Bradley, a women-driven company that produces distinctive lines of casual quilted handbags, totes, rolling luggage, accessories, and other merchandise—all decked out in whimsical patterns and all of which make durable long-lasting souvenirs of your trip. The big VB outlet sale held each spring at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum is one of the most popular events in the city, attracting more than 40,000 avid fans eager to stock up on their favorite products at deep discounts. Can’t make it to Fort Wayne in April for the big shindig? No worries. The Vera Bradley retail store at Jefferson Pointe Mall stays open all year long for shopping at your convenience.
Explore Promenade Park
Unveiled in summer 2019 after several years in development, Fort Wayne’s new Promenade Park is the city’s newest downtown outdoor attraction. Located on the banks of the St. Marys River, this expansive green space caters to a wide visitor market with a diverse array of amenities and activities—think kayak and canoe rentals, riverboat cruises, an accessible playground, bandshell, canopy trail, amphitheater, and a café. Plan to make a day of it to check out all the nooks and crannies this park has to offer.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo earns bragging rights as one of the best animal-oriented attractions in the Midwest, thanks to 40 acres of well-maintained rides and exhibits. (The African Journey, Australian Adventure, and Indonesian Rainforest habitats provide plenty of ground to cover.) Best of all, everything’s been specifically designed with kids in mind, from interactive activities to the zoo layout and lowered wall heights that allow clear sight lines for younger visitors. Don’t miss the chance to pet a stingray and hand-feed the giraffes.
Home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps—a Minor League Baseball team affiliated with the San Diego Padres—Parkview Field nabbed “Ballpark of the Year” accolades from "Baseball Digest" when it opened in 2009. With 8,000 seats, a pristine playing field, showy scoreboard, stunning downtown skyline views, and a children’s play area, it’s easy to see why. Outside of the regular baseball season, fans make good use of the contemporary venue for farmers' markets, festivals, concerts, fundraisers, awards ceremonies, meetings, and other community events.
With more than 200 hands-on touring exhibits and permanent displays to play around with, Science Central makes learning fun for visitors of all ages. Located within Fort Wayne’s former City Power & Light plant, this STEM center’s colorful façade makes a striking impression from the curb. Once inside, activities across several floors touch on timely topics such as weather, geology, space, and the human body. And don’t leave without taking a spin on the thrilling high rail bike balanced 25 feet off the ground.
Culture lives at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. The venue’s stark brick exterior anchored by a modern white outdoor sculpture belies several galleries of exhibits that highlight notable collections of Indiana Impressionism; sparkling American cut glass; paintings; prints; drawings; and a Dale Chihuly chandelier. Curator’s tours are offered on the first Thursday afternoon of each month, and are included as part of your gallery admission.
Green thumbs and gardeners, unite! The Freimann-Foellinger Botanical Conservatory has three large greenhouses—housing their seasonal, tropical, and desert plants—in addition to four gardens featuring vistas and pathways, a brick terrace, and flowers such as rhododendrons and azaleas. A seasonal butterfly tent provides an opportunity to observe the magical winged beauties up close, while the Conjure Coffee café provides caffeinated refreshment and a nicely stocked gift shop carries all manner of garden-related inventory.
DeBrand Fine Chocolates stands ready to meet and satisfy any sweet tooth craving. This hometown, family-run candy company maintains several retail shops scattered throughout Fort Wayne, as well as the corporate headquarters and café where guests are welcome to go behind the curtain during delicious tours. With three indulgent chocolate collections to choose from—familiar Classic, decadent Truffle, and innovative Connoisseur—plus gourmet candy bars, turtles, caramels, ice cream toppings, chocolate art boxes, and signature Indiana chocolate race cars, everyone’s certain to find a sweet treat to love here.
Visitors from across the country make pilgrimages to research their family trees at the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center, one of the largest genealogical archives in the United States. Over decades, this valuable and fascinating resource has amassed a dizzying inventory of records from around the world, including census info, local and city directories, ship passenger lists and naturalization records, military records, periodicals, and other online databases. The library also contains extensive holdings of African American, Native American, Canadian, and international collections. A staff of dedicated experts is on hand to guide and direct visitors to the info they’re after, and then some.
Fort Wayne boasts a diverse restaurant community, featuring flavors from Indiana and around the world. But for a truly unique taste of the city’s history, you’ll want to beeline to Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island Wiener Stand. A local fixture since 1914, this family-friendly dining destination dishes up nearly 2,000 hot dogs a day, preparing its original chili-sauced, onion-topped coneys and burgers much the same way as it did 100 years ago. Seats in the small, no-frills establishment tend to fill up fast, and there’s often a line of customers out the door waiting—grab one while you can and order up an iconic taste of Fort Wayne.