From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Fort Wayne is the second-largest city in the state of Indiana and the hub of Northeast Indiana. It’s known for being a center for many amateur sports leagues, specifically at the collegiate level, as well as fascinating attractions such as the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, which houses over 25,000 square feet of indoor gardens, as well as Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Fort Wayne has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Fort Wayne, Indiana? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Fort Wayne isn’t all hustle and bustle! There are also plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Less than a 50-minute drive from Fort Wayne is the Chain O’ Lakes State Park, which is every boater’s dream destination. It’s home to a chain of serene kettle lakes, not to mention 23 miles of forested trails, family cabins, campgrounds, and a historic one-room Stanley Schoolhouse. Swim at the scenic beach, host a picnic with family and friends, or learn about the region at the Nature Center.
Ouabache State Park (pronounced "Wabash”) is home to Kunkel Lake, which is known for its excellent fishing, especially during the summer months. It too is just a 50-minute drive from the city, yet it gives you the perfect opportunity to escape the urban jungle and enjoy activities such as camping, boating, hiking, swimming, biking, and more. There’s even a 20-acre exhibit consisting of American bison in a natural setting. Don’t miss it!
Less than an hour north of Fort Wayne is the popular Pokagon State Park, which hosts numerous events on a regular basis, including group hikes, bird watching, Christmas carols, and more. It’s also the location of one of the Midwest’s most popular resorts and conference centers and displays some of the most stunning sunsets you’ll find within the region. While boating, swimming, and fishing are popular in summer, winter provides great opportunities for cross-country skiing, sledding, ice fishing, and tobogganing.
Mounds State Park is another well-known state park located within the region, and it features 10 unique earthworks built by prehistoric Indians known as the Adena-Hopewell people. There’s also a Nature Center, which includes a wildlife viewing room, animal displays, interactive games and more. Activities available here include hiking, picnicking, fishing, camping, swimming, and more.
Just over an hour from Fort Wayne is also Grand Lake St. Marys State Park, which contains varying habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and prairies. It’s a popular destination for migratory birds, as well as fox squirrel, mink, raccoon, beaver, coyote, white-tailed deer and many others. There are over 200 campsites here if you wish to spend the night, while other recreational activities include fishing, swimming, hiking, hunting, boating, and skiing.
Still need to get your nature fix? If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Fort Wayne, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
The Franke Park Area Trail is found within the region, and it’s one of the most popular hiking options in Fort Wayne. Spanning just under 8 kilometers, this loop trail is rated as moderate and is best used from March until October. It will take you past beautiful lake scenery, as well as wildflowers, and offers the chance to see wildlife up-close – especially deer.
If you’re looking for a shorter and easier trail within Fort Wayne, then the Fox Island Trail is a great one to explore. It’s just 3.5 kilometres in length and is best used from May until November. Locals enjoy the trail because it is well-maintained and allows dogs too – as long as they remain on a leash.
It might have a funny name, but the Pufferbelly Trail is another highly-rated trail within the region, particularly as it is an easy hike that features beautiful views of wildflowers and other natural scenery. It’s located within Salomon Farm Park and is accessible year-round. If you feel like something a little different, you can also use the trail for mountain biking, bird watching, or running.
Fort Wayne is home to a bustling and trendy dining scene, so there’s sure to be a restaurant, café, or diner to satisfy your cravings. If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
You just haven’t really spent a night out in Fort Wayne without a visit to the city’s Famous Coney Island Wiener Stand. Open daily year-round, this popular foodie destination tries to recreate the past; in particular, the era when going out for a hot dog was a real treat. The best part? It’s the oldest hot dog stand in America, having been opened way back in 1914. Try it for yourself!
Craving some New American fare? The Black Canyon Restaurant was established in 2014 and features a unique menu of custom selections made to order and cooked over a hardwood burning grill. Think blackened salmon, bang bang shrimp, a Memphis pulled pork burger, ribeye, and more. Don’t miss their mouth-watering dessert selection too, as each one is homemade.
Cork ‘N Cleaver has the motto, “eat well, laugh often, live long”, so you know you’re in for a great time here. They specialize in steaks, seafood, and prime rib, and their menu of delicious offerings will certainly have your tastebuds tingling. Think filet mignon, coffee crusted ribeye, Alaskan king crab, and more. They also offer a range of small batch bourbons that are worth a try.
Run by Executive Chef Gerald Meyers, Baker Street Steakhouse offers an extraordinary menu of traditional and specialty fare, including the best Midwest Certified Angus Beef. If you’re looking for an alternative to beef, try their Duck Breast, New Zealand Lamb Chops or seafood options like Chilean Seabass or the Potato and Panko Crusted Walleye. You can’t go wrong!
Copper Spoon is unlike any other bar you’ll find within the region. You see, their bar program takes a lot of pride in making all their own syrups, squeezing citrus daily, and bringing science and knowledge into cocktailing. In the past, their bartenders have been ranked within the top 100 in the country. Along with must-try beverages, the establishment also provides delicious food, including charcuterie platters, salt and vinegar fried oysters, New York strip steak, and more.
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Fort Wayne’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
Did you know that Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is one of the nation's top ten zoos for kids? Here, you can enjoy a day of family-friendly fun across 38 acres and witness over 1,000 animals up-close. Tickets range from just $10 - $15 too, so it won’t break the bank! The zoo’s aim is simple: “connecting kids and animals, strengthening families, and inspiring people to care”.
Science Central is a catalyst for learning the most important subjects that employers will need kids to know to perform work in the future – science, technology, engineering and math, or as they are commonly called, STEM. It’s the perfect place to bring the family when the weather is too rotten for a state park visit or hike, and you can easily spend hours here without feeling a pang of boredom.
What should you do in Fort Wayne once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
The Embassy Theatre enriches the cultural life of the region by providing a wide range of arts and entertainment experiences in a historic venue. Here, you can experience everything from national productions from the Broadway stage, to concerts of all musical formats, as well as cinema, educational programming, and a continued commitment to young people.
Attention chocolate lovers – Fort Wayne is also home to DeBrand Fine Chocolates. DeBrand creates world-class, artisan chocolates with the highest quality, fresh ingredients, including those found locally and from around the world. Their outstanding chocolates are made entirely from scratch too, so you know you just can’t find a replicate elsewhere.
What can you do in or around Fort Wayne that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
The Foellinger-Friemann Botanical Conservatory is home to 502 different species of plants and 72 types of cactus. It opened in 1983 and been providing a unique botanical oasis to the community of Fort Wayne ever since. The Conservatory offers four changing showcases each year and houses over 25,000 square feet of indoor gardens. It’s your very own escape to Mother Nature, right here in the city.
You’ll find the Fort Wayne Museum of Art located in downtown Fort Wayne. Here, the museum and galleries feature American and related art from the 19th century to today. The Museum offers convenient parking behind the building, and is fully handicap accessible. The best part? Admission costs just $6 - $8 per person, so it’s a great and inexpensive day out for all.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Fort Wayne? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Fort Wayne that won’t cost you a cent.
At Historic Fort Wayne, you can visit the original 1848 limestone barracks building, 1845 star fort renovated in 1861, the restored Commanding Officers house, the Spanish-American War guard house, an ancient Native American burial mound, and the Tuskegee Airmen Museum. While you can book a guided tour for a small fee, self-guided tours around the attraction at your own pace are free.
The Veterans National Memorial Shrine grounds are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while the Museum is open to the public on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, from 11 am - 3 pm. The attraction includes memorials, monuments and a museum featuring all American wars, starting with the American Revolution. While Admission to the museum and grounds is free, donations are gratefully accepted.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Fort Wayne has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
At the popular Woodhouse Day Spa, you can relax in a luxurious robe and comfortable sandals, and enjoy a beverage while indulging in your choice of over 70 rejuvenating spa treatments. Try their Swedish, deep tissue, or 90-minute volcanic hot stone massage, or how about a nurturing facial or invigorating body treatment in their Vichy shower? Go on, treat yourself!
At Tranquil Touch Spa, professional staff provide unique experiences to inspire you to be and feel your best. Whether you’re after skin care, body treatments, infrared sauna, foot treatments, waxing, massage, or more – you’ll find all of these wonderful experiences (and more) right here.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Fort Wayne is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
It doesn’t matter what your level of fitness is or what classes interest you the most; your needs are sure to be met here at Spiece Fitness. You see, they offer a complete free weight solution for bodybuilders looking to tone and bulk up on muscle, as well as numerous opportunities to begin or maintain your weight loss goals. They cater to seniors, group fitness, training, and kids, so check out their schedule to see what takes your fancy.
Fusion Yoga offers all types of yoga practices, including from beginner to advanced, chair yoga to vinyasa flow, unheated to hot, and so much more. Their motto promises that “together, we will uplift one another, celebrate our journeys and serve with a humble heart”. Sound like your cup of tea? Check out their schedule to plan your first session.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Fort Wayne without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Indianapolis, or Indy as the locals call it, is the state capital and most-populous city of Indiana. It’s just a 2-hour drive from Fort Wayne and is home to a wide selection of things to see and do, whether it’s the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Zoo, Motor Speedway, White River State Park, and tons more. Be warned though: you might have to make several day trips to this city just to scratch the surface!
Around a 2-hour drive from Fort Wayne is the Ohio city of Toledo, which sits on the western tip of Lake Erie. There are plenty of attractions to enjoy here, including the Toledo Zoo, Toledo Museum of Art, Maumee Bay State Park, Toledo Botanical Garden, Imagination Station, and so much more. Toledo is a great city, and certainly one that you’ll want to spend an entire day – if not weekend – visiting.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Fort Wayne that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Fort Wayne? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.