If you think you have to venture very far from Chicago to explore a new city, think again. Fort Wayne, Indiana, is filled with unique attractions, restaurants and fun, affordable family activities. The second largest city in Indiana (right behind Indianapolis), Fort Wayne has plenty to offer its visitors, without the the overwhelming hustle and bustle you might normally experience in a large city. Read on for a first-hand look at what has shaped Fort Wayne into an exciting city with a small town feel that will make you never want to leave.
If you’re driving from Chicago to Fort Wayne, be sure to make Sweetwater your first stop on the way into town. Although most people dub Nashville the music hub of the country, there’s a hidden gem in Fort Wayne. Sweetwater is an ever-growing music company, complete with a full music store filled with instruments and music equipment to meet any of your needs.
In your visit to Sweetwater, you’ll learn all about the history of the company, and of course, the music that drives it. You’ll also discover the story of founder Chuck Surack, who continues to build his company by always “doing the right thing”. We were given a personal tour of the company, but keep in mind that tours need to be booked in advance, and are only offered during the week at the availability of the staff, so be sure to call ahead!
Sweetwater’s state-of-the-art, acoustically-ingenious auditorium hosts large groups for various presentations and musical events, while their recording studios regularly book out to such famous bands and musicians as Nick D’Virgilio, a drummer who’s worked with several big-name bands and artists like Tears for Fears, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Sheryl Crow. We even had the pleasure of meeting him briefly during our tour. Did we mention Sweetwater also has a mini arcade, full cafeteria and coffee bar, and even a giant slide? You won’t want to miss this sweet spot!
As far as music goes, it doesn’t get much sweeter than Sweetwater. Craving another kind of sweet? Satiate your sweet tooth at DeBrand Fine Chocolates! With several delectable chocolate shops throughout Fort Wayne, DeBrand brings high end chocolates to locals and tourists at an affordable cost.
If you head to the DeBrand corporate headquarters you can even get an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of how and where these chocolate treasures are made. You’ll probably be drooling over these tasty treats, but don’t worry – you’ll be given samples to satisfy your chocolate craving along the way, and even a coupon for their fresh chocolates to take home with you when you’re done! The raspberry, coconut, peanut butter and jelly and almond truffles are all highly recommended!
For the adventurer in you, head to Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot, where you can rent kayaks, canoes, and bikes. We chose to explore the city by bike, which was a great way to get to know the area. If you’ll be in Fort Wayne for a few days, we recommend taking your self-guided bike tour early on to familiarize yourself with the area and maybe even spot a few restaurants or places you’d like to visit during your stay! Bikes are available hourly, for a half-day, or full-day. For beginners, we’d recommend a nice 2-4 hour ride to really explore the city.
If you’re a baseball fan in Chicago, you’ve probably been to a Cubs or Sox game at least once in your life. The popcorn, the players, the lights illuminating the field– it’s all part of the baseball experience. Head to a Fort Wayne TinCaps Minor League baseball game at Parkview Field for just as much fun at a fraction of the cost!
You and your family will have a blast chowing down on snacks, soaking up the sites and sounds of their major league-sized baseball field, and finding yourself engrossed in the game. Plus, kids will love the interactive games and performances between innings. It’s everything you love about a major league game, without the major price.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking for a place to stay right in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne, we recommend the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Fort Wayne. This moderately priced hotel, complete with a pool, fitness center, restaurant, and even a Starbucks, has everything you need during your stay. Not only is the Courtyard by Marriott centrally located to many restaurants and activities in the downtown area, it’s also across the street from the Botanical Conservatory and just blocks from Parkview Field, so close to the TinCaps that you can practically watch the game from your window!
Dining Options in Fort Wayne, Indiana
One of the challenges a lot of tourists face while on vacation is where to eat. If you’re going to be in an area for just a short period of time, it can be nearly impossible to decide on the best places to eat. In Fort Wayne, the best solution for trying their variety of unique restaurants is the Eat, Walk, Enjoy Tour, where you’ll get to indulge in some of Fort Wayne’s best dishes.
Stretch your legs and feast to your heart’s content on this easy 3.5 hour, wheelchair accessible walking tour of downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. Not only will you get to experience delicious dishes from 5 different restaurants, but the tour doubles as an architectural and historical tour of the city, with short stops and commentary over the course of a 1.25 mile loop.
The tour takes place Fridays and Saturdays at 3 PM, and with only 12 spots available per tour, it’s a good idea to book your spot in advance. On our tour, we experienced delightful gems such as The Gas House, Park Place on Main, The Hoppy Gnome, JK O’Donnell’s, and the aforementioned DeBrand Fine Chocolates. The flat rate includes all meals on the tour, but beverages are up to you. Be sure to come hungry and wear comfortable shoes!
Check Out the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Don’t leave Fort Wayne without paying a visit to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. The zoo is an ideal size for families with kids to spend an afternoon observing the animals, taking in a few family-friendly rides, and even participating in interactive exhibits.
Among the rides is the Sky Safari Ride. This chair lift is a low cost and fun way to kick off your trip to the zoo and soak up the views of the park. The zoo also offers other rides, such as the Z.O. & O. Railroad, Endangered Species Carousel and Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride.
Although it’s a joy to see the animals, it’s also a treat to get up close and personal with them. The zoo invites its guests to participate in such interactive exhibits as giraffe feeding, the Pony Trail, and goat feeding and petting in their walk-through petting zoo. There are also a number of beautiful peacocks roaming around the park; you might even get one trying to follow you home!
Fantastic Fort Wayne, Indiana
Next time you’re looking for a getaway with plenty to do without the high price tag and big crowds, take a stroll on over to Fort Wayne, Indiana. From farmer’s market to food tours and baseball games to the zoo, you’re sure to find something fun for everyone. We can guarantee you’ll have an amazing time!