Traveling to Fort Wayne, Indiana, wasn’t on my summer travel plans, but I’ve learned the error of my ways and now I’m here to save you from the same mistake.
I’ve lived in or around Indianapolis my whole life. Why did I need to visit other parts of the state? Indianapolis and its suburbs have everything I need.
Except, they don’t. I needed Fort Wayne, and I didn’t even know it.
I got to spend a few days in the northeastern part of Indiana and was blown away with how great it was. Confession: I took a trip without my family on spring break. The girls were off school and with family while Chris stayed home and worked.
I have no regrets about this. I pretended the trip was “research” for a summer road trip. I figured out what was fun, and what the girls would love (answer: so many things). I also “researched” all the things we shouldn’t do when we come back, you know, to save time and money later (answer: nothing, but still worth researching).
Here’s what my tireless research uncovered and what you should do when you take your trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana:
I stayed at the Hilton Fort Wayne, which is connected to the convention center. It has a Starbucks inside and was easy walking distance from a lot of the places I’m going to recommend. We normally travel in our camper; you could go that route and still enjoy Fort Wayne. Northeast Indiana is home to the RV capital of the world (Elkhart) so you know there’s quality camping nearby as well.
Where to eat in Fort Wayne? SO MANY CHOICES, SO LITTLE TIME.
Coney Island :: Get a coney with onions and mustard. I also had a cup of chili soup and do not regret it one bit. If you visit their website, the photo of the restaurant is almost identical to what you’ll see when you walk in today. Eat at the counter and watch the employees sling dogs like a well-oiled machine. And get a Coke in a glass bottle just because you can.
DeBrand Fine Chocolate :: I sampled chocolates and a mocha that was so rich I thought I was going to die at the downtown location. If you have time, go out to their factory and take the tour so you can see how they craft these extravagant chocolates.
Hoppy Gnome :: Hoppy Gnome describes itself as an upscale taco shop with lots more than just tacos. I don’t care how they describe themselves, their food is really good and that’s all that matters. Get the chips and guac (always get the guac, duh) and make sure you order the s’mores for dessert. The marshmallows are homemade, and they bring out a tiny fire pit for you to roast them on. I don’t even like marshmallows, and I could have eaten five of them.
Tolon :: This farm-to-table restaurant is run by a husband and wife team. The place is beautiful, the food is unbelievable, and the atmosphere makes you want to spend the evening around their table with friends. If you don’t do anything in Fort Wayne, go to Tolon and order their crispy Brussels sprouts. I’m serious. Do not leave without trying them.
Proximo :: You can eat any meal here, but I recommend breakfast. Especially if you’re hungry and you like breakfast to be your biggest meal of the day. I felt like I was in a New York City brunch spot. Everything on the menu is good, of course, but please do yourself a favor and order the chilaquiles. I dream about these.
Hop River Brewing Company :: Yes, it’s a brewery, but it’s also a great place to pass a rainy afternoon with board games and snacks. Their homemade chips are amazing, and they’re open for all ages to eat and play. Fort Wayne has a thriving brewery scene so if craft beer is your thing, you’ll find plenty of new things to drink there.
Bird + Cleaver :: I don’t know if you can order a charcuterie board to go, but if you can, put on your stretchy pants, stop by Bird + Cleaver, and then head back to your hotel room to watch trash TV. You can eat there and you won’t regret it, but sometimes hiding in your hotel room with really good food is okay too.
Sassie Cakes :: Please go here and get their cookie dough shots. Don’t ask questions, just do it. Don’t just get one either. You’re going to need more than one, trust me.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse :: I know this isn’t a local place, and you might even have one in your own city. I don’t care. Go anyway. Get the cheesecake. Email me your thanks afterwards.
Also, Northeast Indiana is full of Amish who make delicious food. I’m not saying that’s all they do, but they do this really well. Find a local market to buy their homemade donuts or the incredibly decadent and wonderful biscuit-egg-cheese present-in-your-mouth. (That’s not really what it’s called, but I think that is what it should be called.)
Truthfully, if you just want to go to Fort Wayne and eat delicious food the whole time, you can. There is lots of stuff to do, but eating is really important so maybe plan your trip around all the great food stops?
What to do in Fort Wayne?
-Stop by The Hedge for an art class and to see 100-year-old printing presses. They also have a small gift shop where you’re bound to find something you love. (Sassie Cakes is right next door too.)
–Botanical Conservatory :: Fort Wayne Parks runs this beautiful conservatory. Admission is inexpensive, and you could easily spend a few hours wandering around. They have a dedicated kids’ area and if photography is your jam, you’ll be in heaven.
–Promenade Park :: The amount of rivers and lakes northeastern Indiana has access to is crazy. I’m showing my ignorance, but there are SO MANY water activities. I was able to get a sneak peek of the new Promenade Park opening in June 2019 and I am so excited to go back when it’s open. They’re planning a huge weekend of events and programs for the grand opening, and if you happen to be near Fort Wayne June 21-23, it would be worth a stop just for this. ((EDIT: Because of the rainy spring we’ve had in the Midwest, the grand opening celebration has been pushed back to August 9-11. You can stay up-to-date on the schedule here.))
–Arts United :: This cultural center houses art shows, a restaurant, and Fort Wayne’s professional ballet company. You can glimpse professional ballerinas practicing, grab something to eat, and see the latest local art installation. I got to see the last day of an underwater exhibit made exclusively of plastic trash. It was unbelievable.
–Museum of Art :: Kids and adults will love this museum. It’s not huge, but there is a lot to see. Also, they have a Chihuly piece you don’t want to miss.
–Science Central :: Plan at least four hours for this amazing children’s science center. Housed in an old factory, the Science Center is full of hands-on exhibits and learning experiences kids (and adults) will love. Don’t miss the room where you can view real-time satellite images of the earth. I could have spent all day watching.
–Embassy Theatre :: Fort Wayne gets a lot of traveling Broadway acts stopping through on their way to Chicago. Even if you don’t see a show, stop in to see the beautiful architecture.
–TinCaps baseball at Parkview Field :: Fort Wayne is home to the nation’s best minor league baseball park. Catching a TinCaps game is fun for the whole family. We’re going back this summer and scheduling our trip around a TinCaps home game, because I want to experience a game at this beautiful park.
–Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo :: THIS ZOO. We travel a lot and visit a lot of zoos. Not all zoos are created equal, but the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo does it right. I’ve known about this zoo for a while, if you live in Indianapolis or surrounding areas, you’ve been told you need to visit this zoo because it’s amazing. I’m here to confirm it is, in fact, amazing. I can’t wait to take the girls back this summer.
Also, Fort Wayne’s downtown district is covered with lots of beautiful murals you’ll love. They commission local artists to create the pieces, and they’re adding more every year. Going on a mural hunt while you’re in town would be a fun adventure.
I was in Fort Wayne for three days and felt like I only scratched the surface of things to do. Everywhere I ate, everywhere I visited, someone recommended another place to see or thing to eat. It’s the Midwest so people are nice and helpful and I needed them to stop telling me about exciting things happening in the city because it made it really hard to leave.
On the positive side, I’ll be back with Chris and the girls this summer, and I can’t wait to show them Fort Wayne.
(I have one more recommendation for Fort Wayne, but it warrants its own post so come back tomorrow. I’ve got some stories to share with you.)
DISCLOSURE: THIS IS A SPONSORED POST. I TRAVELED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH VISIT FORT WAYNE TO EXPLORE THE CITY.