“We were provided overnight accommodations by ‘Visit Fort Wayne’ to facilitate this story. All opinions, photos, and all kinds of other shenanigans are our own.”
Fort Wayne, IN – A 4th of July Weekend to Remember
New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, blah, blah, blah, the list of major destinations for summer vacations can go on forever. Normally those involve air travel, expensive hotels, and not to mention; a money-hungry cartoon mouse whose only purpose is to suck every dollar out of your wallet the moment you set foot into its house.
See, Missi and I realized a couple of years back that there is more to traveling and family memories than going to such popular destinations. Sure, we’ve both been there alone and with the kids, so we can’t say we haven’t been lured by their glamour before, but we both felt like there’s more to this beautiful country than tourist traps.
Say hello to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Located right smack in the middle of the midwest, it’s a sort of middle ground between our family in Michigan and our home in Indianapolis. It’s a city we’ve driven by endless times on our way to and from home, but until this past 4th of July weekend, all we knew about it was its Starbucks off interstate 69. Not anymore! We set out to discover the great State of Indiana this summer, and our very first pick was Fort Wayne, and boy are we glad we went!
The City of Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana (after Indy), and it dates back to 1794 when the United States Army built a series of forts in the area. The town was later on named after Anthony Wayne, an army statesman that developed most of the grounds. Fast forward to 2016, and Fort Wayne is a modern populous of nearly 300,000 people. And, as it turns out, home to awesome museums, ball parks and other natural attractions.
Not knowing what to really expect, we loaded up the 2016 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD with everything you can imagine. Bikes, blankets, suit cases, groceries, toys, you name it—we had it. Thankfully, its combination of two captain chairs and one third-row bench made it easy figure out kid-seating and cargo storage.
Upon our arrival Fort Wayne, we headed straight to the lovely and centrally-located Courtyard by Marriott, which isn’t just in the middle of downtown, it’s also right in front of the Grand Wayne Convention Center, and connected to the new and glitzy Tin Caps baseball field.
Our first partial day in town consisted of settling into our room, and setting afoot to discover nearby attractions, which included an awesome main street filled with restaurants and activities, as well as sculptures, and lots of photo opportunities for everyone. After strolling along for awhile, we noticed that downtown Fort Wayne was also very bike friendly, so we unloaded our bikes (and rented some from the bike share stand) and rode around downtown with the kids. Once our legs grew tired, it was time to head back to the room and gaze at the sunset from the beautiful view our room had to offer.
After a rest-filled night on what I consider to be one of the most comfortable pillows I’ve ever had the pleasure of drooling on, we headed to the lobby for breakfast at the bistro, and let me tall ya—everything on the menu is absolutely delicious (but specially the oatmeal)! After filling our bellies, it was time to hop in the Sienna and tackle the busy and fun-filled day ahead of us!
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
I’m not the biggest zoo fan for many reasons, but primarily because I hate seeing animals in captivity. That being said, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo feels more like an ecosystem than a zoo. Specially the ‘Australian Adventure’ and ‘African Journey!’ All animals were easy for grown ups and little ones to spot, the environments were super realistic, and the zoo keepers/guides were always happy to offer insight on the animals.
It was an awesome learning experience, as well as an adventure. Speaking of adventure, we took a ride on a chair lift attraction that took us high in the air and allowed us to oversee the entire ‘African Journey,’ and I even had the chance to feed a giraffe and pet some goats. Plus, the beautiful peacocks that roam around the property are just too awesome. Seriously, if there is one place to visit in the entire Midwest, it’s got to be the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
If you lean on the artsy and intellectual side, then the Fort Wayne Museum of Art is perfect for you. I’ll be honest here and say that it’s not the optimum place for a 9 year old boy that loves action, or a 4 year old girl that loves to run and touch everything. Regardless, we strolled through the stunning property looking at the various galleries, but specially the exquisite glass exhibit. Incredible works of art made out of nothing but glass were on display and were truly breathtaking.
Another thing that was breathtaking was keeping the kids quiet and controlled in a room filled with tall pieces of glass!
The name says it all. Nerds rejoice! While science was one of my worst subjects in school, I do love knowing how things work, which means I had arrived to the right place.
Science Central is an old factory complete with smoke stacks and everything. It houses four levels of pure knowledge masquerading as fun. We learned about gravity, electricity, sound, friction, planets, and a ton of other things while playing on super-interactive displays. If you thought this place was for kids, think again, because I was running up and down this place the same or more than the kids. I had a blast playing with the wind tunnel to learn about drag coefficients, and Missi got to ride a balancing bike suspended on a rail over 100 feet up in the air!
I’d hate to choose favorites out of all of our activities in Fort Wayne, but I have to admit Science Central was definitely my favorite. Shhhhh….
Celebrating America’s Independence at Patriotic Pops
Patriotic Pops is an open air concert put on by the stunning Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and it featured a series of patriotic songs and family favorites, including marches like William Tell and others. Oh, and you can’t skip the ball game food!
Wrapping up the weekend with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic play some beautiful American folklore tunes at the Tincap Stadium. The best part, it's attached to our hotel!! @visitfortwayne @tincaps #4thofjuly #america #freedom #merica #music #philharmonic #baseball #myfortwayne #visitfortwayne #travel #lipvacation
This amazing event took place at the Fort Wayne Tin Cap baseball field, which was connected to our Courtyard Marriott, which allowed us to simply walk from our hotel room to our seats! The music and the atmosphere were exhilarating, and even though it was July 3rd (July 4th fell on a Monday), everyone was partying as if it were the actual Independence day, which for all intents and purposes it was.
After paying homage to our military and playing beautiful tunes, the concert wrapped up with a grandiose 15 minute long firework show. It literally was the best way to conclude our trip to this awesome and somewhat overlooked city.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
After three nights and nearly four days in Fort Wayne, it was time to pack up the Toyota Sienna (which I’m convinced can fit an entire house) and continue our journey. Missi, the kids and I couldn’t have been happier about our amazing time there. We had proven our theory right (again), that families don’t need to empty the savings account and travel far away to discover great places and fun attractions. Wether you living in Indiana, Michigan, or Ohio, I highly encourage you to make the short drive to Fort Wayne and discover a city that loves and welcomes guests with open arms.
To everyone that made our stay so superbly enjoyable—thank you!