Midwest traveling families should consider Fort Wayne, Indiana, as a future destination. Its location in northeastern Indiana makes it easily accessible for families from the Chicago, Indianapolis, and Detroit areas. There is also a weekend’s worth of fun things to do in Fort Wayne with kids!
Get active with Fort Wayne Outfitters
Located in a restored train station, the Bike Depot of Fort Wayne Outfitters is your connection to active outdoor adventure. There is an array of options for families to choose from.
- Bike, kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddleboard rentals for self-guided adventures.
- Paddle trips following designated itineraries (transportation provided by Fort Wayne Outfitters to drop-off points).
- Guided tours (45 or 90 minutes) on Fort Wayne’s three rivers in a 1840s-modeled canal boat.
My family and I took rental bikes along the area’s riverfront trails. The folks at Fort Wayne Outfitters were happy to suggest routes and stops and provided trail maps for us. They also offer bicycles for just about every age and comfort level. My daughter and I rode size-appropriate mountain bikes and they even had a bike with training wheels for my son. We had an enjoyable time on the trails, riding along the St. Mary’s River along paved trails and past colorful murals. We made it a point to stop at The Old Fort, a recreation of the fort that stood in the same spot in 1815. It is also a public park so we were free to wander and imagine what colonial life would have been like in Fort Wayne.
The Hoppy Gnome
We worked up an appetite after our biking adventure, and I worked up a thirst for local craft beers. So, our next stop after leaving Fort Wayne Outfitters was The Hoppy Gnome in downtown Fort Wayne. More and more breweries are or are becoming family-friendly, but to say The Hoppy Gnome is family-friendly is an understatement. Children are not only welcome at the brewpub, they’re catered to. The Hoppy Gnome offers a fun children’s menu (hot dog taco, anyone?) with an equally fun name, Lil’ Gnomies. But the most imaginative children’s offering isn’t even on the menu. It’s the complimentary “fish taco” appetizer. I know you’re thinking, my kids would never eat a fish taco! Well, it’s not THAT kind of fish taco. It’s a tortilla served on a taco stand and filled with Goldfish crackers!
We all got such a kick out of it and it definitely helped keep the kids happy until our lunch arrived. I thoroughly enjoyed my taco trio: Steak & Rajitas; Chili Glazed Shrimp; and Korean Short Rib. They all were incredibly tasty and paired nicely with the Pretty Fly For A Light Guy Blonde Ale, which helped to cool down the various spices contained in the tacos.
As the mother of one super nerd and one gearhead, we make it a point to seek out STEM-related attractions wherever we travel. We visited Science Central on a cold and rainy day in Fort Wayne but soon learned that it’s an excellent place to visit, rain or shine. Science Central is housed in Fort Wayne’s old City Light & Power building and, when it opened in 1995, it was Indiana’s first hands-on science museum. Today, it is still two levels of fun for kids of all ages. A few of the exhibits have age, height, and weight restrictions, such as Kids Central (designed for children ages 7 and younger), and the High Rail Bike Ride and Giant Slide. My kids loved Science Central, and I loved watching them learn and explore to their hearts’ content.
All you need to know about The Yummi Bunni is ice cream-stuffed doughnuts. Shall I go on? Ok, so, basically, you choose an ice cream flavor and a topping (Oreos, sprinkles, bacon, etc.). A glazed doughnut is sliced in half, stuffed with the ice cream, and then finished off with the topping of your choice. My kids went the basic route – one chose vanilla ice cream; the other, chocolate – and topped their creations with sprinkles. I, however, went all out and chose the Porky: a glazed doughnut stuffed with bourbon-pecan-pie ice cream and topped with bacon. Fat-free? No. Sinfully delicious? YES. But aside from the sugary goodness, The Yummi Bunni is a happy, carefree place. It’s decorated simply in black and white with neon pink accents, and my kids loved the selfie wall.
We visited Fort Wayne before baseball season started so we didn’t get to actually attend a game. But I’ve been to other minor and independent league baseball games and know how much fun they can be, and how affordable it is for families. The Fort Wayne TinCaps are the Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres and play at Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne. I’m a huge baseball fan so I’d like to return to Fort Wayne during the baseball season just to go to a TinCaps game!
If you go to Fort Wayne…
- Stay at the all-new Holiday Inn Purdue – Ft. Wayne. It has an indoor pool and is conveniently located to all attractions I’ve mentioned above. I also hear there is a family suite, with a kitchen and bunk beds for the kids, but we didn’t get to stay in the suite this time.
- Keep in mind that the Annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale takes place every April at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, directly across the street from the Holiday Inn. If Vera Bradley products are your thing and you want to attend the outlet sale, be sure to register ahead of time and book your hotel room well in advance. People from all over make their way to Fort Wayne for the annual sale so if bigger crowds aren’t your thing, plan your visit when the sale isn’t going on.
My family and I were hosted by Visit Fort Wayne and their partners. Be assured that all thoughts and opinions, as always, are 100% my own.