Fort Wayne, Indiana.
It wasn’t the first place I would have thought of to take a mother/daughter trip, but having spent several days exploring this hidden gem in the Midwest, I’m here to tell you it’s a must-visit destination for families, one that is perhaps a little nicer on the pocketbook.
Thanks to my friends at Visit Fort Wayne sponsoring a trip, my daughter and I enjoyed a stay in the area so that I could experience the city firsthand. While it was hard to narrow down this list to our top 7 experiences for kids, don’t worry, as I’ve got plans to share even more Fort Wayne goodness with you.
Fort Wayne With Kids – Top 7 Experiences
Grab a Treat at Yummi Bunni
Every destination needs to have a signature treat.
Think about it. Disney World has the Mickey bar and Dole Whip. New York has their famous black and white cookies. San Francisco has all the chocolate goodness at Ghirardelli’s or clam chowder on the wharf.
Fort Wayne has Yummi Bunni.
What is Yummi Bunni you ask? It’s a treat so incredible that lines are known to be all the way down the street, even with plummeting temperatures. Luckily for us we went right before closing and right after the local baseball game. No long lines. Whew!
Imagine a glazed donut split open and stuffed with ice cream and creative toppings.
Unusual? Yes. Brilliant. You better believe it.
My tween was drooling from all the options, after all, Yummi Bunni offers 16 flavors of Super Premium ice cream (many gluten free and several vegan as well). She ultimately didn’t stray too far from her favorite flavors with sprinkles galore.
Me? Well, I was up to a little more adventure.
I ordered the Bun of the Week, something you will want to check out. That week it was the Couch Potato – a glazed donut bun filled with butter pecan ice cream and potato chips! It was a risk, yet so unbelievably delicious.
The sugar rush was soooo worth it. Save up your carbs for the day and take the kids.
Yummi Bunni does not have a website, so be sure to follow them on Instagram to stay up to date on events and changes. Pay special attention to dates/times, as the first time we attempted to visit they were surprisingly closed. As of Feb 2018 hours are: M-TH 3pm-11pm FR 3pm-1am SAT 12pm-1am CLOSED SUNDAYS.
Location: 123 W Main St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Visit Science Central
Driving around downtown Fort Wayne is surprising, especially when you happen upon an ordinary looking building that is ANYTHING but ordinary.
Smokestacks in every color of the rainbow on top.
Building guarded by a giant dinosaur.
Yes, a trip to Science Central was in order and we were excited! This would be a hands-on experience for kids of all ages (and adults too).
There are exhibits throughout the multi-story building and a few of our favorites involved space. Whether my daughter was manipulating objects while using space gloves or using controls of a space robot, she and I both learned while having fun.
There were echo tubes and pin tables that had us laughing. One exhibit about gravity had us intrigued – the high rail bike. Though the science told us that the bicycle balanced on a thin metal rail 25 feet off the ground would hold us upright and we wouldn’t plummet to our death, our fear told us something else. Mommy wouldn’t get on it – no way. Kiddo, well, she got on it, went a few feet, then stopped. Our hearts were pumping!
Don’t count on this for a full day, but I would recommend 2-3 hours at Science Central.
Location: 1950 N Clinton St, Fort Wayne, IN 46805
Catch a Tincaps Baseball Game at Parkview Field
No trip to Fort Wayne with kids would be complete without something distinctly American – baseball!
Fort Wayne is home to the TinCaps, ranked as the #1 Minor League experience in the country. I have to agree – it was top notch and extra fun for kids!
Minor League games tend to have a bit more crowd interaction and we weren’t disappointed. From games around the bases to dancing on the field (and let’s not forget some exciting fireworks after the game ended), there was fun to be had. Surprisingly, there was a great kids area off to the side of left field – bounce house, rock-climbing wall, and more!
The highlight of the game for my kiddo – seeing Jake the Diamond dog, a fan favorite at select TinCaps games! He actually carried a basket of water out to the umpire! Adorable. (Note: During our visit, his area was set up just past first base near the stands)
Location: 1301 Ewing St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Visit Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
I’ve visited some incredible zoos in my lifetime, some here in America and others abroad. I am fortunate that I live close to two large zoos in addition to several smaller ones here in North Texas.
For years now I have heard that the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was in the top 10 zoos in the United States.
Really? Top 10?
I couldn’t wait to step inside and see what it had to offer.
I was blown away and have to say that Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is now my absolute favorite zoo experience – EVER!
It completely caters to children, has a more than usual number of animal interactions, and includes so many unique attractions that it feels like a cross between a zoo and a theme park. With trash cans and water fountains resembling animals, it’s clear they pay attention to detail here.
My favorite attraction – Sky Safari! Get a bird’s eye view of the animals from this chair lift attraction.
I took so many pictures at the zoo that I can’t wait to write yet another post! Stay tuned!
Location: 3411 Sherman Blvd, Fort Wayne, IN 46808
Take a Canal Boat Ride
During our stay in Fort Wayne, we walked a lot despite renting a car. The downtown area was incredibly fun to navigate and explore, but with kids sometimes it can be nice to have some down time. That’s exactly what we found with a Canal Boat Ride from Fort Wayne Outfitters.
We met at Headquarters Park West to meet up with the Captain and crew aboard the brand new Sweet Breeze. With hues of royal blue, turquoise and sunshine yellow, the boat was beautiful.
We enjoyed a slow cruise along two of the three rivers that Fort Wayne sits upon, with a pivot where the three meet: the St. Mary’s, the St. Joseph, and the Maumee. The Captain shared history as we toured the river and its’ banks, talked about future plans for the area, and it wasn’t long before we were right back where we started.
To Schedule: Call Fort Wayne Outfitters –260-420-3962 located at 208 S Calhoun St. Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Location of Canal Boat meeting area: Headwaters Park West Dock (confirm this hasn’t changed)
Historic Old Fort Park
There is nothing quite like history coming alive, and that’s what you will find at Historic Old Fort Park.
The Old Fort is a recreation of the fort that actually stood in Fort Wayne in 1815. Since it stands on public park grounds, you can actually walk around even if there are no events planned, but note that the fort buildings are only open when volunteers are present and events are going on.
There was nothing special going on when we visited and we really missed out because of that. We did get a brief peek into one of the buildings as there was a volunteer cleaning up. Check out the schedule as you’ll discover there are often reenactments and other events that look so fun and educational!
The Old Fort was fun to explore, take photos of, and get incredible views of the downtown area along the river. A great place for kids to get the wiggles out.
Location: 1201 Spy Run Ave, Fort Wayne, IN 46805
Catch a Local Festival
One of my favorite ways to enjoy a new city is to take part in a local festival. Surprisingly, Fort Wayne’s festival calendar is jam packed, from Riverpalooza and Busker Fest to Germanfest to BBQ Ribfest. Impressive. I might have to come back to visit the Festival of Gingerbread during the holidays – it sounds like Christmas perfection!
There were so many festivals, all free, the few days we spent there. We experienced two of them first hand, both in the downtown Headwaters Park area.
First up – Greekfest!
We experienced incredible food like traditional baklava and pork souvlaki, and then spent time shopping the small kiosks set up. We met with and watched children of all ages dance on stage in Greek costumes. Perhaps most fun for my daughter were the bounce houses and slides!
A little culture right in the middle of downtown.
Right across the street from Greekfest, we had a front row seat to the Fort Wayne Dragon Races.
We made sure to get up bright and early to watch as teams competed in the river. More bounce houses, food, and special animal experiences were also on the itinerary.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit, chances are there will be a unique special event or festival. Maybe even two. Visit VisitFortWayne.com/Events to find one!
Change things up and head to this affordable and fun destination in the Midwest. It will surprise you.
Fort Wayne with kids – a great getaway!