Located in northern Indiana, Fort Wayne is the state’s second-largest city. It sits on three rivers: the Maumee, the St. Joseph, and the St. Mary. As a result, the city is a destination, not just a place between Indianapolis and Michigan. While Fort Wayne offers arrival by plane at Fort Wayne International Airport, it also makes for a fantastic Midwest road trip adventure.
The area features a wide variety of experiences for children of all ages. The littles will love the zoo, Promenade Park playground, and Science Central. Those interested in art will find the public art trail or local art museum an absorbing experience. At the same time, those who enjoy nature and history will also find engaging activities at Eagle Marsh and the Old Fort. No matter the age of your grandchildren, you’ll find plenty to keep them all entertained and happily busy.
Note: Visit Fort Wayne hosted my stay in Fort Wayne. All opinions are my own.
1. Uncover Fort Wayne’s Public Art Trail
What surprised me about the Fort Wayne Public Art Trail was how consuming it became over the weekend. Whenever we had a minute, we tried to check in on just one more piece of art. Sign up for the Public Art Trail on your phone and check in at various spots to win prizes as you go. Fairly quickly, we earned a sticker.
Even our oldest grandchild, who loves art, got in on the fun back home. We texted her three murals of animals and asked which was her favorite. She indicated that she loved the otter. I was surprised as I was sure she would choose the cat, but the cat turned out to be a French bulldog. She reassured me that art is in the eye of the beholder.
With over 150 works of art around town, this could quickly become an entire weekend activity. Most pieces have QR codes, where you can scan and hear something from the artist about their work.
Pro Tip: Sunday is the perfect day to explore the Fort Wayne Public Art Trail because traffic is at a minimum downtown.
2. Watch A Re-Enactment At The Old Fort
Situated only a quarter of a mile from the original site, the Old Fort is a replica of the fort American troops built from 1815 to 1816 under Major John Whistler’s command. They constructed the original five-building fort so that it would require only 50 to 75 men to defend it. The fort will most likely attract pre-teens and teens interested in early American history.
While you can walk around the fort anytime, the buildings are only open during events, which occur once or twice a month. The weekend we were there, the fort was a Union Civil War Garrison, but the war depicted depends on the event you visit. You’ll see a variety of drills and military routines. For example, when we visited, the fort kitchen was making soup rations over an open hearth for the troops. As we saw each building, re-enactors in period dress told the stories of their facilities.
Pro Tip: Be aware that the Old Fort is in the downtown area. Spy Run Avenue is a one-way street, and you’ll see the Garrison on the left, but stay in the right lane because parking is across from the Garrison on a grassy lot.
3. Stroll Promenade Park
Water attracts kids, and Promenade Park features water fun for both kids and adults. Kids will enjoy splashing around the kids’ canal and creek area, while the adults and teens will love kayaking. The whole family will enjoy getting out on the river on a riverboat cruise.
If your family is more landlubbers, the tree-top canopy trail makes for a fun hike after discovering all the playground offers. Benches abound so that the adults can keep a watchful eye on the children during their play.
Pro Tip: They designed Promenade Park with everyone in mind. With features like ramps and gradually sloping walking paths, the park has commendable accessibility.
4. Take Me Out To A TinCaps Minor League Baseball
Baseball at Parkview Field is all-American fun for the whole family. Minor League Baseball makes it affordable fun, with tickets starting at $7. The TinCaps name references Johnny Appleseed, who wore his tin cooking pot as a hat.
You’ll find enough extra entertainment that even the 5-year-old will be captivated. Check here for the TinCaps promotional schedule, where you’ll find special nights for superheroes and peanut-free nights for those with allergies.
Pro Tip: If you’re taking in a TinCaps baseball game, the Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Wayne Downtown is the perfect place to stay. The ballpark is right out their door. Decorated with baseball-themed art, the king suite is ideal for a couple of grandkids sleeping on the pullout sofa.
5. Visit Science Central
I always plan and reserve an indoor activity, perfect for when the weather is too cold, hot, or rainy. Then, if I don’t need it earlier in the trip, I can always use it on the last day, no matter the weather. Located in a historic former City Light and Power Plant, Science Central is a great all-weather spot for preschoolers through upper elementary ages to discover science through various interactive STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math activities.
The Kids Central area, designed for kids 3 to 7, includes the Fort Discovery play area, water play activities, a giant piano keyboard, and bubble windows.
Science Central also features a few giant activities, like a three-story slide and a high-rail bike balanced 25 feet off the ground on a thin metal rail. What a way to learn about balance and gravity.
Pro Tip: If the littles are overly enthusiastic at the water table, Science Central has a limited number of loaner outfits and a complimentary dryer.
6. Travel The World At Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will take you around the world, from an Indiana family farm to an African village, Indonesian rainforest, and the Australian Outback. The grandkids will have fun with the animal-feeding experiences, no matter their age. You can stretch high to feed a giraffe and see their black tongue, feed the stingrays in their pool, and feed a goat in an Indiana barnyard.
The zoo offers a variety of rides, including a railroad, a carousel, a sky safari ride that’s like a ski lift, and the crocodile creek adventure ride. From feeding the animals to riding the rides to watching a sea lion feeding demonstration, the kids will have lots to entertain them in addition to looking at the exhibits.
Pro Tip: The easiest way to visit the entire zoo is always to turn right when two paths intersect.
7. Shop The YLNI Winter Farmers Market
YLNI Winter Farmers Market is an indoor market perfect for shopping during the cold winter months. The market is a multi-sensory experience, which will up the appeal to the grandkids. For example, one vendor encouraged smelling the spices; another had a “taste this” sign. So the interactivity of the farmers market will appeal to kids from pre-school through teens. We also noticed that several kids were there, helping their vendor parents. So it is a kid-friendly experience. And if they’re lucky, maybe one of their grandparents will buy them a tasty treat from one of the bakers.
Pro Tip: If you left home before your morning coffee, don’t worry. You’ll usually find a food truck or two waiting to serve you a cup.
8. Discover Nature At Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve
Located on the southwest side of the city, away from downtown Fort Wayne, Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve features 716 acres of wetlands. You’ll find 8 miles of trails home to almost 200 kinds of birds and other wildlife. Chances are good that you’ll see a bald eagle at Eagle Marsh too. The preserve opens from dawn to dusk for self-guided tours so that you can explore the trails and wildlife.
Pro Tip: After an afternoon of fresh air and running around, everyone’s sure to be famished. Casa Ristorante Italiano is a family-friendly spot just up the road, where you’ll find everything from classic Italian entrees to kid-friendly pizza.
9. Explore Fort Wayne Museum Of Art
Fort Wayne Museum of Art keeps the kids in mind when designing the experience. For example, they offer a kids’ room, where they can color, draw, or create a mural on the whiteboard.
While we were there, the skateboard exhibit, which included a skate park, was a sure attention-getter for the teens in the group. Even though this was a temporary exhibit, I feel confident that this museum tries to have something for all ages no matter when you visit.
Pro Tip: It’s best to leave backpacks in the car because you cannot carry them on your back in the museum, lest they damage something. If you decide to take them in, you’ll need to have them over your shoulder or in front.
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