Your weekend guide to Fort Wayne with kids
New York, Chicago, Nashville- these cities come to mind when thinking of a long weekend with which to take the kids along. Fort Wayne? Well, it wasn’t on my radar and most likely hasn’t made its way to yours. However, for the Midwest traveler, it’s definitely worth the trip! Not only is Fort Wayne close-to-home, but it’s very clean and manageable for young ones. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in family-friendly Fort Wayne:
Arrive and check in to your centrally located hotel, The Hilton at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. The rooms aren’t the most spacious, but you won’t be in the room much (trust me).
If the Minor League baseball team, The TinCaps, are in town, walk just a block to their beautiful stadium. If not, head to dinner at the Hoppy Gnome. The Hoppy Gnome is popular for their outdoor patio, unique taco combinations, and craft beer selection. My husband and I both chose the taco platters- his favorite was the Steak & Rajitas, mine was the Three Little Pigs.
It’s going to be a jam-packed day in Fort Wayne, so you’ll want to start early.
The must-do breakfast stop is Cindy’s Diner. “Serving the world, 15 at a time,” nab a spot at the bar if you can! My husband enjoyed the “garbage” breakfast which is an egg hash filled with everything! The kids were delighted with plate-sized pancakes at a price of $1.60 a pancake- mom and dad were happy, too!
With bellies full, head to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. In 2015, this Fort Wayne gem was voted 7th best zoo in the US and the 20th best zoo in the WORLD by TripAdvisor. It’s easy to see why the zoo is so popular with families. It is clean, organized, and offers FREE parking. From petting a stingray to feeding a giraffe, there are many optional experiences to make this zoo an interactive animal encounter.
Note- the Fort Wayne’s Children Zoo is seasonal. Check the website for opening, but it’s generally late April-mid October.
In case of rain or visiting when the zoo is closed? Check out Science Central. My kids didn’t even realize how much they were learning- they were having too much fun! For young ones, my littles loved the Kids’ Central, an area for children under 7. There is also a 2-story slide that our 7-year-old was JUST tall enough to go down! Another hit was this massive water table where kids (and moms) can learn, and test how dams work.
If I were you, I’d snack through lunch (you’ll be very full from Cindy’s Diner!) and then head to Yummi Bunni for a glorious treat- it may be worth the trip to Fort Wayne just to have a glazed bun, filled with ice cream, and topped with a topping of your choice. Stomachs and pocketbooks rejoice- it’s only $5! Pictured here is C with hers (and we cut it into thirds). This mom says it is perfectly acceptable to eat Yummi Bunni before dinner.
Feel free to go back to the hotel for a rest (you may be in a sugar coma) or walk off your ice cream by enjoying the public art located throughout Fort Wayne.
After a rest, family-friendly 816 Pint & Slice offers pizza by the slice, calzones, & salads. There isn’t a ton of seating, but the quick service makes up for it! The kids were happy they offered cheese-only and we were happy with the prices. Again, Fort Wayne is a Midwestern city with Midwestern prices, no big-city price gauging!
Head to bed early tonight for tomorrow’s outdoor adventure.
Wake up and gear up- today’s plan is all about enjoying Fort Wayne’s family-friendly parks and waterways.
Did you know that Fort Wayne sits at the confluence of three rivers: the St. Marys, the St. Joseph and the Maumee? This makes it the perfect place to pick up a paddle and enjoy a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddleboard! Our family enjoyed a 2-hour float on the St Marys River. Fort Wayne Outfitters makes it easy to reserve what will work best for your family, we chose to use a canoe and single kayak.
Fort Wayne Outfitters also has bicycle rentals. If you have an aversion to the water, consider utilizing the Rivergreenway trail that follows the rivers for 25 miles from Fort Wayne to New Haven, Indiana.
After your paddle or bike ride, visit Headwaters Park and enjoy some of the sculptures and the view of downtown. This is also where you’ll access the Historic Old Fort. The current fort is just a reconstruction of the 1815 fort, but it does serve to show you the strategic location of Fort Wayne, one that was fought over by the Native Americans, French and then American forces. Happening mostly on weekends, check the Old Fort’s calendar for upcoming reenactments.
After all this exercise, you deserve a delicious meal. The Deck is an easy walk from the Old Fort and you won’t even have to move your car. In the backyard of the famous “Gas House” restaurant, The Deck is a riverfront dining patio and bar. We found their meals to be well-priced with generous portions. Kids meals are only $5 and include 2 sides AND a drink- our 3 and 5-year-old could have split a meal. My husband and I both had a burger and we agreed it was one of the best we’ve had!
You’ll leave Fort Wayne with special family memories of good food and great fun! But even more, you’ll be ready to plan another trip back.
Have you been to Fort Wayne? How would you spend 48 hours there?
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*I was provided access or tickets to some of the attractions by Visit Fort Wayne. All opinions are my own. Post contains affiliate links.*