Fort Wayne was born more than 200 years ago when a strategic war fort was built at the confluence of three rivers, in 1794. Ever since, it has been a place renowned for its economic prosperity, even during the Great Depression. It has become a popular tourist destination thanks to its bustling city center, and the various things to do in Fort Wayne which are scattered around town.
Despite its young history, the city now has a population nearing 300,000 and is the second largest city in Indiana, after Indianapolis. Fort Wayne has a mixture of old and modern architecture. Although small, this city has something to offer for everyone!
In this post, we'll cover:
11. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
This Roman Catholic cathedral sits in the center of the city, nestled between Clinton Street and Calhoun Street. It was the first religious institution built in Fort Wayne. The cathedral took just a year to build and was completed between 1859 and 1860.
Its white exterior is contrasted by the colorful stained glass windows that light up the long hall of the cathedral. The windows were made in Munich and weren’t installed until 1896. The cathedral had humble beginnings, built upon a simple log structure where devout Catholics gathered to pray.
Today, the small cathedral brings together history and faith, and offers an insight into how this small Indiana city has changed over the last 150 years. The cathedral is open to visitors and worshipers!
10. Fort Wayne Museum of Art
This small art museum is riddled with culture and has become rather influential in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area. But it wasn’t always an art museum. It started out as a small art school that offered drawing and painting lessons to locals.
In 1921 the humbly sized art faculty received a gift. Ten beautiful paintings, donated by Theodore Thieme. The paintings were the beginning of the museum, kept in a small exhibition attached to the school.
When another local resident donated their home, the exhibition was moved, and the art museum was founded. You can explore different periods of American history through photos, memorabilia, sculptures, paintings and more!
9. Allen County Courthouse
This large courthouse sits in the heart of the city on Calhoun Street, and it stands out. It was built between 1897 and 1902 and designed in the late 19th century architectural style Beaux Arts. The structure and interior design of the courthouse are a prime example of the popular architectural style of the American Renaissance.
As you walk into the courthouse you’re met with grandeur, elaborate ornamentation, intricate tiled floors, and detailed murals. As you walk around the grand courthouse you’ll be transported, conquering images of yourself in the judge’s chair with a gavel in one hand!
You can join an Allen County Courthouse group tour, or you can also take a self-guided tour of the building. The grand building is sure to impress you!
8. Fort Wayne Firefighters Museum
The museum was built in 1893 and served as a fire station until 1973. It was known as fire station number 3 and was once the city’s largest fire station. The building was renovated various times as the city expanded, and the population grew.
In 1972 the fire station was closed, replaced by a more modern fire station on Main Street. But the story doesn’t end there. Soon after its closing, it was turned into a museum!
The museum is home to a large collection of photographs, garments, tools, and old firefighting trucks and wagons that ran before engines were created. The artifacts are a blast into the past, and a reminder of the hardship faced by firefighters in their mission to keep their community safe.
7. Embassy Theatre
Are you looking to add a little drama to your holiday? Then this is the place for you! The Embassy Theatre was built in 1928 and ran as a movie palace and that was later converted to a theatre. There are 2,471 seats at this grand theatre.
The theater hosts a number of Broadway shows, like Cats and Hairspray, that were cleverly named “Broadway at the Embassy” collectively. They also run fundraisers, concerts, and seasonal theater productions.
The theatre is also home to a 1,100-pipe Page theatre organ, played by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra. The Embassy Theatre is a place of dance, music, entertainment, and joy! You can’t visit Fort Wayne without going to one of their productions.
6. Allen County Public Library
The Allen County Public Library is in the center of Fort Wayne, on West Washington Boulevard. Holidays can get busy and tiring, the library is perfect for a day when you just want to sit in silence and read a good book.
With over 4,500,000 books, articles, and journals available, you’re sure to find a good read. Among others, the library has a large collection of books on Native American heritage, a great way to explore the roots of US culture.
The library is spacious, modern, and full of natural light. It’s home to the second largest genealogy department in the US, the perfect place to dive into your ancestry. It runs poem contests, storytelling for children, and computer lessons.
5. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Trying to find the perfect activity for a warm, sunny day? But struggling to find something that works for everyone? This outdoor zoo is great for the whole family!
You’re not likely to get bored. Between the monkeys leaping across branches, lions roaring and penguins splashing, there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied. Aside from the zoo, it has a small aquarium with exotic fish species like the zebra shark, colorful clown fish and venomous lionfish.
The zoo offers you the unique opportunity to explore wildlife from near and far in one place. There’s free parking available near the zoo, or you can walk or take the bus from the center of Fort Wayne.
4. Historic Fort Wayne
This small Indiana city built a fort, now called the Old Fort, hundreds of years ago that was designed to offer its citizens protection from any invaders. The Old Fort was particularly influential in the Northwest Territory during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Unfortunately, the original fort is no longer standing, but a very accurate replica was built less than half a mile from the site. Historic Fort Wayne is a non-for-profit organisation that runs free educational programs and events that help the public understand the importance of the Old Fort.
They have lots of events designed to transport visitors into the past, when the Old Fort was busy with soldiers preparing for battle. The organisations re-enactments cover diverse periods of history, so each time you go it’s different!
3. Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
If you’re beginning to tire of the hustle and bustle of the city, the Botanical Gardens is your ideal escape. The conservatory is in the center of the city, near the Allen County Public Library.
The Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory was designed by the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, which are also responsible for its upkeep. There are three large indoor gardens you can explore. Each garden has four seasonal exhibitions each year, so you can keep coming back!
As all the gardens are indoors, it’s a fun day activity regardless of the weather. There’s also a cute gift shop that sells plants and home décor. The garden entry fees are very budget friendly!
2. Parkview Field
Parkview Field is a modern multi-use ballpark, and a recent addition to downtown Fort Wayne. The building was funded by the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the local baseball team, and the City of Fort Wayne. Since its construction Parkview has brought crowds and businesses flooding in, reviving Downtown Fort Wayne.
The ballpark hosts minor league baseball matches every year. It has been awarded the title of number 1 Minor League Baseball Experience in the US by Stadium Journey Magazine at various times since opening. If your holiday coincides with a match date, don’t miss the game! The cheering crowds, hot dogs and beer are a part of US culture you shouldn’t skip.
It hosts concerts, fundraisers, and several big and small sporting events. It is also open to the public and is visited daily by runners and walkers.
1. Science Central
You can find science central in the center of Fort Wayne, on North Clinton Street. This interactive museum is a place for the curious. It has over 200 permanent exhibits and often has national touring exhibitions as well! Plus, it has a gift shop full of quirky and educational items.
The artifacts at Science Central are hands-on, allowing you to experience science directly. All the experiments and games are suitable for a range of ages, a great opportunity to combine a family day out with learning.
The science center is only open a few days a week and the building’s closing times differ throughout the week so it’s worth checking in advance!