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[Disclosure: I was a guest of Visit Fort Wayne during this trip. All opinions are my own.]
I’m so excited to bring you all the latest installment in my Hoosier Highlights series! This past weekend, I had the opportunity to head up to Fort Wayne, Indiana to check out a couple of different festivals and places around the city! The weekend was full of fun, HEAT (I melted in the humidity), tunes, and fried apples. Believe it or not, this northeastern city is considered the second-largest city in the state of Indiana – I had no idea! At right around two hours from my downtown Indy home, it was a great option for a weekend trip. So, if you need ideas for a weekend getaway…Fort Wayne is a great option to consider.
I figure it’s best to probably just start at the beginning, right? Let’s do it!
[Click on the images below to see the full-size photos!]
The biggest reason I was in town was to check out Middle Waves Music Festival. Middle Waves is a two-day festival that happens every year in downtown Fort Wayne’s Headwaters Park. They do this festival RIGHT! First things first, there were TWO free stages around the park, in addition to the paid stage. I also enjoyed that ALL of the stages were named after the “Three Rivers” of Fort Wayne! Having free elements, as well as paid elements to the festival is one of the many ways this festival could be enjoyed by visitors and the local members of the Fort Wayne community. It’s a non-profit festival staffed by volunteers and that is something I always appreciate and try to support if I can.
Upon my Friday evening arrival, I dropped off my bags and headed right into the heart of downtown Fort Wayne to see what was happening during the first night of the festival. The sun was quickly setting (but it was still VERY warm) and you could hear the music from way outside the park! Checking in was a breeze – flashed my ticket and got that all weekend wristband! Easy peasy!
- Sweet Lemons Photo Booth – photos below!
- Sweet art installations – also photos below!
- Free yoga class
- The Dunk Tank for Fort Wayne celebrities
- The Glitter Bar
- Making Flower Crowns
- …and more!
…and that was just a short snippet of some of the things I saw on Friday night!
That night, I was able to take in some music from Joywave! You’ve definitely heard of them – probably their song “Tongues” or “Dangerous.” Their set was great that night, but something I appreciated in between sets on the main (paid) stage were the DJs playing tunes in between! It was super great for keeping the energy up while people were waiting between acts. After Joywave, I made sure to check out the other two stages for Bodega, and then after that, Fort Wayne’s own local performer, Anna Faye. I called it a night pretty quickly after those shows!
After crashing pretty hard, I went back to check out the general downtown area of Fort Wayne. First, I don’t know quite what I was expecting to see, but the architecture in the downtown area is pretty fantastic! From the courthouse to all of the churches, to the nearby homes in the area – there is some great architecture to behold. Did I mention churches? There were A LOT of churches to look at as you stroll through the downtown area! Fun Fact: Fort Wayne is often referred to as the “City of Churches” with over 300 places of worship!
During my stroll, I knew that I should be on the hunt for a great coffee and snack/lunch place and I found my way towards Fortezza Coffee. This place was perfect for stopping by and getting some work done before diving into a day at Middle Waves. Seriously, it’s just the cutest place – plenty of tables, a meeting room, macarons, and of course…the COFFEE! I went with the standard iced coffee and it was super flavorful. Didn’t even need a sweetener and just a splash of milk!
After finishing up a batch of work, it was time to head down to the festival! Again, this time there were even more non-music things for me to enjoy while running around the festival:
- The Poem Market – this lady literally sat out with an old-school typewriter writing poems for people who stopped by!
- Kids Sidewalk Chalk Drawings
- Unicorns (rather mini horses dressed up as unicorns
- Sign language interpreters
- Food & vendors in “The Village” – I bought an “epic” bracelet and made sure to sample the local food trucks and beer options!
- AND THE LLAMAS! They had llamas just meandering around the park! Of course, there had to be a photo!
I also got to spend some time checking out more bands on Saturday. I got up close for Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, The David Wax Museum, Lizzo, and Best Sleep. The only two I had even heard of before the festival were Lizzo and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, so Middle Waves was a nice introduction for the other bands!
Saturday also led me into both The Deck and Wine Down. The Deck sits right on the St. Mary’s River downtown and not far from the festival. It was full on a Saturday night, but I’m not surprised. It seemed like a great place for drinks and food in the summer! Across downtown, another place that came highly recommended was Wine Down. As a more upscale (and completely local) establishment, I was in a perfect spot to watch the bartenders in action – especially while they were making Smoked Old Fashioneds. They also had the wine machines where you buy a card and can get samples of wine as you go – much like one of my Indy favorites, Tastings.
Some highlights of the festival I particularly enjoyed:
- HOMEMADE ROOT BEER! Photo below!
- Fried Apples. Fried Apples. Fried Apples.
- Each day at 2 pm, the Pipe, Fife, & Drum Corps met in the middle of the festivities and performed separately. Then, they joined together to play “Amazing Grace.” VERY cool to watch.
- Vendors of all kinds – I was particularly drawn to the candles! See a photo below!
- Live acts! I got to see Abraham Lincoln in action!
- Demonstrations of weaving, blacksmithing, and woodworking.
- Watching the food vendors cook over open fires and grills in pioneer garb.
- …and more! I know even missed some stuff because it was so busy!
After conquering as much of the Johnny Appleseed Festival as possible, it was time to cool off indoors at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art! Located downtown, the museum has exhibitions of American art ranging from the nineteenth century to today. A Sunday afternoon in the museum was very chill, especially after being out and about at the Johnny Appleseed Festival.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is pretty small, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a full day. However, I would definitely check it out if you’re in the area and have a couple hours to fill. The galleries are small, open, and flow easily from one to the next! I was particularly enamored with the Exploring Humanism in the Art of Chuck Sperry and Winslow Homer: From Poetry to Fiction, The Engraved Works.
Chuck Sperry’s work is on display in tapestries, blotter paper, rock posters and more. I’d definitely suspect that you’ve seen his work on display before and just haven’t realized it! I spent some extra time in the Winslow Homer exhibit, simply because there was a wood engraving on the newspaper of people on top of Mount Washington! And I love Mount Washington – so that was particularly exciting to see! All of my travels recently kind of collided at that moment.
I was a guest at the Ramada Plaza Fort Wayne Hotel & Conference Center during my stay in Fort Wayne and it was perfect for my short visit!. Only a short drive from downtown (and plentiful parking options to boot), the Ramada Plaza Fort Wayne Hotel & Conference Center was an excellent place to cool off and rest between all of my festival hopping!
From check-in to checkout, I had a great customer service experience. My room on the first floor was convenient to the lobby, the restaurants, the pool and I could easily get to my car right outside the door. It’s a dated facility, just look at the exterior, but I still slept well! The pool was half indoor and half outdoors which looked awesome, but I was too busy hustling around to check out. Food was close by and other amenities like a grocery store and gas station, plus it was close to the interstate for when it was time to head home. For whatever reason you choose to visit Fort Wayne, this would be a great hotel to consider!
Or, if you’re more into Airbnb, Fort Wayne has some options for you.
In The End…
If you’re looking for a great weekend getaway that is just a short drive from Indianapolis, there are plenty of reasons to think about taking a short trip to Fort Wayne. Plentiful food & beverage options for the foodies, plenty of entertainment for the kids – like the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Science Central, performing arts opportunities, museums, and more! There’s something for every member of the family, couples, and solo travelers!