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People, if you’ve been passing up the chance to visit Fort Wayne, Indiana – YOU ARE MISSING OUT! Recently, I had the opportunity to run around Fort Wayne with the Visit Fort Wayne crew and explore the city. I’ve visited Fort Wayne before, but not quite like this. This experience gave me an up-close look at some of the experiences that are perfect for sharing with your friends, significant others, or family members of all ages.
Located about two hours northeast of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne has lots to offer for day trips, weekend getaways, delectable food, and special events. Below, I’m rounding up some of my most surprising finds from my visit to Fort Wayne just for you.
Five Surprising Finds in Fort Wayne
Vera Bradley Annual Outlet Sale
I had heard tales of this grand event from people who have attended in the past, but I wasn’t quite sure if I believed just how big it was until I actually saw it and got to take part in the experience. Headquartered in Fort Wayne, this Vera Bradley sale sees over 40,000 shoppers over the five days of the sale and over 600,000 pieces of the product are brought into the Allen County Memorial Coliseum for shoppers to peruse. My two cents – it WAS a really cool experience! If you’re into Vera Bradley (or know someone who is), it’s your once-a-year chance to get 40-60% off of the signature handbags, luggage, clothing, and any other accessory made by Vera Bradley. I’m a super budget shopper and still found some pieces that were well within my shopping limits!
There were seriously items there for everyone – starting as low as $1.99, all the way up to the hundreds of dollars. If there was something Vera Bradley that you want, that’s the place to look for it! Next year’s sale is planned for April 15-19, 2020 – put it on your calendar now!
The Embassy Theatre
No matter where I go or what I do, I always end up in a theatre of some sort! Needless to say, I was a little surprised by this historic theatre in downtown Fort Wayne. Home to a Grande Page Pipe Organ, this former movie house was renovated in the early-2000’s. Now, it hosts national tours of Broadway shows, concerts, weddings, and more! I’m a sucker for beautiful theatre spaces and the details on this one are so intricate and well-maintained – must be why it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you know me, you know I love museums. Having spent so many years as an actor/interpreter/facilitator, my love of museums runs very deep. Fort Wayne is home to several cultural & educational institutions that are perfect for the museum geeks out there.
Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory – The conservatory is such a chill place to surround yourself with nature…indoors! Three indoor gardens are landscaped with butterflies, desert cacti, and a waterfall. If you’re into flowers and greenery, this is the stop for you.
Fort Wayne Museum of Art – Located on the Main Street Arts Campus, the FWMoA offers some diverse art displays from American artists, as well as a few others from around the globe. It’s a small art museum that would be perfect for a morning or afternoon of exploring.
Science Central – This science center is inside of an old power plant, so on top of the science exhibits, you can check out some of the remaining structures of the power plant. Check out Indiana’s first museum-based NOAA’s Science On a Sphere exhibit. Punch in a date and discover what the earth looked like that day and see the details of weather systems, plants, and other up close details of our planet.
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo – I’ve been to some cool zoos, but I love that this one puts the animals on a kid’s level. How often do you see parents having to lift their kids all the way up so they can see over a railing? Not here! Everything is easy for kids to see and touch – I love that! Our group spent so much time checking out the orangutan area – they all had so much personality! We also had the opportunity to feed stingrays – they make such funny sounds when they suction the food of your hand. You can also enjoy looking at the peacocks who are freely roaming the grounds at the zoo, ride a train, or ride a pony during your visit!
The public art scene in Fort Wayne is growing quickly! So many downtown buildings have unique murals painted on them, plus there are bike racks that are actually art sculptures. Just walk around downtown and take it all in!
Fantastic Food Choices
Who knew that Fort Wayne, Indiana was a hub for food connoisseurs? Not me! As a foodie myself, there was so much I was interested in trying! Here are some places to start when you visit!
Proximo – This restaurant is a one-stop shop for all things breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every Latin-inspired dish we tried looked beautiful and tasted even better! My favorite breakfast entrees were definitely the Chorizo Bowl or the Huevos Rancheros.
Copper Spoon – Go here for the cocktail list, but the food menu is not something to pass up either. If you’re into cocktails that are all about presentation & unique flavor combos, this is definitely the place to check out.
The Hoppy Gnome – Perfect stop for a beer, snack, or even a full meal. Definitely spring for the Asian Tuna Tartare or the Pan-Seared Scallops.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – We just ran in here for a dessert round and it was worth every bite! If you stop into Ruth’s Chris during your visit you must absolutely order the carrot cake. Save room after dinner. Just trust me on this – you’ll thank me later. I’m STILL thinking about it.
Fortezza Coffee – Coffee lovers HAVE to go here. It’s a must. The menu can change from time to time – it’s written on a chalkboard, but they’ve got it all and great baked goods.
DeBrand Chocolates – Gourmet chocolates – need I say more? Gelato, too? I’m totally there. A perfect place to satisfy all of your chocolate cravings. From sundaes, coffee, to pre-packaged chocolate bars, they’ve covered anything and everything chocolate. If you’re adventurous, I highly suggest sampling from the Connoisseur Collection.
The Genealogy Center
This place was awesome. I had zero ideas about what to expect once I got there, but once we got started…I WAS HOOKED. A few weeks prior to my Fort Wayne trip, I was able to submit some of my own family information for further research and there was some really great stuff to be found. One of my biggest takeaways: so many people in my lineage had AMAZING names. I would have never known without digging a little deeper. Their collection holds over ONE MILLION physical items, plus they have access to some of the best genealogy databases and it is FREE to the public! You don’t even have to live in Allen County! There’s a lot to look at and take in, but don’t worry – there are always librarians available to answer your questions!
It’s clear that I had an amazing time in Fort Wayne and I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to visit! I didn’t know that Indiana’s second largest city had so much to offer visitors. There’s truly something for all kinds of travelers – shoppers, art lovers, foodies, and more. It’s so exciting to explore new places so close to home!
Ready to visit Fort Wayne? Check out the 2019 Visitor’s Guide here!