The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne

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The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
[Disclosure: Lodging, activities, and food were provided by Visit Fort Wayne for the purpose of learning more about the city and for writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Road trip time! I was recently invited to join Visit Fort Wayne and a group of fellow bloggers for a familiarization tour around Fort Wayne, Indiana. Before this trip, I knew nothing about Fort Wayne and actually didn't know much about the state of Indiana in general (other than the fact that I'd driven through it a few times on the way to Chicago).

The first cool thing I learned about Fort Wayne is that it's a fairly short drive from Detroit and the metro area (likely three hours or less depending on where you live). For my first solo, out-of-state road trip (yay, independence!), the minimal travel time was a really attractive factor. Yes, Michigan has tons of awesome weekend road trip destinations, but if you're in the mood to wander out of state for a couple of days, this midwest city is definitely worth getting to know.

WHERE TO STAY IN FORT WAYNE

Our group was spread out at a few hotels across town, which allowed each of us to catch a unique glimpse of the city. My temporary place of residence was Don Hall’s Guesthouse, named for its founder, who also started a group of Fort Wayne restaurants in the 1940s. After checking in and getting my key, I made my way to my room and opened the door. Before I even made it inside, my excitement level shot up to a thousand.

“No way,” I said with a grin as I pulled my luggage in behind me.

Dolly Parton Themed Room At Don Hall's Guesthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana - What a fun place to stay! // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
There, above a treble clef-adorned, king-sized bed, was the silhouette of one of country music’s most well-known female artists. My room was Dolly Parton-themed, y’all.

Photos on every wall. A custom table and a bathroom clock made from an old record. Needless to say, I spent the next ten minutes taking pictures of everything.

Don Hall’s Guesthouse features several other themed rooms, as well: Elvis, The Beatles, Las Vegas, and more. Think themes are cheesy? Not to worry--there are plenty of non-themed (but well-decorated) rooms that include lofts, fireplace options, you name it. Me, however? They definitely picked the right girl to impress with this room.

Other Options:
Courtyard Marriott (downtown)
Holiday Inn (IPFW & Memorial Coliseum)


WHAT TO DO (OUTDOORS) IN FORT WAYNE

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo (Not just for kids!)

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - One of the nation's top-rated zoos (and it's not just for kids!) // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Okay, I'll admit it: I wasn't exactly thrilled when I first heard about the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Why would I want to spend the day petting ponies and stepping around playground toys? Those things are great for little ones, but as someone who passed the five-foot mark quite a while ago, I didn’t think this place would have anything for me.

Wrong, guys. WRONG. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo (FWCZ) isn’t designed to focus solely on kids; rather, it’s designed to include kids (along with people of all ages and abilities). Consistently voted one of the nation's top zoos, the FWCZ features l
ow viewing walls that eliminate the need for parents to hoist up their children to see every exhibit, as well as plenty of wide, paved pathways throughout the park with benches to rest along the way. In addition, an awesome collection of animals and exhibits (pet a stingray, feed a giraffe, and hop with kangaroos), and an ever-evolving variety of fresh food options (no need to run off by 11 to hit the drive-thru!) will keep your whole crew happy for hours.


TinCaps Baseball at Parkview Field

Fort Wayne’s beloved minor league baseball team, the TinCaps, is a tribute to pioneer Johnny Appleseed, who is believed by many to be buried in Fort Wayne (there is still some debate as to which American city is actually home to Appleseed’s grave). With a mascot that features an apple wearing Johnny Appleseed’s trademark--you guessed it--tin cap, the TinCaps have called Parkview Field home since 2009 and continue to draw in loyal fans each season.

TinCaps Baseball at Parkview Field - Fort Wayne, Indiana (top rated minor league ballpark and amazing food selection!) // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.Parkview Field is also known for its unique, high-quality food options. In addition to your “typical” baseball cuisine (hot dogs, nachos, etc.), you’ll find 18 specialty carts that include Mexican food, BBQ, Philly cheesesteaks, make-your-own burgers, salads/healthy options, and a popular apple-themed cart, which I’m told has some delectable desserts that will quickly win your heart.


Explore Nature

The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Hiking, kayaking, biking, Segways, you name it--exploring Fort Wayne’s three rivers (St. Marys, St. Joseph, and Maumee), parks, and trails are perfect activities for an outdoor-themed weekend! New for summer 2017: take a cruise on a luxury canal boat or see your surroundings by land and water on an amphibious vehicle, a.k.a. duck boat!



WHAT TO DO (INDOORS) IN FORT WAYNE

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory

So, it's raining . . . so what? If you’re a nature lover, traveling with kids, or are simply looking for a beautiful place to enjoy some peace and quiet, don't miss the (completely indoor) Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Lose track of time among tropical plants, enjoy a relaxing waterfall, and take advantage of one of the conservatory’s themed events and exhibits. During our visit, our group enjoyed “Perspectives,” a seasonal display of live, free-flying butterflies!

"Perspectives" Butterfly Display at Fort Wayne's Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory /// The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.


Genealogy Center

Of all the places on our Fort Wayne agenda, I was definitely most excited to check out the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library. With roughly a million physical research items plus additional online databases, the Genealogy Center is a completely free resource that draws in locals and out-of-town visitors looking to learn more about their family histories (coincidentally, there was a group from Grand Rapids present on the day of our tour!).

Fort Wayne's Genealogical Center at the Allen County Public Library is one of the nation's (if not the world's) best genealogical resources . . . best of all, all materials are free to the public! // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
As a special gift to our group, the Genealogical Center put together some pre-researched packets of information about our own personal family trees--so cool! I wasn’t expecting to get emotional when I received my packet, but I almost teared up as I came across familiar family names and photos. Newspaper clippings, yearbook photos, marriage and death records, and more--it’s amazing what you might uncover when you visit this world-renowned research center!


Fort Wayne Museum Of Art

"Lily Gold Chandelier" by Dale Chihuly (at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art) // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
As an integral piece of Fort Wayne’s main street Arts Campus, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art showcases a collection of permanent artwork and rotating exhibits that range from early American glasswork to modern sculptures, photography, and more. Of particular interest during our visit were a glass Dale Chihuly sculpture (photo above) and Sharon: Photographs by Leon Borensztein, a photographic exhibit focusing on an artist’s journey of raising his disabled daughter.


Embassy Theatre

Embassy Theatre - Fort Wayne, Indiana // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Since 1928, Fort Wayne’s gorgeous Embassy Theatre has dazzled audiences with live shows, movies, and countless stars. While the atmosphere has changed a bit over the past century (the attached former hotel is now meeting and event space), the Embassy’s legacy lives on today with its preserved 1920s charm and ongoing schedule of celebrity shows, musical theater, and more. Want to step into the past? Dress in your most elegant evening attire and walk through the doors to feel an instant connection to decades of stage and cinema history.


Science Central

"Science On A Sphere" at Science Central in Fort Wayne, Indiana // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
For family-friendly fun, try Science Central, where every exhibit and presentation is designed to be interactive! Kids in particular will love the hands-on exhibits, while visitors of all ages will be captivated by "Science On A Sphere," a planetarium-like projection of images where you can see the earth, its storm systems, and other dynamic patterns on a three-dimensional globe.


VERA BRADLEY ANNUAL SALE

Calling all Vera Bradley lovers! Did you know that Fort Wayne is home to Vera Bradley’s headquarters and an annual five-day sale that features 100,000 square feet of Vera merchandise for up to 60 percent off?

Vera Bradley Annual Sale in Fort Wayne, Indiana // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.(Yeah, it’s just as magical as it sounds.)

Whether you’re in the market for some new luggage, tech accessories, boots, bags, you name it--Vera Bradley probably has it at this sale. It’s a perfect girls’ activity for sisters, moms/daughters, and friends, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. Who wants to join me?

Mark Your Calendar! Vera Bradley’s Next Annual Sale Events Are:
April 11-15, 2018
April 10-14, 2019



GRABILL: AMISH COUNTRY & COUNTRY CULTURE

H. Souder & Sons General Store In Grabill, Indiana // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Just a short drive from Fort Wayne is Grabill, a crossroads where Amish culture and small-town living collide. Visit the H. Souder General Store for country-esque gifts, penny candy, and other unique souvenirs, then walk next door to the Coffee Cabin for some espresso and a warm lunch. On your way out, keep your eyes open for horse-drawn carriages and don’t forget to stop by the flea market or one of several other neighboring shops for a fun afternoon!


WHERE TO EAT IN FORT WAYNE

If you love local eateries and unique flavors, Fort Wayne’s got a mile-long list of places you need to try NOW. Some nom-worthy picks:

Casa

Where To Eat In Fort Wayne, Indiana - Casa Ristorante // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Arrive hungry, because Casa’s got a hearty, filling menu that’s best enjoyed in generous portions. With four restaurants to choose from, family-owned Casa is known for authentic Italian pasta, salads, bread, and more--and everything is made fresh (even the salad dressing!). Try the Polpette (housemade meatballs), Petto Di Pollo Al Palermo (breaded chicken with lemon white wine sauce, peas, mushrooms, and Italian cheeses), and/or Pasta Con Verdura (cavatelli pasta, mushrooms, cream sauce, and vegetable of your choice). I promise: it is so worth the (inevitable) wonderful food coma!

Tolon

Where To Eat In Fort Wayne, Indiana - Tolon Farm to Fork // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
I love how so many restaurants are going back to a farm-to-fork mentality, and Tolon is a perfect example of this. Owned and operated by husband and wife duo, Matt and Nicky Nolot (spell their last name backwards and you’ve got the name of the restaurant), Tolon serves up seasonal dishes that utilize local ingredients and promote midwestern agriculture. While I loved sampling from a variety of Tolon’s creative small and large plates, I was extremely impressed with the dessert menu. Richly-flavored ice creams, decadent chocolate cake, popcorn with some kind of heavenly drizzle sauce . . . my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

The Hoppy Gnome

Where To Eat In Fort Wayne, Indiana - The Hoppy Gnome // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Who would’ve thought that a brewery could rock such a sophisticated food menu? The Hoppy Gnome doesn’t focus on the overplayed burger and fries route--rather, you’re looking at options like kimchi chicken fingers, tuna tartare, and chorizo mac 'n' cheese. The scratch kitchen is also known for its tacos, which run a gamut that includes mahi mahi, Korean short rib, and duck confit.

DeBrand Fine Chocolates

DeBrand Fine Chocolates - Fort Wayne, Indiana // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Personally, I think anything that involves chocolate is an automatic winner, but DeBrand does dessert on a whole different level. With four local retail shops and a mail order program, this three-decades-in-the-making business serves up handmade chocolates and exquisite truffles with scratch-made centers. Of course, I was drawn in by exotic flavors like milk chocolate and jasmine (with a candied violet petal!), but visiting the Auburn Park Drive location was made even more fun by the shop’s upscale cafe. Perfect for a Friday night dessert stop, this romantic venue erases any preconceived notions that confectionery shops are for takeout and proves that good chocolate is worthy of a social event all its own.

The Yummi Bunni

Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwich?? Yum!! (at The Yummi Bunni in Fort Wayne, Indiana) // The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Just when I thought I’d seen every dessert combination known to man (and Instagram), along came The Yummi Bunni. You may want to sit down for this one: The Yummi Bunni’s specialty is a hand-dipped ice cream sandwich, topped with a cereal, cookie, or candy of your choice . . . and the “bun” is a glazed doughnut.

*Insert wide-eyed, red-faced emoji here*

Now, there are a few possible reactions you might be having to this news. I’m guessing you're somewhere along the lines of, “GIMME DAT NOW,” “Too much, too much,” or “I’m a little scared, but a lotta intrigued.”

The Yummi Bunni is definitely a treat--not something you’d expect to eat every day (unless you’re Michael Phelps or Buddy the Elf). For five bucks, the trademark “Yummi Bun” is pretty solid (as heavy as a big hamburger), and the flavors are deliciously complementary, not overwhelming. (I found that the ice cream actually helped counter the sweetness of the doughnut). If you’re still unsure about going all in, try an unglazed donut, skip the toppings, or just order some ice cream on its own. Trust me--there’s a reason why people line up around the block to try these unique flavor combinations!


The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne

The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana [via Wading in Big Shoes] // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! See what I experienced on my trip to Fort Wayne and learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.

Fort Wayne, I love you and I can't wait to visit again. Until next time!


When it comes to weekend getaways, do you prefer to stay closer to home or do you like the feeling of exploring someplace new? Let me know in the comments!



The Weekend Getaway You've Overlooked: Visit Fort Wayne, Indiana // Located equidistantly from Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana is a fun midwest destination that captures a perfect blend of city, nature, and local flavors! Click through to learn what makes Indiana's second-largest city the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.

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