Located in the northeastern corner of the state of Indiana, Fort Wayne has over 120 miles of hiking trails, 80 parks, and 10 splash pads for children. There are countless restaurants and shops to explore you could stay in Fort Wayne for months and never fully explore all that it has to offer.
Fort Wayne is the second largest city in the state, by both size and population, and with a rich history (and a bright future). Whether you prefer cozy days indoors or fun outdoor activities, Fort Wayne is for everyone.
There are so many fun things to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Because of that, here are the best things to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
What We Cover
- 1. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
- 2. Historic Fort Wayne and the Historic Old Fort
- 3. Embassy Theatre
- 4. Parkview Field
- 5. Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
- 6. Fort Wayne Museum of Art
- 7. Tolon
- 8. Fort Wayne Scavenger Hunt
- 9. Lakeside Park and Rose Garden
- 10. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
- 11. Fort Wayne Firefighters Museum
- 12. Castle Gallery
- 13. The Brass Rail
- 14. Clyde Theatre
- 15. Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve
- 16. Brookside Mansion
- 17. Headwaters Park
- Places to Stay in Fort Wayne
- Most significant landmark – Historic Old Fort Wayne Fort
- Park to visit – Lakeside Park
- Free activity – Castle Gallery
- Activity for kids – Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
- Activity for adults – Embassy Theatre
- Place to eat – Tolon
- Nightlife – The Brass Rail
- Place to stay – The Bradley Hotel
1. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Address: 3411 Sherman Blvd, Fort Wayne, IN 46808
The 38-acre Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is home to an incredible 1,000 animals right in the north-central part of the city. It is one of the best Fort Wayne tourist attractions.
Parents of small children, rejoice! One of the first things you’ll notice is the pleasantly surprising parking situation. The zoo does not charge any parking fees, and the lot is intelligently designed, so you’re always a short walk to the entrance.
There are four main sections of the zoo: Central, African Journey, Australian Adventure, and Indonesian Rainforest. As you explore the zoo, you’ll find that the exhibits are spacious, well-maintained, and give visitors great views of the animals in their enclosures.
The zoo is designed to seamlessly blend beauty, functionality, animal habitats, and fun rides. While you’re here, make sure you don’t miss the Sky Safari Ride, Endangered Species Carousel, Outback Springs, Z.O.&O. Railroad train ride, Crocodile Creek Adventure Ride, or the petting zoo.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo also offers several animal encounters. You can feed stingrays, giraffes, and goats. You may notice quiet spaces, headphones, and sensory bags in the guest services building. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is certified as sensory-inclusive by KultureCity and can accommodate guests’ needs.
All in all, this zoo is well thought out and does a lovely job of making education entertaining for children and adults alike while providing a clean, safe, and happy environment for the creatures who call the zoo home.
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2. Historic Fort Wayne and the Historic Old Fort
Address: 1201 Spy Run Ave, Fort Wayne, IN 46805
History buffs will fall in love with this stop! In 1816, Major John Whistler and his men constructed the now-historic Fort Wayne. It was intended to defend and protect the settlers and military from Native American attacks. It is now what Fort Wayne, Indiana is known for and named after.
It was so intelligently designed that it only required 50 to 75 men to fully protect. It was nearly impossible to break into and, even today is considered one of the most sophisticated wooden forts ever built in North America.
Only three years after use, though, in 1819, the fort was abandoned because the frontier had expanded westward so quickly. Actors dressed in period attire and well-versed in the early 1800s dialogue and mannerisms fill the Historical site, constantly putting on accurate demonstrations and reenactments for visitors.
You’ll see people harvesting and preserving herbs, cutting firewood, and other re-enactors doing military drills, surviving the heat of summer and cold of winter, and working with their muskets.
Be sure to check the events calendar to see if there are any demonstrations for you to see during your next visit. The Fort, along with all reenactments and events, is completely supported by visitors and generous donations.
It is a 100% volunteer organization, and all events are completely free for visitors. If you’re like me, you’ll be blown away by how organized and maintained this non-profit is.
3. Embassy Theatre
Address: 125 W Jefferson Blvd, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
This stunning, 1928 movie-palace-turned-performing-arts-theater hosts concerts, musical events, comedians, festivals, wedding receptions, and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra. Occasionally, they will host themed movie nights, too.
Embassy Theatre has jaw-droppingly beautiful ornate architecture. It feels as though you’ve been transported to the regal 1920s.
Even though this is one of the most historic places in Fort Wayne, the Embassy Theatre is still highly accommodating. It’s wheelchair accessible, with spare wheelchairs available for use, as well as hearing-impaired assistive listening devices, and even sensory-friendly kits that are suitable for kids and adults.
This theatre is really something, so check out their upcoming events. They have hosted some of the hottest singers, bands, orchestras, plays, comedy shows, and more. It is definitely one of the top things to do in Fort Wayne.
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4. Parkview Field
Address: 1301 Ewing St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
This minor league baseball stadium and field are in the central business district, next to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and Courtyard by Marriott Fort Wayne Downtown.
This baseball park is truly a pillar of the community. Not only does it host concerts and several outdoor sports events including baseball, but it also houses indoor farmers markets, seasonal events, fireworks, and more.
The concession stand is always stocked with delicious food, the staff is extra friendly, the vendors are great, and they even have a splash pad behind center field. From time to time, they will open up a rock wall and giant inflatables to cater to the younger kids.
Make sure you catch a game or an event while in the area; it’s worth a trip!
5. Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
Address: 1100 Calhoun St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
You won’t believe the beauty of this climate-controlled indoor and outdoor botanical garden and conservatory in downtown Fort Wayne. Though the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory is not a large place, it will take you an hour or more to walk through the entire conservatory, appreciate the plant life, explore the exhibits, and witness the Butterfly Room.
The Butterfly Room has beautiful tropical flora, and the butterflies are so colorful and vibrant. If you stand still, a few may land on you to say hello.
I adore the sights, sounds, and smells of the gardens. All of the plants smell so pleasant, crisp, and fresh. Whether in the jungle exhibit or exploring the desert garden area, you’ll feel very zen here.
Before you head out, make time to stop at their coffee shop and gift store. The coffee shop sells delicious coffee and rolls, while the gift shop has houseplants, art glass, locally crafted soaps, lotions, and more.
You are welcome to visit the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory year-round as the exhibits, plants, and setups change throughout the year to suit the changing seasons. Be sure to stop here on your next adventure to Fort Wayne.
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6. Fort Wayne Museum of Art
Address: 311 E Main St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is educational and entertaining, with permanent and rotating exhibits. Most of the work in the art gallery is created by adults and professionals, but they do have a few seasonal exhibits that were created by children.
The sheer amount of fine art talent that has been rounded up and tastefully decorated throughout this building is incredible. You’ll find canvas oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings, as well as sculptures, photographs, and more. I was in awe of the delicate glass vessels.
Thursday evening, visitors are not charged admission upon entry, making this art museum a lively hot spot for locals and tourists alike. Small kids always love the kids’ central art station, where they are encouraged to create pieces of art with help from the staff (and their parents).
Address: 614 S Harrison St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Oh my gosh, you are in for a treat with the Tolon Restaurant in downtown Fort Wayne. This place serves some of the best farm-to-table meals (the first in Fort Wayne) along with craft beer and craft cocktails.
Located in a historic building, it is a hidden American-industrial chic gem. Inside, you can enjoy the floor-to-ceiling bar, several intimate tables, and a great view of Harrison Street through their massive front windows. In the summer, the sidewalk opens up and acts as a patio for fresh air seating.
Their foods range from comfort-style to decadent luxury and a bit of everywhere in between. They offer grilled Spanish octopus, duck fat frites, and organic chinook salmon, but they also have Hoosier-style pork chops, Indiana sweet corn and crab pasta, and double cheeseburgers.
While you’re in the area, consider staying at The Bradley Hotel. It’s on the same block as Tolon. This hotel is unique, and few other accommodations I’ve stayed in can rival its rich aesthetic. They serve free breakfast, free wifi, a free fitness center, free bicycle rentals, valet parking, an on-site restaurant and bar, and so much more.
See Related: Best Places to Visit & Things To Do in Indiana
8. Fort Wayne Scavenger Hunt
Address: Fort Wayne Old City Hall Bldg, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
If you’re ready to get to know Fort Wayne better and in a fun way, this scavenger hunt is a great idea. This scavenger hunt is operated on the Let’s Roam app, meaning that you can take this tour whenever it is most convenient for you and your group, and you can move at your own pace. It is also wheelchair and stroller accessible and service-animal friendly.
While on the scavenger hunt, you’ll find yourself in front of beautiful scenery, stumbling across hidden gems, admiring the local landmarks, and learning new (helpful) facts about Fort Wayne. Even if you only have the pleasure of staying in the city for a weekend, you’ll walk away with the knowledge of a local.
You’ll start at the Old City Hall Building, and from there, the clues will lead you on your journey. I won’t spoil your adventure, but we have covered several of the highlights in this article.
9. Lakeside Park and Rose Garden
Address: 1401 Lake Ave, Fort Wayne, IN 46805
This picture-perfect park is two blocks north of the Maumee River and about five blocks east of the St. Joseph River. It sits on 23.8 acres, and it has some of the most lovely garden features I’ve ever seen in an area like this.
At the heart of the park sits a giant pond that is stocked with fish and attractive foliage. With a proper license, you can fish from the banks.
Wrapping around the pond, and the rest of the park is a well-maintained, paved walking path that is just over a half mile long. As you walk this path you’ll notice precious additions to the park, like the Little Free Library, which has been carved out of a 10-foot-tall stump. Drop off or pick up books at your leisure to share with the local Fort Wayne Community.
Children will love the playground, while adults will admire the sunken rose garden. This garden is a work of art that cost more than half a million dollars to create.
Once upon a time, the park used to be a dump used by local residents. But with the artistic eye of Superintendent Adolf Jaenicke in 1920, Lakeside Park and the stunning rose garden were created.
As it turns out, Indiana’s clay soil is perfect for roses, and they thrive here. If you visit Fort Wayne in the summer, you’ll be able to see over 150 varieties of roses and more than 2,000 individual rose plants. It’s such a beautiful place to visit.
As for the rest of the park, it has tennis courts, ice skating in the winter, basketball, picnic areas, and more. It’s common for community festivals, fishing derbies, classes, workshops, school activities, botanical gardens brews, senior programs, and free seminars to be hosted here, so don’t miss the fun.
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10. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Address: 1105 Calhoun St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Don’t worry, you can’t miss this Roman Catholic Cathedral. It towers above the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Gardens and Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne. Built-in 1860, it is the primary cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. It is Fort Wayne’s first parish.
The church is double-spired, of the gothic architecture style, and oh so grand. You may tour the church to see its ornate detailing or attend mass, even if you aren’t a church member.
This parish will feel familiar if you’ve ever toured a Catholic Church in Europe. It is so grand, feeling very historical and meticulously detailed. I can’t stop thinking about those beautiful stained glass windows.
There is also a Diocesan Museum on site that offers a wealth of information to visitors. Whether you’re Catholic or not, you’re sure to find this an interesting place to tour.
11. Fort Wayne Firefighters Museum
Address: 226 W Washington Blvd, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Set up in the former Fort Wayne engine house, the Fort Wayne Firefighters Museum is a place for children, teens, adults, and seniors to learn and enjoy showcased firetrucks, fireman gear, old-fashioned fire alarms, the dispatch center (very cool), and an especially-sentimental binder.
Flipping through this binder will reduce you to tears if you don’t stay on your guard. It tells the stories of every fireman in Fort Wayne who lost their lives on duty, and it is so moving to understand these incredible people and the sacrifices they made for the community they loved.
When the community of Fort Wayne first began, the firehouse used a team of three horses to run steamers to extinguish fires. In 1913, the first motorized fire engine, the White Hose Wagon, was purchased and added to the fleet, which soon put the fire horses out of jobs. You can still see the original four stalls that Station #3 used to house their horses.
Upstairs, the firemen’s bedroom has been converted into a museum display of hand tools, photographs, and gear. I was fascinated by how the tanks have evolved over the years to work more efficiently and serve the firemen better.
Evidently, the not-for-profit museum put a ton of research and thought into creating this place. All of the memorabilia has been carefully labeled, and many pieces have great descriptions to tell the story of what fighting fires in the 1800s and early 1900s were like.
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12. Castle Gallery
Address: 1202 W Wayne St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
This 1905 Richardsonian-Romanesque-style castle was built as a wedding gift for Mr. and Mrs. Mossman. Skilled masons pulled up granite boulders from farm fields to make the home.
Just 44 years later, Mossman donated his castle to the city as a municipal art museum. Thirty-four years later, in 1983, the museum was transferred to a building in downtown Fort Wayne, and the Castle was again used as a private residence.
Finally, in 1995, it was turned back into an art museum and gallery while still functioning as a private home for a very sweet and inviting couple, Jodi and Mark Smith. They do not charge admission; donations are accepted but not a requirement.
I couldn’t help but admire the architecture and design just as much as the featured works. Look around, and you’ll see original cherry, oak, maple, mahogany, and walnut throughout.
It’s also tastefully decorated with grand staircases, stained glass pocket doors, Tiffany glass accents, and interior windows, with large and small paintings, primarily landscape scenes, in oil and watercolor media. As the owners lovingly joked, everything in the home except the cat and dog is for sale!
With three floors of beautiful architecture, art, and books to explore, you could easily spend three hours here (without feeling like an hour has passed). This is definitely the best free thing to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
13. The Brass Rail
Address: 1121 Broadway St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
The Brass Rail is an old-school dive bar that hosts lots of live music, especially metal, rock, and punk bands. The atmosphere is so cool and very inviting, with great decor, friendly staff, and amazing musical sounds.
This place feels very cemented in the past in the best way possible. Nothing about it is frilly or “hipster-like” – it feels very salt-of-the-Earth and welcoming. It’s a tight fit inside, but that adds to the cozy, old-school ambiance.
Still, this place is inclusive for all and a breath of fresh air – it does not tolerate hatred or unkindness in the least; be on your very best behavior!
On warm summer and fall nights, you may want to venture outside to sit by the fire ring to enjoy a drink alone or talk with the new friends you make. Visiting the Brass Rail feels like home in a way, and an escape from the big city vibes.
Open from 3 pm to 3 am every day of the year, including holidays, you’re sure to have a great evening at The Brass Rail.
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14. Clyde Theatre
Address: 1808 Bluffton Rd, Fort Wayne, IN 46809
Clyde Theatre is a cool, all-age event venue that hosts concerts and serves alcohol with a few quick snack foods. It was built in 1951 and has been in business ever since, developing a rich and meaningful connection and history with the city of Fort Wayne. In 2017, it underwent a major renovation to make it into a state-of-the-art event center and performance hall.
If you can, try to get second-floor premier gallery seating for a better vantage point of the event. Many of their beers and wines are locally sourced from Indiana wineries and distilleries.
I also can’t help but mention that their parking lot is well-lit and monitored by security personnel, so you can feel safe before and after your event, even if you travel alone. Catch a show if you can; it’s sure to be a great experience.
15. Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve
Address: 6801 Engle Rd, Fort Wayne, IN 46804
This nature preserve encompasses 831 acres and is open every day of the year at no cost. Before colonization, most of northern Indiana was marshland and wetland filled with wildlife and thriving plant species.
This area is all part of the Wabash River watershed, and the wetlands act as a water purifier for the river. Unfortunately, most of the wetlands were drained in the name of “progress,” but the Little River Wetlands Project (LRWP) has been hard at work protecting and restoring the wetlands in this preserve.
Eagle Marsh is a true nature preserve, meaning that it is imperative to stay on the trails, pack out all trash, not bring any pets, nor carry in (or out) any plant species from the natural habitat. All of this effort to maintain the wilderness pays off, though; on your visit to Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve, you’ll be rewarded with many native flora and fauna species, seemingly untouched wilderness, and unbounded beauty.
Eleven trails meander through Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve, varying between a half mile and two miles long. There are four primary ecosystems here for you to admire: marsh, sedge meadow, prairie, and forested wetlands.
These habitats are home to over 250 bird species, hundreds of mammal species, and several endangered species of all varieties. It’s common to see Bald Eagles in the area, so look up as you hike.
There is a fantastic nature education program here. Be sure to learn all about their restoration efforts, healthy wetland practices, and the plants and animals that call this preserve home.
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16. Brookside Mansion
Address: University of Saint Francis, 2701 Spring St, Fort Wayne, IN 46808
Brookside Mansion, also known as Bass Mansion, sits in the center of the University of Saint Francis. It is a wonderful taste of the 20th Century and the former residence of late industrialist John Henry Bass.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion has been fully restored, so you can enjoy the hand-carved woodwork, stained glass doors and windows, inlaid hardwood flooring, grand fireplaces, and hand-painted murals and ceilings while on your tour.
Tours are conducted by Sisters of Saint Francis nuns, who did the restoration work. They are also incredibly well-versed in the home’s history and the Bass family who owned it for so long. They can also tell you all about the fascinating parts that the Bass Family played in Fort Wayne’s industrial expansion and progress.
While the mansion is stunning year-round, it is a special place around Christmastime because it is lovingly adorned with 1900s-style Christmas decorations. It feels like you are stepping back into history when you visit, and it is a place you will not soon forget.
17. Headwaters Park
Address: 333 S Clinton St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Headwaters Park is a special place that is conveniently located near the convergence of the St. Joseph River, Maumee River, and St. Marys River. It’s just north of the central city business district. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in Fort Wayne.
It features the Headwaters Park Boat Dock, the Hamilton Sculpture Garden, the Emily P. Vian Bridge (which connects to the Historic Old Fort), the Little Turtle Memorial, the Headwaters Park Ice Rink, and the Rivergreenway path, which connects to the Promenade Kids Park across the St. Marys River.
There is a splash pad for kids, a fountain, and yummy junk food in the alley. It frequently hosts festivals, Fort Wayne Tincaps, big noteworthy concerts, many food vendors, the Fort Wayne Rib Fest, and more.
There are several Fort Wayne parks, but I think this is my favorite when connecting with the community and having a good time with friends and family.
Places to Stay in Fort Wayne
Looking for a hotel in Fort Wayne that has it all? Look no further than The Bradley! This 4-star hotel offers a restaurant, free bikes, a fitness center, and bar, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind. The rooms are spacious and well-equipped with a desk, perfect for getting some work done or planning your next adventure. The Bradley is also conveniently located near popular points of interest like the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Parkview Field, and Embassy Theatre.
Looking for a place to stay in Fort Wayne that's both stylish and comfortable? Look no further than the Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Wayne Downtown. This hotel offers everything you need for a relaxing and enjoyable stay, including a restaurant, air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, and private bathrooms. Plus, the Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Wayne Downtown is conveniently located near some of the city's top attractions, such as the Grand Wayne Convention Center, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, and Lakeside Park Rose Garden.
Looking for a little Hoosier hospitality in the heart of the city? Look no further than this Fort Wayne vacation rental! This 3-bed, 1.5-bath home is picture-perfect, with a cheery yellow exterior, sun-soaked deck, and prime spot next to the Lakeside Rose Gardens. Plus, it's just a short walk to Main Street's shops and restaurants! You'll have everything you need for a comfortable stay in Fort Wayne.