Road Trips from Toledo: 10 Things to Do in Fort Wayne

Photos by Matt Sackmann and Erin Holden

My husband Matt, our two-year-old son Townes, and I all got a chance to take a family weekend trip to Fort Wayne, IN in May. In just one weekend, we were able to do ALL of the following activities. Now we are sharing our knowledge with you! Below you’ll find 10 things you must try if you visit the city where the Maumee, St. Joseph, and St. Marys Rivers converge.





  1. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo features a Crocodile Creek Ride that takes visitors through the Australian exhibits

First of all, Toledo Zoo members get 50% off admission through our zoo’s reciprocal zoo program, so that is a major perk! You could easily spend the whole day at this zoo, the highlight of which — for us — is the kangaroo exhibit. You basically walk through a gate and are surrounded by mama kangaroos with their joeys in their pouches, hopping around freely. It’s an immersive experience you won’t want to miss. 

Another really unique feature in the zoo is their Crocodile Creek Adventure ride. The three of us were able to ride together in the log-shaped boat that coasts gently down a winding stream throughout the Australian section of the zoo. It was so peaceful.

The newest thing at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is their Red Panda Ridge, one of the largest red panda exhibits in the U.S. Visitors will find both Chinese and Himalayan red pandas, a Chinese Muntjac, several different species of Asian birds, and a bamboo maze that kids of all ages will love.


2. The Landing

Tasty taco trio at Mercado on The Landing

There are several different places to explore at The Landing, a historic neighborhood that has been the center of culture and commerce in Fort Wayne for 185 years. It is full of beautiful murals that reflect both the history and current representations of life in the city. We loved exploring the different eateries and shops, beginning with lunch at Mercado, where I had some of the best tacos I’ve ever tasted! My recommendations: Cali AF, Chorizo, and Ernie’s Fish Tacos. Your mind will be blown.

If you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up, you can grab a coffee at Utopian Coffee & Kitchen, which has a nice ambiance and tasty lattes.

For a little grown-up time, head to Gnometown Brewing Co., where I had a beer with local artist Alex Hall after she graciously showed me around the downtown area to explore the art scene. More on that later! 

It was a little chillier than I expected when I packed for this weekend trip, so I used that as a convenient excuse to buy a cozy sweater at The Urban Hippie, a boho-inspired boutique that donates to local and international animal rescue groups. Cute clothes for a cause.

Finally, though it is not technically on the main stretch of The Landing (the 100 block of West Columbia St.), I’d be remiss not to mention B&B Loan Company, a pawn shop around the corner that drew me in with its well-curated record collection. I walked away happy with Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams.

3. Union Street Market

Union Street Market at Electric Works is a great stop for dinner, shopping, and activities like trivia nights.

Union Street Market at Electric Works is similar to the Landing in that it has taken a historical commercial center and transformed it into a modern place to build community, all while honoring the original site’s rich history. Originally home of the innovative lighting company Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Company, the campus has a history that dates to the 1880s. In 2015, the renovation of its historic buildings began, culminating into what is now a thriving market filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and activities for the whole family. Our family ate dinner here, opting to sample from a few different places: samosas at O-Cha Thai, sushi at Seoul Garden, and barbecue at Brooks BBQ & Chicken. Oh, and a glass of wine at The Charlie Horse.



4. Must-Try Fort Wayne Restaurants

These coney dogs hit the spot before we hit the road heading back to Toledo.

Still hungry? A few other places we enjoyed were Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island (try their pie!), Shigs in Pit BBQ, and sweets from GK Baked Goods.






5. Promenade Park

Promenade Park’s inclusive playground will keep the kids occupied for hours

For a city to steal our hearts, all it really has to have is a beautiful waterside public space. Fort Wayne certainly has that with its downtown Promenade Park, a beautiful center of fun for kids and adults. You’ll find an accessible playground, watersports like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, a canal riverboat tour, Trubble Riverside Cafe & Tap, and much more. We like that the Park offers simple pleasures like a game of cornhole and ping pong for anyone walking by, plus the relaxing swings facing the St. Marys river.

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6. Science Central

Science Central offers fun educational experiences for all ages.

If you’re a fan of Imagination Station in Toledo, you’ll likely find your happy place at Science Central as well. There are age appropriate learning opportunities for kids of all ages, from a section filled with exotic animals and an indoor playground to the Geo Table and Topo Box, both of which teach kids about geology in a hands-on way. Townes loved it!







7. Botanical Conservatory

A butterfly chrysalis at the Botanical Conservancy

We strolled through many different biomes — deserts, tropical rainforests, and grasslands among them. This in itself was a wonderful experience, but there are also very cool things for kids to do at this conservatory. There’s a talking tree (which, unfortunately, terrified Townes), and a log that kids can climb through and slide out the other side. The absolute best part of this place, though, was the butterfly exhibit. An attendant invites you into a massive tent filled with these vibrant butterflies, one of which landed on my purse and stayed there throughout our visit to the exhibit! Another attendant awaits when you exit, supplied with a butterfly net for wrangling any escapees. 




8. Fort Wayne Museum of Art

The glass wing at the Fort Wayne Art Museum is extensive, so it’s the perfect way to build on your knowledge of glass sculpting that you’ve already acquired in the Glass City!

This art museum is much smaller than the Toledo Museum of Art, but it was a real joy for us to visit. Adults will love its vast display of glassworks, while kids will love the John S. and James L. Knight Learning Center, which features tactile art education tools and a place for kids to let loose for a bit before getting close to all the shiny breakables. 






9. Public Art Tour 

“Lion’s Dance” by Juuri

Speaking of thought-provoking art, our family quickly noticed all the colorful murals throughout The Landing when we ate lunch at Mercado, and not long after that I got to experience even more of Fort Wayne’s art scene when Art This Way’s director Alexandra Hall took me on a private tour! As we walked around downtown Fort Wayne, lots of people throughout the neighborhoods stopped to chat with Alex, and you could really tell how passionate she is about her work and her hometown. We saw murals from artists from a wide array of backgrounds, and many of those murals had 3D printed renderings of the art for people with visual impairments. The art you’ll find throughout Fort Wayne is interactive and ever-changing. I certainly felt like I knew more about what the city was all about by the time Alex and I ended our art walk back at The Landing. 



10. Seasonal Festivals

Townes and I rocking out at Buskerfest!

After my art tour, Matt brought Townes back to the downtown area post-nap so we could enjoy Buskerfest, an event that brings musicians and street performers from all over the country to downtown Fort Wayne. We danced, we marveled at daring jugglers balancing on unicycles, and we felt very lucky to have been in town for this event. Other upcoming festivals to check out include the Three Rivers Festival in July, the Fort Wayne Arts Festival in September, and the Fort Wayne FAME Festival in March.

However you choose to spend your time in Fort Wayne, you’ll soon discover that the second largest city in Indiana has something for any family’s interests. For more inspiration on taking a trip there, head to