Last weekend I headed out on a long weekend trip to Fort Wayne, a small Indiana town just under two and a half hours away from Indianapolis by car. Like many of my trips, there was no real reason to head to Fort Wayne (in fact, most locals asked why? with a disbelieving look on their face) except the city was relatively close and I’m of the opinion that everywhere has something to fill a day and a half. After perusing many an uninspiring guide to Fort Wayne, I was sure there were plenty of things left to be uncovered.
So off to Fort Wayne we went. And guess what?
Even though we headed north with only the faintest idea of what we could get up to in Fort Wayne, we found more than enough to fill our time there. And because it’s me, I had to find some extra cool stuff just to please my little offbeat adventurer soul.
So here it is: the totally non-essential (but highly recommended) guide to Fort Wayne AKA not the things you must do in Fort Wayne, but the things you really ought to consider doing just because they’re so dang cool!
Ardmore Quarry Observation Tower
I honestly don’t even know how I stumbled upon this, but the Ardmore Quarry Observation Tower was the first thing we did in Fort Wayne and probably my favorite experience of the whole trip. Sure, a quarry isn’t exactly what a tourism board wants to highlight about their city, but it’s real and an integral part of the community surrounding it.
Plus, the views from the tower itself are really quite extraordinary, even when you’re being buffeted by 20 MPH winds in six-degree weather.
Follow Sandpoint Road (west of Ardmore Ave) to the very end
Mad Anthony Brewing
We came for some awesome local brews and stayed for the great atmosphere and amazing tunes. Mad Anthony opened its doors in Fort Wayne back in 1999 and today has four locations in Indiana and brew more than 2,000 barrels of beer annually. When you visit the Fort Wayne location, you can watch the brewing process as you sip!
A flight (shown above) went for $9.99 and showcased all of Mad Anthony Brewing’s awesome staples. You know it’s good because I even enjoyed the dark beers!
2002 Broadway, website
Graffiti wall behind Old Fort Wayne
Maybe I’m a bit spacey, but I didn’t really put together the fact that Fort Wayne was named after a… fort. Duh. The fort itself is a pretty cool reproduction of a pre-Civil War fort that served the area during various campaigns against native tribes. But after exploring the fort, head to the left and follow the path along the river until you hit the artsy bit: the graffiti wall.
Completed sometime last year, the truly beautiful art wall was created under the direction of a local tattoo artists and a landscape architect for the city of Fort Wayne along with street artists from across the Midwest. The wall, plagued by negative graffiti (and in a very public place) was covered with truly great art that most taggers have enouogh respect not to deface.
How cool is that?
Rivergreenway trail behind Old Fort Wayne
The Castle Gallery
Each time we entered a new room, my husband would tentatively ask “are you sure we’re allowed to be in here?” or “do I need to take off my shoes?”. The Castle Gallery is a bit disconcerting, I’ll allow, because it’s essentially a fine arts gallery located inside a house. Not just any house, though, a house that’s fully furnished as if the owners of this glorious 1905 creative have just stepped out for a moment and left you alone.
Featuring art from artists all over Indiana, the Castle Gallery was a great find and so much fun to walk through for a little bit as we desperately tried to warm up. Plus as an added bonus it’s free!
1202 W Wayne, website
Finders Keepers Antiques
My husband is a keen flea market and antique shop kind of guy. He never really buys anything but enjoys poking through old things in the hopes of finding something great. I’m always more than happy to follow along, especially when there’s such a grand collection of mod furniture like at Finders Keepers in Fort Wayne.
Located in a massive, frigid warehouse just south of downtown, Finders Keepers is a furniture lover’s dream; particularly if that furniture lover is used to the much higher prices of east coast antiques. I had to be forcibly dragged from store before I bought more couches, chairs, and side tables than could possibly fit in our teeny apartment!
2608 S Calhoun, website
Coney Island Weiner Stand
Coney Island Wiener Stand has been around in Fort Wayne since 1914 and tops pretty much every list about Fort Wayne. We couldn’t resist so off we went. As a vegetarian, I’m sad to report you’ll be SOL but my husband made up for that by eating several extra hot dogs topped with the classic coney recipe, chili, and onions. I grabbed a classic glass Coke bottle and watched the hustle and bustle of the lunch rush as the windows steamed over from all the activity.
131 W Main, website
So there you have it: my non-essential (but highly recommended) guide to Fort Wayne. Have you ever visited Fort Wayne? If so, what did you get up to? If not, don’t go in January. Brr…