Planning your weekend with kids in Fort Wayne is like a choose-your-own-adventure vacation. With dozens of options for activities and attractions you’ll have a harder time deciding what to say no to than how to fill your time. In fact, there are so many options, you really can build a custom itinerary that fits your family’s interests and ages. This kid-friendly destination is in the heart of the Midwest and boasts year round family fun, making it a perfect option for a family getaway.
To help you get started on designing your family’s getaway, here are some tips.
Where to Stay in Fort Wayne
There are a plenty of familiar family-friendly hotels to choose from in Fort Wayne and many are located in the north and south suburbs but to get the full experience of this easily accessible city, I’d recommend staying downtown. We found a 2 bedroom duplex on Airbnb in an adorable neighborhood about a 3-minute drive from downtown. With a beautiful park and rose garden within walking distance, we loved the space and the amenities of a private residence. It was our first Airbnb stay and we couldn’t have been more pleased with both the accommodations and our host (stay tuned for a full post on our Airbnb experience). If you’d prefer a traditional hotel, the Marriott Courtyard and the Hilton were both right downtown and provided easy walking access to restaurants and attractions.
What to Do with Kids in Fort Wayne
We packed in a ridiculous amount in the two days we spent in Fort Wayne and could have stayed twice as long and still been busy. I highly recommend you spend some time at Visit Fort Wayne to plan out a rough itinerary of what you’d like to do. Feel free to contact them via Facebook or Twitter too if you have questions. They’re happy to help make sure you have everything you need for a great trip. Here’s just a sampling of some of the family-friendly options in Fort Wayne.
We were hosted by Visit Fort Wayne for this trip and received tickets to several attractions and experiences in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and content are my own. See more about my disclosure policy here.
These gardens are an escape from the city, right in the heart of downtown. With three different ecosystems represented in the various greenhouses plus beautiful flowering gardens to explore outside, my kids loved wandering the paths of the Botanical Gardens and exploring both local and exotic plants. There’s a great kids area right past the welcome desk with lots of interactive displays, plus educational and hand-on exhibits between each greenhouse. We spent at least an hour exploring and my kids would have staying longer if I’d let them. It was a welcome break from the heat and would be a perfect year-round attraction.
Fort Wayne’s minor league team is a can’t-miss stop if you’re in town during the season. We walked to the Parkview Field downtown on Friday night and watched the Fort Wayne TinCaps take on the Dayton Dragons. It happened to be Super Hero night which delighted my boys and is just one of many fun promotions used throughout the summer. The family-friendly atmosphere was evident in the food selection, fun games, and super clean facilities. For evening games, I’d suggest sitting behind home plate or along the third base line to avoid the setting sun being in your face. We got a little warm but wandered over to the splash pad behind the outfield at the northeast corner of the stadium. Kids can cool off while adults grab a drink and still take in the game. Most weekend nights, fireworks are included after the game, making this a full evening activity.
The Allen County Public Library is well known for its extensive genealogy collection and many visitors come to learn more about their family trees, but the library also happens to have a knock-out children’s section for younger visitors. We popped in and my older son immediately gravitated to the reading loft for ages 6+ in the center of the room while my younger son spent time checking out the preschool area with lots of books and toys. This would be a nice indoor retreat and is separate from the rest of the library so you don’t have to worry about keeping everyone to a whisper. We love checking out new libraries as we travel and this one is definitely worth a visit!
On Saturday’s during the growing season, this bustling downtown farmers market is in full swing. I couldn’t believe how many vendors where there as we wander at least 2 blocks through all the various food and craft vendors. Be prepared to arrive early or hunt for parking but it’s worth it to grab some tasty breakfast options and let your kids wander among the shoppers and dogs who are visiting the market. I highly recommend this for a fun and inexpensive breakfast or lunch option that allows everyone to pick something they’ll enjoy.
If you only do one attraction, this should be it! My family was totally blown away by the quality and offerings of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. The facilities and landscaping were immaculate and provided thoughtful shade and interactive experiences at every turn. The zoo is about 10 min from downtown and has free parking. Admission includes experiences like a sting ray touch tank and the chance to brush a goat in the children’s farm area. Additional rides and animal encounters require tokens which can be purchased throughout the zoo for $1. It might be helpful to give your kids a budget before you arrive so they can decide how they’d like to spend their tokens. We loved the train ride and small gentle log ride (no drops) but you could easily skip these since there is so much to do. The zoo is organized by geographic areas and has some of the best theming I’ve seen outside of Disney. With various food options scattered throughout the zoo and a wide variety of animal talks, you can easily spend all day here so make sure to leave plenty of time for your visit.
We didn’t have time to fit in a visit to Science Central this time but we have been previously and my kids love the hands-on learning all throughout this science museum. Most exhibits are geared towards elementary aged kids but there are some things for smaller siblings as well. If you’re a member of any ASTC museum, check to see if your membership is reciprocal here for free admission. The giant slide is a huge hit and be sure to get in line early if you want to try the suspended bike, as it’s also a popular attraction.
Another great family escape from the outdoors is the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. A walkable downtown attraction, this small art museum is perfect for introducing your kids to formal art displays and offers an early learning children’s area with interactive materials to build and create. My boys loved having some downtime here in the afternoon and we appreciated the quiet space after a busy morning. The various galleries are constantly changing so check their website for more info on what you can expect to see.
This unique playground is east of downtown but worth the drive to let your kids get out some wiggles. This Boundless Playground has been named one of the top playgrounds in the country for its offerings for kids of all abilities. Based on the dream of a young girl who wanted to create an inclusive playground, the various pods of equipment are friendly for all kids no matter their physical limitations. My boys loved exploring the unique equipment and cooled off in the splash pad. If you need to burn some energy off, this is the park to visit!
All throughout the summer, Fort Wayne is host to a huge variety of festivals. Many take place right downtown at Headwaters Park, where the three rivers of Fort Wayne intersect. Make sure to check the calendar at Visit Fort Wayne to see what’s happening during your visit, as these fun and family-friendly festivals are worth a stop. Speaking of rivers, you can also stroll along the Rivergreenway or explore the waterways of Fort Wayne via boat, canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. There’s even a Segway tour for families with older teens. If being outside is on your agenda you won’t be disappointed.
Where to Eat in Fort Wayne
We found family-friendly options all over downtown Fort Wayne and left stuffed with delicious tacos, local brews, and donut ice cream sandwiches (don’t knock it ’til you try it!). For lots more details, check out Great Restaurants for Kids in Fort Wayne. Let’s just say, you’ll want to leave plenty of room in your itinerary for exploring the local food scene!
A weekend with kids in Fort Wayne will have your whole family needing a bit of a nap, thanks to all that you can explore and do while visiting but your kids will have plenty of great memories and you’ll be happy to have experienced so much of the second largest city in Indiana. So put on your Midwest exploration hat and find some adventure close to home for your next getaway!