Fort Wayne lies in Indiana’s northeastern corner at the convergence of three iconic rivers: the St. Marys, the St. Joseph, and the Maumee. It doesn’t receive a lot of hype up here in Wisconsin as a Midwest travel destination, but it is most definitely worth visiting. This hidden gem is a convenient distance for a weekend getaway from parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, or Ohio and makes for a great stop on your next Midwest summer road trip! There is a great mix of urban adventure and natural beauty in Fort Wayne that makes it an underrated Midwest city. Keep reading to start planning your trip to ‘Summit City’ and see this amazing town for yourself!
Where to Stay in Fort Wayne
Our stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites location downtown was gloriously relaxing and extremely convenient. After being welcomed by a very friendly staff and the coolest ‘Welcome to the Hoosier State’ sign (pictured below), we headed up to our room. Our double queen room was clean and sealed with a sticker guaranteeing its sanitation that made Tyler and I feel instantly at ease! Our room overlooked Parkview Field, where the minor league TinCaps play, and was adjacent to a burger bar that we enjoyed our first night. Behind the hotel is a group of lounging chairs that we had all to ourselves for dinner that also made for a great spot to watch the sunset!
Where to Eat in Fort Wayne
Bird + Cleaver is an awesome dinner option for anyone in Fort Wayne, but is an especially great choice for vegetarians and vegans! They have an extensive menu of unique and satisfying options that we found extremely affordable. While not all items on their menu have names, we started by sharing a bruschetta-like appetizer that was a highlight of our meal. My entree was a salad with tahini dressing, which differed from the one I love so much at Milwaukee’s own Beans and Barley, but I enjoyed it equally as much. They also have an impressive drink menu, including nonalcoholic options like the Thai’d Up drink I loved!
Burger Bar was conveniently located in the same building as our hotel, which made a dinnertime visit there on our first night an easy choice. Their outdoor menu isn’t extensive, but the veggie freak burger was the only option I needed. When it’s warm outside, placing a to-go order at their pickup window lets you enjoy your meal as the sun sets over downtown Fort Wayne. As hotel guests, Tyler and I actually walked behind the building to eat at a group of cozy couches set up outside. We had this secret spot all to ourselves!
I usually avoid breweries since, you know, I don’t drink brews, but Trubble Brewing turned out to be a great snack spot before our kayak rental (more on that below). Their ‘riverside cafe and tap’ is located within Promenade Park and offers a small array of lunch/snack food, in addition to drinks. I got hummus with veggies and Tyler ordered a hot dog. Their outdoor seating area is an amazing place to relax along the riverfront in Fort Wayne! The staff here were also extremely friendly – they instantly noticed our IndyCar apparel and we chatted about the upcoming Indy 500!
Enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market, located behind the outfield at Parkview Field. More than 50 vendors gather downtown to sell local produce and goods here from 9-1 on Saturdays! We opted for some refreshing Thai iced tea from O-Cha Thai. The farmers market is conveniently located just minutes from the Hampton Inn & Suites, so it was easy for us to roll out of bed and over to the market first thing in the morning! Vegetables, desserts, and egg rolls are just a few of the many food items available for purchase.
Before starting the long drive home, we stopped in at Fortezza Coffee so Tyler could order a drink to go. This cute spot is located right in the heart of downtown and seems to be a go-to spot for locals, since there were multiple ‘regulars’ in when we stopped by. Tyler loved his drink and the style of to-go cup they offered! There are also non-coffee drinks available here and a large array of pastries.
Where to Explore In (& Around) Fort Wayne
You’ll find some of the best photo-ops and serene spaces around at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory! There are three sprawling indoor gardens at the conservatory – a tropical garden, desert garden, and showcase garden that is brimming with flowers. Each offers their own distinct personality, plants, and plenty of information about each ecosystem. Head outside and you’ll find even more beautiful floral displays! We stocked up on souvenirs at the conservatory’s gift shop after our visit, which has so many different and unique items to choose from.
Fort Wayne’s scenic riverfront is arguably its best natural feature, so a stop at Fort Wayne Outfitters was only fitting to get out on the water and start exploring! Just like my hometown of Milwaukee, Fort Wayne lies at the confluence of three rivers, which gives you multiple options when renting a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddle board (SUP). We took a route up the more scenic and shady St. Marys River during our rental, which ended up being such a relaxing way to get a taste of Fort Wayne on our first night in town!
One of my life goals is to visit a state park in every state (so far I’m at 9), so we had to find one on our trip to Fort Wayne. Ouabache State Park lies due south of Fort Wayne, just under an hour’s drive away. This impressive park includes a beautiful lake, secluded swimming beach, forested hiking trails, a bison viewing exhibit, and even a fire tower you can climb! We hiked around first, waiting until the fire tower was empty before venturing up there ourselves. Admission costs $7 with in-state plates or $9 for out-of-state visitors.
In sum, we had an amazing first experience in Fort Wayne and would definitely recommend a visit to this small Midwestern city. There is a lot going on here, but it’s not at all overwhelming compared with bigger cities, which I loved. A summer visit lets you really experience the riverfront, which is one of the city’s best features, but we’d love to visit again at another time of year! Thanks again to Visit Fort Wayne for hosting us on this trip.