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Fort Wayne Indiana: The arts, the parks and other things

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Fort Wayne is known as a family friendly city, home to a top-rated children’s zoo and named Playful City five times for promoting children’s play. Kids aren’t the only ones who can have fun in Fort Wayne, though. From a top-notch community arts program, over 65 miles of biking trails and 87 parks, festivals almost every summer weekend and a plethora of dining options, there are many options for adults to enjoy a long weekend in Indiana’s second largest city.

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Downtown Fort Wayne is walkable, making it easy to get from your downtown hotel to a live performance at the Louis Kahn-designed Arts United Center or the historic Embassy Theatre, browse through the contemporary Fort Wayne Museum of Art, or stroll through the Foelinger-Freeman Botanical Conservatory. For a hands-on creative art experience, plan ahead for a glassblowing lesson at The Glass Park, about a ten minute drive from downtown.

Research your family history at the Allen County Public library, home to the nation’s second largest genealogy center. On a summer afternoon or evening, take in a TinCaps minor league baseball game at Parkview Field, twice rated the top minor league ballpark in the country by Stadium Journey magazine.

For a more active experience, bring your bike or rent one in bike-friendly Fort Wayne and ride some of the 65-plus miles of trails that wind through parks and along the river. New in 2014, sculptures that double as bike racks are scattered throughout the city, so you can lock up your bike while you visit an attraction or dine.

If you like a party, plan your visit during one of Fort Wayne’s many summer festivals, celebrating everything from ethnicities to pickles. The nine day Three Rivers Festival, a tradition since 1969 includes a bed race, raft race and a waiter-waitress contest.

If you haven’t eaten enough at the festivals, you have plenty of options in all price ranges in Fort Wayne, sometimes referred to as “the city of restaurants.” On the low end, get a hot dog under two bucks at Coney Island, an almost 100-year-old establishment, or an all-in-one breakfast dish called Garbage ($6.35) from the 1950s nostalgic Cindy’s Diner.

Fine dining options include Baker Street and Eddie Merlot’s, both with excellent gourmet food. Don Hall’s Restaurants have been in Fort Wayne since 1958 with a variety of eating establishments, including Don Hall’s Old Gas House Restaurant.

If you prefer pub food, try J K O’Donnell’s, serving up Guinness and Irish fare like shepherd’s pie and Irish stew.

Food trucks have become big in Fort Wayne, food trucks like Ragin’Cajun, specializing in Louisiana cooking, and Affine, offering a wide variety of fare using locally sourced ingredients.

If you can stretch your weekend a little further, you may want to take a side trip to Grabill, an authentic Amish town about 15 miles northeast of Fort Wayne. Grabill’s old-time general store, coffee shop and antique shop and flea market are housed in buildings that date back to the early 1900s.

In LaOtto, sixteen miles north of Fort Wayne, taste the wine of Heritage Winery, only three years old and already in their second expansion. Tours are offered on Saturdays.

Fort Wayne is about a three hour drive from Chicago, east on Route 30. For further information on activities, events, dining and accommodations in Fort Wayne, go to the Visit Fort Wayne web site.

Disclosure: The author’s visit to Fort Wayne was hosted by Visit Fort Wayne, but any opinions expressed in this article are her own.

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Visit the author’s Midwest Wanderer blog to learn about attractions, restaurants, accommodations and events all over the Midwest.

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