A few weeks ago the CVB in Fort Wayne, Indiana invited my family to drive over and check out some of the things to do in the area. I had NO idea there were so many things to do! My husband couldn’t come with us since he was working but we definitely want to go back again for another adventure!
When we travel it tends to be JAM packed, usually pretty educational (aside from the occasional theme park), and/or nature/animal/outdoorsy activities. This press trip was 100% what we would have chosen on our itinerary if we were planning it ourselves! I couldn’t believe it!
(Check out the drool-worthy places to eat in Fort Wayne that we went to!)
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:
We have driven literally all over the country (ok we may have a couple states left to visit but we’ve been to the majority of them!) which also means we’ve been to zoos and aquariums all over the country. Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL and the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska were always top on my list but the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has now been bumped up onto that list! It’s AMAZING!
My kids ages at the time of our visit were 2, 8, and 10. Every single one of them LOVED it and asked to go back again. Everything was touch friendly, photo friendly, and even toddler friendly! Stationed throughout the park were stations to learn and touch skulls, pelts, and even this friendly snake that my daughter literally had to be carried away from! The guy was SO friendly and didn’t mind my daughter snuggling up against him so she could be closer to the snake – haha!
And would you believe that there are even a few rides at the zoo!? They put our entire family on the log ride which we paid a few bucks for. I was pretty impressed. There’s no drops or anything scary so all ages can ride on it – and it’s a LONG ride! It’s almost completely shaded under trees and the entire “float” you’ll see animals (real and fake!) and even float through an AWESOME misty tunnel! Totally worth going on!
One of my big questions when I visit a zoo is what can I touch?! I want to interact with the animals – especially after growing up in Florida where there are endless opportunities to interact with animal life. I have found many Midwest area zoos are hands off with any animals – but not the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo! AND there’s NO extra charge for being able to pet the stingrays! It felt like home again!
The Reef area was stunning – definitely a top quality zoo with stellar exhibits. SO incredibly clean and SO MUCH to see! Unfortunately we only had a few hours so we couldn’t make it all the way through the zoo but come with your walking shoes on!
The photo prop areas were pretty sweet! This one was my personal favorite! (especially since my kids just went through a huge Jaws kick!)
My hobby is photography so I couldn’t help including this little guy! I have TONS and TONS of photos of the animals we encountered in the zoo. And would you believe it – I actually saw a LOT of animals I had never seen before!! This is another thing I look for when visiting zoos. Everyone has seen lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) but we saw Tazmanian devils, a honey badger, a banded mongoose, bat-eared foxes, servals, a tasselled wobbegong shark and MORE!
My husband is a teacher turned principal and I have always had a strong passion for education. So when we travel we look for hands on learning opportunities EVERYWHERE. Science museums are FULL of touch happy places to learn so I was excited to check out Science Central. My boys had seen their pretty awesome slide online and were eager to go.
The museum is a little older inside but all 3 of my kids found plenty to do to keep them busy for a few hours! The exhibits here are truly well thought out and usable. They have a FREAKING AWESOME younger child play area too which was one of my favorite spots to relax after a busy day!
This hot air balloon that you can launch was perhaps my 2 year old’s favorite place in the museum believe it or not. It goes crazy high up to the ceiling!
Here’s the famous slide I mentioned my boys LOVED! Please note that there IS a height requirement so double check that before promising little Jimmy he can ride the cool slide!
I loved the industrial feel of the building. It was a former power plant which the museum has done a good job of incorporating into it’s learning exhibits. You can actually see the pipes, gears, and other parts that made the plant work.
And YES! There are animals in Science Central! Bees, turtles, and even a chinchilla! My degree is in Biology so I geeked out a little at the incredible hands on specimen area! They have fossils, skulls, seashells, and all sorts of nature objects laying around in piles on tables and shelves for kids to interact with.
Not on our itinerary but a spot I squeezed in while my 2 year old took a nap in the car was The Old Fort. Our day was ABSOLUTELY jam packed full but I had driven past the Old Fort on our way to Science Central and I really wanted to stop in. I literally just parked across the street and wandered around the property. You can look up local events there if you want to visit but it’s a neat place right in the middle of it all!
I hate having the Botanical Conservatory so far down on my list but it absolutely is worth visiting – YES – EVEN with kids! I would absolutely LOVE to go on a date with just my husband here – it is AMAZING. I’ve been to several other botanical gardens before but this BY FAR tops the list (except of course Disney World’s EPCOT). Hands down not only the best botanical conservatory I’ve been to but also the MOST kid friendly. I was quite surprised!
I get it – we had been NON-STOP going ALL day (after driving 5+ hours to get there the day before). The kids were exhausted. I was exhausted. My mother-in-law who came with us was exhausted. I couldn’t imagine walking another step – until I walked in and was blown away with how gorgeous it was! We had definitely caught our 2nd wind.
Of course my kids immediately found an entire room right up at the front that was all for kids! Check out that crazy tree!!
As you weaved and walked between sections of the conservatory the hallways were lined for things for kids to smell, touch, climb on and slide in! I was eternally grateful for not needing to drag tired kids through a conservatory – they were actually skipping along super happy to be there. Above is a smelling station for the kids to guess the different herbs and scents!
We quickly learned that the Botanical Conservatory was WAY WAY WAY bigger than we thought. We going walking and walking and walking….or maybe it felt that way because we’d already been to the zoo and science museum, fort and several other places that day. It was incredible. Most of the gardens were indoors but the property was amazing outdoors as well. We even found a chocolate cacoa tree inside!
Historic Canal Boat Ride:
One of our last items of the day was a Canal Boat ride that you can book through Fort Wayne Outfitters. The Sweet Breeze is a replica 1840 canal boat that was so relaxing and informative to ride. As you float down the canal you’ll learn all about Fort Wayne’s Riverfront and history. It’s actually quite popular for sport fishing and dragon boat racing believe it or not!
The river has 23 fish species! Coming up the city is planning a $28 MILLION development to help clean up the waterways and entice tourism. It looks pretty epic I have to admit! From airboat rides to kayaks, concerts, playgrounds, yoga and SO much more – Riverfront Fort Wayne is bound to be an awesome hot spot for both locals and visitors!