It’s time once again for Fort Wayne’s unique event: Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown. 

You and your family can visit 21 of the most interesting places in Fort Wayne, free of charge, from noon-5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10. 

Plan out your itinerary, see some amazing and beautiful sights, and learn some history at each stop.

Out-of-towner for a day

Be a Tourist In Your Own Hometown

Noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10
Various Fort Wayne locations
Free · (260) 424-3700

Twenty-four years ago, the nonprofit group Visit Fort Wayne invented this totally clever idea: a printed passport with addresses and information for every place you visit. Get your passport stamped at each stop, where participating groups greet you or take you on a little tour. 

Get a passport in advance at any local Kroger or Old National Bank, or download it from and print it out. Your kids will want one each so they can collect those stamps and show their friends how much they’ve learned about their town.

Kristen Guthrie, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Fort Wayne, has worked on every one of the 24 events.

“We work to bring visitors to our community,” she said. “Every day, we hear visitors raving about the museums, the attractions, the experiences, the architecture. It’s common that visitors appreciate a lot of those things, but there are residents who’ve lived here their whole lives who haven’t been to some of our museums and attractions. 

“And so of course we came up with the idea: Pretend like you’re a tourist in your own hometown, but even better, you get in for free. So take some time to go around and see some of these great places, and then you can become an advocate for your community.”

Once you’ve attended Be a Tourist day, “when your friends and family come to visit, you will know where to take them,” Guthrie said. 

And each year there’s something new. 

Where to go

Let’s run down this year’s list of destinations.

African/African-American Historical Museum: Learn about history from a new perspective and about pioneers in business, education, and social work.

Allen County Courthouse: View the magnificent Beaux Arts architecture and murals while artists paint new works around the campus.

Allen County Public Library: Check out the Children’s Department and the Krull Art Gallery. You can also learn about President Abraham Lincoln’s life and times.

 Artlink: Vibrant exhibitions are always on display.

Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne Cathedral and Museum: The beautiful chancery building and cathedral are open to visitors, and the museum teaches the history of Roman Catholicism in the region.

Electric Works: Stop by Union Street Market and visit the rooftop that is usually closed to the public. 

Embassy Theatre: At almost 100 years old, this opulent hall is cool in the summer heat. 

First Presbyterian Church: Let the kids enjoy free activities, face painting, and treats from the Kona Ice truck. For the adults, there will be music on the massive pipe organ and musical theater rehearsals.

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory: Visit the oasis of extensive indoor gardens, highlighted by their current Herban Garden exhibit.

Freemasons Hall: Take a guided tour and learn about Fort Wayne’s founders.

History Center: Exhibits showcase the community’s rich heritage.

Little River Wetlands Monarch Festival: Drive 7 miles southwest and visit the butterflies.

Gardens of Allen County: Fifteen gardens celebrate nature’s beauty.

The Old Fort: Travel back to the 1800s as re-enactors display daily life of soldiers and civilians.

Promenade Park: Splash around the Children’s Canal, cross the river on the Wells Street Bridge, and walk through the Tree Canopy Trail to visit the playground.

Science Central: Two-hundred exhibits, displays, and demonstrations could eat up an entire day.

Sweet Breeze: These riverboat tours are already booked; lucky you if you got a ticket.

Three Rivers Filtration Plant: Why did they build a Collegiate Gothic architectural masterpiece to treat wastewater? Go ask them!

Trinity English Lutheran Church: See the international exhibit on orthodox icons, enjoy the stained glass, petting zoo, and free hot dogs.

Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum: Head out to O’Day Road to visit the new War History Museum, exhibits, and artifacts.

Visitors Center: Last but not least, get maps and guides and buy some postcards, mugs, and T-shirts.

70 years of service

Visit Fort Wayne has been serving the city for some 70 years. The group has 16 employees who work year-round. 

As with most counties in Indiana, there’s a convention center and a visitor’s bureau, and they are funded by a tax on hotel rooms, established by state law. In Allen County, two separate groups, Grand Wayne Convention Center and Visit Fort Wayne, operate from those funds. It’s a good arrangement that benefits everybody, bringing in tourism, business, and wealth.

Visit Fort Wayne, Guthrie said, “has three departments. Our sales department works to bring conventions and sports tournaments to town.

“Another department does the leisure marketing for the community. We advertise and invite families to visit our zoo and check out our amazing downtown, the new riverfront, and so forth. We do that through traditional advertising in cities that are 50 to 200 miles away — in Detroit, Indianapolis, South Bend, and so on.

“Our third department is the Visitors Center at 927 Harrison St., where people can ask those visitor questions,” she said. “They can request visitor guides and maps and brochures and come in any day and buy souvenirs. That’s a great little shop here in downtown Fort Wayne.”

Big-City Boy Discovers New Hometown

I can tell you about Be a Tourist day because it made a big impact on me last year. 

I moved here two years ago, having spent almost all my life in the sprawling metropolis of Atlanta, whose population is now more than 6 million. To me, Fort Wayne is a small town, and I certainly felt out of place. 

I did not attend the 2021 event, but last year, at the suggestion of Whatzup, I grabbed my passport on Be a Tourist day and had a great time criss-crossing downtown, meeting folks, and learning all about the city’s fascinating history, art, architecture, and attractions.

Be a Tourist day played a part in showing me how much Fort Wayne has to offer. This is my hometown now. 

As we’ve said, this event isn’t just for newcomers. It’s here to introduce you, the lifelong resident, to things you’ve never seen and interesting stuff you never knew about.

Hit the streets with us on Sept. 10.