Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Be a tourist in Fort Wayne with annual free event

Fort Wayne venues open doors for locals


Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published August 29, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

Despite the popularity of the “staycation,” wherein people take time off and hunker down at home, there are still a lot of people who have not visited many of Fort Wayne’s finest attractions. Equally surprising is that some of these local attractions are well-known to those who do not live in the city.

It is that very phenomenon that was at the heart of the first Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown event more than 20 years ago.

Something for Everyone

“We here at Visit Fort Wayne bring in visitors to our community who rave about our museums and attractions,” said Kristen Guthrie, vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Fort Wayne. “They tell us all the time that they’re first rate, but a lot of our own residents don’t take advantage of them. We hope that by setting aside a day that they will come out and do more things in our community.”

The key to this special day is free. To acquire that magical power, one need only head to a Kroger or Old National Bank location for a passport that provides free admission to all of the 16 attractions participating in Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown. (A passport can also be downloaded and printed from the Visit Fort Wayne website.)

The attractions cover the gamut, providing something for everyone.

“Science Central is always bringing in new exhibits so even if you’ve been to Science Central there’s something new to see,” said Guthrie. “Science Central and the History Center are a couple of our traditional museums and attractions, but there are also some architectural gems for people who enjoy that. You can visit the Courthouse or stand on the Embassy stage.

“Of course this year there are a couple of new attractions and parts of our community development with Promenade Park and the Landing. The Landing isn’t even going to be finished until the end of September so this is a chance for people to see it in its final phase of construction. This is a great chance to see what’s going on and celebrate.”

Be a Tourist’s September 8 date happens to coincide with the final day of the “Robots” exhibit at Science Central, an excellent chance for young and old alike to dabble with moving items using robotic arms and vehicles.

For novices who may never have visited the science museum before, Science Central has more than 200 exhibits, many of which provide hands-on fun and learning, as well as a two-story slide that provides a much more entertaining way to get from floors of exhibits than the stairs or elevator.

Architectural Treats

As Guthrie mentioned, there are also architectural treats to behold. The Embassy self-guided tours provide access to the stage and also the rooftop, which has become a popular spot thanks to Summer Nights at the Embassy.

The Lincoln Tower, once the tallest building in the state, is open for fans of art deco which has been the trademark of the Lincoln lobby since it opened. The Courthouse is not only open to enjoy, but unlike most days, cameras are more than welcome.

Fans of history will enjoy visiting the Allen County Public Library where there will be guided tours of the Lincoln Collection at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 p.m. as well as access to the Rare Book Room with both artistic and historical books to explore. Tours begin on the hour from 1-4 p.m.

Visitors will also be entertained by dancers from the Fort Wayne Dance Collective who will be teaching dances from Fortnite.

The History Center features the restored Old City Courtroom, the historic old jail, and three floors of interactive displays and exhibits.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on Fairfield Avenue will also be open, specializing in the preservation and display of original, historically significant documents and manuscripts, and the new Diocesan Museum houses religious artifacts dating back to the time of Jesus Christ and Abraham.

Of course, the Old Fort will be ready to welcome visitors with live demonstrations including blacksmithing, spinning, gardening, period cooking and baking, and games for all ages.

The Great Outdoors

Those who enjoy the great outdoors — or at least the products of the great outdoors — can visit the Botanical Conservatory and view the current exhibit “Botanica Jones,” spotlighting the gardens of a wealthy Englishman and plants brought back by the explorer in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In a nod to their popular music series, the Conservatory will also host a concert with “Those Two Guys In Suits and Ties” from 12:30 until 2:30 p.m.

Parkview Field will be open for free tours and discounted concession goodies, and new to the event this year is the Little River Wetlands 2019 Monarch Festival.

Last but not least, visitors can stop by Visit Fort Wayne for maps, info, and some nice merchandise for purchase. It’s thanks to their efforts that Fort Wayne can enjoy a day like this every year.

“This event results in 30,000 visits to these locations so it’s a big event,” Guthrie said. “The majority of the attractions are downtown so it’s easy to park and navigate around to the ones you want to see. It’s just a great day to celebrate and enjoy our community.”

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