Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

12 cool ways to enjoy the winter

From sledding to skiing, plenty to do even if you aren’t that adventurous


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 26, 2022

Prior to just a few days ago, we had not seen much winter precipitation, but it’s becoming time get accustomed to being knee deep in the white stuff, especially if we’re willing to walk on our knees.

As snow continues to move into the area, we will surely see many grins around town, even if some of those grins are grimaces that are frozen in place. 

Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in, cover yourself with a blanket, and call it a day. For example, if you lock yourself in and cover yourself with a blanket after 5 p.m., you can call it a night instead.

Which is to say, some people really hate winter. 

But winter doesn’t want us to hate it. 

It may not seem obvious, but winter is inviting us to come out and join it. It is saying, “Don’t judge me because I have killed people by turning them into blocks of ice. Don’t you realize that summer has killed people? Don’t you realize that autumn has killed people with its, ummm, poisonous leaves? I AM SO SICK OF THIS TREATMENT (sobs).”

Winter is sobbing. And it’s your fault. 

You can make it up to winter by engaging in winter activities. 

I won’t begin to claim that there’s “so much to do and so little time.” While it is technically true, I do understand that winter can feel longer than puberty and a lot less fun.

That’s no excuse to stay cooped up all winter. Commit yourself to a great uncooping. 

Many of the winter activities I am about to mention are snow-dependent, of course. 

Ice skating at Headwaters

Skating isn’t just fine form of cardiovascular exercise. It also works the muscles of the lower body. Pick up a hockey stick and you also get a great workout for the muscles of the upper body. Add a hardcover book on the top of your head and a spoon in your mouth with an egg on it and it becomes a great way to practice your balance. Add a harmonica neck rack mount and a series of body-affixed percussion instruments that are somehow played with strings tied to your fingertips and you become a one-man-band on skates.

I am not sure how the park rangers at Headwaters Park feel about one-man-bands on skates, but you could always try to amuse them by learning the Yogi Bear theme. 

Cross-country skiing

At Metea County Park, Fox Island County Park, and/or Pokagon State Park, it doesn’t matter if you prefer cross-country or downhill skiing. What matters is whether you agree that these adjectives should be applied to skiing and not to surgery. 

Experts agree that cross-country skiing provides a far better workout than does downhill skiing. 

The cardiovascular benefits from downhill skiing are low, especially if your “ski” is a comfy mattress. 

Take your kids with you. As tempting as it is to hole up in the living room with the kids until you’ve worn holes in the couch, it is important in winter for parents to model good health behaviors. 

Angrily whacking your icy windshield with a scraper like William H. Macy did in Fargo is not modeling a good health behavior, in case you were wondering.

Toboggan ride

Sliding down the modest hill near your house is fun but can get old after a while, especially after you have figured out that the modest hill near your house consists of buried refuse.

The Pokagon State Park toboggan run is worth the trip to Angola (especially if you already live in Angola). Built in 1938 by the Civil Conservation Corps, the toboggan run is a refrigerated thrill ride that drops 90 feet over a quarter-mile.

Whether your kid is a bookworm, superjock, milquetoast, backpacker, booktoast, milquepacker, or superworm, he or she is likely to love the toboggan run.

Sledding

Franke, Ivan Lebamoff Reservoir, Shoaff, Salomon Farm, Johnny Appleseed, Metea County, and Northside parks, plus Hickory Center Elementary School and Pokagon State Park, all offer great sledding hills.

You know sledding is physically taxing if you’ve dragged a toddler up a hill to sled. 

You know how much more physically taxing sledding can get if you’ve ever accidentally dragged up the wrong toddler. 

Better to drag up the wrong sled. 

I live in Southwood Park and our favorite hill has always been on the Rudisill Boulevard campus of Taylor University (that location of the school is now defunct). 

We were never chased off, but I can’t officially recommend this hill because we never knew if we were allowed to be there doing that. 

So if you decide to try out this hill, you didn’t hear about it from me. 

Keep this (and 5,000 issues of this publication) under your hat. 

I hope you have a big hat. 

Winter parties

Fort Wayne has a couple of good winter parties  coming up. 

Winterval, which Chris Hupe previewed in our last issue, is a multi-venue, family-friendly celebration of the season, of Fort Wayne, and of the comingling of both. It happens Saturday. 

And Weather the Fort is single-venue, family-friendly celebration of the season, of Fort Wayne, and of the comingling of both. 

It happens Feb. 19 on the lovely Landing. 

Every year, The Landing becomes more of a special destination, and — therefore ­— becomes more ideal as the locale for a party. 

Both parties will offer adult libations. Drinking booze outside with your friends in winter weather is a singular pleasure. 

Since a Saint Bernard with a whiskey barrel around its neck isn’t likely to rescue you from your winter doldrums, you should attend this. 

Winter hike

Pokagon State Park and Lindenwood Nature Preserve are great locales for a hike.

We shouldn’t make light of the trials and tribulations of people who genuinely suffer through winter. But let me ask you this. Which is worse? Going outside in winter or staying indoors and reading social media posts about the trials and tribulations of people who are genuinely suffering through winter?

Before you tell them to take a hike, you should try taking one yourself. 

Pokagon State Park offers several guided hikes per week and as many unguided hikes as you want to take. 

But remember to dress correctly. 

Dress like an onion, in layers. Smell like an onion, to ward off coyotes. 

Make sure your extremities are covered. Extremities are defined as anything that sticks out. 

What qualifies as an extremity differs from person to person. 

One of the unique benefits of hiking in the winter is that you don’t have to worry about ticks.

Except for those ice ticks. 

Just kidding: There is no such thing as an ice tick. 

Correction: I just Googled it and there is such thing as an ice tick.

But it’s a fishing lure, not an insect. 

Curling

As a native of Buffalo, New York, I grew up with Canadian television. 

Thanks to Canadian television, I grew up watching curling. 

I have never tried curling, but I am more comfortable with the idea than are people who didn’t grow up watching curling on Canadian TV. 

I am not sure why I typed all that. 

Conclusion: We all need to try curling, regardless of our comfort level, and the Fort Wayne Curling Club on North Wells Street is an excellent place to try it.

Snow tubing

Snow tubing at Koteewi Run Seasonal Slopes is another fun winter activity.

It would be so easy to spend all winter on the couch wrapped in grandma’s afghan. But that wouldn’t be fair to the folks at Koteewi Run Seasonal Slopes in Noblesville, would it?

They’ve acquired specialized custom snow tubes just so that you can slide down their specialized custom snow hills. 

Hotel stays

Try an overnight stay in a state park. There’s Angola’s Potawatomi Inn, of course, but Indiana has six other state park inns where winter can be enjoyed in comfort. And the room rates are usually far more reasonable than what you’d find at comparably appointed hotel. 

Snowmobiling

Ride your snowmobile on Cider Mill Trail in Columbia City, the Heritage Snowmobile Trail in Monroeville, the Miami Snowmobile Trail in Goshen, and the Potawatomi Snowmobile Trail in Fremont. I loved snowmobiling as a kid growing up in Buffalo. I loved it even after I drove into a tree with my sister on the back. We weren’t hurt. It was a low-speed collision. 

There are plenty of places in Indiana to enjoy snowmobiling. My advice: Don’t bring your sister. 

Downhill skiing

Fort Wayne and downhill skiing go together like caviar and canned nacho cheese. 

Which is why I am recommending Paoli Peaks in extreme southern Indiana. 

I am not a downhill skier, but I do like at this time of year to frequent businesses that have working fireplaces so I can lounge around them with a fake cast on my leg.

I do it for the attention.

Stay at home

Snow is a four-letter word. A mother snowing, son-of-a-snowing four-letter word. But why fight it?

When I was a kid, wrapping kids up like mummies during winter was de rigueur. 

Wrapping them until they looked like they were suffering rigor mortis was also de riguer. 

Today, kids and adults have thinner and more efficient fabrics than we had in the 1970s. 

So being outside in winter is far more pleasant. 

When the snow arrives, you should get out there and make snow angels or snowmen. Make snowwomen. 

Make a snow senior tax accountant or a snow budget analyst. 

Have a friendly snowball fight. Or have an unfriendly snowball fight.

Make up later over cocoa.

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