Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

City embraces cold with Winterval

Activities scheduled throughout downtown to get you out of house

The 21-and-over Winter Cozy at Promenade Park closes out Winterval on Jan. 28.

Chris Hupe

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 18, 2023

The new year has not provided much bad weather, but the sun has disappeared on many occasions. And if you have lived in Indiana for any amount of time, you don’t have to be told about how the seemingly never-ending gray days can turn even the sunniest disposition upside down. 

To break the monotony, Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation will hosts its 12th annual Winterval on Saturday, Jan. 28. The event offers a chance to escape those winter “blahs,” at least for one day, with several activities that not only highlight some of the Summit City’s hidden gems, but also offers some things that the summer festivals are not able to offer.

Nearly a dozen activities are planned at various locations downtown and nearby with, dare we say, something for everyone. 

“During winter, people are cooped up, so our hope is to get them out of their houses and get them away from the TV for a while to enjoy the weather, participate, and have fun,” said Patti Davis, superintendent of recreation for the parks department. “We try to cover all interests.”

Winter Hike & Bonfire

The day begins at 9 a.m. with a free Winter Hike and Bonfire at Lindenwood Nature Preserve, near the University of Saint Francis. Hike on one of the four trails to gain a cold weather perspective of nature as animals change their habits to adapt to the environment. Or you can simply take advantage of an unlimited number of spots that are great for wildlife viewing, photography, and relaxation.

Winter at the Conservatory

At 10 a.m., Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory will host Winterval at the Conservatory until 3 p.m., featuring a free ice carving outdoors that will remain on display near the main entrance. Regular admission fees apply for indoor festivities that include a Cali-cool craft, plant giveaway, and exploration of the California Dreamin’ winter exhibit.

Nouvelle Année 1743

At the Old Fort, you can celebrate Nouvelle Année 1743, or the French New Year, beginning at 10 a.m.. Be whisked back in time for an authentic look at life among French colonial settlers, soldiers, and their Native American allies in January 1743 at Fort St. Phillipe and Post des Myaamia (Miami). Reenactors in period wardrobe will highlight the struggles and victories the people of that time would have experienced in an educational and entertaining afternoon.

Winterval at Science Central

Also at 10 a.m., Science Central opens their doors for Winterval-themed activities, offering thought-provoking expositions that are available on a daily basis designed to spark the imagination.

Warm Heart Market

From noon to 5 p.m., the Community Center hosts Warm Heart Market, showing off wares from several local vendors. Pick up some handmade crafts or jewelry, find that perfect article of clothing, or grab something to eat to satisfy your hunger. 

Winter Carnival

After browsing vendors for a while, you can wander outside the Community Center at 1 p.m. for the Winter Carnival, featuring an incredible candy luge along with activities for the kids. An Antique Roadshow-type booth will be on site for adults, held in partnership with local auctioneers Scheerer McCulloch, so attendees are encouraged to bring in items they would like to be appraised. 

headwaters ice skating

While it’s not unique to Winterval, Headwaters Park will be open for ice skating from noon-9 p.m. Now in its 21st year, Headwaters Ice Skating Rink provides fun for all ages and has become an tradition for many families. This will likely be a particularly well-attended event, so get there early to provide maximum skating time. Remember that Café at the Rink will have food and beverages for sale to help you get through the afternoon. 

Heartland mushers

Also at Headwaters Park, the Heartland Mushers will demonstrate the sport of dog sledding from 1-4 p.m. A form of transportation that dates back to at least 6000 BC, dog sledding is relied upon for mobility by many people around the world and has become a highly competitive sport. Attendees will be allowed to interact with the dogs, ask questions of organization members, and find out which breeds are perfect for this purpose.

The sport of curling

Learn to play the sport of curling just north of downtown at the Fort Wayne Curling Club, 3837 N. Wells St., beginning at 1 p.m. Similar to shuffleboard, players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. One of the fastest-growing sports in the city, it is a game that looks deceptively simple but is, in fact, quite complex as finesse, strategy, physics, and physicality all play a major role in outcomes. 

Winterval at the Library

Winterval at the Library will be at the downtown Allen County Public Library, featuring an ice carving at noon. Inside, there will be screening of Frozen 2 at 1 p.m., with crafts and activities for the kids from 3-5 p.m.

winter cozy

Those 21 and over can finish the day at Promenade Park with the Winter Cozy following a hiatus the past few years. 

The event features “Ice Wars,” where three ice carvers will compete while onlookers marvel at their talent, drink adult beverages, and listen to live music.

The summer offers many opportunities to get out and enjoy Fort Wayne, but as the temperatures go down, so do the number of activities offered. 

“We have families that look forward to this year after year and come year after year,” Davis said of the parks event. “They like the variety of things we offer. There are indoor activities and outdoor activities and the majority of them are no charge.”

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