Hero image courtesy of @riverfrontfortwayne on Instagram.
Nicknamed “Summit City” for being the highest point above sea level along the historic Erie Canal, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a city that is extraordinary for many reasons, the most obvious of which, perhaps, is its unique geographic layout. Three rivers converge in Downtown Fort Wayne: the Maumee, St. Joseph, and St. Marys, and far more than just bodies of water, these rivers hold a great deal of significance in Fort Wayne’s past, its present, and, inevitably, its future.
Starting in 2015, the City of Fort Wayne has dedicated itself to revitalizing the Downtown riverfront. With $6 million in funds, the City began Phase I of its conceptual plan to develop the area into a center for public engagement. In addition to building up the district and planning events for the community to take place there, Fort Wayne is also committed to preserving the environmental integrity of the rivers with sustainability efforts to improve their health and prosperity.
If you’re planning a trip to Fort Wayne, the Riverfront is one section of the city that you don’t want to miss. Keep reading to find out more about Riverfront Fort Wayne and all that it has to offer!
Riverfront Parks: See Downtown Fort Wayne’s Natural Beauty
With 30 acres of green space, Headwaters Park is a delightful oasis in the midst of Downtown. Slightly north of Fort Wayne’s business district, the park features a wide array of activities, no matter what time of year it is. In addition to hosting community events, Headwaters Park also has two pavilions that are perfect for picnics in the warmer months and one of which is converted to an ice skating rink during the winter.
Get your fill of fresh Indiana air when you take a stroll on one of the park’s many paths. Make sure to check out the Hamilton Sculpture Garden, which features three sculptures of members of the historic Hamilton family.
“Headwaters park is fun if you’re enjoying the splash pads in summer or engaging in a family-style picnic. It's equally enjoyable for ice skating in the winter. The park is large, walk-friendly, and green. The trees provide just enough shade so that one forgets they're perspiring in summer and enough wind blockage to enjoy the skating in winter.” -Kim M. on Yelp.
Part of the first phase of the city’s Riverfront development plan, Promenade Park is a fairly new addition to Downtown Fort Wayne but, nonetheless, is already beloved by locals and visitors alike. Bike, run, or walk through this bustling park that’s positioned right on the edge of St. Marys River.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent a kayak or canoe and take to the water to explore Fort Wayne from a new perspective—or take a leisurely riverboat cruise for a more relaxed form of sightseeing on the river. Throughout the park, you find art pieces, trails, and other points of interest and activities designed to enhance your park experience.
“Ping pong tables and cornhole (bring your own equipment, though), fountains, sculptures, tables and chairs, a beer garden, pavilion for live music and events, pedestrian bridge, treetop boardwalk, playground, swinging benches… Simply incredible. So many spots to sit and enjoy the view and stay awhile.” -Katie U. on Yelp.
With its creative approach to coffee and locally-sourced food menu, it’s not hard to see why Conjure Coffee has become such a popular hangout spot in Downtown Fort Wayne. Sample seasonal specials or stick to a simple pour-over when you stop by this colorful little shop that’s practically on the banks of St. Joseph River.
You might come for the coffee, but you’re sure to stay for the food. Serving brunch from 9 am to 2 pm, Conjure Coffee offers expertly-made breakfast and lunch foods like quiche, eggs, oatmeal, and more. Whether you stay for 20 minutes or a couple of hours, you’ll love the quality of your order and fall in love with the casual, hip atmosphere.
“Best brew in the city, just on the edge of Downtown. Excellent selection of in-house roasted beans and great brunch. Revolving art and a great atmosphere.” -Tony M. on Yelp.
With live jazz every night Thursday through Saturday, Club Soda isn’t just a bar and restaurant—it’s an experience. While the establishment specializes in steak, you’ll find all sorts of fare on the menu, from duck eggrolls, tuna sashimi, and French onion soup to lamb chops, New York strip steak, and lobster tail.
In terms of libations, not to worry—Club Soda serves up a lot more than its titular drink. Sip craft cocktails, the restaurant’s signature martinis, or a glass of wine from its extensive wine list. Even if you’re not a huge fan of jazz, Club Soda will likely still win your heart.
“Hands down, the BEST food I've ever had in Fort Wayne! Service was phenomenal, our server was extremely accommodating to my fiancé's food allergies, which is not a quality that we find often when we go out . . . Our food looked beautiful and tasted truly amazing. We hardly talked throughout our meal, because we couldn't stop eating, lol!” -Cait N. on Yelp.
Located up the stairs from Old Gas House Restaurant, Takaoka of Japan seems to be an entire world of its own. With fishtanks, onion “volcanos,” and hibachi chefs at every table, Takaoka might not be the kind of restaurant you’d expect to find in Indiana, but you’ll feel like home anyway, thanks to its warm atmosphere and welcoming staff.
Take a seat, and watch the magic happen as your table’s chef goes to work on the open grill in front of you. Entree options range from yellowfin tuna steak to filet mignon, and dinners include soup, salad, a shrimp appetizer, vegetables and tea, and steamed rice.
“Takaoka is one of our favorite places to eat. It is fun, entertaining and we always have a great time . . . The food is always delightful, the entertainment is entertaining, and the price is good for what you get. ” -David W. on Yelp.
What started as informal drawing and painting lessons in 1888 has evolved into a twice-accredited art museum with collections of American art ranging from the 19th century to the present day. With rotating exhibitions and visual art from a diverse selection of artists, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (FWMoA) is a cultural center in Fort Wayne and an enriching experience for all.
FWMoA has free general admission every Thursday from 5 to 8 pm, and parking is usually free (unless an event is taking place). The museum has rotating exhibitions as well as permanent collections, and you can check to see what’s currently on display by visiting the museum website.
“Wonderfully curated and designed exhibits . . . I appreciated the range of art—paintings, sculptures, photography, pottery, glass, and mixed media. Great little place, and the $8 admission was worth the price. Desk staff was very friendly and pointed us to good dinner spots. Spent about 2 hrs looking over all the works on display.” -Alex C. on Yelp.
If you’re visiting Fort Wayne during baseball season, you have to take a trip to Parkview Field to watch the TinCaps play. Having opened its gates in 2009, Parkview Field hosts more than 400 non-baseball events every year and has been ranked repeatedly by Stadium Journal Magazine as the number-one minor league experience in the country.
Since its beginning, Parkview Field has been considered a Fort Wayne social hub and place for the community to gather in the Downtown area. Even if there’s no game scheduled, you can still see the stadium by taking a walk on Parkview Field Concourse, a third-of-a-mile walking path that’s open from 7 am to sunset every day (it closes three hours before scheduled events).
“Such an amazing venue to have in our city! Parkview Field is not only home to the TinCaps, but there are also a variety of events held at the field throughout the year, from concerts to fundraisers. You can even use it as a wedding venue . . . If you are new to town or visiting, check out Parkview Field!” -Shelby C. on Yelp.
With more than 200 hands-on exhibits, Science Central makes learning about science fun for everyone (even adults!). After all, who says you can’t learn while you play? But for this Fort Wayne attraction, it’s not all about fun and games—Science Central’s mission is to inspire visitors to become more interested in science and passionate about their education.
At Science Central, you’ll find a combination of permanent exhibits and touring exhibitions. From space and rocks to demonstrations and play zones, Science Central will change the way that you (and your little ones) look at science—and learning in general.
“I was impressed, to say the least, with Fort Wayne Science Central . . . There's something about the science centers that have me more entertained for longer than the other museums. I think it's the hands-on aspect of learning science that intrigues me so much. There is such an incredible amount to learn for all ages at this museum (it's not just for kids!).” -Shelly B. on Yelp.
Fort Wayne’s Riverfront District will only continue to grow as the city proceeds with its plan to develop the area. Don’t miss out on the fun—experience Riverfront Fort Wayne for yourself when you plan your next trip to Summit City!