Not long ago a clickbait-type ad surfaced on my Facebook feed, suggesting I click through to learn all about a dynamic cultural urban powerhouse emerging in an unlikely city stuck inexorably in flyover country. Well, I’m living here in the great American midwest, and given my goal to find great things for teens to get into no matter where they roam, I, um, clicked. For my readers’ sake, I wanted to discover just where this magical midwestern metropolis could be.
Much Ado about Much!
This special city ended up being Fort Wayne, Indiana, population 264,000. As it happens, an old friend lives there and had recently invited us to visit and enjoy one of his band’s live music gigs. Who could say no to catching up, savoring some classic, live tunes and getting away for an overnight with the world’s best daughter? Looking forward to confirming any and all claims from the aforementioned clickbait, my daughter, Holland, and I planned to stuff as much activity into our 24-hour sojourn in Fort Wayne as we could. Should you ever find yourself with the occasion to visit this charming city, I hope Holland’s travelog below helps you discover some of the fun to be had!
Having driven through Indiana a few times (with so many Interstates passing through, it is aptly known as the “Crossroads of America”), my most lingering impression of the state is pure, plain, barren, sleep-inducing flatness. Flat farm fields. Flat, stick straight roads that go on for miles. Flat. Flat. Flat. Oh look, a tree. Wake me up when we get to a beach or a ski slope or a curve or something.
Indiana’s vivacious capital, Indianapolis, manages to dispel the Flat = Boring myth. The city goes all out to entertain visitors with a terrific choice of activities both indoor and out. Many of these fun undertakings center around the glory of sport. Obviously sports aficionados will have entered heaven in all there is to do for them here. Fortunately “Indy” has taken us non-fans into account when designing their attractions, because they offer a wealth of appealing options for us to do as well. Flat can be a blast! Read on and you’ll see!
Would any trip to Indy be complete without a visit to the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500? If you don’t know much about this historic race or its incredible track, head over to their website immediately. The video visuals are simply stunning! Then plan your visit to the facility’s museum, and ask to schedule a VIP grounds tour for some incredible photo ops at the winner’s circle, a chance to check out the pit stop, and so much more! CONFIRM this tour a day or so before your visit because last-minute changes to their schedule could mean a sudden cancellation of the tour.
♠ The best-heeled amongst you may even arrange to drive a real Indy car around the track! Sign up with the folks at Indy Racing Experience online for the package of your choice.
Newfields (“A Place for Nature and the Arts”) encompasses the Indianapolis Museum of Art as well as beautifully curated gardens and a magnificently restored historic mansion known as the Lilly House. You could easily spend an entire day here exploring the exhibits and touring the grounds. Especially enticing is Winterlights, when over a million lights are strung along the pathways, lending the holiday season an over-the-top magical sensation as you amble around, mouth agape at the dazzling beauty. Don’t forget your mug of hot apple cider or cocoa and plate of s’mores.
If little sister Sasha drags you along to the Children’s Museum Indianapolis, don’t be upset. This is the largest children’s museum anywhere in the world, and it offers great fun for everyone of any age! If nothing else, there are a million opportunities to crank up interest in your Instagram by the photo ops offered here. Who do you know who can post a pic of themselves as if they had been shot out of a cannon, for instance? Other cool stuff to do is on hand. Prove you’re a winner by outracing your opponents on the outdoor speedway track. Show off your superlative fashion sense in the American POP exhibit. It’s all here, along with a LOT more to keep you entertained for hours, and you can plan ahead by visiting their website!
Rob a bank or break out of jail – with your parents’ permission, of course – at Indianapolis’ interactive escape attraction, The Escape Room Indianapolis. You’ll have to brainiac your way into figuring out how to exit the themed room of your choice, so be prepared to use those SAT smarts you’re so proud of. And just like those standardized tests we all know and love – you get the added pressure of the clock ticking to boot! This highly-rated attraction is located above the Old Spaghetti Factory, so dinner is easy to “factor” into your break out plans.
If you know anything about Indiana, you know its residents, nicknamed “Hoosiers,” are rabid fanatics of basketball. Nothing wrong with that! You can visit the ground zero of this mania by taking a free self-guided tour of the Hinkle Fieldhouse. This “cathedral” of Indiana basketball, a co-star itself of the movie Hoosiers, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. See where all the “hoop”la began, right here at the Hinkle, located on the campus of Indianapolis’ Butler University. This is a must-visit for any fan of college basketball.
On a beautiful day, or really, any day that isn’t frigid cold, you must take some time to visit the White River State Park. This incredible scenic outdoor wonderland is located just west of downtown. Instead of walking along the well-kept river banks, you can rent bikes at Wheel Fun Rentals or even a Segway from Segway Tours of Indiana. Concerts happen at this pedestrian delight at various times, or you can check out museums such as the Indiana State Museum or the Eiteljorg Museum (home of some great Western-themed art). The NCAA Hall of Champions is yet another museum in the Park, and it features some sensational interactive exhibits.
A different kind of stroll that has you walking back in time can be found in the Lockerbie Square District, the oldest surviving neighborhood in Indy, which features cobblestone streets and lovingly restored houses in sizes from cottage to mansion. It’s just up the road from downtown Indy’s other fascinating historic district, Chatham Arch, which sprawls in comparison, but is still doable on foot. Now that you’ve fed the history buff inside of you, take care of your stomach at one of the myriad of terrific local dining options lining Massachusetts Avenue.
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