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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!
Oh – and this being summer, I wanted to provide Holland a fun way to earn some money without having to do any distasteful (to her) chores. Paying her to help with my writing seemed like the perfect solution. Thus I am pleased to share Holland’s first written contribution to www.totallyteentravel.com, below. (My – Maggie’s – commentary and links follow, in italics.)
I went to Fort Wayne with my mom a few weeks ago, and despite the fact that we only spent a few days there, it was so much fun! It was a much smaller city than what I’m used to, being from the big queen city Cincinnati, but it was such an amazing experience!
Before the trip, she gave me homework: research fun things to do downtown. I did, but it seemed quite boring. Most of it was parks. Don’t get me wrong, I like parks, but I was expecting theme parks or science museums. A website had said that the top attractions in Fort Wayne were something along the lines of a library and parks.
After the school year had ended, I thought I’d feel so much better now that the stress of homework and testing was over, but I got the summertime sadness. I was on the search for a job because I had no money whatsoever, all my friends were either out of town or busy, and I was just laying around alone all day while the rest of my family was at work. I felt so bored all the time, and although there were so many things I could have been doing, like practicing guitar, reading, or exercising, I slept, ate, and slept again instead. Finally, the time had come… to go to Fort Wayne, Indiana!
We left early morning on a Friday around 7 AM so that we could get there by 10 AM. (We were going to be outdoors, and it was forecast to be hot!) The whole ride we were listening to some good ol’ rock music (mainly Foo Fighters). I learned that some of the best parts of a vacation aren’t just the vacation, but the journey.
For example, I saw my mom pressing a button on the steering wheel. When I asked what it was, she told me it was cruise control. I had heard of it, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. She explained it to me a little bit, saying how it was originally for people who had problems with the pedals. She told me it originated as a way for people with compromised mobility to control the vehicle’s speed. No sooner had she uttered “So you can drive..,” than Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, playing on the radio, piped up, uttering “…with your hands!” Mom and I cracked up at this funny segue for a few miles!
A couple of hours into the ride, we stopped at a little gas station on the way, and I got a nostalgic drink, “Bug Juice.” It was just as good as I had remembered it being. It’s pretty much sugar water in a cute container. I got the blue one.
We arrived at Fort Wayne and headed directly for Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot. (There is an extensive trail system downtown, and I thought renting bikes would be a fun way to check out the river and the fort. I was correct. Check out the Outfitters not just for bikes, but kayaks and canoes, too.) On our way, we passed the library that was the top attraction for the city. I could see why… it was huge! (We later learned that the Allen County library houses a superlative collection of genealogical data. Plentiful, free resources can be easily looked up at their link, above.)
We got to the bike depot, and the employees there were so nice and helpful. Before we knew it, we were biking around Fort Wayne. At first we got lost, but then found our way around. The original plan was to go downtown, but the directions were so confusing that we just decided to bike wherever the trail took us. (Getting a little lost is part of the fun, no?)
At the Fort
We stopped at the replica of Fort Wayne’s fort, but it was under maintenance. We were allowed to look inside the fort and peep through the windows, but unFORTunately, we weren’t allowed to go inside any of the buildings. (I would have thought it was the real thing. Everything looked and even smelled as authentic as you’d think it should be. Wood smoke and mustiness for the fake out!)
We biked a little farther, and then decided to turn around. We had Mexican food for lunch at cute restaurant near the Outfitters called Don Chava’s Mexican Grill (located at 1234 N Wells St; no website available), and I ordered “Arroz con Pollo” (chicken and rice). It was really good, especially since the chicken was drizzled with queso (cheese). Mom loved her fajitas.
A Cool Castle Visit
After lunch, we went to a little place in the middle of just another neighborhood, the Castle Gallery. (Just another neighborhood? I recall beautiful, stately, historic Victorian mansions all around.)
The art at the gallery was amazing. I loved seeing the oils, with the stroke-y texture and the vibrant colors. Not to mention that the building itself was a piece of art. (Told you so.)
Quirkiness was in abundance in this magnificent structure. For example, the old Nancy Drew book “The Hidden Staircase” was hidden in the railing of the staircase! We were looking around at the vibrant, colorful art when all of a sudden a friendly little cat joined us for a bit. As we explored in other rooms, we met a very big, very cute, and very tired sleeping Collie.
Culture Fun Commence
After browsing around the gallery, we left to get to our hotel. We relaxed for a bit after a long, active day– it wasn’t over, though. We got showered and dressed, and left for a local cafe named the Friendly Fox which, like the Castle Gallery, was also in the middle of just another neighborhood. (I give up.)
The menu was mainly soups, salads, and sandwiches, but they had a wide variety of bakery items and desserts. I had their homemade cookies and cream ice cream, and it was probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had. (Extraordinarily high praise; we live in the hometown of Graeter’s, after all.) At the Friendly Fox we met up with Wayne and Rich, and heard them in their band String Theory. They covered some classic rock songs, but also played some originals. They were amazing. (I was stunned that Holland, missing her friends, didn’t check her phone even ONCE during the two hours of the concert.)
String Theory played some Beatles songs, which I silently sang along to, and played a more modern song, “Radioactive”. Afterward, we went to hang out with Wayne for a while, and then I was dropped off at the hotel, where I watched a comedian until I fell asleep.
The next morning mom and I woke up, ate breakfast, gathered all of our stuff, and checked out of the hotel. We went to a park to meet up with Wayne (Lakeside Park, which was just lovely with its fountains and flowers). When we got there, we saw a bride and groom getting photos by a pond. There were a couple of graduation parties taking place, and a squirrel got really close to me, wielding a twig.
We found Wayne, and then we left to get lunch at The Deck. We ate outside, and it was so peaceful. The area where we ate overlooked the river, so we got to see some small boats float by. I enjoyed the restaurant’s radio station; it was playing even more classic rock that I could sing along to. Once lunch was done, we said goodbye to Fort Wayne and Wayne, and then we left.
So yeah… with only 24 hours at “the Fort” there was only a limited amount of stuff we could do. My recommendation? Back away from the clickbait, haha, and check out the city’s visitors’ website (https://www.visitfortwayne.com/) for tons more great places to see and activities to do. There is always something exciting going on!
What are your next road trip plans? Let me know in the comments!