With solid attractions — and more on the way — Fort Wayne, Indiana, welcomes group tours with open arms. “Fort Wayne is excited to welcome groups back into our city,” said Nicolle Campbell, director of sales at Visit Fort Wayne. “With new attractions like Electric Works, Promenade Park and The Landing, on top of our signature experiences like The Genealogy Center and Sweetwater Sound, there is much that we look forward to showcasing in a group tour experience.”
From old to new
A 39-acre former General Electric manufacturing campus is now a massive adaptive reuse project called Electric Works. Buildings where electric motors were manufactured are being renovated.
Coming to Electric Works in fall 2022, Union Street Market will be the region’s first food hall/public market. Other additions include unique retail, dining and entertainment options. The former GE Club, built in 1927, will be the new home of a modernized gym and a bowling alley.
Return to the riverfront
Promenade Park, which opened in 2019 on the bank of the St. Marys River, includes a pavilion, amphitheater, bandshell, artwork and a tree canopy trail. Groups can book a guided cruise on the rivers of Fort Wayne: the St Marys, Maumee and St. Joseph. Sweet Breeze, an authentic canal boat replica, offers tours. Just south of Promenade Park is The Landing, a blocklong historic district with restaurants and shops.
The Allen County Public Library holds The Genealogy Center and the Rolland Center for Lincoln Research. The Rolland Center, which opened in January, is free and blends Lincoln historical materials with interactive technology to deliver an engaging experience.“Folks relate to the Lincoln family stories,” said Jessie Cortesi, Lincoln librarian.
Kiosks allow guests to create their own exhibit and take a deep dive into an area of Lincoln. With its 1 million-piece physical collection, access to all major databases and a talented team, The Genealogy Center helps people discover their family stories.
“We’re really jazzed about the power of story,” said Curt B. Witcher, director of special collections at The Genealogy Center. “We have seen more jaws drop than most librarians.”
Other downtown draws include Old Fort Wayne; Embassy Theatre; Parkview Field, home of the minor-league TinCaps; the grand Allen County Courthouse; Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory; Fort Wayne Museum of Art and Arts Campus Fort Wayne.
Vera Bradley, the luggage and handbag company headquartered in the city, has influenced and continues to be a large part of the community. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller founded the company 40 years ago.
“I love Fort Wayne,” Baekgaard said. “One of the reasons there is a Vera Bradley is because Fort Wayne got behind us.” Baekgaard’s latest project is the city’s first boutique hotel, The Bradley, which opened in 2021. The downtown property features a restaurant, a rooftop bar, and 124 rooms, including nine individually designed suites. The Bradley is a collaboration between Baekgaard and Provenance Hotels, headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
Throughout downtown, groups will see colorful murals and art-infused alleys. Art This Way is a volunteer-run organization that operates under the umbrella of the Fort Wayne Downtown Improvement District. The organization raises funds and acts as the liaison between property owners and artists to bring large-scale professional art installations — like murals — to the city.
Groups can venture out of downtown to experience the animals that live on the 40 acres of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
And at the Sweetwater music store campus, visitors learn the story of Chuck Surack, who used a portable recording service (a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a Volkswagen minibus) to launch a music technology and instrument retailing empire. On a 45-minute tour, see where the sales engineers work, check out the guitar repair shop and visit Sweetwater Studios. The massive music store is brimming with music equipment, guitars, pianos, a band and orchestra gallery, and fully loaded demo studios. The Downbeat Diner and Crescendo Cafe is open to employees and visitors.
Main image: Hello Fort Wayne mural; Credit: Visit Fort Wayne