Exceptional shopping experiences and warm welcomes keep group tours coming back to Fort Wayne.

Brittany Stephenson, group sales coordinator at Visit Fort Wayne, said Indiana’s second-largest city is a natural for group tours.

“Our unique features and walkable, urban atmosphere give groups the ability to move between attractions with ease and efficiency, packing in the most events and sites into even single-day itineraries,” she said. “The variety of attractions is wide, offering events from theater to shopping to museums, family history and even tours of the world’s largest online music retailer, Sweetwater Sound.”

Sweetwater Sound
Credit: Visit Fort Wayne

Top draws

The annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale is consistently the top group tour event in Fort Wayne. With its festival-like experience and energy, the sale pulls in over 40,000 attendees from around the world year after year. The Outlet Sale also offers a “charter club” experience to bus tours, enabling them to enjoy VIP treatment, special waiting rooms, shorter lines and free gifts.

Fort Wayne’s first boutique hotel is set to open in 2021. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder of Vera Bradley, designed the hotel. Located downtown, the property will feature 124 rooms and complement the city’s adjacent Riverfront Development and The Landing, which is a historical area redeveloped to include more dining and entertainment.

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library holds the second-largest collection of genealogy records in the country. Genealogists work with group members for free — helping them uncover the lost treasures of their family history.

Walt Whitman Mural
Credit: Visit Fort Wayne

A warm welcome

Stephenson said Fort Wayne suppliers make tours feel welcome.

“The welcoming community atmosphere, along with locally owned businesses, and accommodating hotels lead to customized rooms and themed events,” she said. “During past Vera Bradley Outlet Sales, area hotels have even preset rooms with Vera shower curtains and pillow-cases — added details to make events feel special and memorable.”

Visit Fort Wayne itinerary development services help groups make the most of their time. “We are glad to help you find the per- fect activities, accommodations and dining,” Stephenson said. “We also send suggestions and resources ahead of time to prepare for your trip and make the most of your experience. For example, with a genealogy tour, we provide resources to help attendees prepare materials to get a jump start on their family history, helping our genealogists dive right into helping them discover their heritage.”

Downtown, it’s easy to walk to the Allen County Courthouse, the Fort Wayne History Museum and the Fort Wayne Firefighters Museum.

Or take a walking tour of the downtown area’s 20-plus pieces of public art.

Other can’t-miss attractions include the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Promenade Park. The park, located along one of the city’s three rivers, features kayaking, trails, a restaurant and brewery, and an amphitheater.

Promenade Park
Credit: Visit Fort Wayne

Coming up

Visit Fort Wayne’s newest group tour offering is the “Under One Roof” package.

Featured are hotel accommodations and dinner at a highly rated property in downtown Fort Wayne, a Broadway show, performance, and/or a behind-the-scenes tour at the Embassy Theatre, including a demonstration of the historic Grand Page Pipe Organ.

Plus, there’s a tour of the Botanical Conservatory’s three indoor gardens and four outdoor, seasonal gardens.

All attractions are connected under one roof, providing all-weather entertainment and ease of access without the need for transportation. The Embassy Theatre and Botanical Conservatory are known for their holiday decorations, providing the opportunity for holiday-themed tours throughout that season.

For more information call Visit Fort Wayne at 260-424-3700 or go to visitfortwayne.com.