Every time I find myself back in Fort Wayne, I spend nearly all of my time downtown, which then provokes my family to ask, “but what do you even do downtown?” Oh, what a classic Fort Wayne question to ask! Up until about five years ago, downtown never felt “necessary” to life in Fort Wayne – quite a bummer for those who love a city vibe, like myself – and partly the reason I moved away. To that point, most people living in Fort Wayne never went downtown except for the annual visit to the Three Rivers Festival, a field trip to Science Central when back in elementary school, showing off Coney Island to someone from out of town, or maybe a transfer at the Citilink Superior Street bus station. At best, downtown was used for a quick pass-through to Jefferson Pointe or Coliseum Boulevard, or a night out on The Landing, and even a quick Google search of the “things to do in downtown fort wayne” will most likely just tell you to go to a TinCaps game or the Embassy (which you should, by the way).
But, what else?
Today, Downtown Fort Wayne is different. If you spend even just one hour walking around the downtown area, you’ll see new small businesses popping up left and right, new events happening weekly, and a new downtown crowd emerging.
Explore the alleys
It’s one thing to drive downtown, but to get your a$$ up out of the car and walk around is a different story. Every morning for two weeks, I started my day off at Fortezza on Calhoun Street; but since I’m a big fan of not paying for things when you don’t have to, I parked five minutes away over at the free side-street parking on Superior Street, and then walked through different alleys to the coffee shop every morning. Doing so, I passed random street art (like the mural of a bug on the side of Pint & Slice), vintage signs reminiscent of old Fort Wayne, and urban apartments I had never known existed. It’s a nice reminder that Fort Wayne has more scenery to offer than just suburbs and country.
Get inspired at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art
Say it’s a rainy day and you’ve already cleared out your Netflix queue (highly unlikely); you probably don’t feel like walking around in the rain, but what you can do for a change is visit the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. I visited the FWMA on a random Thursday evening, because I was bored and looking for something different and not so…I don’t know….predictable? Turns out, Thursday nights at the FWMA are free, which explains why it was full of IPFW Art students and middle-aged, classy Fort Wayne art enthusiasts – pretty much the kind of person that would never meet at a Komets game.
Chill at the Beet Street Juicery
The quality of living in Fort Wayne has always been high – but now with this place opening, it just got a tad bit higher. I can’t remember exactly what I ordered but it was something along the lines of “organic almond tea” – basically something I wouldn’t be able to get at or even the uber-commercial and mainstream Starbucks. I visited with a friend who ordered a beet juice smoothie, and who had just come from cross fit. If that doesn’t tell you about the changing face of downtown Fort Wayne, then I don’t know what will.
Indulge in some sweet potato fries at Central City Café
Of course we all know of Powers Hamburgers, Cindy’s Diner, and Coney Island – they’re the classics – but the newbie you may not know of yet is Central City Café. Located directly across the street from the courthouse (and to the left of Riegel’s smokeshop), they literally put the Central City in Central City Café. I like to come here because it’s finally a downtown restaurant I, a vegetarian-health-freak, can eat at with my meat-loving family. They’ve got a pay-by-the-weight salad bar, grilled cheeses, and zucchini and squash paninis for me, and then slow-roasted Reubens, Philly steaks, Hawaiian ham, Memphis BBQ Pulled pork, for my family. And all that’s not even counting the one thing we make sure to order every time we go there: the sweet potato fries. Please, Fort Wayne, do yourself a favor and order the sweet potato fries! #LifeChanger.
Chill out with a newspaper at The Bean off Wells St.
This was always one of those places I would always pass in my car, but not know really what it was. The outside sign read “café and teahouse” but I had literally never heard anyone say anything about it – always a recipe for me to go figure it out for myself. I walked in around 10am on a Monday, and after ten minutes, I found myself chatting with two truckers and the bartender at the bar. She asked where I was from, and I said “Uhhh, Fort Wayne!?” Probably because I was taking 500 pictures with a real camera, which is not something you see often in Fort Wayne. Anyway, The Bean’s got old school Fort Wayne vibes, and even a hookah joint next door.
Get an agua fresca at La Michoacana off Wells St.
I knew you could find decent Mexican food in Fort Wayne, but what I didn’t know is that you can find horchata milk too. When I walked in this place just before lunch, I first used my rusty Spanish to rave about how I love horchata milk, then I sat near the big windows up front mumbling along to the Spanish music. Ahhh, what a nice break from the “all-American” city this is