Discover Fort Wayne’s kid friendly side

Some cities boost a great nightlife–ideal for adults. The downside is that those with kids scramble for family-friendly activities. Luckily Fort Wayne is not lacking in that department. Come see for yourself why Fort Wayne has been named among the 100 best places to raise a family.Whether you’re coming in for a day, or a whole week, there is plenty to see, taste and do. Here’s a start:

There’s nothing like a day at the zoo on an Indian summer day. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has been consistently ranked one of the best children’s zoos, and it’s easy to see why. The range of animal life is impressive–they have everything from giraffes to wallabies! There is also a good amount of hands-on activities, perfect for curious minds. I recommend you have a picnic before or after in nearby Franke Park. There is plenty of greenspace to enjoy!

If the weather isn’t cooperating, there is plenty of fun (and learning) to be had indoors at one of Fort Wayne’s many quality museums. Inspire budding scientists at Science Central, a museum dedicated to teaching kids about the wonders of sciences. Expect plenty of hands-on activities here.

Do you have a nature lover on your hands? The Botanical Conservatory is a must! They have an impressive permanent exhibit. (Cactuses, anyone?)  Their seasonal exhibits–like endangered butterflies– are not to be missed. If the kids are thirsty there is an on-site cafe.

fwmoa 300x127 Discover Fort Waynes kid friendly sideMaybe you have an aspiring Picasso in the family? Well then the Fort Wayne Museum of Art is a no-brainer.  Their Early Learning Center is designed to expose young minds to the world of art. Remember it’s never too early to inspire!

Maybe your kids have a lot of energy they need to get out of their system. What better place to do that than in the great outdoors? Fort Wayne and Allen County offers over 81 miles of biking, hiking, and even kayaking trails. The network of trails offers safe, fun places to get outdoors with the family – and our trails connect you to our parks, attractions, downtown and more!

Here’s to yours days ahead in Fort Wayne filled with laughter, fun and memories!


Lauren Caggiano was raised in Fort Wayne, and returned in 2007 upon graduation from the University of Dayton. The president of WriteOn LLC, she specializes in writing, marketing, and French translation. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, yoga and volunteering. In the summer you can catch her riding around downtown on her vintage green Schwinn. For more information, check out her website:

Meet the creative genius behind Disney’s Frozen

If you haven’t seen the movie Frozen, you likely know a kid or two who has. The 2013 Disney film is the highest grossing animated film and number-five movie of all time. Crazy!

It’s clear the Frozen fever hasn’t thawed. (Pardon the pun.) Little girls everywhere seem to own a princess costume or two. And the soundtrack has gained a lot of attention, too. IMG 1715 v01Chris Buck 200x300 Meet the creative genius behind Disneys FrozenIf you’re looking for a family-friendly way to celebrate this Disney hit, mark your calendar for October 4-5.

University of Saint Francis and Cinema Center are partnering to present a weekend of events with Disney’s Academy Award-winning director, Chris Buck.   The public is invited to a Frozen screening that evening at 7 p.m., Here’s the best part: Director Chris Buck will engage in a sing-along immediately following the film. Get ready to sing your lungs out! 

And for parents interested in hearing about what went into creating such a hit, there is a lecture following the Saturday screening. Then Sunday at 1 pm is another chance to get up close and personal with this creative genius, at another lecture.  The lecture is designed for high school and college students interested in pursuing a career in animation, film, and computer arts.  This lecture is free and open to the public. The USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center is located at 431 W. Berry St. in Fort Wayne. Complimentary parking is available across Berry Street from the center.

Although the events do not take place at Cinema Center proper, it is worth mentioning this great arts organization. This 30-some year old independent movie house located in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne shows films shows a variety of programming you can’t find anywhere else in this area. Films range from artsy to intelligent, and sometimes just downright funny. You can also catch a good foreign film there, too.  Put simply, there is something for everyone. Check out their weekly schedule to see what’s playing. In addition to films, the theater also offers regular events and educational opportunities throughout the year to engage the community. Check out their website for more information.


Lauren Caggiano was raised in Fort Wayne, and returned in 2007 upon graduation from the University of Dayton. The president of WriteOn LLC, she specializes in writing, marketing, and French translation. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, yoga and volunteering. In the summer you can catch her riding around downtown on her vintage green Schwinn. For more information, check out her website:

Combine Education & Fun at Johnny Appleseed Festival!

The official start of the school year has begun for most of the Fort Wayne area. I work in a school and its already time for mid-term grades to be issued!

What I like as a parent and educator is that learning can happen anywhere, anytime. In my opinion historic festivals are a good use of a family’s time. That is definitely the case with the Johnny Appleseed Festival. This year’s dates: Saturday, September 20 (10am-6pm) and Sunday, September 21(10am-5pm).

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Re-enactors teach kids about life in the 1700s.

This is the 40th anniversary of this fun and FREE festival in which every part from cooking ham and beans over an open fire to re-enactors wearing wool clothing represents life as it would have been during Johnny Appleseed’s era.

It’s not a coincidence that the festival’s namesake has a burial site at the festival’s location. After a visit to the grave, my family always ventures from one end of the festival to the other, not wanting to miss anything.

There is a play area for younger children with games, straw maze and historic fun activities, such as dipping candles. My kids enjoyed watching and listening to re-enactors who stayed in character throughout the festival to inform visitors of what life was like during the 1700s.

We’ve talked to soldiers, watched wives of soldiers sew uniforms, and chat with trappers to discover what its like to live rough on the land.

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Bagpipes add unique sound to the festival.

We’ve listened to cannons being fired, drum and fife corps and bagpipes being played throughout the days.

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Drum & Fife Corps march through the festival grounds.

Then there’s the food. Every appetite is stimulated by smells that waft on the breeze on the festival’s grounds. Naturally, the emphasis is on products made from apples so cider, apple dumplings, apple fritters, caramel apples, fried apple slices with cinnamon are present. I’m salivating just thinking about them!

Caramel corn, ham and beans, pork sandwiches, turkey legs, lemonade and other goodies are everywhere, making it easy to find food when a family member begins to complain about an empty stomach.

Insider tip: I like parking at the Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW) lot as the festival provides free rides on a shuttle back and forth. Parking is also available in the Memorial Coliseum lot for a small fee. It might be worth it to pay to park close if you have children as your group will probably be weary after your travel back in time.

So bring your curiosity about our nation’s past, adventurous spirit and taste buds to the Johnny Appleseed Festival. And if you see Johnny, tell him we’re glad he made Ft Wayne his final home.

1502 Harry Baals Dr.
Fort Wayne, IN  46805

FROM I-69: Take Exit 309A south to Coliseum Blvd (US 930) and turn left. Pass Parnell Avenue and Memorial Coliseum. Festival grounds are located behind the Coliseum.


Kayleen Reusser has written children’s books and had stories in Chicken Soup books. She writes features for the News-Sentinel newspaper and profiles for the Ossian Sun Riser. She loves to travel and write about her experiences at her website:

A Weekend on the Frontier – Johnny Appleseed Festival 2014

I was listening to the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner” the other day and thought, “Man, why has there never been a big-budget movie about the Battle of Baltimore? That would be awesome!” The battle – specifically, the failure by the British to take Fort McHenry – was a major American victory in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become the national anthem of the United States. This is a time period that has been mostly overlooked in popular culture, the recent exceptions of Assassin’s Creed III, a video game, and AMC’s series, Turn, aside. I mention this because Fort Wayne, Indiana, has a festival that celebrates this general time period (the late 18th/early 19th centuries) and one of its most famous figures, Johnny Appleseed. Always held over the third weekend in September, this year’s festival will be Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20, 2014.

When I’ve written about the festival in the past, I’ve focused on the food (which, don’t get me wrong, is delicious) or the crafts. But the whole reason we have the festival in the first place is to celebrate Johnny Appleseed and the time period in which he lived. As you walk around Johnny Appleseed Park, you’ll see drum and fife corps marching back and forth and other soldiers patrolling the grounds. You’ll see pioneers cooking and crafting, singing and dancing. You’ll get to hear stories told by frontiersmen and traveling snake-oil salesmen. You’ll get to experience life the way it used to be when Fort Wayne’s streets and skyscrapers were forests and fields.

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I’ve said before that the Johnny Appleseed Festival is my favorite festival of the year. I’m sure I’m not the only one – I run into more people I know at the Festival than anywhere else at any other time of year. Maybe I’ll run into you, and we can travel back in time together.

For more information, click here. I’ll see you there!



Apart from spending his college years in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Dayton, Ohio, Mike Flohr is a lifetime resident of the Summit City. Today he divides his time among his wife, Megan, his job as a college librarian, and his many geek obsessions.

Top 5 Reasons Creative Types love Fort Wayne

It is often said that creative pursuits are solitary ones and that the life of an artist is a lonely one. In reality, artists thrive off of other artists. Painters can inspire writers who can spark an idea for a lyric to a song which a photographer listens to as she rearranges perceptions and creates a winning shot. It is beneficial for artists to be in an area with other creatives – somewhere inspiration is leaking out of every wall and winding down every street.

Fort Wayne is a hub for creativity and its love of the arts make it a welcomed haven for creative thinkers. Don’t believe me? Here’s the top 5 reasons why Fort Wayne is a great place to be creative (just to name a few!):

1. Art Galleries

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Orchard Gallery

Fort Wayne is home to over 20 art galleries. It would be easy to kill a day traveling from gallery to gallery. Even just browsing can be inspiring; seeing what other artists are up to and how they use the canvas or clay to make sense of what they perceive in the world. Plus, if you hit up Orchard Gallery, you’ll be able to talk face to face with an artist. Orchard Gallery is a cooperative gallery run by artists who banned together to create this unique showroom and retail space for local art.

2. The Outdoor Spaces

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Bird of Paradise at Botanical Conservatory

Creatives often find inspiration in nature. It offers a place of quiet and solitude for thinking and imagining. It also provides organically beautiful images which can inspire something or serve as the subjects themselves. Fort Wayne has over 81 miles of trails winding through the city and over 50 parks to walk and relax in. No matter where you live, access to the trail system is easy. Our trails and safe and well-maintained and offer a variety of scenic views from cityscapes to river’s edge and secluded wooded areas. In addition to all these public lands reserved for ecology, Fort Wayne is also home to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. These gardens are a haven of nature in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne. Each of the gardens with the building represents a different climate of foliage and provides a unique experience.

3. Cost of Living

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Free Summer Concert at the Library

Fort Wayne is a very affordable city, which is key when you are an artist. While it is a very rewarding profession, it is not always financially rewarding. Not only is the cost of living one of the most affordable in the state, but the city also offers a lot to do for free. It can be hard to find fun things to fill your time when you are on a budget, but Fort Wayne has a lot going on for not a lot of money. From free outdoor concert series to arts festivals and free movies, there is always something to do if you are looking. Check out all the different ways to entertain yourself!

4. Downtown Arts Campus

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FW Ballet performs in the park on the Arts Campus

Downtown Fort Wayne is home to a thriving arts district. The Arts Campus houses a number of different artistic outlets from theaters to galleries, cinemas, dance space, and museums. This hub is home to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art as well as the Arts United Center, the Cinema Center, and the Auer Center, which houses Artlink and the Fort Wayne Ballet. This area is home to many different arts festivals throughout the year, including the Taste of the Arts, Fort Wayne’s premier arts festival.

5. Universities

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University of Saint Francis

Fort Wayne boasts a number of different universities. Not only does this provide the opportunity to take classes now and then when the inspiration is really lacking, but it also means that Fort Wayne is home to different open lectures, book readings, and dance and art showcases. With Indiana Tech, IPFW, and Saint Franics growing every year, the opportunities are also expanding.

These are just a few of the reasons that creative types will find a quick home in Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne expands its art community almost daily and the people of the Summit City are eager for more. So, come check out Fort Wayne – hit up some galleries, see a show at the Embassy, and walks around our trails. See what you can create!

Holley Taylor


Holley is a student at Albion College in Michigan studying English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and History. She is excited to be back in her hometown this summer working as a Marketing Intern for Visit Fort Wayne. Holley enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.