Loo-Au at the Zoo – A fun summer thing to do!

IMG 6888 1 300x199 Loo Au at the Zoo – A fun summer thing to do!

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo members are invited to the Zoo-Loo-Au!

A hotdog, chips and cool treat at the Zoo – what could make summer better? How about a free ride through one of the zoo exhibits?

According to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, the Zoo-Loo-Au celebration can draw more than 10,000 visitors in one day and it can be a really busy time! But it is a tradition here in Fort Wayne – and you don’t want to miss it.

The Zoo-Loo-Au, Monday, July 28, is for members only. If you have purchased membership with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, then you will receive a postcard invitation to the Loo-Au. If you happen to have some friends coming along who are not zoo members, additional food tickets can be purchased when you get there (food is free to members). And if you’re new in town, you can also purchase membership on the day of the party. Just be prepared for some fairly long lines!

The Zoo-Loo-Au will feature a picnic meal (hot dogs, potato chips, orange drink and a sweet treat – usually a chocolate/vanilla ice cream sandwich) and free admittance to a ride of your choice inside the zoo. You are able to tour all the exhibits, too – from the African Journey area to the Indonesian Rain Forest.

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Enjoy hot dogs and chips in the picnic area.

Rides that are available include the boat ride in the Australian Adventure area, the train ride, and the carousel. If you use up your free ride and want to take a different ride, too, you can – just line up at the counter and buy a ticket.

The zoo opens at 8 a.m. for members and lunch is served beginning at 11 a.m. The zoo will be staying open until 8 p.m., so you can either come over for an afternoon jaunt with the kids or wait until after work for a family-friendly event in the cooler evening. Check the zoo’s website for exact details on when rides open and close.

The picnic takes place outside the official zoo gates. Lots of wooden picnic tables are scattered about under the huge trees of Franke Park. Some folks opt to bring picnic blankets. If you want to have a bigger meal than just hot dogs and chips, bring a packed cooler with your extras – I’ve seen complete meals appear magically on the tables. You might want to bring soda, extra chips, pb&j or other delectable fare.

IMG 7063 1 300x199 Loo Au at the Zoo – A fun summer thing to do!

The Zoo-Loo-Au is fun for everyone!

Inside the zoo, the walkways are crowded with people meandering slowly through the exhibits. The sea lions are usually swimming around in their huge, windowed tank. The cooling arbor built over the sidewalk is also a draw for visitors who want to get out of the sun.

The Indonesian Rain Forest is also refreshing with its indoor explorer’s cabin (check out the hammocks in the back) and the pleasant waterfall and water plants. While it feels like you’re traveling through a rain forest, it’s cooler than wandering around outside in the full sunshine.

But what is truly cooling if you’re going to stay outdoors is the boat ride. Yes, you might wind up in a line that is about 50 people long. But once you have stepped into the canoe and the zoo helper has launched your craft, the pleasant swooshing of the boat and the rush of the water is worth the wait. Through different tunnels and around the kangaroo grounds, you can just sit and relax and snap a few photos. After all, this is summer – and you’re enjoying it!



Louisa is a lifelong Fort Wayne resident. A long-time musician and literature aficionado, Louisa likes to explore the classical music offerings that Fort Wayne has to offer. (She also likes to browse the Allen County Public Library's stacks for just the right book!)

Crafts, Collections, and More at the Allen County Fair

My favorite thing about going to the Allen County Fair is the crafts. As a former 4-Hr, I can predict that now is probably the time when kids are desperately putting the finishing touches on posters, cake decorations, barbecue projects and cooking masterpieces.

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Enormous cabbages and beautiful squash are on display at the county fair.

The Allen County Fair has come a long way since it began in the early 1980s. At first, there was only one building and a number of striped tent tops that  protected all the 4-H exhibits. But, over the past 15 years, a number of buildings have sprung up so that now, all the crafts and hand work projects are inside air-conditioned buildings with smooth cement sidewalks and floors between. What a switch from the days of crushed limestone and raccoons that liked to raid the cake displays!

In the first building  behind the Home Economics center, I really love to check out the collections. Stuffed toys, trading cards, key chains, and pencil collections have been on display before. The sewing displays, too, are so much fun to explore. Formals, pea coats, and a regular forest of simple a-line skirts and aprons are there, as well as the occasional suit or formal gown. The ‘crafts’ section takes up at least two, usually three rows of tables. This is where kids put in handmade needlework, fiber arts, bath tub buddies, gelatin soaps, thrown ceramics and anything else that could be simply designated as a ‘craft project.’

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Beautiful workmanship – and kids made these!

Photography – oh, so many of the pictures are excellent! Black and white close-ups of unique objects, color photos of field trips, salon prints in every hue of mat board – how on earth can the judges choose just one photo for that fluffy Champion ribbon? And if fun giftwrap is your thing, there’s plenty of inspiration piled onto tables behind the photographs. Empty packages are gift wrapped in everything from balloons to netting and, once, an ironing board with mop hair and cleaning supply gloves. That was a really nifty display.

If woodworking and pets are more what you like, stroll through the covered walkway, past the water fountains and 4-H office to the next building. There will usually be a row of fish tanks, a set of small animal displays – don’t tap the glass – and a parakeet or two. The interior decorating of each fish tank is always a treat to see; iridescent pebbles, tiny castles, a bubbling treasure chest, and other unique pieces are all added to create the perfect, tiny ‘world’ for a gold fish or guppy.

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One of the smaller rabbits at the fair – but cute!

And, there’s the woodwork area: really, these pieces are of professional grade. How can a kid make a parquet checkerboard? Or some of those large pieces, like the loveseat/coatrack combination? Or the perfectly smooth nightstand in polished wood? This building also houses the garden and flower arranging displays, and the models. Tiny fighter jets, shiny race cars and entire air force bases might be on display. And the flowers – corsages, bouquets, baskets and planters are set up in green profusion. The mini- and cloverbud-4H projects are set up on two long sets of tables, too: be prepared to see at least a dozen no-bake cookies, handmade pillows, an occasional Lego display and an insect collection. (Don’t worry, everything is fully enclosed so there will be no escapes!)

Nearby are the animal barns. A separate building is kept each for pigs, goats, cows/calves, horses, fowl and rabbits. Some of the turkeys on display are enormous! And they make the real turkey gobble – perhaps the only place you’ll hear that in Fort Wayne. The rabbits are probably the cutest animals there. There are so many varieties – Angora, Dutch, lopshire – you name it. Because the fair is in July, the animals usually have a number of fans aimed every which way, so that all creatures can keep cool – unless it is a chilly day. Then the fans are off and the big, open air windows are closed to keep it cozy. Plenty of food and water dishes are also in evidence, as the kids displaying their animals need to be there every day to care for their livestock.

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4H kids also show animals – here’s a boy practicing with the hogs.

If you’re looking for something fun and creative to view at the Allen County fair, I highly recommend the 4-H displays. Everything is so well-presented that you can’t help but glean a little inspiration from something you see! The Allen County Fair takes place July 22-27. For more information check out Visit Fort Wayne.



Louisa is a lifelong Fort Wayne resident. A long-time musician and literature aficionado, Louisa likes to explore the classical music offerings that Fort Wayne has to offer. (She also likes to browse the Allen County Public Library's stacks for just the right book!)

Putt-Putt Fun Center – Something for Everyone

Those colorful animals – any small child will want to know more about them. I did. There was a tall giraffe, a zebra, and an elephant that stood on top of something – a mountain? – behind the Arby’s restaurant. And then, I went miniature golfing.

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A friendly, little rhinoceros greets visitors to Putt-Putt golf.

Today, Putt-Putt Fun Center on Speedway Drive still has those friendly animals plus a real, fire-throwing volcano that goes off at any time. A waterfall, benches and some really pretty flowers are also scattered around the three sets of eighteen-hole mini golf.

Customers who enter Putt-Putt come in from the parking lot, walk through the arcade and out into the golfing area, where balls and clubs in a variety of lengths are stacked on the counter. Pay up at the counter for as many games as you wish, and remember to grab a score card with your ball and club.

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Main inside entrance to the Putt-Putt greens – see the caddy shack window beside the doors? That’s where you find the golf clubs, score cards, pencils and balls.

The golf course is open from mid-morning until after dark – tall, long lights provide enough illumination so that you can make a good putt and stay safe. There is some traffic noise as cars and motorcycles power past on Coliseum Boulevard or Speedway Drive, but overall, it is a peaceful place to spend some slow time in the sunshine. And full sun it is – take along some sunscreen. There’s usually a good breeze rippling across the greens, too, so if it is cool, you might want to bring a jacket. A tall fence surrounds the golf course, so stray balls won’t spin out into the street or parking lot.

The Saturday before Fathers Day had many family groups out on the courses. Dads and daughters, dads with several kids, grandparents, and whole families were enjoying some time outside on a warm and sunny day. The nice thing about mini golf is that you can take turns without having to learn a number of rules to win the game. It’s just point and putt!

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Don’t worry – the volcano is way up high, and the flame isn’t that big. You can keep playing golf around the volcano – if the noise doesn’t distract you!

Inside the building, Putt-Putt Fun Center offers customers a game arcade and a candy counter/toy shop. Tickets for the arcade machines can be purchased at the caddy counter outside. Inside, the toy shop has miniature golf sets, board games, stuffed animals and snacks – and acres of candy. On the Saturday I was there, near noon, the arcade was fairly well-lit, not filled with too many spooky, dark shadows as some arcades are. Basketball toss, video games, and a photo booth were all part of the many activities offered. An extended family was settling into the food booth area for a snack and some soda.

Putt-Putt Fun Center (click here for prices) is a great place to take the family for some low-pressure fun in the sun. The golf courses aren’t too challenging, so even the youngest putter should have fun with the smallest of clubs. And if your style is more sit and watch, then pick a handy bench and make yourself comfortable – there’s plenty of time.



Louisa is a lifelong Fort Wayne resident. A long-time musician and literature aficionado, Louisa likes to explore the classical music offerings that Fort Wayne has to offer. (She also likes to browse the Allen County Public Library's stacks for just the right book!)

Butterflies at the Botanical Conservatory

IMG 2384 300x300 Butterflies at the Botanical ConservatoryFrom now through July 6th,  visitors to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory can experience the magical beauty of butterflies up close in the butterfly tent exhibit. Perfect for all ages, this popular butterfly exhibit is in its 11th year and showcases some of the most gorgeous species from Asia, South America, and everywhere in between. Free with regular conservatory admission, this is definitely a can’t miss for your family.

As you enter the tent, you are immediately surrounded by the brightly colored creatures high and low. If you’re lucky, they will pause just long enough to take a quick photo, and some even are so friendly they might land on you–something my toddler found complete delight in! This exhibit is special because it allows visitors to experience a creature in nature that is not always easy to get close to. The butterflies at the Botanical Conservatory are something we look forward to each year, and my family is able to see new species and have new special experiences each time we visit.

If you love nature, a visit to the conservatory is an ideal plan this spring–and if you love butterflies, you’re truly in for a treat. Experience the beauty and grace of these amazing butterflies, but check your clothing carefully upon leaving so you don’t accidentally bring home any “hitchhiking” butterfly friends!

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
1100 South Calhoun Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
(260) 427-6440



Born and raised in Indianapolis, almost nothing could move this downtown girl from her native Circle City—except true love. Deb now calls Fort Wayne home, and lives with her husband and their three amazing children in a cozy north side neighborhood. Armed with a Master’s in English, Deb was an editor for Northern Indiana LAKES Magazine, and a copywriter and proofreader for a local marketing and design firm. An avid reader, nature enthusiast, and amateur gourmet, she also loves to take walks and hikes with her family.

What to Do at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

 What to Do at the Fort Wayne Childrens Zoo

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is a great place to visit all summer long!

Remember the anticipation of standing in line, waiting to get your ticket to ride the pony at the zoo? It seemed to take forever! And then you had to choose just the right horse. Nothing too big – but not one too small, either. Fortunately, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo always had a good variety of mounts. If Mom or Dad needed to help several kids with their rides, a friendly worker was able to walk beside your mount, so that it wouldn’t do anything too wild. In retrospect, the worker was probably also there to keep you from falling off! But the illusion of having a wild horse was still nice. The Zoo’s always a fun place to explore with plenty of rides and sights for everyone.

You’ll see lots of activity near the California sea lion tank. One or two of those sleek creatures is always swooping through the water, hauling itself onto the rocks for a nice sunning session, or swooshing back and forth in front of the big windows near the viewing area. That always looks like the perfect life – sunshine and swimming! And then there are the lions.

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The official Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo portrait of Bill the African Lion

If you are inside the African Journey, you’ll wander through some beautifully landscaped lilies and grasses, over to some huge pink rocks. Inside one of those rock enclaves is a giant set of windows with a pair of African lions right behind them. Bill is a magnificent specimen with a full gold mane. He’s usually napping in the sun, near the top of his grassy territory. Ina, the female lion, is usually a little more active, prowling about and checking out the turf. Don’t miss the spotted hyena, either – if you’re thinking of Shenzi, Banzai and Ed from the Lion King, well, think again! The hyenas at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo are huge!

Speaking of big, have you seen the giraffes? From a distance, the reticulated giraffes don’t look so tall. But as they come closer to the viewing and feeding platform, you get an idea of how really big a giraffe is. They just seem to stretch up and up, and they have the longest tongues, perfect for snatching tasty lettuce leaves from willing hands. Yes, you can buy lettuce for the giraffes – and there are hand washing stations, with soap, so you can tidy up afterwards.

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One of the dingoes exploring at the Zoo.

The Australian Adventure area is undergoing renovation, right now. But if you do get the chance to walk through, don’t miss the fantastic aquarium.You can spend lots of time identifying the different fish with the help of the illuminated chart on the wall. There’s something magical about seeing so many swimming creatures swirling around in the blue. The golden dingoes are fun to watch. If it’s feeding time, the dingoes perk their ears and hustle over to the gate, where the zookeeper will call them in, a few at a time.

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The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has a number of eastern grey kangaroos that like to hop around the Australian Adventure park.

If you want a chance to actually touch a few animals, hike over to the Indiana Family Farm where there is an entire herd of goats, a rabbit or two, and some baby chicks. The goats are friendly – and they love to nibble anything! (Watch out if you brought snacks – the goats will hunt for them.) Instead of feeding the goats your own snacks, why not buy something from the goat snack bar? You will be surrounded by furry, hoofed friends!

Once you’ve finished your exploration of the zoo, stop by the Wild Things Gift Shop. There are elegant scarves and beaded trinkets, stationary, plush toys, and tee shirts. If you need batteries for your camera or some small emergency supplies, the shop has these, too. Popcorn on a cob, pens, and snow globes are also for sale. By the end of your day, you’ll be tired – but you will have had a wonderful time outside, with your family, at the welcoming Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.



Louisa is a lifelong Fort Wayne resident. A long-time musician and literature aficionado, Louisa likes to explore the classical music offerings that Fort Wayne has to offer. (She also likes to browse the Allen County Public Library's stacks for just the right book!)