Do you want to feed the penguins at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo? Or maybe you want to learn more about the Embassy Theatre, or see the actual newspapers that talked about Abraham Lincoln when he was in office? Then you should explore some of the back stage tours that Fort Wayne has to offer.
Here is a glimpse at three of our in-depth touring options.
Fort Wayne Icons: Behind the Scenes
The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection
Located on the lower floor of the Main Building of the Allen County Public Library, the Lincoln Collection includes newspapers, books, photos, election tickets, and letters and diaries by soldiers from the Civil War. If you’re dropping by the library and just want to peek in on the collection, then you can stop by either the Reader’s Services Desk (on the first floor) or the Genealogy Desk (up on the second floor). Tell the librarian that you’re interested in seeing the Lincoln Collection, and they will connect you with the Lincoln librarians.
This is the 'vault' at the Lincoln collection.
The librarians are happy to give tours of the “vault” (also known as the Rare Books Room). If you particularly want to see materials related to, say, Civil War soldiers, then they will pull a few items that you can look at right there. Yes, these are original documents, and the librarians handle them without gloves.
If you want a more in-depth tour, then call or e-mail ahead of time by at least one day. For the pre-arranged tour, the librarian will take you to the vault and to the workspace, where a table filled with specially-pulled items will be waiting for you to explore. Want information on John Wilkes Booth? How about advertisements that have Lincoln’s image on them? Yes, the librarian can pull a specific collection for you to peruse.
Here is a selection of items presented for visitors to see at the Lincoln Collection.
Tours at the Lincoln Collection are free. To arrange for a tour ahead of time, call (260) 421-1378 or (260) 421-1379. You can also use the e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to contact the librarians.
Tours usually last an hour or an hour and a half. The tour is fully accessible, and there are a few chairs so that visitors can have a seat during the tour. The Collection is open for tours Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends by appointment.
Embassy Theatre Behind the Scenes
According to John Hughey, marketing director for the Embassy Theatre, their tour isn’t exactly “back stage,” but it offers visitors plenty to see and think about the theatre itself. Tours at the Embassy take visitors through the main lobby, the auditorium, and the balconies. Visitors are treated to a history of the theatre (opened in 1928!) and some of the details of the fascinating architecture there.
Did you know that the Embassy Theatre was almost demolished in the 1970s? The Embassy tour includes a discussion on how the community saved this architectural treasure and some news about upcoming shows and concerts.
Sometimes called "Miss Page," this organ makes some wonderful music.
Some tours may include a glimpse of the Embassy’s Grande Page Pipe Organ (which used to do the sound effects for silent movies shown here) and the newly-renovated dressing rooms. (Note: the dressing rooms are still under construction, and won’t be open until September.)
Here is a bird's eye view of the stage and auditorium at the Embassy Theatre
Tours of the Embassy are appropriate for visitors of all ages, and can be arranged at the STAR Bank Box Office, located at the Embassy. Call (260) 424-5665 to set up your tour before you get there. Tours costs begin at $3 per child and $6 per adult.
Behind the Scenes at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Meeting and greeting the penguins at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is definitely one of Fort Wayne’s top family attractions. And, the Zoo has special tours, called “VIP Experiences” that allow you to get a behind-the-scenes look at specific animals. You get to choose one of four animal experiences: Penguin, Giraffe, Stingray, and Orangutan.
Each tour has very specific guidelines that you’ll want to check before you gather a crowd together. For example, to have the Orangutan VIP Experience, children need to be 8 years old and up. The tour group can only have a maximum of 4 people, but you will be able to watch zookeepers feed the orangutans and demonstrate training behaviors. (Sorry, visitors can’t feed the orangutans simply because the animals are so strong, they could hurt you.)
If feeding animals is your thing, then check out the Giraffe, Stingray, or Penguin Experiences. Again, there are some very specific group size limits for these events, so check out the Zoo’s web page here for the details.
For your own safety, the Zoo asks VIP visitors to wear closed-toe shoes (no flip flops) and to follow safety procedures, like wearing gloves or handwashing, carefully. Prices for each experience vary, from $99 per person (Orangutan) to $39 (Stingray). Tours meet, rain or shine, but some of them are done indoors. The Giraffes, for example, are seen in the giraffe barn, so you should be able to stay dry if it is raining. The penguins live outside, so that one is a rain or shine event. Each VIP Experience lasts 30 minutes.
Reservations for Zoo VIP Experiences need to be made at least 4 days in advance. You may register online, or call (260) 427-6800 for more information.