Fort Wayne is Indiana’s second-largest city, but its dining, drinking, and partying options are first-rate all the way. You can tour a few breweries and make your own beer, take in the scenery along the rivers, catch some great concerts, and much more. Whether you’re spending a weekend or you’re a lifelong resident, here are our favorite things to do in the Summit City.
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The name’s not so inviting (it comes from a ditch behind the microbrewery), but there’s no arguing with the product. In addition to about a half-dozen house-made beers, there’s a long roster of “guest” beers from other craft makers. And because you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach, it serves brunch, lunch, and dinner, with menu items such as venison gnocchi and wood-fired chicken thigh.
Calling this place a “record store” is like calling Jimi Hendrix a “guitar player.” The shop specializes in old and new vinyl, plus the high-end audio gear necessary to get the most out of those pressed petroleum discs. The store also buys record collections, plus gently used audio gear, if you’re trying to declutter.
On July 8-9 the Fort Wayne Museum of Art gets dozens of local, regional, and national artists to draw elaborate works of chalk art on Downtown streets and sidewalks. Held in conjunction with the city’s sprawling Three Rivers Festival, the annual Chalk Walk draws more than 20,000 onlookers. However the most entertaining stuff happens on July 7, when you can watch those same artists racing the clock to complete their work in time for the show.
This establishment keeps 40 beers and ciders on tap, and serves its own food at an adjoining restaurant, The Hoppy Gnome. But if you want a truly unique drink, the kind souls here will let you brew your own. Pick a style, and Gnometown supplies the recipe, ingredients, a personal fermenting tank, and advice from brewers, and ultimately bottles or kegs of the finished product. You go home with 7.75 gallons of beer with your own custom label.
Ever craved iced cookies that look like members of The Avengers? Or a cake shaped like R2-D2? These folks offer both, and a lot more. The staff riffs on pop culture (try the Pokémon-themed Pika Chews), plus offers a long lineup of totally original, sugar coma-inducing wonders. The best is a buttercream-frosted spice cake with an entire sugar cream pie baked inside. It’s appropriately called the Hoosier Heart Attack.
Old Crown’s been roasting its own beans since 1999, and sells its wares by the cup or by the pound. There’s also a dine-in restaurant with a wine and spirits menu, wraps, sandwiches, soups, and snacks available to go.
Imagine a microbrewery in a college apartment and you’ve nailed the vibe at Trubble. It’s got tin ceilings, brick walls, a foosball table, Wednesday trivia contests, live music, and a collection of house-made brews with names like ScWHEATY Shorts, Dog Slobber Session IPA, and Clusterfact APA. The menu is equally innovative, and also full of weird names. Try the Kimcheese fries, hand-cut fries with homemade beer cheese and kimchi, the Jean Claude Van Damn! Brussels sprouts, and the Aporkalypse tacos.
It’s rare enough for a place to do one thing well, but the Dash-In does three. It’s a bar that serves a curated selection of beers, ciders, and meads from 23 rotating taps (plus another 50 or so bottle selections). It’s also a restaurant offering scratch-made, pub-style food, and a coffee bar featuring brews made with locally sourced Old Crown beans. You can’t go wrong with the grilled cheese or pub burger.
It’s only been around for a couple of years, but this farm-to-fork eatery has already gained a massive following. Everything is made onsite (even the vegetables are canned there), and the long list of artisanal cocktails always offers a few delicious surprises. The menu changes constantly, but you can always get the McGolden, a two-patty burger on a honey bun with fermented cucumbers, beer cheese, and Dijonnaise.
The ninth edition of this combination bike ride/pub crawl takes place June 3, when 2,000 riders saddle up to visit about a dozen local bars and pubs, most of which offer drink and food specials to participants. Proceeds from ticket sales go to veterans groups, so you can burn calories and down some beers for a good cause.
Like any good superhero lair, DCBS is easily overlooked. But behind its nondescript storefront lurks a vast collection of comics, graphic novels, and collectibles. The store is the sole brick-and-mortar location of DCBS, which is one of the nation’s leading mail-order comics distributors. There's also a coffee bar, but whatever you do, don’t spill on the merchandise.
Housed in an old train station, the locally owned Depot is a one-stop shop for non-car transport. You can rent bikes, kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards, then either put in at the St. Marys River next to the store or peddle the approximate 8 mile St. Marys Parkway, which is also right next to the store. There are guided kayak tours for rowers of all experience levels, as well as a deluxe pontoon tour, which comes complete with food such as buffalo chicken tacos, sushi, marinated mushrooms, and Italian roulades.
This brick storefront on Fort Wayne’s south side may be tiny, but Bravas has some big ideas about burgers and hot dogs. It butchers, cures, and grinds the locally sourced beef, and also offers a wide range of tube steak options, including the Snoop Dog, a bacon-wrapped Vienna frank dressed with aioli and smoked Gouda.
Authentic dive bars don’t get much more legit than this. The ownership figures the place has been around for maybe 60 years, but no one’s really sure. Open 24/7, even on Christmas, the Brass Rail serves up drinks and live music from local, regional, and national touring acts. The clientele is a mix of hipsters and blue-collar guys from the neighborhood sipping blue-collar domestic brews.
Staged June 23-24 by Fort Wayne-based musical equipment dealer Sweetwater Sound, GearFest is the largest free-admission music trade show in the country. Part tech confab, part concert series, it draws about 10,000 fans and professionals with everything from artist performances to workshops. If you have a guitar (or mandolin, for that matter) you can get it expertly restrung for free.
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Sam Stall lives and writes in Indianapolis, but also makes it to Fort Wayne from time to time. If you find yourself there, he strongly recommends trying the McGolden.