Hoosier Hospitality is plentiful in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the locals are glad to have you visit and people still actually smile at each other when passing on the street. Beyond the warm and relaxed, though, lies an eclectic wealth of unique attractions that create a one-of-a-kind getaway to the state’s second largest city. Here, five surprises that delighted us on a recent trip:
1. Cookies Upon Arrival: After the stress of air travel, it’s nice to have a friendly welcome — especially in the form of freshly baked cookies. Fort Wayne International Airport’s Hospitality Hosts hand you a free treat, of course with a genuine smile, to make travelers feel like they’re being invited right into someone’s home.
2. Forward Fashion: The Fort Wayne area is home to the Vera Bradley Design Center, where the wildly popular fashion accessories line was started. The annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale featuring deep discounts is legendary, with up to 65,000 women visiting the city for girlfriend getaways, family reunions, and shopping trips all scheduled around the five-day event. This year’s sale has already come and gone, but mark your calendars: Next year’s dates are April 13-17. $5 tickets for the first three days go on sale in February (no tickets are required the last two days, but all shoppers still must register).
3. A Great Way to Find Your Roots: The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center is the home to the largest publicly accessible collection of genealogy materials in the world. Whether you’re just starting out learning about your family background, or need in-depth research that can’t be found anywhere else, genealogists are available to assist visitors with their research at no cost. Records span collections in not only Indiana and the U.S., but global locations, too.
4. An Unbeatable Place to Rock to The Beat: Sweetwater is the largest single retailer of musical instruments and technology in the U.S., and their world headquarters in Fort Wayne is a playful destination open to the public. Bang on the drums, play a keyboard, or strum a guitar in their onsite store. The public is also welcome to explore the massive Sweetwater Platinum LEED-certified campus facilities — including free video arcade games, mini golf, a cafeteria, and a two-story slide indoors.
5. Delicious Eats: The only American location to both raise and serve the world-renowned Wagyu beef is located just outside of Fort Wayne (not San Francisco or New York). In the tiny town of Roanoke, an ex-New York Yankees baseball player started raising Wagyu cattle using traditional Japanese husbandry practices, then opened a restaurant called Joseph Decuis. In the 15 years since it opened to the public, the venue has revitalized the town and earned a AAA Four-Diamond title, among other distinctions. The best part? Fine dining at Midwestern prices means that you can get the chef’s six course meal, including some of the most expensive beef in the world, for only $95.