Need a Break From the College Grind? Take a Staycation in Fort Wayne
“Fort Wayne is a great weekend destination for my friends and I when we want to go on a fun adventure, but we don’t want to go too far.”
By Kyrsten Newlon
For college students, the weekend means time for fun with friends. And if you happen to attend Grace College (or other schools in Northeast Indiana) what better way to get off campus and explore new places than by planning a staycation in Fort Wayne?
Fort Wayne has been a prime destination for Grace College students for years. Just 40 minutes Southeast of Grace’s campus, the city offers a variety of shopping, food and drink, and fun opportunities college students enjoy on the weekends.
“Fort Wayne is a great weekend destination for my friends and I when we want to go on a fun adventure, but we don’t want to go too far,” says Kali Aten, a Grace student.
Over the years, Fort Wayne has evolved from a mere fun place to hang out into a hub of innovative businesses, creative connections, parks, and shopping centers. Many Grace students flock to Glenbrook Square Shopping Mall and Jefferson Pointe when the weekend rolls around.
But it’s not just the shopping that provides students a break from classes and homework. It’s also the Fort Wayne Dessert Trail, the abundance of coffee shops, and the activities, like Crazy Pinz glow-in-the-dark bowling or LazerX arcade and laser tag.
Students have also enjoyed watching Fort Wayne change and transform over the years. The city’s downtown has many new projects, like a Riverfront park. Brand new local restaurants and shops are popping up frequently in cultural districts like The Landing, too.
“The new developments downtown are huge for a city like Fort Wayne,” says Abi Holmes, a Grace student and Fort Wayne resident. “I really think it’s things like that are helping Fort Wayne grow and bring people together.”
Josie Ladig, a second-year Grace College student, calls Fort Wayne home, too. On a typical weekend afternoon, she enjoys exploring her hometown’s near-downtown areas.
“There are lots of fun things to do in Fort Wayne,” she says. “Go to the mall, try new coffee shops, visit old friends, or go roller skating! Sometimes there are festivals, concerts, hockey games, basketball, and baseball downtown.”
As Ladig drives over downtown Fort Wayne’s Martin Luther King Jr. bridge, and weaves into the city center, she points out Parkview Field ballpark, home of the TinCaps, whose opening day in 2021 is May 4.
“The ballpark is a really great place that brings people together,” Ladig says. “I love going there with my family and friends to see the fireworks. Sometimes, we can hear and see the fireworks from my house.”
She also passes the beautiful Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory gardens, which you can glimpse from the streets.
“I did my senior pictures at the gardens,” she says. “It’s kind of like art exhibits, but with flowers.”
Her first stop today is at Firefly Coffee House, where she enjoys the kind service, good conversation, and colorful photo-op mural on the side of the building. Firefly’s menu spans from velvety lattes and cappuccinos to unique breakfast sandwiches.
“It’s really beautiful both inside and outside the Firefly,” she says. “It’s such a nice, relaxing place to be that’s different from what’s in Winona Lake. Sometimes, you just need to get off campus, and this is a great place to go.”
Nextdoor to Firefly, Ladig takes a turn around the Health Food Shoppe, a locally owned market she frequented with her mom when she was younger.
“They have great healthy, natural, and vegan options for students who are into that,” Ladig says. “They also have gluten-free and dairy-free foods.”
Ladig then drives over to Glenbrook Square to explore Target and Barnes and Noble. After shopping, she finishes her day at Chick-Fil-A, a common place to find many Grace students with a Fort Wayne appetite.
“If you’re like me and you love Target, this one is the closest to Grace,” she says. “In the mall, it’s really fun to throw pennies into the fountain and ride on the carousel.”
Ladig says it’s not hard to find boba teas, good food, and frozen yogurt all over Fort Wayne, too.
“For a college student like me, it can be nice to get away from the stress and busyness of school,” Ladig says. “Not only is Fort Wayne the place that I grew up and lived my entire life, but it is also a place that has a neat history, beautiful art, and fun things to do.”
“There are a lot of unique shops I probably don’t even know about yet,” she says. “And most notably, we just got a Trader Joe’s.”
Ladig’s day reveals but a sliver of the escape that Fort Wayne offers to college students. For more ideas of things to do in the city, check out this list of 9 things to do in downtown Fort Wayne if you’re under 21, or better yet: Explore the city, and create your own agenda.