Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Fort Wayne, IN

  • Published 2022/11/29

Bordered by Ohio and Michigan and nicknamed the City of Churches, Fort Wayne the county seat of Allen County, with a 263,886 population as of the 2020 Census.

Established in 1794 by the U.S. Army led by General Anthony Wayne, the city was named after him after the American Revolutionary War.

It was incorporated as a city in 1840, featuring many old-world architectural styles, museums, historic parks, and trails,

These tourist attractions, many recognized as National Historic Landmarks, are open to the public without a fee.

If you’re going to the Midwest, here are the free things to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Admire the Gothic Architecture of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Exterior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Nagel Photography /

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the oldest parish church in Fort Wayne.

Erected in 1860, the church’s structure was built in Gothic Architectural-style with elaborate stained glass windows from Munich, Germany.

The church has seen several renovations but has maintained its old-world architecture over the centuries.

Interior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Nagel Photography /

Father Julian Benoit, a native of France, was the main fundraiser to build the church, which he named the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, honoring Mary, the Blessed Virgin.

If you’re up to seeing this marvelous architecture, head to Calhoun Street.

The cathedral was also designated a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Altar in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Nagel Photography /

See the Vietnam War Memorial Wall

One of the most-visited spots in the city is the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, which bears the names of the fallen heroes who served the country.

The Vietnam War Memorial Wall is a 360-foot replica of the original Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

The wall is the highlight of the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum in Fort Wayne.

You can find the memorial on O Day Road.

Browse the Artworks at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art

Exterior of Fort Wayne Museum of Art

Momoneymoproblemz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On Thursdays, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., the Fort Wayne Museum of Art provides free access to its art collections and exhibits.

The museum houses almost 5,000 sculptures, paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings that reflect and define American history.

Here you’ll see the works of notable artists such as Janet Fish, George Inness, Alma Thomas, Mark di Suvero, and more.

It also has special archives and collections of five 20th and 21st centuries artists.

Sculpture garden of Fort Wayne Museum of Art

Momoneymoproblemz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These artists include Dennis McNett, Robert Kipniss, Steven Sorman, Katja Oxman, and David Shapiro, who are all masters of their own craft.

The glass art is a highlight and is not to be missed!

Formerly an art school in 1897, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art was established in 1921 and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

It’s located in downtown Fort Wayne off East Main Street.

Wander through the Fort Wayne Public Art Trail

The Fort Wayne Public Art Trail hosts hundreds of public artworks, from larger-than-life murals to sculptures and other art installations.

You can get a free digital pass on your phone to guide you with your exploration throughout downtown Fort Wayne.

It may take a day to explore, but if you’re out of time, check out one of the most notable artworks, such as Convergence at Promenade Park.

On West Berry Street, you can visit the 77 Steps at night to see hundreds of hanging tubes filled with colorful lights.

The City Council established the Fort Wayne Public Art Trail in 2018.

Kickstart Your Day Strolling around Promenade Park

Aerial view of Promenade Park

Nicholas J Klein /

Fort Wayne offers plenty of Instagrammable attractions you can’t find elsewhere, including Promenade Park.

A crowd-favorite feature is the Tree Canopy Trail, which has amazing views of the St. Mary’s river, the park, and nearby areas.

Opened in 2019, the park also has a beer garden, swings, fountains, sculptures, ping-pong tables, and a pavilion where live music and events are held.

Boardwalk trail at Promenade Park

NayaDadara /

Taking a walk on the historic 1884 Wells Street Bridge at the park is not to be missed!

It’s worth noting that the Whipple truss bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Promenade Park is located on West Superior Street.

Go Window Shopping at the YLNI Farmers Market

Popular in Fort Wayne, the YLNI Farmers Market is a producer-only market with vendors making or growing their own products.

You can find locally owned and produced fresh fruits and vegetables, handcrafted items, local artwork, baked goods, drinks, and more.

The YLNI Farmers Market is located on East Berry Street at the Olde East End Building during the winter season.

In the summer season, it’s stationed at Barr Street Market adjacent to the History Center off Berry and Barr Street.

Children’s activities and live entertainment are also available if you’re not keen on buying local products.

Hike up the Rivergreenway

A bridge at Rivergreenway

Abhijitsathe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re up for a scenic outdoor excursion, head to Rivergreenway, offering fun and exciting hikes and bikes.

The linear park spans 25 miles long, following the rivers St. Joseph, Maumee, and St. Mary’s, which connects to Wabash & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

You’ll be amazed by the breathtaking views of the rivers, with native plants, woodlands, and wildlife to keep you entertained.

Bicycle ride along Rivergreenway

Momoneymoproblemz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rivergreenway was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2009.

You’ll see kids rollerblading or simply taking leisure walks.

The trailhead in Fort Wayne is located in Shoaff Park on St. Joe Center Road.

Learn about Your Roots at the ACPL Genealogy Center

One of Fort Wayne’s jewels is the Genealogy Center located at Allen County Public Library (ACPL).

The center’s trained genealogists will help you find or learn about your ancestors through its millions of record collections.

There are thousands of family histories, military records, Census records, city directories, Native American and African-American records, and more.

What makes it more fun and interesting is that their services are free!

How cool is that?

Ask a genealogist, and he will help you create customized research tailored to your needs.

You can visit the Genealogy Center at ACPL main off Library Plaza.

Visit the Historic Allen County Courthouse

Exterior of the Historic Allen County Courthouse

Roberto Galan /

The Allen County Courthouse is one of the historic structures in Fort Wayne that helped define and shape the city today.

The 1897 courthouse was built in Beaux-Arts architectural style, a French architecture that became prevalent in the 1830s.

Designated as National Historic Landmark, the courthouse offers free personal walking tours to learn about the building’s history.

Admire and take a snap of the structure’s murals, different kinds of scagliola, art glass, and bas-reliefs.

Dome of the Historic Allen County Courthouse

Nagel Photography /

There’s also a tunnel connecting the courthouse to the City-County Building across the street.

The historic Allen County Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

You can find it on Calhoun Street.

Building details of the Historic Allen County Courthouse

Frank Romeo /

Soak up Nature’s Beauty at Lindenwood Nature Preserve

Head to Lindenwood Nature Preserve to experience Fort Wayne’s unmatched beauty of nature.

The preserve covers 110 wooded acres with four marked hiking trails.

These trails are adorned by foliage and incredible paths with bridges and benches.

You’ll spot wildlife-chipmunks, birds, squirrels, turtles, deer, frogs, and fish.

There’s also an open-air pavilion and picnic areas.

Pets are not allowed at the preserve to protect the wildlife.

Many locals and tourists rave about the park’s fall-season foliage, which offers breathtaking autumn colors you shouldn’t miss.

Lindenwood Nature Preserve was founded in 1974 on Lindenwood Avenue and became an official Fort Wayne park in 1987.

Explore Fort Wayne’s Historic The Landing

Exterior of The Landing

Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

A mecca for entertainment, arts, and history, The Landing is a vibrant and lively site for locals and tourists.

The historic district in downtown Fort Wayne is the first city center of activities in the 1800s.

It’s where the city’s first-ever hotel, theater, and post office were located.

This historic corner has been revitalized with modern commercial spaces, landscapes, benches, and other new fixtures.

A building at The Landing

Smallbones, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, the old-world architectural buildings remain intact and are preserved with utmost care.

Stroll around the district and discover new restaurants, apartments, boutiques, and public art.

Different public events are available every first Friday of the month from May to October.

The Landing is located at West Columbia Street.

Bike, Hike, or Paddle throughout Fort Wayne’s Natural Areas

For outdoor enthusiasts, this free activity will get your hearts racing!

You can paddle, bike, or hike throughout Fort Wayne’s beautiful natural areas by getting a free outdoor pass on your phone.

The outdoor pass provides access to select attractions, boutiques, shops, restaurants, and more, offering redeemable discounts and deals.

Through this mobile outdoor pass, you’ll get a chance to explore and discover Fort Wayne’s over 100 miles of trails and rivers.

You’ll see beautiful wetlands, parks, and nature preserves and enjoy fun activities in the water!

The outdoor pass is a joint project of Fort Wayne Trails, Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation, and Allen County Parks & Recreation.

Take the Kids to Allen County Public Library

Interior of Allen County Public Library

Nagel Photography /

The Allen County Public Library houses a huge collection of books and hosts fun board games for kids to enjoy.

The 367,000-square-foot library also features the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, which exhibits the different artworks of local artists in Fort Wayne.

There are also music CDS and a free movie night for everyone, especially for the little kids!

Established in 1895, Allen County Public Library has 13 other locations in Fort Wayne and in Allen County.

You can find the main branch on Library Plaza.

Step into the Garden of Roses at Lakeside Park

Garden and flower enthusiasts have made Lakeside Park their go-to spot for relaxation and sightseeing.

The park houses over 2,000 rose plants with 150 varieties in a unique, beautifully made sunken garden.

There’s also a fishing pond and a nice playground for kids.

A walking trail is also great for leisure walks, with nearby picnic tables for lunch or snacks.

Lakeside Park also hosts special occasions, such as weddings and birthdays.

In 1928, the sunken garden was named a National Rose Garden.

Lakeside Park was established in 1912 on Lake Avenue.

Step Back in Time at the Historic Old Fort

Exterior of the Historic Old Fort

Momoneymoproblemz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To learn about history, visit the Old Fort, which features re-enactments and demos from the 17th and 18th centuries.

It also offers guided tours and open grounds for exploring and learning more about the city’s past.

The monthly special programming is also not to be missed.

Log structures at the Historic Old Fort

Momoneymoproblemz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll the grounds and interact with soap makers, woodcutters, candle makers, and more.

It’s a perfect spot for traveling families, especially those with kids in tow since there are games for kids too.

The historic Old Fort is a reconstructed 19th-century military fort on Spy Run Avenue.

Final Thoughts

Fort Wayne’s top-notch attractions include historic districts, a strong art foundation, and amazing nature trails.

These tourist spots prove that the city offers fun activities at no cost.

Have a blast by trying these free things to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana!

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