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|Amber Brooks • 4/11/18|
The Short Version: From enjoying a concert to kayaking on the water, many memorable dates can be had in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Because this town near the Michigan and Ohio borders is so affordable, visitors can fill up their weekends with desserts, carriage rides, and the ballet, among other unique activities. With new restaurants, hotels, and bars opening, now is the time to immerse yourself in this friendly, romantic city.
Planning romantic getaways and special dates can get expensive. Match.com conducted a survey and found singles spend about $1,600 a year on dates. And anyone in a relationship knows date nights and trips don’t end once the commitment begins.
A solution is to head to a place that’s not a top metropolitan area but is still sure to help you relax, reconnect, and create memories. Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a city that fits the bill. Located close to the Ohio and Michigan borders in the northeast section of the state, — Fort Wayne may be the second-largest city in Indiana, but it’s filled with that famous Midwestern charm and hospitality.
Fort Wayne’s history dates back to more than 200 years, when Native Americans honored the spot for its location at the crossing of the St. Mary’s, St. Joseph, and Maumee rivers. By the early 1800s, the state had built the Wabash and Erie Canal, and the high canal route earned Fort Wayne the nickname Summit City. You’ll feel high above it all here — with trails, events, and a date-ready downtown that’s romantic, fun, and easy on the wallet.
Downtown Fort Wayne is filled with delicious dining options and a robust nightlife that’s ideal for couples looking for romance. Bourbon Street Hideaway lets you dine by candlelight, while Tolon, described as an industrial-chic American eatery, has an ever-changing, locally sourced menu.
After dinner, satisfy your sweet’s sweet tooth at one of the many dessert spots. DeBrand Fine Chocolate lets you try locally made chocolates, caramels, truffles, and ice cream sundaes. Hetty Arts Pastry — with apple fritters, cakes, and macarons — is another downtown favorite. Those yummies can also be found at Conjure Coffee and Ted’s Market.
Ready for a cocktail to keep the evening going? Club Soda features live music on its two-story outdoor patio to go along with its craft cocktails, and Wine Down lets visitors select pours of vino from temperature-controlled machines. Pro tip: Head upstairs and grab a spot to cuddle on a couch.
Fort Wayne has a number of live arts performances from music to ballet to comedy. A must-see spot is the historic Embassy Theatre — with its ornate interior and schedule of fun musicals that will keep your toes tapping throughout the entire date night.
For exquisite symphonies, try the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, which dates back to 1924 and features 44 professional musicians. To take in a night at the ballet, look to the Fort Wayne Ballet — the only professional ballet company in the entire state of Indiana.
If you prefer a more casual night, you’ll find many places to enjoy live music. Check out The B-Side for an intimate venue size (it seats just 75 people) or Columbia Street West for an acoustic set. Want to simply kick back and drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon? The Brass Rail is the number-one seller of the cans in the entire state and has lots of live music on the schedule. Live comedy is huge here, too. Calhoun Soups, Salads, and Spirits (the locals call it CS3) is where you want to go for some belly laughs.
Starting at just $35 for half an hour, you and your lover can be pulled by a Draft horse through downtown Fort Wayne. A number of companies offer carriage rides, and all of them provide warm blankets for cuddling in the chilly nights. Another cool activity is ice skating; Headwaters Park turns its pavilion into a rink every winter.
For super outdoorsy folks, breathe in the floral beauty of the Lakeside Park & Rose Garden, which blossoms with colors after the winter thaws. Plus, Fort Wayne’s rivers turn into your own personal playground when the two of you rent kayaks for the afternoon. Beginners and intermediate paddle trails are available.
And, of course, Foster Park is 255 acres that’s ideal for picnics and golfing. While you’re here, why not stop by the Bridal Glen at the park?
While it’s certainly romantic to plan individual outings and dinners together, it’s also fun to mingle with the locals at some of the events that take place happen in Fort Wayne. Be sure to check out the farmers market at Parkview Field. It’s located indoors from November to April, and then it moves to Barr Street during the warmer months.
As the weather warms, the festivals begin. In early June, Germanfest 2018 is a week-long celebration that honors German heritage and “essen, trinken, und gemütlichkeit,” which translates to eating, drinking and having a great time. In July, it’s time for the annual Three Rivers Festival, which draws half a million visitors for live music, plenty of vendors, and — like everything in Fort Wayne — low costs.
Other fun events include BuskerFest at the end of June, which fills the streets with unique and interesting performers, and the Grabill County Fair in the fall, which honors the simple culture of the local Amish population.
It’s always a great time in Fort Wayne, and there’s more coming down the pipeline.
Officials are working to recreate the Tree Canopy Trail, an elevated boardwalk about 20 feet above the water that’s a perfect place to stop for a kiss. Also in the works is a $30 million renovation of Columbia Street with a project known as The Landing.
You already have a lot of nice places to stay, including the Marriott and the Hilton, but Provenance Hotels is currently partnering with the co-founder of Vera Bradley Designs to open a premium boutique hotel in downtown. New restaurants, shops, rooftop bars, and nightlife venues should be opening soon, too.
It’s all to keep the romance — and your budget — alive and well.