I used to live in northern Indiana, and we always went to Fort Wayne for those quick day trips when we wanted something to do, and spending the day in tiny Syracuse, Indiana just wasn’t that interesting to us.
The problem with living so close to Fort Wayne is that it’s hard to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, because we always assumed, “oh, we’re so close, we’ll do that another time.” It was sort of like the New Yorkers who have never visited the Statue of Liberty. And now that we live in Indianapolis, getting up to Fort Wayne is more of an extended adventure. And it’s one I thought we were overdue for.
So I called my friend, Kristen Guthrie, of Visit Fort Wayne, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. She made a few recommendations, set us up with a few passes and tickets, and we were on our way.
Our first stop was Crazy Pinz, a bowling alley/arcade center/bar & grill on the northwest side. We used to like bowling as a family, and we hadn’t gone in a while, so this was going to be fun. The great thing about showing up in the middle of the week (gotta love home schooling!) was that we had the entire place to ourselves.
One thing bowling alleys have done over the last few years is made the between-frames video vignettes more entertaining. So the kids liked watching the screens to see what goofy cartoons would show up depending on how they bowled. And the younger kids got to use the bumpers, which helped them keep the ball out of the gutter and let them have some fun. We had pizza for lunch, and a pitcher of Diet Coke. It wasn’t a big pizza, but we knew we were going to have a big dinner later, so it was enough to hold us over. (Of course, for a family of 5, it’s tough to get enough pizza to keep everyone happy.)
This is a bowling alley for kids. This ain’t your daddy’s bowling alley. While there are leagues and nights for the adult bowlers, this is a place your kids will love. There are video games galore, and even a blacklight mini golf course that was just fun to walk through. We didn’t get a chance to play, which is alright, because if we had tried, we would probably still be there.
Crazy Pinz is at 1414 Northland Boulevard Fort Wayne, IN 46825. Call (260) 490-2695 for more information.
El Azteca Mexican Restaurant
We’re Mexican food fans, and so we’re a little picky about the Mexican food we get. But we were assured by several people that we would love El Azteca. And they weren’t wrong. El Azteca is authentic Mexican food, and some of the best we’ve found in Indiana.
They also offer outdoor seating, which we were quick to accept. Because we showed up a little early, we thought the place wasn’t going to fill up. But it turns out everyone just had to get out of work first. We got there by 5:30, and at 5:45, the tables started filling up. And since we had to go to the Tin Caps game that night, we couldn’t linger. We mentioned something to our server, and she made our food got out there quickly.
I had the chimichanga which I thoroughly enjoyed. I always judge a Mexican restaurant based on their chimis, and I was more than pleased with this one. We also loved the tortilla chips and salsa they served before the meal, and we were told they make both the chips and the salsa. Some places buy their chips and warm them up so you think they’re freshly made, and their salsa comes from big jars. Not El Azteca.
The rest of the family also ordered their own favorites, and we all agreed that this was some of the best Mexican food we’ve had in a while, and we were more than pleased with what we got. While we always like trying new places, the next time we’re in Fort Wayne for a visit, we’re going back to El Azteca.
El Azteca is at 535 East State Boulevard, east of where Clinton and Spy Run merge. Take I-69 to Lima Road, head south, and then turn left on State Blvd.
Fort Wayne Tincaps
I love baseball, and will do just about anything to see a live game. Turns out Fort Wayne loves baseball too, as evidenced by the loyalty the city is showing its beloved Tincaps. Parkview Field, which is located in downtown Fort Wayne, is as good looking and well-appointed as any major league park. I’ve been to more than a few AAA and MLB parks, and Parkview Field is right up there with some of the biggest moneyed parks out there.
In fact, in 2011, Parkview field was ranked as the #1 ballpark in all of Minor League Baseball (that includes all of the AA and AAA ballparks too), and the #13 venue in all of professional sports. That’s including the NFL, NBA, and NHL too.
Even if you don’t like baseball, it’s still worth visiting just to enjoy the facilities, the crowd, and the food. They even have gluten free for those of you who can’t enjoy a regular hot dog or pretzel during the game.
There’s just something nostalgic about watching a baseball game, especially a minor league game. When you watch major league baseball, you’re there because those are the guys you see on TV. Those are the names you hear on ESPN. But watching a minor league game means you’re there because you love baseball. This is where dads take their kids to teach them the love of the game. When you were a kid, this is where your dad took you. And you cheer lustily for your team, even if you don’t know the names of all the players. (But with the giant TV screen out in right center field, you’re going to learn them easily enough.)
Sadly, this night, the baseball gods did not smile on the Tincaps, as they fell to the South Bend Silverhawks, 3-2. But even so, it was still a good time, and the Tincaps fans and players took the defeat with grace, because while the game was important, the night was beautiful, the weather was cooperative, and everyone was relaxed after a cool evening at the ballpark with family and friends.
Courtyard by Marriott
At the end of the game, we walked back to the downtown Courtyard by Marriott, which is situated right next to the ballpark. If you’re visiting from out of town, be sure to book a room or two at the Courtyard. For one thing, you’ve got your parking situation taken care of — just park in the garage when you check in, and walk everywhere downtown. Then, you don’t have to fight for, or pay for, parking before the game.
But more importantly, the rooms and beds are comfortable, it has all the amenities, and if you can manage an upper floor, you get a great view of downtown. We could see the Botanical Gardens from our room, but managed to catch a glimpse of Parkview Field from the windows at the end of the hall (check the last photos from the Tincaps slide show above).
The Courtyard is geared primarily toward the business traveler, but if you have older kids (my youngest is 9), then they’ll be comfortable there as well. They don’t need to be entertained as much, although there is a pool available — my wife took the kids to the pool after the game, and they loved it. Besides, you’re going to be visiting the city and doing stuff outside the hotel, so it’s not like you have to entertain your kids every minute of the day.
Chances are, by the time you get back to the room that night, they’ll be so worn out, they’ll go right to sleep after a little TV.
Day 2 in Fort Wayne was spent at the Botanical Gardens and the Zoo, before heading back home.