According to Kristin Guthrie, director of marketing for Visit Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne is an ideal location for families. “Everything we do is built around family,” she says.
For example, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, though it has children in the title, is designed to give visitors of all ages a quality experience. “It’s built with the concept that everything should be doable and enjoyable from a child’s perspective. Every exhibit you can totally enjoy from the height of a child or a child in a stroller, which is really wonderful,” she says. In addition, each section of the park has a hands-on activity and a ride—the Australian Adventure section, for example, offers the opportunity to pet a stingray and take a log ride.
“You have the opportunity to get out of your stroller and let (the kids) stretch their legs,” says Jessa Campbell, marketing and communications coordinator for Visit Fort Wayne. “You don’t have to just look at an exhibit, you get to experience it.”
Another family-centered activity in Fort Wayne is Parkview Field, home of the minor league baseball team the TinCaps. “It’s $5 to sit on the lawn and the ballpark has a climbing wall with a splash pad—very family friendly,” says Guthrie. “And the price makes it very easy for families to enjoy being outside in the environment there, whether or not you’re a baseball fan. They were rated No. 1 fan experience many years in a row.”
Families can also enjoy being outside while in Carmel. The Waterpark at Monon Community Center in particular encourages families to have fun in the sun.
“When you drive up you think, ‘Wait a minute, this is a city waterpark?’” says Nancy Heck, director of community relations and economic development for the city of Carmel. The waterpark covers 3.5 acres and features a FlowRider, a surfing machine; a climbing wall that hangs over the water; a 1/8-mile lazy river; two adventure slides; a plunge slide; and more.
The Monon Community Center and The Waterpark are located within Central Park, which is bisected by five miles of trails. Heck says those trails, as well as the others throughout the region, offer plenty of opportunity for outdoor recreation. The city of Carmel itself has 195 miles of bike paths. “They’re not vehicular lanes of traffic bike paths; they are separate 12-foot paved bike paths that take you through alongside streets and sometimes the woods, so there’s a lot of diversity when it comes to that kind of bicycling. You can be as active as you want or as relaxed you want,” she says.
When you’re ready to come in from the sun you can take in a show at the Palladium. Shows come to the venue throughout the year, but something special happens there one week each year in July.
The Songbook Academy is a weeklong music intensive for students interested in Broadway, jazz and popular music. Students from throughout the country apply to the program. Those who are selected have the opportunity to train with known performers.
“National talent comes in and helps critique them (the students). In addition to Michael Feinstein (the founder of the program) they’ll bring in someone like Sutton Foster or someone who had done Broadway and television shows,” says Heck. “It’s kind of jaw-dropping that these kids get to be coached by these famous people, like Marc Cherry who did Desperate Housewives.”
Even if your child is not participating in the program, you can attend the open training sessions and see these professionals in action. On Saturday, the Songbook Academy holds a culmination performance that showcases the talents of the students to the community.
“(The audience gets) to see the kids perform and then a Songbook ambassador is chosen and then these kids get to perform in New York with Michael and across the country with him,” says Heck.
Indianapolis also hosts many events that are fun for art-loving families. This summer, Newfields—the
rebranded Indianapolis Museum of Art—will be home to “Summer Wonderland: Spectacular Creatures.” About 500 animals, created by Italian art collective Cracking Art out of recycled materials, will roam the 150-plus acres of the museum.
“There will be like bears picking apples in the orchard, crocodiles down by the canal and you’ll see cool and unique things. You can climb on them and you can play on them,” says Nate Swick, communications coordinator for Visit Indy. “The whole thought process behind the rebrand was making art accessible for everybody because art doesn’t have to be just in the museum.”
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has recently welcomed a new exhibit, though its exhibit is a permanent new addition. Called the Sports Legends Experience, it spans 7.5 acres on the Children’s Museum’s campus. The addition has 12 outdoor sports zones, from basketball to car racing, and three indoor exhibits.
“The whole purpose is to get people outside and to get people moving, and kind of curb obesity and get the world active again. So, everything that you’re doing has some kind of active element,” says Swick.
For example, the car-racing section features an Indy 500-inspired oval track with pedal cars and the basketball zone includes hoops of all sizes, from 3 feet to 10.
While Swick says that all zones have something for all ages, he says one of his favorite zones was the golf one.
“Pete and Alice Dye are obviously very world-famous golf course architects and there are quite a few
golf courses across Indiana and Ohio, but then also exotic courses all across the world. They actually came in and picked some of their favorite holes from the courses they designed and re-created them into mini golf. It’s not putt-putt that you would see with clown faces and windmills and that—it’s actually more like minigolf so it’s just like the actual holes but a much smaller scale,” says Swick.