Recently, the City of Fort Wayne issued a survey asking what everyone’s favorite place is in Fort Wayne. Whispers stirred in the office—”Did you take the survey?” “What’s your favorite place in Fort Wayne?” “You have to be able to narrow it down to one!” “But what about that place?”
It caused quite the sweeping controversy. Until one day, we decided, enough is enough! Everyone must commit to a favorite place, and we’re going to document it and share it with the world.
It was a great exercise for us—having to commit to (at least, somewhat) one favorite place in writing. And we’re proud to share some of our favorite places with you!
The Italian Connection
If you’ve never eaten a homestyle meal in an Italian grandmother’s basement, this place offers the chance. It’s small, cozy and has all kinds of homemade pasta and authentic Italian food. In the back room, the cook/owner/chef? will come out and sing Italian karaoke complete with flashing disco lights. I recommend reservations at “table two”—it’s a four-top tucked in a nook surrounded by shelves of wine bottles.
Downtown Fort Wayne
I know it seems trendy or generic, but I’ve been a fan of #DTFW for a long time. Before it was cool, even. I was a lucky kid whose parents both worked downtown. I have a ton of childhood memories downtown. As a kid born in 1981, I wonder how many others can say that? (In high school, most of my friends had never been downtown.) I’ve watched my favorite place in Fort Wayne flourish, grow and transform from a place where no one went after 5 PM Monday through Friday (if at all) to a bustling burst of energy at most any time during the day or any time in the week. I love all of the activity that has transpired. That people from the ‘burbs come downtown for fun more now than in the past 50 years. That it’s so hard to decide where you want to eat or what you want to do downtown on the weekend. That at even $1/hour, parking is still ridiculously cheap! (Meters are free on nights and weekends, people!) I love bringing out of town guests (or even friends who moved away after high school) downtown to experience the excitement. I love downtown Fort Wayne!
The Maumee Pathway (of the Rivergreenway)
Sometimes on a weekend, I like to go biking and hit this trail at North Anthony and take it east to New Haven. On a nice day, there’s a lot of great scenery and it’s a way to get a breath of fresh air within the city.
I have to admit, I think some of this stems from my severe emotional attachment to Middle Waves. But the more I think about it, the more I’m sure that it’s bigger than that. I’ve seen Headwaters Park flipped on its head for a billion other events, and it’s always special—being in a park downtown, surrounded by the rivers and hundreds of other people. Watching the lights on the Martin Luther King Bridge change. Standing in the middle of the east side of the park, looking at the skyline. There are events down there every week of the summer—the other one that makes me fall for the park is the Living Fort Wayne Concert Series. But even without the events—Headwaters is a beautiful park, and to stand in the middle of it when it’s empty, look around and remember the hundreds of unique experiences you’ve had in the space—that’s just as magical.
Hole number six at Cherry Hill Golf Club
So, I’m pretty happy when I am on any golf course anywhere, but this hole is particularly fun. It’s a short par-3, with an island green. It’s only a short shot, usually a 9-iron for me, but with the green surrounded by water, it gets your attention. Playing with mates, and when beer is involved, the stakes only go up. But when (if) you pull the shot off, for a moment at least, you feel like a pro. I played it recently with my father-in-law and my nine-year-old son—who managed to hit the putting surface on his third attempt (the first two only just fell short). I’m not sure who was more proud, but there were first-bumps, high-fives and smiles for days.
The Crosswalk at Calhoun
Boy, I went all over the place with this one. The topic really made me take note of how much I love this city and the awesome ways I get to spend time with family and friends, coworkers and bandmates, or alone.
Anyway, my favorite spot is probably midway through the Calhoun crosswalk on the southern side of Berry. Twas there, back in May 2006, when we were able to work with the Downtown Improvement District’s then-chief, Dan Carmody, and YLNI on an every-Friday-for-four-weeks block party series called the Wayne Calhoun Troubadour Series. For the first event, we booked a rowdy and raucous band I had seen in a dive bar in Nashville, TN a few weeks earlier, called The Avett Brothers. My own band, The Trainhoppers, opened. There was Mad Anthony microbrew in the street, the then-brand-new Pint & Slice serving slices out of a portable cart, hipsters and families alike with jaws agape.
It ended up being a quintessentially beautiful summer night, and though its features were things we could take for granted now—a national act on its way up, supported by a scrappy local performer, food trucks and craft beers—on that night it honest-to-God felt like being on another planet.
For me, personally, this was the night and the spot where I realized Fort Wayne was a place where the wildest, most unlikely ideas could become reality, if you worked hard enough, stayed positive, and courageously stuck your neck out.
Oh, a few years after that, The Avett Brothers sold out their performance at The Embassy Theatre (which they’ve now played twice), and performed “Maggie’s Farm” on The Grammy Awards alongside Mumford & Sons and the guy who wrote the song, Bob Dylan. You may remember it; it’s the one that goes, “I try my best to be just like I am / but everybody wants you / to be just like them / they sing while you slave / I just get bored…”
Fort Wayne City Streets during the hours of 6 AM-8 AM and 6 PM-8 PM
I like to bike to work. It’s fun, it gets you stoked for work, and it’s a great way to stay in shape. If you hit the streets during those hours, traffic will be light and you’re most likely going to have a solid sunrise all to yourself. See you out there!
My favorite place to be is the open and vast outdoors. I can’t really pick one specific location, but being close to nature and corn fields has always been a deciding factor in my life. I chose to attend college in the Midwest. I refused to take a job in Chicago even when all things pointed in that direction. I’m committed to commuting to work each day so my kids get to experience the same childhood I had. Some people think I’m crazy, but I get rejuvenated taking long car rides down country roads. I’m proud to be a country girl working in our beautiful city.
My favorite place in Fort Wayne is the Arts United Center, and not just because it’s historically significant or has world-class performances. Being in the space makes me feel like I’m in a giant city, it makes me feel super fancy and, of course, inspired. There’s more to it than just being a beautiful building, though. It feels alive somehow. It’s hard to describe, but walking around seeing the costume shop abuzz, the scene painting in action, the kids being hushed before the curtain goes up…it’s energizing and is my fave spot because of how it makes me feel.
The Cedar Creek area is one of my favorite parts of Fort Wayne. At Bicentennial Woods, just a few minutes north of town, you can get outside and explore the trails and terrain along Willow Creek. (If you’re going in the summer time, don’t forget the bug spray.)