This is part of a series that all began with The Official 23 x 23 List for a Six-Tastic Summer, in which we try to stay sane and make the most of our days together this summer. You can read about the rest of our escapades so far here.
You know what I love about kids under the age of 10? You pack a few things in the car, drive just slightly farther than you would drive to run your various errands, hype it up a little, and voila! You've got yourself a bona fide vacation. Extra points if you can manage to stay overnight in a hotel with a pool.
We did just that the other weekend. We drove up to Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is just shy of two hours from Indianapolis. Fort Wayne is kind of special to me, seeing as how it's the city of my birth. My family moved from Fort Wayne to Indy when I was 7, but many of my first memories are of things and places there.
One of the places that holds some of the sweetest memories for me is the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. Did you know Parents magazine named it one of the Ten Best Zoos for Kids? I couldn't agree more. It's a manageable size for little people, and the parents who have to chase them everywhere. The exhibits are very open and easy to see, which means you won't be spending your entire zoo experience bench pressing preschoolers so they can see the animals. There are a few attractions that aren't included in zoo admission, but they're not overpriced. They're placed discreetly enough around the zoo that should you decide to forgo the carousel ride? Your kids will never know.
Elena's favorite: the big cats
Every good zoo needs goats
Now that I've convinced you to check the Zoo out for yourself, here are a couple of tips. If it's a hot day (there was a heat advisory the day we visited) check out the African Journey and Australian Adventure areas first. Those are the two areas with the least amount of shade. You might consider letting the kids wear their bathing suits, or packing a change of clothes. There are a few spots around the park where kids can get wet – a couple of misters and a fountain. Lastly, think about packing a picnic. There three areas where you can get lunch in the zoo (two Dairy Queens and one concession stand), but on a crowded day you'll be standing in line. If you pack a picnic, there are plenty of picnic tables right outside the zoo, all under the shade.
Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, 3411 Sherman Boulevard, Fort Wayne, Indiana (260) 427-6800
After a few hours at the zoo, we headed over to Science Central. This is a hands-on science museum located in a former power plant. It's fairly small (3 floors, with the second floor mostly made up of the ticket counter, gift shop, and restrooms), so it's not an all-day affair. Eli found an area dedicated to skateboarding, so he was all over that. He also enjoyed the tidal pool exhibit and the special play area for smaller kids. Elena got a kick out of crawling through a sewer system and the Moonwalk.
This is definitely a museum for older children. Elena, at 8 years old, was probably at the lower age range appropriate for this museum. Even at 8, there were at least two interactive exhibits that she wasn't big enough for, and she was disappointed about that. I wouldn't consider this a museum to plan a trip around, but if you're in Fort Wayne for the day, and you have older children, it's a pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Science Central, 1950 North Clinton Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana (260) 424-2400
We rounded out the day with an evening at the ball park. Fort Wayne is host to the TinCaps, a Class A minor league baseball team. Regardless of the city you live in, if you have access to a minor league team and you haven't taken your kids to a game yet? You're missing out. In most cases it's a fun, affordable outing your kids won't soon forget.
The TinCaps are no exception. Parkview Field (named after the hospital where I was born!), built in 2009, is beautiful. We had awesome seats (right behind home plate, 3 rows up), but we enjoyed walking around the park and taking in each section's view. There really isn't a bad seat in the place. Concessions are reasonably priced, and there are tons of choices. The classic standbys are well-represented, of course, but if you'd like something different or healthier, you'll be pleased. My favorite was the Apple Cart, a nod to Fort Wayne's ties to Johnny Appleseed. Any ballpark where you can get apple crisp is all right by me.
We were hoping to let the kids run around in the Play Area and to take in the fireworks after the game, but a big storm rolled in with lots of lightning. They called the game and we called it a day. With tickets as low as $5 and lots of fun promotions still on the schedule, I highly recommend catching a game before the season is over.
Fort Wayne TinCaps, 1301 Ewing Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana (260) 482-6400
We live in a great city with no shortage of choices when it comes to activities. Still, I think there's something to be said for the classic road trip, and for exploring the different corners of the state you call home. Special thanks to the Fort Wayne/Allen County Convention & Visitors Bureau for their help in planning our trip. They provided my family with tickets and accommodations, however all opinions expressed are my own.
You can see the rest of the photos from our trip here.
Do you have any corners of your state that you'd like to share? Tell me about them, and feel free to post links in the comment section. We're always up for a road trip!