Family Fun and History in Fort Wayne and Springfield

By Marcia Frost

Summer may be “officially” over, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for some family fun, whether you are looking for afternoon activities or an easy getaway.

Springfield Amusement Park

Knights Action Park in Springfield closed their waterpark this weekend, but they still have plenty to do through October, from 9:00 am-10:00 pm. It’s a good way to keep the kids occupied on a free evening or a school day off.

The park has a paratrooper ride, a Ferris wheel, and rides for little kids, as well as an arcade inside. If you want to get a little exercise, there are batting cages, a driving range, and an 18-hole Putt Putt golf course.

The most fun at Knight’s Action Park is the Go Kart Racing Track. It’s something kids and adults can do together and a little different from what you see at carnivals and small amusement parks.

Even though it may seem too early, consider buying a season pass early for a big discount. You’ll only pay $89.95 now per person and you’ll be covered for the water park, rides, and more for May-October 2018, plus you’ll ride free for the rest of this year.  Purchase it through the website and use code summerfun18 at checkout.

Check Out Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne is just a few hours’ drive from Central Illinois. This Indiana city is often forgotten when planning a trip, but it shouldn’t be. They have some unique and interesting things for the family to do – without spending a lot of money.

Fort Wayne is a very walkable city. We stayed at the Courtyard downtown and could walk just about everywhere. It’s a nice, up-to-date hotel with a restaurant and bar attached, and a coffee shop inside. Rooms are a good side with free wi-fi and refrigerators. It’s also next door to the TinCaps Minor League Baseball Park if you go during the season.

We had breakfast a short walk away at Cindy’s Diner. It’s a small, old-fashioned diner that features local favorite, Murphy’s Donuts. It’s very inexpensive. The motto on the wall says it all, “We can serve the world, 15 at a time.”

From there, it’s just a couple blocks to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. They have some interesting exhibits here, including one on Contemporary Photography. We were especially interested in the glass exhibits. They are even have the official display of the International Glass Invitational Winners here. We saw some really beautiful pieces of art and jewelry.  

Tolon is a local farm to table restaurant. Owners Nicki and Matt, the chef, use fresh local ingredients and pay attention to every detail in their food and cocktails, which Nicki takes charge of. She had just put together a fantastic homemade blueberry vanilla shrub for martinis when we were there.

The small plates are hard to choose from. We had the Burrata with Caramelized Beet Jam, the Duck Fat Fries, and the Deviled Eggs. They were all excellent.

Dinner was also delicious. Corn is the vegetable in season and was used as a pesto in the Cavatelli Pasta, in a succotash with the Diver Scallops, and in a relish with the Chery Cola BBQ Pork Chops.

Desserts were rather unusual. I didn’t really care for the Sweet Corn Ice Cream, but my friends loved it.  The fruit cobbler was perfect with bourbon brown sugar ice cream and the Chocolate Cream Pie in a mason jar was good to the last drop.

Desserts were served with French press coffee and unique teas. Make sure you get a reservation in advance for Tolon. It’s a small restaurant and they do book up.

My favorite place in Fort Wayne is actually free. The Genealogy Center is a one of a kind collection of information from around the country, and around the world, that can help you piece your family history back for generations. Everyone there is very helpful in leading you to everything from birth, marriage, military and land records through hundreds of years.

You’ll also have complimentary access at the Genealogy Center to programs such as to lead you through the process. Once you are done with all your research, you can send it to them in manuscript form and they’ll make a free bound book for you, and one to keep on the shelves if future family members are doing research.

All four of my grandparents came from different countries and I just got started on information that included records from the European spots they came from, as well as ship documentation and their arrivals on Ellis Island.

We didn’t make it to the Botanical Conservatory, Children’s Zoo, or Firefighter Museum, but did stop by the outlet shopping at Jefferson Pointe, where there is a Vera Bradley Store. Fort Wayne is the home of Vera Bradley and they have a big warehouse sale every April.

Before we left town, had lunch at Granite City, which is a restaurant and brewery. They have a big selection of beers, with a little for everyone.

The food is also good. If you are really hungry, there’s a Big Show Burger: a half-pound steak burger, IPA braised pulled pork, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, and onion straws on a pretzel roll.

We had the Broad Axe Stout-Braised Short Rib & Portabella Flatbread.

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