Fort Wayne, Indiana may be a small city, but it is home to a wide variety of wheelchair accessible attractions, which include museums, cultural activities, a world-class street art trail, public parks, and one of the best zoos in the United States. Whether you’re planning to visit Fort Wayne for one day or a few, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, all detailed in this guide to accessible tourist attractions in Fort Wayne.

Visit the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is a one of the top-rated zoos in the United States, featuring over 1,000 animals and numerous interactive exhibits. Covering 40 acres, it is divided into themed areas such as the African Journey, Australian Adventure, and Indonesian Rainforest. The zoo offers immersive experiences, including giraffe and stingray feeding, the Z.O.&O. Railroad and an accessible carousel, making it a fun and educational outing for all ages.

Wheelchair accessible paths and boardwalks throughout the zoo leave no area off limits to disabled visitors. Shaded canopies provide respite from the elements during the warmest months. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is a certified sensory inclusive facility registered with KultureCity. Designated quiet zones, headphones and sensory bags are available to benefit children and adults with sensory disabilities. The zoo has also produced a social story to help prepare disabled visitors for their visit.

The zoo is filled with some of the world’s most beautiful animals, including the African Lion, Capuchin Monkey, Giraffe, Hyena, Kangaroo, Orangutan, Red Panda, Reticulated Python, Serval, Tiger and so many more. This is no small zoo — it’s a treasure!

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has a number of activities beyond animal watching and giraffe feeding, one of which is the Z.O.&O. Railroad, a miniature train that takes guests on a 10-minute ride. Although the ride does not pass any of the animal enclosures, it’s a fun experience that is wheelchair accessible. One car on the train has a wheelchair securement space and an accessible ramp. I enjoyed the ride, and it was great to see this accessibility investment.

To learn more about accessibility at the zoo (including information about wheelchair and scooter rentals) or to purchase admission tickets, visit the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo website.

Research your family tree at the Genealogy Center

America’s largest publicly accessible Genealogy Center is located in the heart of Downtown Fort Wayne at the Allen County Public Library. The $65 million state-of-the-art facility employs professional genealogists, each with a different area of expertise. There is no cost to visit the center, and staff are on hand to assist visitors with their research. Experts help search for answers utilizing the seven largest digital genealogical databases and what is among the largest physical collections of genealogical records in the world, organized by state.

During my own visit to the Genealogy Center, staff helped me overcome a road block in my research and gain answers to one off my family’s most important questions — who are our ancestors, and when did they arrive in the United States? I detailed the incredible story in my blog post, Sailing in Steerage and a Love Story for the Ages.

The Genealogy Center alone is enough of a reason to visit Fort Wayne, and the city attracts many travelers whose sole purpose is researching their family trees. To learn more and to plan your trip, visit the Genealogy Center website.

Explore the universally designed Promenade Park

Promenade Park is the first phase in a dramatic development dubbed Riverfront Fort Wayne, that reimagines the banks of the St. Marys River at the edge of downtown.

Park seen from across the river.

The park features a picturesque riverfront promenade, lush green spaces, a tree canopy trail, interactive water features and an amphitheater for live events and performances. The floating docks serve as a kayak launch and a boarding platform for the Sweet Breeze, Fort Wayne’s authentic canal boat replica that takes tourists on a sightseeing adventure.

My pictures don’t do the park’s beauty justice, but take a look at this exciting marketing reel produced by local performers for Riverfront Fort Wayne:

What really sets this park apart isn’t its incredible location or exciting features, but its high level of accessibility. Promenade Park is one of the most accessible public parks in the United States, and that’s because the principles of universal design were embraced from the start. In addition to the accessibility features everyone expects like ADA accessible family restrooms, gradual sloping paths, and accessible seating, Promenade Park has gone far beyond the minimum ADA standards with a long list of accessibility adaptations.

Promenade Park has become a gathering place for Fort Wayne residents and visitors alike — whether you’re just taking a stroll on the elevated tree canopy trail, relaxing on the Auer Lawn, or buying an ice cream from Carmelita’s Ice Cream Truck, you’ll do it alongside others who are drawn to what the riverfront has to offer! To learn more, visit the Riverfront Fort Wayne website.

Visit the Fort Wayne Museum of Art

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is a cultural gem showcasing a diverse collection of American art. It features contemporary and historical works, rotating exhibitions, and a dedicated children’s gallery.

Sculpture inside an art gallery with paintings displayed on the walls.

Museum galleries are designed to be accessible to disabled visitors, and pieces are spaces to provide ample space for wheelchair users to safely maneuver. The museum’s educational programs, lectures, and workshops are open to all members of the community.

The museum’s permanent Glass Wing is the star of the show, and displays pieces from a collection of more than 400 glass sculptures from renowned artists including Harvey Littleton, Erwin Eisch, and Dale Chihuly. Some pieces are simple, while others are intricate, some small, others large — each is an example of spectacular artistry in what is one of the most difficult mediums to conquer.

FWMoA has made a strong commitment to accessibility, investing in automatic doors, zero-threshold entrances, free-to-use rental wheelchairs, portable seats for use in the galleries, and ASL interpreters with advance notice. To learn more about the museum’s collection and upcoming exhibitions, visit the Fort Wayne Museum of Art website.

Tour Fort Wayne’s downtown street art scene

The Fort Wayne Downtown Improvement District’s Art This Way program has invested in a “non-traditional public art gallery,” which has introduced murals painted by diverse, internationally-acclaimed artists to the streets and alleyways of Fort Wayne.

The volunteer-led Art This Way organization acts as a liaison between property owners in Downtown Fort Wayne and artists who enliven the city with their thoughtfully crafted murals. Alexandra Hall, manager of the Art This Way Program and an accomplished artist in her own right, took me on a walking tour to introduce me to the city’s vibrant street art scene.

Among my favorite pieces are those featured in the gallery above, which include:

Fort Wayne’s largely accessible streets and sidewalks made getting around the downtown core to see these and other pieces easy enough, and it made for an enjoyable afternoon — basking in the fantastic weather while wandering a seemingly never-ending parade of incredible artworks.

Alexandra Hall and the Art This Way program have brought many fantastic pieces of street art to Fort Wayne, but they have also inspired a movement as other artworks, unaffiliated with Art This Way, are popping up all across the city. Fort Wayne has become a destination for street artists and fans of street art, and you’ll find murals around just about every corner!

To learn more, visit the Art This Way website. For more information about Alexandra Hall, check about her artist website (where you can buy her paintings!), or her company’s website, AH Public Spaces Consulting. Visit Fort Wayne also maintains a map of Fort Wayne public art.

Play adaptive sports at Turnstone Center, a Paralympic Training Facility

Turnstone is a non-profit organization with the stated mission of empowering “people with disabilities to achieve their highest potential by providing comprehensive services and programs.” In addition to providing a full suite of therapy and social services for children and adults, Turnstone has established itself as a leader in adaptive sports.

The organization’s Plassman Athletic Center is a state-of-the-art facility that features a 75,000 sq. ft. fieldhouse with four collegiate-sized basketball courts and a six-lane indoor track. An adaptive water recreation center is also available onsite. Turnstone is one of 9 official Olympic & Paralympic Training Sites in the United States, and it serves as the training location for competitive adaptive sports teams including wheelchair basketball, power soccer, and the internationally ranked U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Goalball teams.

Disabled travelers can visit Turnstone Center and use its facilities by purchasing a membership or day/activity pass, availability permitting, by contacting Turnstone in advance of their travel. For more information, visit the Turnstone website.

Jam out at Sweetwater, the world’s leading music and instrument store

Sweetwater Music Store is a musician’s paradise, since it is one of the largest music retailers in the United States. Though it primarily sells to customers via its website, Sweetwater’s Fort Wayne headquarters has a gigantic showroom and a publicly accessible store.

Although I am not a musician, it was fun to browse the largest collection of musical instruments, audio equipment and accessories I had ever seen, and to simply spend time in an incredible showroom surrounded by grand pianos. It felt like an art gallery.

The store also features recording studios, a performance theater, and a brilliant team of knowledgeable staff. Whether you are a music enthusiast, amateur or professional musician, Sweetwater welcomes everyone and offers itself as the most comprehensive resource on the planet. To learn more about the store and upcoming events taking place on the campus, visit the Sweetwater website.

Visit the historic Old Fort

The City of Fort Wayne’s location, near the confluence of the St. Joseph and St. Mary’s rivers at the Maumee River, made it an important outpost in the 1700s, when the North American continent was wrestled amongst European colonizers and explorers. The region saw the construction of five different fortifications between 1722 and 1815. The final fort, constructed during the War of 1812, quickly became unnecessary at the conclusion of that war, and it was soon disassembled.

In 1964, a non-profit organization reconstructed the fort based on the 1814 drawings of Major John Whistler. A volunteer organization took over management of the reconstructed fort in 2004, and is currently raising funds to rehabilitate the structure and improve its accessibility.

Gravel courtyard of historic fort.

The Old Fort is freer to visit and hosts reenactments, educational programs, and community events that bring the past to life. Visitors can explore the historic buildings and learn about the fort’s role in regional defense and trade during the early 19th century. Unfortunately, none of the buildings are currently accessible to wheelchairs, so they can only be viewed from outside. While there are paved pathways throughout large portions of the fort grounds, the central courtyard is gravel and may cause wheelchairs to get stuck.

I visited the Old Fort on the annual Education Day event, where large numbers of residents and visitors turned out to see historic military vehicles, rifle and cannon demonstrations, and reenactors dressed in period uniforms and clothing. There are unique events and reenactments held at the Old Fort each month, and you can find a schedule of events on the Old Fort Wayne website.

Get creative at a printmaking workshop at HEDGE Studios

The HEDGE is a printshop established in 2013 by Fort Wayne artist Julie Wall. With a background in printmaking and metals, Julie turns creative ideas into print masterpieces using a collection of historic printing presses.

John using a historic printing press to apply a design to a canvas bag.

Julie invites visitors into her printshop to participate in a variety of hands-on workshops that cover topics like linoleum printing, letterpress printing, needlepoint embroidery or calligraphy. During my workshop, I was able to use a historic printing press to decorate postcards, a canvas bag, and a set of drink coasters which now sit on my bartop at home. Julie made the experience accessible to me, and I was able to fully participate fully from the seat of my wheelchair. It was fun to learn more about the artistry of printing, and to take part in a unique experience that supports a local artist and entrepreneur. I was Gutenberg for a day!

To learn more about the printmaking workshops at the HEDGE, or to shop Julie’s wide array of artistic creations, visit the Hedge Creative House website.

Geek out at Science Central

Science Central is a small, interactive science museum housed inside of a former power plant. It features hands-on exhibits and live demonstrations that engage children in STEM learning.

One of the most popular exhibits is Science on a Sphere, developed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The sphere, which measures 6 feet in diameter, is transformed into planetary bodies and used as an instructional tool. Although it is not a full-scale planetarium, the exhibit inspires curiosity and a love for space exploration in a fun, engaging environment.

The museum’s exhibits are wheelchair accessible, with the exception of the Confusion Illusion Room. Accessibility features include power assist doors, an elevator to all levels, assistive listening devices and a family restroom with an adult changing table.

While the museum is open to visitors of all ages, it is primarily geared toward families with children. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Science Central website.

Visit the Botanical Conservatory

The Foellinger–Freimann Botanical Conservatory is a small facility located downtown that features diverse plant collections in three themed indoor gardens and greenhouses. Visitors can explore tropical, desert, and seasonal exhibits, enjoying the beauty of nature year-round.

The conservatory also hosts educational programs, workshops, and events, promoting horticulture and environmental awareness. Pathways throughout are wheelchair accessible. After touring the indoor and outdoor areas, stop in at the cafe for a coffee or tea. Additional information is available on the Botanical Conservatory website.