24 hours in Fort Wayne with Matt Kelley

Name: Matt Kelley

Age: 45

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dad; principal at One Lucky Guitar, Inc.; mandolin at The Legendary Trainhoppers; booking at The B-Side; bootcamp instructor at YMCA

How long have you lived in Fort Wayne?

Born and raised; only left for college!

What do you enjoy most about living here?

I love being part of the solution and helping create things, instead of moving somewhere and consuming what’s already been made.

What would you do with 24 hours in Fort Wayne?

Where to stay: If you can’t find a friend of a friend’s couch to surf on in the 46805 Lakeside neighborhood, I suppose I’d recommend the new Hampton Inn in the heart of downtown. From there, you can easily walk to…

Expert tip: Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot, to rent a bike for your stay. Better rent a lock, too—that bike is how we’re getting to all of the rest of my recommendations!

Fort Wayne Outfitters is located at 1004 Cass St.

What to do:

Start the day at the Central Y in a group exercise class at 6AM. The Central branch is THE great melting pot of Fort Wayne. Come one, come all—the community at Central is contagiously uplifting, and there’s something here for everyone.

Conjure Coffee is my local and serves the best coffee in the city—in a fantastic environment, with an awesome staff. The place is always abuzz with community, ideas, inspiration, and caffeine. (Great food menu, too.)

Drew Getz works behind the sleek Modbar setup at Conjure Coffee.

Next up, my kids and I are heading to Promenade Park—wanna meet up? (Woah, check out that awesome Riverfront Fort Wayne branding, too!) Promenade Park is full of spots to get active and find adventure, but it’s also the perfect place to sit and listen to a podcast and watch the river flow. BTW: it’s great in the winter, too.

Riverfront Fort Wayne's Promenade Park opened in August 2019.

Let’s cross the Wells Street iron bridge; we gotta get back to Outfitters. It’s my favorite shop in Fort Wayne—full of unique apparel and gear, bikes and boats, gadgets and gifts—and Outfitters also manages the kayak rentals that launch from the north dock of Promenade Park. Get out on the water and experience nature and the peacefulness of being outside, right in the urban core. The staff is super-friendly and helpful, making sure the experienced and the curious alike feel confident on the rivers.

An Instagram photo by Fort Wayne Outfitters is on the cover of the Northeast Indiana Lookbook.

After that, we’re riding a couple miles north to Franke Park, home to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, a few awesome playgrounds and pavilions, the outdoor Foellinger Theatre, a beautiful lake and—well, nevermind, we’re not here for any of that. We’re here for the 10 miles of incredible mountain bike trails. With several options for difficulty, these trails are both scenic and action-packed. (Oh, and if you didn’t rent a mountain bike, no worry—the trails are great for a hike, too.)

While we’re at Franke, we’ll meet up with Team NeighborLink; a bunch of those folks are out to breathe in the crisp air. Team NeighborLink stages super-unique rides and running events around the community, and is an offshoot of NeighborLink—an organization that connects people and groups who want to lend a helping hand, with members of our community who are in need. NeighborLink projects range from clearing gutters to replacing roofs; let’s roll our sleeves up, take one on and make a difference.

Team NeighborLink hosts a summer short-track mountain biking and XC run series called, Hot Laps.

On the way back downtown, let’s stop at Hop River Brewing in the Wells Street/Riverfront district. Hop brews awesome beers—check out the Lasers in the Jungle IPA (and bonus points if you know where the name comes from)—and has a great food menu, including quite a few vegan and vegetarian options. Hop River amazingly straddles being both kid-friendly and the perfect spot to kick off a night-out-with-friends-without-the-kiddos. 

Hop River offers locally brewed beers, food, and games.
After dinner, you should do something you’ve never done before. Get 10 percent more curious. I’m positive that Arts Campus Fort Wayne is gonna have something going on; some kind of collision of dance, theatre, cinema, gallery and workshops that you can get lost in. Or, you might shoot down to Wunderkammer on Fairfield—still ride-able from downtown—where we’re bound to find an emotionally moving poetry reading, experimental and immersive pop-up performance or avant-garde gallery installation.

The Brass Rail is a popular haunt in the Fort Wayne music scene.

How’s that one song go…”What a day for a night,” right? I feel it. On our way back into town, let’s stick our heads into the Rail and see who’s playing. Alongside with a few newer clubs in the area, The Brass Rail is Fort Wayne’s home of live, original music—from rock ‘n’ roll to hip-hop, Americana to punk rock, with two or three acts on an evening’s bill and touring bands most nights of the week. I kinda like who’s playing tonight, so I’m gonna hang for a bit; if you’re not feeling it, you can head back to Conner’s Rooftop at the Hampton.

(Don’t stay up too late, though! We gotta be to the Y tomorrow at 6.)

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