The bison has been named the national mammal of the United States. It’s fitting, since it is estimated that 30 to 60 million bison lived in North America in the 1500s before huge slaughters took place as settlers moved westward. The bison was near extinction, down to about 300 head nationally before a handful of ranchers captured orphaned calves and began raising them. Today the population has grown, with bison found in national and state parks, as well as several private herds being raised for food. I toured the Broken Wagon Bison Ranch in Hobart, Indiana, where I learned more about bison and had a chance to meet the herd up close and personal.
Whenever we stumble across a lighthouse, I have to take a photo. There’s something romantic about lighthouses, perhaps the beacon of light welcoming sailors into a harbor or warning them of hazards. Maybe it’s the romanticizing of the keeper’s job, as backbreaking as it was. Or maybe it’s just that the splash of color—often red—against the blue of the sky and water makes a great scenic photo. Having taken the photo of the beacon that stands at the end of a pier in Michigan City, Indiana, we were surprised to find the light keeper’s house, the original Michigan City lighthouse. Refurbished, it’s now a museum run by the Michigan City Historical Society. We visited the museum earlier this year and came away with several fascinating facts about the lighthouse and the city during our self-guided tour. Here are 13 of them:
Just 15 miles from Indiana’s second largest city, traffic slows to a horse and buggy pace, stepping into stores is like stepping into yesteryear, and Friday night entertainment is a cappella singing and yodeling. Grabill, Indiana, unlike other Amish towns, isn’t filled with overpriced specialty shops. Instead you’ll find simple shops with old-fashioned appeal. On my short visit, I browsed through a general store, an antique mall and flea market, and a coffee shop, all housed in buildings that have stood for more than a century.
Since the Souder family purchased what is now the H. Souder & Sons General Store in 1907 to start a harness shop, the building has been home to 24 different kinds of business, including a jail, a bank and a gas station.You’ll be taken back to your childhood—or maybe your parents’ childhood—in the store where nostalgic signs advertise candy that you may not have seen, let alone tasted, in years, like Zagnut candy bars or Chuckles sugar-coated jelly candies. Goods are displayed in the crowded shop on wooden crates, in bushel baskets and in barrels. Young and old are invited to sit and play a friendly game of checkers.
On hot summer days enjoy a refreshing cold bottle of soda.
The Country Shops combines 100 vendors in an antique mall, indoor flea market, and art gallery. Browse all the nooks and crannies of the two floors of for unique items.
The Coffee Cabin, housed in a log cabin built in 1791, offers an assortment of coffees and teas, treats like cherry pie cookies and banana bread, and soups and sandwiches.
Other businesses in Grabill include restaurants like Nolt’s Amish Restaurant (reservations required) with family style, buffet or menu dining. On Friday evenings, listen to Amish a cappella singing and an Amish yodeler. Visit the Amish Brass Shop for Amish made decorative items, a country store where you can purchase bulk dry foods, and a farm market that sells produce and Amish cheese and butter.
You can fill at least a half day in Grabill, or if you slow down to a horse and buggy pace, you can stretch it into a full day.
Grabill is located 15 miles northeast of Fort Wayne, about a half hour drive. Note that many of the shops are closed Sundays.
Disclosure: My visit to Grabill was hosted by Visit Fort Wayne, but any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.
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The first thing I noticed about Science Central is color, bright colors in what reminded me of a mad scientist’s playground with giant yellow tubes and red hooks and a crazy looking red bicycle contraption on a rail overhead. At first glance you wouldn’t recognize Science Central as a museum. In fact, Martin Fisher, Executive Director, said he doesn’t like to think of it as a museum either, since museums are so often about looking and reading but not touching. The hands-on exhibits at Science Central are meant to teach by doing, and adults are as welcome to participate as kids.
On the High Ride Bicycle, balanced by a counter weight below it, you are strapped on to the bicycle before you take a ride around a rim high above. The safety net, we were assured, has only been necessary to catch items that have fallen out of pockets.
One of the newest exhibits is Science on a Sphere, a six-foot diameter sphere that seems to float in mid-air and changes from the moon to Earth to other planets like Jupiter or Mars, all in vivid color. Invented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a research tool, you can see the Earth’s storm systems projected real-time onto the sphere.
A separate area, Kids Central, includes fun activities for kids ages 2 through 7, like a water table, giant keyboard and indoor playground.
What better building to house Science Central than one that was originally a power plant? The 70,000 square foot 1929-era former City Power & Light building seems the perfect venue, with its high ceilings and rustic brick walls. Even the exterior seems appropriate, with smoke stacks rising from the roof painted in bright colors.
Science Central, located at 1950 N Clinton Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is open Wednesday through Sunday (and Tuesday during the summer). Check the web site for hours and admission rates. Note that some of the exhibits follow an exhibit schedule, which you’ll receive upon admission.
Disclosure: My visit to Science Central was hosted by Visit Fort Wayne and Science Central, but any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.
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When I first heard the name, I thought the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo might be a small petting zoo. But a petting zoo couldn’t be 40 acres in size with over 1,000 animals, including lions, tigers, zebras, and giraffes. It wouldn’t attract more than half a million people each year, and it certainly wouldn’t be rated “Indiana’s #1 Gotta-Do Summer Attraction.” I quickly discovered the zoo isn’t just for kids. It’s as fun for adults as for children.
What’s more intriguing than watching a glassblower? Trying glassblowing out for yourself, like I did at The Glass Park in Fort Wayne, Indiana.