Just east of Fort Wayne, New Haven is a city that owes its early development to the Wabash and Erie Canal, which linked the Great Lakes with the Gulf of Mexico as early as the 1840s.
Before long the waterway was succeeded by the railroads, and you take a peek at the area’s marvelous steam heritage at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society in the countryside to the east.
Today, New Haven is a small city with a compact but inviting downtown, furnished with mom and pop stores, a handful of great restaurants and a gorgeous little park that becomes a stage for festivals, markets and music in summer.
In downtown New Haven you can also access a greenway network that leads you along the riverbank to Fort Wayne, six miles to the west.
1. Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society
From the mid-19th century railroads were the lifeblood of Fort Wayne, eventually linking this city with every major urban center in the country.
Just east of New Haven, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society rekindles that spirit with steam excursions and open houses all year round.
The showpiece here is the Nickel Plate Road 765, a Berkshire-type locomotive built in 1944 at the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio.
Since the society was founded in the 1970s, this wonderful piece of machinery has been restored to working order, attracting more than 3,000 visitors a day when operating at events across the Eastern United States.
You can also check out the repair shop to see long-term restorations of vintage railroad equipment and chat with the volunteers about their work.
2. Rivergreenway Trail
A National Recreation Trail stretches across the Fort Wayne Area along the Maumee, St. Joseph and St. Marys Rivers.
Adding up to 25 miles, the Rivergreenway Trail has a kind of cross shape, with pathways meeting by the confluence next to downtown Fort Wayne.
In New Haven the trail runs along the bank of the Maumee River, beginning by the pond/creek at Moser Park before crossing to the river’s north bank and winding by the water in the shade of deciduous trees.
There are three miles in total in New Haven, and you can track your progress with labeled mile markers.
3. Broadway Street
If you’d like to get a taste of downtown New Haven you won’t need to stray far from this north-south thoroughfare ending in the south at the picture perfect Schnelker Park.
In just a few blocks, Broadway Street packs a real diversity of businesses. You’ll come across a bicycle repair store, a jeweler, an antiques/collectibles store, a ladies’ fashion boutique, a couple of homewares stores and an old-fashioned butcher.
For food and drink there’s a choice of bars and pubs, as well as a bakery, cafe, popular BBQ joint (Smokehaus) and the acclaimed Rack and Helen’s Bar & Grill, which we’ll talk about below.
4. Schnelker Park
Head south on Broadway Street and you’ll soon come to the delightful Schnelker Park, essentially New Haven’s town green.
This idyllic green space has tall hardwood trees, a newly renovated pavilion, a gazebo and a surprisingly large playground for children to be active. Being so close to downtown, the park hosts plenty of events, especially in the summer.
June means Canal Days, and as this festival has grown, a lot of elements like the food tent and main stage have been located in Schnelker Park.
On Wednesdays in July, this is the setting for Music, Market and Munchies, integrating live music at the gazebo, a farmers’ market and a choice of area food trucks.
5. Jury Pool
A staple of the school summer break in New Haven, the pool at Jury Park is open from Memorial Day Weekend to the beginning of August.
Serious swimmers out for some exercise can hit the lap pool, while kids here for fun will love the leisure pool, which has zero-depth entry.
Also on hand is a choice of slides and a spray ground area with a giant tipping bucket. Jury Pool can be rented for parties, and you can also reserve individual lanes or the pool-side pavilions.
6. Kreager Park
Across the Maumee River, northwest of New Haven, Kreager Park is an expansive recreation space in the care of Fort Wayne’s parks & recreation department. Purchased in the mid-1960s, the park is on what used to be a potato farm.
Since the 1990s these 170+ acres have been turned into a haven for outdoor recreation, packed with amenities.
These include lighted baseball/softball diamonds, tennis courts, soccer fields, outdoor fitness equipment, soccer fields and a stretch of the Rivergreenway.
For children there’s the excellent Boundless Playground, designed to be completely inclusive for all abilities. Complete with a splash pad, the playground features Alpha, Beta and Gamma “pods” for children aged 2-5, 2-12 and 5-12.
This small chain of authentic Italian restaurants is exclusive to Northeast Indiana and was born right here in New Haven. The original Salvatori’s opened in 2006 at a unprepossessing spot next to a gas station.
This restaurant seats just 48, but has become a local phenomenon pulling in people from all over the Fort Wayne area.
Three more locations have now opened to cater to the crazy demand. A unique feature of Salvatori’s in New Haven is the open kitchen, allowing you to walk right up and check out the fast-paced operation inside.
Menu picks include the cavatelli & sausage, the baked ziti and the hand rolled manicotti with ricotta and fresh herbs.
8. Rack and Helen’s Bar & Grill
A veteran on Broadway Street, Rack and Helen’s has been open in some form for half a century.
Since 2000, this spot has emerged as a major hangout for New Haven locals and people from neighboring communities, turning a small bar into a spacious restaurant with a state-of-the-art kitchen and screens on every wall.
What you get here is satisfying comfort food in generous portions, with attentive service. The house specialty and perennial best-seller is the gigantic sausage roll, closely followed by the pulled pork dinner and tenderloin sandwich.
There are more than 20 beers on tap, and regular live music adds to the atmosphere.
9. Whispering Creek Golf Club
By the Maumee River in the north of New Haven is a public 18-hole, par 72 course that first opened in 1967.
When we wrote this article, Whispering Creek Golf Club had recently been purchased by a group of investors, introducing improvements like a new pond, new tee stations, new maintenance equipment and GPS golf carts.
The signature hole is the par 5 17th, with a fairway divided by a creek that feeds the Maumee River and a narrow, figure 8-shaped green. To warm up there’s a driving range at Whispering Creek, as well as a clubhouse with a grill and pro shop.
10. Moser Park
West of Broadway Street near downtown New Haven, Moser Park is a quiet patch of woodland, perfect for walks in nature.
Here you’ll find the New Haven trailhead for the Rivergreenway. The trail weaves through a clearing in the woods, taking you past a pond with benches and a fishing pier, along with a welcoming picnic shelter and a Nature Center, which opens for educational programming in spring, summer and fall.
Although Moser Park is primed for passive recreation, there are amenities for baseball/softball, disc golf and basketball.
11. Bell’s Skating Rink
Many people who have grown up in the New Haven area have fond memories of this family-friendly skating rink, which is a go-to for birthday parties.
Bell’s has an all wood surface kept in good condition, as well as a DJ booth that plays music for all ages and tastes. If you’re bringing kids here there are also packages for snacks and drinks.
On weeknights you’ve got Adult Jam on Tuesdays, for grownups only, $1 Night every Wednesday, while on Fridays there’s Roll-N-Glow with blacklight and a disco vibe.
12. Jury Park
The pool is the main attraction at Jury Park, but following renovations there’s a variety of other facilities that keep the park busy outside of the pool season.
For families with younger children, the playground is top notch with brand new equipment and a safe astroturf surface.
There’s also a set of four tennis courts here, and these can be adapted for pickleball, while the new pavilion can be rented for picnics and special occasions.
Also relatively new at Jury Park is a picturesque rain garden, built with a grant from Walmart to help clean and reduce surface water.
13. Wabash Railroad Depot
Just past the south end of Moser Park is another piece of railroad heritage at the old New Haven Station.
This gabled, one-story wood frame building was raised in 1890 by the Wabash Railroad and has ornate Stick Style/Eastlake movement details.
The opening of the station was a milestone in New Haven’s history, arresting the economic decline that had set in since the closure of the Wabash and Erie Canal.
The station closed in 1964 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. After decades of decay the depot was restored to its former glory about a decade ago by the New Haven Area Heritage Association.
14. New Haven Canal Days Festival
New Haven’s big annual party is a five-day event around the first weekend in June.
Celebrating New Haven’s place on the old Wabash and Erie Canal, this festival has a history that goes back to 1958 and has come through a lot of changes in the last 70+ years.
Since the 1980s Canal Days has been set in downtown, with activities in Schnelker Park. On a normal year the schedule includes a ton of entertainment on the Main Stage, as well as a car show and cruise, arts & crafts booths, an exhibitor tent and food tent.
Saturday is the final day, with a grand parade along Park Avenue and all kinds of fun activities for kids.
15. Fort Wayne
Downtown Fort Wayne is never more than a 15-minute drive to the west of New Haven, putting a multitude of attractions and experiences in easy reach.
At the confluence of three rivers, this city is a treat to discover on foot or by bike, with more than eight miles of riverfront trails.
Downtown, the Arts Campus is a constantly expanding cultural destination home to institutions and venues like the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, the Auer Center for Arts & Culture and the Arts United Center.
Kids will be thrilled with the world-class Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, ranked among the top zoos in the United States, while the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory is a stunning oasis in the heart of the city.
In summer be sure to catch a game at the modern Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, who are the San Diego Padres’ minor league affiliate.