By Neal Manning
Remember last year when you shelled out $35 a night to the dog kennel? And the heartbreak of that forlorn face and pleading eyes as they dragged your furry friend away to the dog run? Remember how that imprint on your brain haunted you again and again throughout the vacation?
Well, partner, don’t go down that road again. This year, the dog days are here. Both of you are going to hit the road for the beach!
First Stop: Santa Cruz, California
Photo by Matt314 via Wikimedia Commons
Santa Cruz has a reputation as a counterculture, surfing city. Since hippies and surfers both usually have a dog in tow, rest assured you’ll receive a hardy welcome. In fact, the Bay Front Inn (starting at $65 per night) will greet you with dog treats and have a doggy bed all made up. It’s centrally located, near downtown Santa Cruz, where you can take your canine friend window-shopping. You’ll also be within a mile of Mitchell Cove Beach and Lighthouse Field for off-leash runs. If you stay at Aqua Breeze Inn (starting at $55 per night), you’ll be near the Boardwalk with its famed Cyclone Roller Coaster. The Ocean Lodge National 9 (starting at $59) is also close by.
Local restaurants will welcome you both, too. Harbor Cafe or Windmill Cafe are both great for a hearty breakfast that will keep you running until dinner where you can enjoy a beer with your meal at Seabright Brewery or your own luau on the outdoor deck at Pono Hawaiian Grill.
Next Stop: The Dells, Wisconsin
Photo by ashley_dryden via Flickr
Smack-dab between Minneapolis and Chicago, The Wisconsin Dells offers 20 indoor and outdoor water parks to keep the kids busy. And a resort that loves kids has to love their dogs. Your canine companion will be welcomed at The Travelodge (starting at $65.44 per night) as well as Sunset Bay Resort (starting at $78 per night).
And while the kids tumble down the water slides or play mini-golf, you can stroll along the RiverWalk with the dog to marvel at the rock formations or window-shop in the artisan, antique and apparel stores in the downtown Dells. Just try to resist the mouth-watering aroma of fudge!
When it comes to adult activities, take your choice of ten 18-hole golf courses, get a spa treatment or try your luck at the slots and gaming tables at Ho-Chunk Casino.
Last Stop: Key West, Florida
Photo by eschipul via Flickr
Key West has a reputation for being an all-inclusive city, and that includes dogs. It also includes the hens and roosters that stroll the streets, so be aware, and keep a grip on the leash.
If you want to stay near all day/all night “happenings” on Duval Street, The Reach (starting at $199 per night) is one block away. The Casa Maria (starting at $199 per night) is minutes away but quieter with its own private beach. Or opt for a stay in the landmark Key West Inn at The Palms (starting at $257 per night).
Start your day with a leash-free morning run at Higgs Dog Park. In the afternoon, put the leash on, and make your way up Duval Street, people-watching and window-shopping, until you end up at the Key West Aquarium where you both will be welcomed.
Dog-friendly mealtime choices are plentiful since many restaurants allow well-behaved dogs on their outside decks. Blue Heaven, a free-spirited eatery in the Bahama Village district offers vegetarian and Caribbean cuisine, but be warned, your pup will have to put up with their resident free-roaming cats and chickens. If you think they’re too much for your pal, mosey on over to the outdoor tables at New York Pasta Garden and enjoy seafood and Italian cuisine.
Key West has recently instituted an ordinance that requires permits for eateries that allow dogs, so do call ahead and make sure they have theirs.
And when the trip’s over and you’re heading home, isn’t it nice to know you won’t have to stop at the kennel?
Neal Manning runs a dog-sitting business out of his home, and enjoys picking up freelance work on the side and hanging out on his back patio.