Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Makes Art Accessible (To Dogs)

View of Crystal Bridges from a bridge

Art, Architecture, and Nature

By design, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art emphasizes the blending of art and nature. Carefully constructed to preserve the natural beauty of the Ozark forest, the museum’s goal has always been to make art accessible to everyone. In the case of the outdoor installations, it sometimes includes your dog!

I’d hoped this would be a post about the amazing Chihuly exhibit, with both indoor and outdoor installations, currently on display at the museum. When I first inquired about the event I was told Chihuly: In the Forest, the outdoor portion, would be dog-friendly. Then I was told it wasn’t. Then I was told it was just the Saturday night events that weren’t dog-friendly. Then on my recommendation one friend took her pup and got in, and another friend with her dog was turned away.

It quickly became clear to me that it depended on who you asked. So I went directly to Beth Bobbit, Public Relations Manager, for the official word. Because the outdoor space featuring Chihuly is currently classified as a ‘gallery’, there are NO DOGS ALLOWED. This excludes service dogs, of course; they are allowed by law.

To those of you following on Facebook, I apologize for any confusion. On with my raving review…

The good news is the Crystal Bridges trail system is made up of EIGHT different dog-friendly trails, all highlighted on their website with information about length, surface, and difficulty.

At this time, only the North Forest Trail is closed (until Novemember 13, 2017) to pooches. You can, however, catch a little glimpse of Chihuly on the Art Trail where floating orbs are installed in the pond.

Chihuly floating orbs

Chihuly on the Art Trail at Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges is situated on 120 acres and boasts over 3.5 miles of trails that include natural and landscaped environments, clear running creeks that are easily accessed for a quick dip of the paw, outdoor sculptures, and artist James Turrell’s Skyspace structure, The Way of Color.

From time to time, there are also featured exhibits and acitivies in the outdoor space- installations such as The Four Seasons by American artist and filmmaker, Phillip Haas, and family events like Artosphere– that allow well-behaved art-lovin’ canines.

It’s a wonderful way to exercise your pup, as well as, all of your senses.

To make the most of your trail experience, download the free app for Apple or Android devices. The app offers interactive trail maps, art and plant guides, and audio-tour information about many of the features of Crystal Bridges’ grounds.

Henri takes a dip in the creek

Time to cool off!

If an outdoor installation is in progress or an event is planned, check the museum website for dog-friendly info or visit the Travel Tails facebook page to see if we’ve checked it out yet. When something this cool is in your hometown, you become a supporting member and you go a lot.

TIP FOR YOUR VISIT: If you’re a first-timer with your dog, start late in the day with your walk or hike. That will allow you to visit the Skyspace as the sun sets, and as you wrap up your evening, stop at the Buckey Ball that marks the entrance/exit drive to enjoy the symphony of color and pattern that is only visable after dark. It’s one of my favorite things!

Crystal Bridges is open Saturday- Sunday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Monday 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Wednesday-Friday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. They are closed on Tuesdays but you are free to walk the trails at any time.

Where to Stay

If you’ll be staying the night in Bentonville, then 21c Museum Hotel, located within walking distance of Crystal Bridges, is where you’ll want to book your reservation. They are dog-friendly, and though their policy recently changed and dogs are no longer allowed in the bar or outdoor dining area, if you can talk someone into grabbing you a drink, you can roam the museum’s gallery space with a cocktail in one hand and a leash in the other.

A Few Other Spots

Both Crystal Bridges and 21c are located in the heart of downtown Bentonville which makes walking to some of our favorite dog-friendly establishments easy.

Be sure to visit our friends, Bobby and Paula, at Three Dog Bakery for some great treats and healthy chews. Henri’s current favorite nosh is the No Hide Chew made of bromeline instead of rawhide. Since bromeline is a natural anti-inflammatory and Henri is getting a bit older, Mommy gives this chew four paws up.

YeYo’s Mexican Grill is a food truck located in an alley across from Three Dog Bakery. They have an amazing Conchinita Pibil that you can wash down with a cold Mexican bottle Coke. You can check out all the other food trucks in the small court area across from 21c.

If it feels like beer:30 head on down the street to the patio at Pedaler’s Pub. They have fantastic pizza- the Italian is still my favorite- and local craft beer from a variety of Arkansas breweries. For wine lovers, visit Ramo D’Olivio (and grab a bottle of Lemon Balsamic -my new summer cooking ingredient obsession) or Two25 Gallery and Wine Bar. All three of these dog-friendly patios have water bowls available for thirsty pooches.

Exterior building of Crystal Bridges

Architectural detail at Crystal Bridges

For world-class art, architecture, great patio dining, and outdoor fun with your dog, there’s no place like Bentonville, Arkansas, and there’s so much more to see and do. If you’re planning a trip to Northwest Arkansas, drop us a line and let us point your paws in all the right directions!

For more photos and adventure, FOLLOW us on Instagram or LIKE us on Facebook.

Special thanks to MJW Photography for helping us tell better stories!

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Port Aransas on Mustang Island: Gone To The Dogs

Beach camping

Home Sweet Home

“It’s not Florida.”

I must’ve heard this 100 times when I started telling people about our next trip.
No, it’s not Florida. It’s not the sugar-white sand of 30A. Know what else it’s not? Over-populated!

If you’re my age you might remember Destin vacations as a kid with precious little to do but build sand castles, play in the surf, and watch your Dad chase sand crabs. If you miss or just crave that sorta thing, then pack the car and head to Port Aransas, Texas before it’s too late.

The condos are coming.

Mustang Island State Park

Relaxing on the beach

Boots off, toes in the sand.

There aren’t a lot of beaches where you can pitch your tent in the sand, build a fire, fall asleep in your chair, and awake to a gulf sunrise with waves crashing on the shore a mere 50 feet from where you slept. Mustang Island State Park is one of those places. That’s probably why you hear it referenced in songs.

Perfectly timed, we were checked in at the ranger’s station and had our tent sent up just in time for sunset and some Razorback baseball on the radio. Solo cup in hand, dog at my feet, I sat in my chair and stared at the ocean as the sun lowered itself over the dunes behind us.

This was my beginning and in the morning I’d start my next trip around the sun at the beach with my dog and one of my best friends.

I have a friend who only celebrates prime numbered birthdays and lots of people only acknowledge the multiples of five. I celebrate them ALL and tend to gravitate toward water when I get the chance. Until I turned 40 it was a month-long festival. Now, I’ve scaled back to a more respectable fortnight, but that’s mostly because I think it makes me sound educated and refined. I’ve also discovered that if I do both pre- and post- fortnight celebrations, I still get roughly a month.

After a few innings of baseball, the pinks of a gulf sunset had turned to dark blue. This would have been the perfect night for dinner on the beach but we didn’t plan for that. Reluctantly, we got back into the car to go in search of people food and a liquor store.

Please note: You are not supposed to have alcohol within the state park or glass on the beach. Those are the official rules. Also, the park gates are locked after 10 p.m. but you’ll be given the code so you can get back to your campsite if you leave.

Port Aransas

Mustang Island is an 18-mile long barrier island on the Texas coast. At the southern end of the island are Padre Island and the JFK Causeway that connects to Corpus Christi. At the northern end is a the small, funky town of Port Aransas. The park ranger had given us a map of the beach and personal drawings that led us where we needed to go in ‘Port A’.

We stopped at the liquor store first because we didn’t know what time they closed. I wasn’t expecting great things from a small island store but WOW! WB had all our favorite bourbons, several of our favorite wines (yes, Dad, they had Freakshow), and friendly, if slightly overly helpful, staff.

At what point do you say, “Dude. We drink a lot. We got this.”

Through all the friendly chatter, we did learn a new term for Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, etc. An island local and liquor store regular only drinks craft beer and refers to all others as “Peasant beer.” I’ll be using that.

After making some rearrangements in my hot pink Igloo Sportsman with the rhinestone Razorback decal, we were headed to the downtown area to a sports bar called Stingray’s Taphouse & Grill. A contact at Port Aaransas Chamber of Commerce sent me a list of dog-friendly joints and this little sports bar was one of them. I’d called to confirm if a) they were indeed dog-friendly and if b) they would put at least one of the TVs on Razorback baseball for me. I didn’t know at the time that the game wasn’t televised; they tried very hard to find it.

With multiple water bowls placed across the patio, a Golden Retriever sacked out on the floor and a little mix under another table eagarly wagging his tail, you can count on this place for dog-friendly service. It wasn’t too crowded and we could hear the solo guitar player from the patio of The Gaff, another dog-friendly bar, next door. I ordered oysters- yes, I know there’s no ‘r’ in the month of June- and Chris tried Stingray’s Makers Mark burger, a hand-patted beef marinated in Marker’s Mark bourbon. I also ordered a Bloody Mary that’s worth mentioning.

Called the Texas Pre-Game, it’s made with Absolute Limited Edition Texas Cucumber & Serrano Chili vodka and rimmed with hickory smoked sea salt. There’s no photo because it didn’t look all that special, but it’s good. This thing ought to come in a Mason jar and be bigger. Like Texas.

After dinner we headed back to our beach resort to stare at the stars and listen to the waves. More campers had arrived since our departure and right next to us was a Latin American rave club. Lest you doubt me, they had a disco ball. It was too dark to pull up camp and mover further down the beach but thankfully, with our car parked between the two camps, it wasn’t too bad.

If you ever go to Mustang Island State Park to camp, drive a little further down the beach. The camping area is a five mile stretch and the further down you go, the less people there are.

The next morning I was up early, sometime after sunrise but with the sun still pretty low in the sky. I needed coffee and I needed Chris to wake up and handle the camp stove for hot water. We had to get moving!

While in town the previous night, I noticed an announcement on the marquis.

Turtle Release
10:00 a.m. June 3rd
Maker 35

I wasn’t sure what it meant but I was sure I was gonna be there. I’d been praying to the Turtle Gods for weeks that I’d get to see a crawl while on this trip and my wish had been granted. I knew from the website that four nests were estimated due to hatch between May 30th and June 4th, but those usually happen very early in the morning on Padre and it isn’t the sort of thing you can plan to put on a marquis. No matter.

I’d asked the Universe for birthday turtles and I was getting them. Right after my coffee.

Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) rescues and rehabilitates marine turtles and birds from the coastal zone of Mustang Island and St. Joseph Island. Those that recover are released back into their natural habitat and on Saturday, June 3rd, they had 19 turtles ready to return to their ocean home, including the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle.

Removing Sargassum

Why aren’t we rolling in this?

Since leashed well-behaved dogs are allowed, we arrived about 45 minutes early to make sure we got a good spot. ARK volunteers had already blocked with caution tape a wide lane for the turtles to make their way to the ocean and bystanders were encouraged to help clear it by removing the clumps of sargassum that blocked their path. A microphone and loud speaker were set up and a volunteer was keeping us posted on the turtles’ ETA.

We all cheered to welcome the turtles when the trucks pulled up, and one by one, gloved volunteers carried the turtles from the trucks to the water with their flippers flapping ever more rapidly as they neared the drink. The volunteers made sure to let all the party guests get a good look and stopped to allow pictures and answer questions.

They saved the biggest one for last and it took two grown men to lift him from the truck to the beach. I think the intent was to let him crawl to the water himself, but when he didn’t start moving, they carried him.

Rehabilitated turtle

Rehab’ed and Ready

Large Sea Turtle

The Big Guy goes last

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henri didn’t have near as much fun as I did at the turtle party and I was once again reminded of his age. He doesn’t tolerate the crowds as well or as long as he used to and he has trouble recovering when something goes wrong or startles him (like a kid dropping their plastic sand shovel on him). Though I thought he’d be ok standing with Chris while I waded out into the ocean to watch the turtles swim away, he was completely undone and I returned to a trembling dog. Since we were blocked in by other vehicles- mostly golf carts- the best I could do for him was let him sit in the car and give him some Rescue Remedy.

By 11:00 we were getting pretty hungry, and with Henri long since ready to go, as soon as we were able, we made our way down the beach to grab some lunch.

We stopped in at The Beach Lodge, Port A’s only hotel with a restaurant and bar located on On The Beach Drive. Pet-friendly lodging with no size or breed restrictions, I’d hoped this place would be just like The Sea Gypsy Inn in Ft. Myers. The gypsies are some of my favorite people, so my expectations were probably a little high. Given the Facebook reviews, I knew it might be hit or miss, but I wanted to give it a look-see.

The bar and back patio overlook the gulf. On the side patio, where dogs are allowed, the view is blocked by dunes and you’ll have to walk through the bar to get there. No one minds or even gives much notice. The menu is basic and the service slow, but if you want a cold beer on the beach, this is the place to go. I didn’t get a chance to peek into the rooms, but I did notice that each had a window unit for air-conditioning. If four-star luxury is your style, this ain’t your place. What they call a ‘sangria’ is, as best I could tell, wine and sprite.

Oldest bar in Port Aransas

Stopped for a drink. Stayed for the stories.

After lunch we headed down town to Shorty’s Place, the island’s oldest bar. I’ve got three pages of notes on this trip and one page is full of the island history (cannibals) and local gossip (murderers and thieving rats) I picked up here. The bartender Renee was an absolute hoot and a local couple in the midst of day drinking, chimed in with their own stories.

After a particularly bawdy recap, with a cigarette sandwiched between two fingers, the woman pointed at me and said, “Don’t write that in your book!”

You’ll find that Woodford is their only bourbon, and if you order a drink with soda, they have the fancy stuff. There’s a cigarette machine, a pool table, and video golf. A sign on the wall says ‘No Children after 8 p.m.’ and I’m guessing it wouldn’t be great for dogs either.

Donations accepted

Tips for Teeth

On a shelf behind the bar sits a large, plastic jug. Seems a local resident had his false teeth stolen from his night stand by a rat and they are taking up a collection to buy him some new ones. For real. The story made The Island Moon, Port A’s free weekly paper. You should grab a copy if you’re in town!

The original owner, nick-named Shorty, was murdered at the end of the bar by some young punk, and her daughter Rose took the reins. Rose has passed on too, but her birthday is celebrated every October with the ‘Pig Party’ featuring live music, and what else but a pig roast.

 

There was at least one other ‘owner murdered’ story, a son, I think, and several stories I just can’t repeat in this blog. I’m pretty sure having your teeth stolen by a rat is the best though, and I’m equally sure that something new happens every week.

If holes in the bathroom floor, old, moldy hats on the ceiling, or inappropriate adult language and content bother you, please don’t go here and say I sent you.

I warned you.

dog sleeps on floor

Keeping one eye on the door

Our next stop was The Shops at Old Town. I happily discovered that these eight local clothing, art, jewelry and home accessory shops anchored by The Phoenix restaurant and an open-space courtyard are all owned by women. So is The Phoenix. What initially caught my eye was the restaurant and a place called Tippy Toes. They sell fitted toe rings and I’ve been looking for just the right one.

Madison is the shop dog, but she doesn’t like other four-legged visitors. If you want to go inside with your own pooch, Madi’s Mom will take her to their other shop then come back and fit you for your new toe ring.

 

The patio at The Phoenix restaurant is shaded and dog-friendly. I hopped out of the car to ask before we parked and when I returned, the hostess was waiting to show us to our table and a bus boy was standing beside her with a bowl of water for Henri. The menu is best described as Asian-Beach fusion, maybe, if there can be such a thing, and it includes sushi as well as some American dishes. Since we weren’t hungry, I had a Dark and Stormy then left Chris with his beer while Henri and I shopped. Our plan was to return for dinner, but we napped on the beach and didn’t wake up until 8 p.m. They close at 9.

In addition to beach shops and dive bars, you can find plenty of other dog-friendly things to do in Port A. Rent a golf cart and drive on the beach, take your pooch for an off-leash romp in the dog park at the Port A Community Park, go fishing and find a restaurant to cook your catch, or take a kayak, canoe, or paddle board excursion on the state park paddling trail. If you throw in a visit to the Wetlands Education Center at the Marine Sciences Institute where guided tours are dog-friendly based on group size, you’ll need more than just a weekend to really enjoy it all.

Packing Up

Our plan to spend one more night on the beach was thwarted by sketchy weather. Storms were in the Sunday morning forecast for 10 a.m. Then it changed to 8. Then to 6. I sat in my chair watching lightening flash across the horizon and pondered the wisdom of risk. I did not want to be breaking camp in a storm, but further more, I didn’t want to be in a tent if that storm got upgraded to something worse. I’d seen the photos in the Island Moon of the Memorial Day campers abandoning their vehicles and campsites to scramble to higher ground.

The only problem with our relocation plan was finding dog-friendly accomodations in a tourist town, on a Saturday night, during the first official weekend of summer. Everyone we called was friendly but booked. We ended up hauling it to Corpus Christi and checking into the Best Western there. I think Henri was very happy with that decision as I’ve never seen him run into a hotel room so quickly. I didn’t mind too much either since a dip in the ocean on Saturday morning was the closest to clean I’d been since Thursday. It didn’t take any of us very long to fall asleep and the storm never came.

Checking in late night we didn’t notice the marina across the street. That gave us an excellent chance to get in a little walk and engage in some boat envy. It also allowed us to get up-close and personal with the Texas state bird.

MOSQUITOES!

There is a large grassy median across from the Best Western that looks like a great place for a dog to potty. It’s also apparently where the mosquitos nest and they wake-up hungry and viscous. Don’t go there. Stick to the small grassy area on the hotel side of the street.

We only spent one night in Corpus but it was long enough to find a dog-friendly oyster bar. Right across the street from the hotel within easy walking distance is the Water Street Market featuring the Executive Surf Club and its dog-welcoming patio complete with water bowls. They are open until 11p.m. SU-TH and 12 p.m. F-SA. You know, in case you have to pack your tent and head to higher ground after dark!

Things to know

Mustang Island State Park

We were a little concerned about driving on the beach without a high clearance or four-wheel drive vehicle, but it was no problem. The roadway is well-maintained and we saw everything from RVs to sports cars making their way down the beach.

Park entry fee is $5.00/person with 12 and under free. Overnight ‘primitive’ campsites are $10.00/night.

camping on Mustang Island

Beach Camp

Pet Rules:

  • Pets must be on a leash, in a car (please don’t leave your dog in a car in Texas!), crate, or your tent at all times. Leashes can be no longer than 6 ft.
  • You must be with your pet at all times and may not him leave him unattended in the park, your vehicle, or at your campsite.
  • No noisey or dangerous dogs allowed.
  • Pets are not allowed in state park buildings. This includes motels, cabins, screened shelters, group facilities and restrooms.
  • You must pick up pet waste.

 

 

Fishing:

  • You do not need a fishing license when fishing from the shore or jetty within the state park.
  • Bag and length limits, as well as other regulations still apply.

Things you might need for beach camping:

  • If you want to build a beach fire, take a shovel (lest you find yourself borrowing one from a friendly neighbor). You’ll need to dig a hole in the sand for your fire pit. Take extra wood, too.
  • Baby powder. Sand is going to be everywhere! To minimize tracking it into your tent or car, sprinkle some baby powder on your feet then brush it off.
  • Tailgate tent. You might want it for shade; it might get blown over by wind. Take it anyway.
  • Pop up shade and gel cooling mat for the dog.
  • Iron skillet if you want to cook and a French press if you need your morning coffee.
  • Bug spray, and I mean the kind with DEET. We didn’t have any problems on the beach or in Port A, but as soon as we got there I sprayed everyone’s feet and legs (yes, Henri, too) with OFF!
  • Canoe or kayak.

We loved our time on Mustang Island and in Port Aransas. The people are friendly, the weather is nice, and it isn’t too touristy- yet. No, the beaches aren’t like Florida, but it isn’t a river bank in Arkansas either, and they have TURTLES! In fact, turtles will be hatching from now until September. So it’s a great time to go.

This is no doubt a trip we’d do again. Who wants to join us for a Pig Party in October?!

Links to visit if planning a vacation:

Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce

Mustang Island

Mustang Island State Park

For information on seeing baby sea turtles crawl:

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery

For more photos and adventure follow Travel Tails on Facebook or @mytraveltails on Instagram and Twitter.

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How To Be a Boat Dog

Sailing

Sun in the sky and wind in our sails!

At Travel Tails we like things that start with the letter ‘B.’

Beaches. Baseball. Beer. Bourbon. Henri likes Bitches and we both like BOATS!

So with our eyes on the prize of a long Memorial Day weekend, we thought it the perfect time to offer you some tips on orienting your dog to #BoatLife. Whether you’re paddling, sailing, or motor boating (we’ve done all three), there are things you can do to ensure your dog’s safety and comfort.

Let’s dive right in with the most important thing first…

PFD

Doggie life jackets are an important boat accessory

Safety First!

Even if your dog swims like Katie Ledecky, he needs a PFD in case things get rough. Henri doesn’t wear his all the time but we always have it. If the water gets choppy or the weather makes a sudden turn for the worse, we put it on. There are tons of them on the market and I don’t really have a favorite to recommend, just make sure it fits and HAS A HANDLE on the back. You’ll want that handle in case you have to fish your dog from the drink or help him in/out of the boat. I have a couple of friends with small pooches who use the handle for quick dips over the side.

Get your dog used to wearing it and comfortable swimming in it before you actually need it.

Most brands have weight and girth measurements associated with various sizes, and last year Whole Dog Journal published a review of several designs. You’ll have to be a paid subscriber or purchase the article, but it’s worth it.

Orientation

Don’t just jump in a boat and take off; your dog might panic.

Henri on the dock

Waiting for the “All Aboard!”

Introduce your dog to the boat while it’s on land or secured at the dock. Let him sniff and check things out in a controlled environment. Try running the engine to make sure he’s ok with the noise. If in a canoe or kayak, show him where to sit while it’s on land and rock it a bit. It doesn’t have to be a major production or all-day training event- it only took about 15 minutes to get Henri ready for our first ocean kayak– but do take a few minutes to let your pooch acclimate.

Communication

Assuming your dog already knows some basic commands, ‘wait’ and ‘load-up’ are useful cues to add to a boat dog’s vocabulary. Henri has also learned, through no specific training, the term ‘Hang on!’ He will square off and steady himself as best he can when it’s yelled.

Hydration

You don’t drink lake/river/ocean water and neither should your dog. Ingesting a little bit isn’t likely to make him sick, but make sure you pack fresh water and a bowl. I shouldn’t really have to say this.

Safety Zone

Create a space on the boat where your dog feels comfortable. On sailboats or cuddy boats, down below or in the berth is a good spot. On the ski boat, Henri likes it under the Captain’s chair; in a canoe, he rides between my feet. Whatever space you choose, make sure the surface is non-slip. For that, we use what I refer to as our ‘surf mat’.

Stand-up paddle boarding

First time on SUP together!

A surf mat is nothing but a cheap bath mat from Walmart. It rolls up and fits neatly in our boat bag. If we are on a boat with fiberglass and no carpet, the surf mat gives Henri a good place to stand. At this point, he is familiar enough with the mat that I can throw it on any boat and he knows that’s his spot. Super handy on a kayak or paddleboard!

If you own the boat and aren’t just a guest, you might want to consider applying non-slip shower strips to slick surfaces and using your surf mat for dog bowls.

Tether

To tether or not to tether? That is the question. My answer? HELL NO!

If the boat goes over, I don’t want my dog tied to me or the ship.

That goes for canoeing and kayaking, too. Henri and I once went over in a kayak and as I felt the boat starting to go, I was able to grab him and throw him clear. It’s actually a very funny story, but I would not have had time to reach for his line and unclip him. In a real emergency, it’s likely you won’t either. It’s my opinion that your dog has a much better chance of escaping if he isn’t tied to anything.

That being said, if you do chose to tether your dog, then do it with a harness NOT his collar.

Dog Ramp

If your boat doesn’t have a swim deck, or even if it does, you may want to consider a portable, floating dog ramp. Again, there are lots of styles. So you’ll need to do some research based on your boat and your dog’s size. We’ve never used one of these but I can see how it’d be great to have. Getting in and out, especially if you have a bigger dog, would be safer and easier.

Additional Accessories

Here’s where I could make a very long list of things to have with you when boating with your dog. There exists everything from protective eyewear to sun visors, and though I did once spend a somewhat ridiculous sum on a Jolly Roger collar, much of that stuff just seems excessive.

Gel mat and cooling bandana

Staying’ cool!

Our boat bag basics are as follows:

  • First aid kit that suffices for both humans and dogs. In this you might want to consider including pet approved medication for motion sickness.
  • Gel cooling pad and/or cooling bandana. We bought both of these items last summer and it was some of the best money went spent accessory-wise.
  • Pet-approved sunscreen. Truthfully, I generally just wipe a bit of mine onto Henri’s nose but it would be irresponsible of me to suggest that you do the same.
  • Sunglasses straps. This is for me and if I could actually remember to use them, I’d save a lot of money.

 

If you’d like more tips that aren’t exclusively boat oriented, check out Summer Tips for Canine Trips and/or Ask the Experts, a post in which I asked several vets to answer the question: What do you consider to be the most important health and/or safety consideration when traveling with your pet?

Summer is just getting started and if you want to keep up with our adventures then LIKE us on Facebook at /TravelTails and FOLLOW us on Twitter and Instagram @mytraveltails. In addition, we’d love for you to SHARE your own tips or thoughts in the comments and TELL YOUR FRIENDS!

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America’s Favorite Pastime With Your Favorite Canine

Purina Pooches in the Ballpark

Pooches in the Ballpark 2016. Cardinals vs. Rangers

The Boys of Summer are finally back and we’ve got a list of all the MLB dog-friendly games plus a few tips to help you enjoy them. More teams than ever are hosting ‘bring your dog events’ and several teams are hosting more than one. Minor league parks are in on the action too, so don’t forget to check out your local club schedule for ticket information.

Tips

Please keep in mind that regardless of who your team is, the major league games typically sell-out quickly and at least a few do not allow walk-ups. At all games, be prepared to show proof that your dog’s vaccinations are current and be willing to sign a waiver.

Dog event at Globe Life

Bark at the Ballpark 2015. Texas Rangers.

We’ve been to two MLB games, Pooches in the Ballpark hosted by the St. Louis Cardinals and Bark at the Park hosted by the Texas Rangers. Last year’s ‘Pooches’ event had over 300 dogs in attendance, so dogs should be well-socialized and friendly towards people and other pets. You’ll need to keep your pooch on a leash at all times, pick-up any messes, and of course, be respectful of other fans.

Two other things to keep in mind are the weather and your pup’s stamina. Many of these games are taking place late in the summer and though most of the parks will have wadding pools or cooling stations of some sort, be prepared to make your pooch stays comfy and cool.

We always carry our own water bowl, and for these events, a cooling bandana and a gel cooling pad.

As for stamina, you already know a baseball game can last way more than nine innings. However, at many of these games, you can’t just walk up and go right in the gate. You have to check-in and that means waiting in line before the game. If you want the swag bag, another line. And all that noise and stimulation…? It can limit how much your dog can take. Consider whether or not your dog has 3-5 hours in him and whether or not you’re willing to leave a tie ballgame if he doesn’t.

Games

If you don’t see a game listed for your favorite team, it’s because I don’t have a date yet. The White Sox, Tigers, Phillies and Rockies all had games last year but haven’t announced when or if they’ll have them this year. The Braves are in a new park and apparently don’t want dogs in it. Hopefully, they’ll either change their minds or get back to it in 2018. You Braves fans- and anyone else without a dog-friendly game- ought to complain. On the other hand, Arizona Diamondbacks should have zero complaints.

I didn’t list their games because there are just TOO MANY!

That’s right! In 2016, PetSmart and the Diamondbacks partnered to create the first-ever season-long dog-friendly ballpark with a dedicated PetSmart Patio, PetSmart Park and the Dog Days of Summer program. This year that program includes 20 Sunday and Monday games that you can attend with your dog. Tickets packages start at $160 and include a semi-private space for four, access to All-You-Can-Eat hot dogs, soda, water, popcorn, peanuts, and chips for the humans, pup-approved ‘ice cream’ for the dogs and…an indoor (air-conditioned)/ outdoor baseball themed DOG PARK. I think we’ve found our next baseball road trip!

Now without further ado and in order of appearance, here’s the rest of the line-up…

  • New York Mets – Sunday, April 9th vs. the Marlins
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, April 11th vs. the Reds
  • Kansas City Royals – Wednesday, April 19th vs. the Giants
  • Tampa Bay Rays – Sunday, April 23rd vs. the Astros
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, April 25th vs. the Cubs
  • Washington Nationals – Saturday, April 29th vs. the Mets
  • Cincinnati Reds – Wednesday, May 3rd vs. the Pirates
  • Texas Rangers – Saturday, May 13th vs. the Athletics
  • Washington Nationals – Saturday, May 13th vs. the Phillies
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, May 16th vs. the Nationals
  • Seattle Mariners – Thursday, May 18th vs. the White Sox
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – Saturday, May 20th vs. the Marlins
  • St. Louis Cardinals – Saturday, May 20th vs. the Giants
  • Kansas City Royals – Tuesday, May 30th vs. the Tigers
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, May 30th vs. the Diamondbacks
  • Miami Marlins – Saturday, June 3rd vs. the Diamondbacks
  • Milwaukee Brewers – Tuesday, June 6th vs. the Giants
  • Cincinnati Reds – Wednesday, June 7th vs. the Cardinals
  • Washington Nationals – Saturday, June 10th vs. the Rangers
  • San Francisco Giants – Sunday, June 11th vs. the Twins
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, June 13th vs. the Rockies
  • Washington Nationals – Sunday, June 25th vs. the Reds
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, June 27th vs. the Rays
  • San Diego Padres – Thursday, June 29th vs. the Braves
  • Seattle Mariners – Thursday, July 6th vs. the Athletics
  • Oakland Athletics – Friday, July 14th vs. the Indians
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, July 18th vs. the Brewers
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, August 1st vs. the Reds
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, August 8th vs. the Tigers
  • Colorado Rockies – Wednesday, August 16th vs. the Braves
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, August 22nd vs. the Dodgers
  • Cincinnati Reds – Tuesday, August 29th vs. the Mets
  • Kansas City Royals – Wednesday, August 30th vs. the Ray
  • New York Mets – Monday, Sept 4th vs. the Phillies
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, Sept 5th vs. the Cubs
  • Seattle Mariners – Tuesday, Sept 5th vs. the Astros
  • Washington Nationals – Thursday, Sept 7th vs. the Phillies
  • Arizona Diamondbacks – Sunday, Sept 10th vs. the Padres
  • Houston Astros – Sunday, Sept 17th vs. the Mariners
  • Cincinnati Reds – Thursday, Sept 21st vs. the Cardinals
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, Sept 19th vs. the Brewers
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – Tuesday, Sept 26th vs. the Orioles
  • Washington Nationals – Saturday, Sept 30th vs. the Pirates

Is your dog ready? Let’s PLAY BALL!

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Orlando Fresh & More Dog-Friendly

Lake Eola Fountain

The heart of downtown Orlando- Lake Eola.

Everytime I go to Orlando I find something new to love. It is an ever-evolving city and one that has been dear to my heart since 1990 when I participated in the Walt Disney World College Program. I often wonder why I ever left.

Fortunately, I have a very good girlfriend who still lives there and each year on the first Saturday of March, she and her husband host a huge crawfish boil. That is all the excuse I’ll ever need to leave the bi-polar spring weather of Northwest Arkansas and enjoy the constant sunshine of Central Florida.

There are at least two things I always do when I’m there. The first is visit downtown and the Lake Eola area; the second is go to Walt Disney’s World’s EPCOT Center. You can read about previous dog-friendly adventures in Orlando in The City Beautiful or if you’re interested in a WDW family vacation that includes the dog, you can check out my guest post for the Mama’s at NWAMotherlode.

I have new things to tell you about the aforementioned places, as well as my discovery of the brick-lined streets of the very dog-friendly downtown Sanford.

Downtown Orlando

Downtown Orlando covers a pretty broad expanse of space. However, Lake Eola and the surrounding area is where I’d choose to work and play if I lived there; there is always something happening.

Check out Movieola on Friday, April 28th on the East Lawn. They’re showing The Secret Life of Pets.

Swan diets at Lake Eola

Please follow the rules

I don’t know if I can pick just one favorite thing about Lake Eola but if I were to make a list, the swans and how much the city does to care for and protect them would be at the top. There are signs everywhere asking people not to feed them and in the spring, orange fencing protects each nest. I saw at least five swans, including a black one, nesting inside these protected areas. I really wish I was going to be there to see all the babies!

The other thing topping my list is pedestrian-only traffic- no bicycles or skaters allowed- and that makes strolling the .9 mile sidewalk around the lake a pleasure. There are a couple of restaurants located on the path and both, Spice Modern Steakhouse (ask to see the sushi menu) and Relax, are dog-friendly. This trip we opted for lunch at Relax Grill. Featuring mediterranean cuisine and an expansive list of cocktails, it’s a great place to quench your thirst and people watch. Dog guests are even brought their own bowls. I can’t say I whole-heartedly recommend the food but their Bloody Mary’s are great and on a pretty Saturday or Sunday, there is almost always a wait.

After lunch we ventured away from Lake Eola where we discovered Eola Wine Company. No lake view, but with a fenced sidewalk patio, it’s a great spot to try a new vintage or an entire flight while you take in the city. Even on a Monday afternoon just after opening, this place had a few guests and one small dog taking up space. I’m guessing it’s the perfect happy hour location and certainly beats rush hour traffic.

The last (new to me) find was Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming in Thorton Park. Offering gourmet treats, canine couture, pet themed gifts, and doggie fro-yo, you’re sure to find something for the discerning pet or pet parent in your life. Have a seat on the front porch of this cottage while you enjoy your treats or drop your pooch for a bath before grabbing lunch.

Obviously, there’s a lot of sitting, drinking, and people watching, and maybe THAT’S my favorite thing about the Lake Eola area. Whether on a blanket in the grass or at a bar overlooking the fountain, it’s prime real estate for lounging and almost every patio you see has a dog on it.

If you’d like to get out of downtown, then check out Baldwin Park for their family and pet friendly sidewalk festival every first Friday of the month. You’ll be able to browse through the booths of over 70 local artisans, as well as small businesses and non-profits.

EPCOT

EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival

Welcome Spring Fun, Food and Flowers! EPCOT main entrance.

Unless you’re Pluto, EPCOT isn’t dog-friendly, though I did see more “service dogs” this year than I’ve ever seen in the past. Since Walt Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place on earth, I’ll stay off my soapbox, but suffice it to say…I’m pretty sure some of you are taking advantage of the system and you should read my 5 dos and don’ts of dog travel and leave your pup at Best Friends.

EPCOT Lady and the Tramp topiaries

Lady and the Tramp make their return to Italy

Since EPCOT isn’t a dog-friendly place, I won’t bore you with the details of the Twinings Green Tea frozen berry mint julep or the sugar cane skewered shrimp marinated in coconut lime curry or the stunning topiaries that are the hallmark of the International Flower and Garden Festival. If you pick up a Garden Passport at the main entrance, it will tell you everything you need to know and where to find it. #FreshEPCOT

The one thing you do need to know is…

Guest Services is on Twitter and their responses to your tweets (even if you’re just teasing them) are pretty fast!

Back in the old days, if guests had a question like “How many lights are on the Electric Light Parade?” there existed what I called the ‘Rat Phone’. Because the proper answer is NOT “I don’t know,” regardless of how busy you are, there existed a phone with an operator on the other end. Any cast member- that’s a Disney employee – could pick up that phone and in minutes come back with an answer to just about any question a guest could ask.

“What time is the 3:00 parade?”

The very Disney answer to that question is “That depends upon where on the parade route you are seated,” followed by the explanation that though the parade does start at three, if you are sitting toward the end of the route, you will not see the first of the parade until later.

Now guests can just tweet questions and problems directly to a team of cast members, many of which are former College Program Alumni, who are ready and waiting to help you.

The 2017 Flower and Garden Festival runs through May 29th and if you’re headed that direction drop me a line. I’d be happy to point (using two fingers) you in the direction of my favorite drinks, I mean spots. I even know exactly where to charge your phone if it dies.

Sanford

If you’re an Orlando travel pro, you might already be avoiding the chaos of Orlando International and flying into Sanford (SFB). I highly recommend it. With bike week and spring break both starting, I was through TSA and at the bar in less than 10 minutes on my return flight. But it’s not the airport that is my new discovery; I’ve been flying there for several years. It’s the small downtown riverwalk area – all located within a two-block radius of Magnolia Square – that I’ve been missing.

Be sure to visit the brick-lined streets of this quaint, dog-friendly, waterfront town and enjoy a slower side of tourism in Central Florida.

As we roamed in search of a restaurant we wanted to try, I saw lots of dogs dining with their folks. All of them had water bowls that appeared to have been provided by the establishments. Amid conversation and distractions, I think we passed our breakfast destination twice. A little bigger than a hole in the wall with accommodations for I’m guessing 30-ish people, we finally found The Tennessee Truffle.

Dear Tennessee Truffle:

Please get some cafe chairs for outside. Put mine and Henri’s names on the back of one and save us a spot. And some bacon. We’d like to have all the bacon.

Happy Tails,

Denise

Y’all! This place was SO good. From the lemon-verbena sweet iced tea to the homemade biscuits and house-cured bacon, if I weren’t too old to use ‘fleek’ in conversation, I’d tell you that they were.

Chef Nat Russell brings his southern cuisine and charm straight from Memphis and was behind the walk-up counter taking orders. Old church pews provide some of the seating at chalkboard tables and Memphis-inspired artwork hangs on the brick walls.

I couldn’t resist trying the BLT and added a fried egg at Chef Nat’s suggestion. My girlfriend had the salmon with a side of perfectly cooked grits that came dressed with sorghum and crushed pecans. Like most southern girls, I’ve always drowned mine in butter, but I promise sorghum will be making an appearance on my table the next time I make grits.

Tennessee Truffle is fairly new to the Sanford food scene but I’m predicting they’ll be around for a bit. Fingers crossed for a dog-friendly patio expansion!

Art walls in Sandford

The exterior walls are art

With a very full belly, some sweet tea to go and a little time before my flight, we decided to wander. Be sure to visit, Arthur, the Frenchie, who guards the gallery at Jeanine Taylor Folk Art. He’s super-friendly and will happily accept your scratchies. Stroll through the gallery to discover everything from a mermaid riding a marlin to a wooly sheep footstool. When you leave be sure to take notice of the exterior walls which are an extension of the gallery.

You’ll also discover special events in Sanford, like the Sanford Pints and Paws Craft Beer Festival, which we missed by one day, and a farmer’s market every Saturday from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Those are my kind of hours!

2018

I’ll be back in Orlando next year, hopefully with Henri in tow. We’ve already planned a girl’s day at EPCOT and we’ll be the group of 40-something women in princess costumes. In the meantime, rest assured that I’ve got my eye on things; I can’t wait to see what pops up in and around The City Beautiful between now and then.

 

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Dog-Friendly Fayetteville Makes U.S. News Top 5

Razorback Stadium

Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Home of the Razorbacks. Fayetteville, AR

Once again, our hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas made the top 5 in U.S. News and World Report “Best Places to Live’. Last year we were number three and this year we round out the top five behind Austin, Denver, San Jose and Washington, D.C. We may have slipped a bit but that’s pretty good company.

For those of you wondering what makes Fayetteville so great or how U.S. News decides, Kim Castro, executive editor at U.S. News said, “When considering a move people are concerned about finding a job in their field (we don’t need any more dog trainers), earning enough to afford a home (I can keep the lights on), sending their kids to good schools (we have several doggie day cares), and feeling like a part of their community (philanthropy, politics, and sports- you pick). The Best Places to Live ranking takes all of that into account- the metro areas that do well are the ones with the strong job markets and high quality of life.”

Dog-friendly bar is full

Window seats are taken at Brewski’s on Dickson St

I live downtown in Fayetteville’s historic district. We’re a mostly liberal group- as evidenced by the political signs that occasionally appear in my neighborhood- but we aren’t crazy radicals; we like HSUS but PETA is a little out there. On Sundays, Henri and I can walk to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for the 7:30 a.m. pet-friendly mass, or we can sleep late and Sunday Funday downtown on Dickson Street. We can walk to at least three dog-friendly restaurants and in five miles hit three breweries along our trail system with a fourth currently under construction.

 

If you want to branch out and drive, the options are endless, especially if you factor in the rest of Northwest Arkansas and all the dog-friendly options in Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville. We are, right now, at Sassafrass Springs Winery in Springdale. It’s where we go when Mommy needs to write but Henri needs to roam. It’s not the only dog-friendly winery in our area, either; it’s just the closest to our house.

In addition to dog-friendly restaurants, wineries and breweries, Fayetteville has some great festivals- most of them being relatively dog-friendly. By “relatively”, I mean they allow dogs but you might want to consider whether or not your dog will be happy there. For instance, SpringFest is OK for dogs, there’s even a dog parade, but Block Street Block Party has gotten really big (and AWESOME!) and although dogs are allowed, I did NOT take Henri last year.

We have LOTS of specifically dog-friendly events though.

The Humane Society of the Ozarks hosts the Dogwood Walk at Gulley Park and the Family Play Day at Sassafrass Springs every year and Fayetteville Animal Services benefits from the annual Pup Crawl on Dickson Street. Northwest Arkansas’ minor league ball club has Bark in the Park events and there is usually more than one church or organization hosting a Blessing of the Animals in honor of St. Francis of Assisi in October. We have TWO dog-friendly Mardi Gras krewes- one in Fayetteville and one in Eureka Springs (about an hour away and super dog-friendly) ready to ‘laissez les bons temps rouler’ for you and your dog.

Fayetteville's off-leash hiking area

Off-leash at Lake Wilson

The only thing really lacking on the dog-friendly scene in Fayetteville is dog parks. We only have one on the west side of town. However, if you and your dog like a little off-leash adventure, on the southeast side of town, looping Lake Wilson, we have a trail specifically designated as an ‘off-leash’ hiking area.

The other things you can find in Fayetteville, and all of Northwest Arkansas, are beautiful trails. From the 37 miles of paved trail stretching from south Fayetteville to Bella Vista to the more rugged adventures of the Ozark Mountains and the nearby Buffalo River, you can walk, hike or bike in a variety of nearby places. We have several rivers to paddle and 487 miles of natural shoreline on the 44 square mile Beaver Lake. My favorite marina is less than an hour from my front door and you can catch us there year ‘round.

Ever been snow sailing? Eagle watching? You can do that here.

All of that being said, the thing I like most about Fayetteville/Northwest Arkansas is the central location. Henri is too big for airline travel- HE IS NOT CARGO!- but we are less than a 12 hour drive from a lot of cool places…Sante Fe, Chicago, Austin, and my personal favorite, the beach.

I started writing this post on a sunny day at Sassafrass Springs and I’m wrapping it up on a rainy day, sitting inside with Henri at Core Brewery, which perfectly sums up my point.

Number 5? We think we’re number 1. If you can’t beat us, join us!

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Christmas on the Water

Strolling in the sand

Walk-about on Biloxi Beach

I’m not sure if I should start with “Happy New Year” or “My apologies.” This was supposed to have been a pre-Christmas post featuring fun holiday activities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that you could enjoy during the holiday season this year. I mean last year. In 2016.

If you were following us in December and read Casino on the Coast then you know we headed to Harrah’s Gulf Coast casino in Biloxi for a four-day weekend adventure. You also know it’s a great (dog-friendly) casino with rooms over-looking the water and perfect Cosmos.

What you don’t know is there is way more to do in Biloxi, MS than beaching and gambling, and even though you’ve missed the holiday season, I encourage you to go there and create your own adventure. Mardi Gras is coming up and Biloxi knows exactly how to do that- they even have a Mardi Gras museum where you can play in the costumes!

Reason for the Season

There were lots of reasons to choose Biloxi for our Christmas trip but I didn’t know that until I actually started planning. What began with a dog-friendly casino on the coast and a lighted boat parade on Saturday night, turned into a holiday arts and crafts fair, open-houses, new food and new friends.

Though we’d planned to arrive in Biloxi before dark, we weren’t cruising down Beach Blvd. on Hwy 90 until almost 7 p.m. That put us in great luck though, because we drove right past 2 schooners from the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum already staged for Saturday night’s Christmas on the Water Lighted Boat Parade. We turned around for a sneak peak at the decorations and a few photos and though I wasn’t entirely sure I could pull it off, I wasn’t convinced I couldn’t- I was hoping for a run-in with a captain and maybe a boat ride.

Mike Sekul at Schooner Pier

A stop at Schooner Pier for a sneak peak

I didn’t know it at the time but the boats were docked at Schooner Pier, which we would be able to see from our hotel room window. We parked the car and while Mindy got out some camera equipment, I let Henri take a lap in the sand.

THE SAND! That’s when we saw the No Dogs sign. No dogs?! What?!

Apparently Mommy was distracted by the idea of a dog-friendly casino on the beach with a boat parade and didn’t do enough research about the actual beach. Harrison County and their ‘No Dogs’ policy includes Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian, and Long Beach.

Harrison County Beach Authority

No Dogs Allowed

We’d been in the car 9 hours. It was dark. We went on the beach. Without a leash. It must’ve been the ocean air but we totally went against Ray’s Rules. Ray is a wise friend who contends that you should ‘only break one law at a time.’ Though technically, if dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, there probably isn’t a need for a leash law. Also, the sign says ‘ordinance’ not law. Both my Mom and attorney will tell you that I’m really good at justifying things.

Henri pooped. I picked it up. We’re rule breakers, not heathens.

A Day of Rest

I always try to schedule an easy day after a long drive so the first order of business on Friday morning was sleeping late. I was up before Mindy and doing my best to be be quiet. She’d already told me she could sleep through anything as long as no one was bleeding or dying, and I envy my mom friends’ ability to sleep like the dead. I also know for most of them it rarely happens. I took Henri to potty, stopped in the lobby for fruit and bagels, then returned to our room to drink my coffee and stare at the water in silence. Most of my mornings begin this way, I just don’t usually have the ocean as my backdrop. Or bagels.

We lazed a good portion of the morning and finally got out the door around 11:00. Our plan was simple: lunch at Shaggy’s then find a beach where Henri was welcome. We’d be back to the casino in time to clean up, make Tito’s Happy Hour before 7, and our dinner reservations at 8.

Before lunch we detoured back to Schooner Pier to get a closer look at some of the boats. Folks were busy with last minute decorations and preparations but Captain Ron of the Mike Sekul took some time to chat with us.

Boarding a schooner

All aboard on the Mike Sekul

One of two 68′ two masted gaff-rigged schooners, the Mike Sekul is an authentic replica of a Biloxi oyster schooner and part of the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. It had been chartered for Saturday evening and would be “sailing” in the boat parade. Both the Mike Sekul and the Glenn L. Swetman have hefty engines for the sake of efficiency. However, if you go out with them and the wind is right, you’ll be encouraged to help hoist and man the sails. Walk-on sails are available throughout the month and you will need to call for times. The cost is $30/adult, $15/child, and well-behaved dogs are welcome. Though it’s not required, your dog should bring his own PFD.

Since Capt. Ron needed to get back to his preparations and we couldn’t find anyone else on the pier to bother, we headed to lunch.

Close to the casino and right on the beach, Shaggy’s has received numerous culinary awards and accolades. Obviously, it’s best attribute is the location. And the drinks. Oh! And the fried green tomato stack with crab cakes. And…

The first thing I noticed was all the SEC team flags flying from the railing in front of the restaurant. All of them except Arkansas, that is.

Shaggy's deck overlooking the water

A perfect view

I wasn’t willing to give up raw oysters over it but as soon as I was seated I inquired. The hostess laughed as she laid down our menus and pointed to the Razorback flag inside over the bar.

Our waitress appeared quickly with a bowl of water for Henri and a few suggestions from the drink menu for us. Beer, wine, frozen, frosty, beach-y and non-alcoholic kids daiquiris were all available. I went basic with a bloody mary to compliment my raw oysters and Mindy ordered a Shag-a-rita ’cause somebody should always order the signature cocktail.

I think the best thing about doing trips with a human friend is that you get to eat more stuff. I couldn’t have consumed a half dozen raw oysters (and they brought me extra), a Shaggy’s Stacker of fried green tomatoes and crab cakes, and Beach Tacos all by myself. It was all delicious and Henri even got to have a little leftover blackened Mahi from the tacos.

While dining, I took the opportunity to chat with our waitress about dog-friendly things to do in the area, where to go, etc. I asked where she took her dog when they went to the beach and she said, “Right here.” “This beach?” I asked. “I thought they didn’t allow dogs on the beaches in Biloxi.” She explained. Technically, they don’t, but during the off-season there is precious little beach patrol. In fact, right before we arrived there was a Border Collie playing frisbee out there. She said there’s usually at least one or two dogs on the beach at any given time, and really, no one minds. I think Henri must’ve heard her, because although he’d been eyeballing the stairs since we got there, he was now starting to get restless.

Sign? I don’t see a sign. Do you see a sign? There’s a sign over there but I don’t know what it says.

We walked right off the deck, ditched our shoes and put our toes in the sand. The waitress said we could.

Playing in the sand

Enjoying some beach time

Then came the moment. The moment I knew things were different. The first time Henri ever went to the beach he was SO excited. He splashed in the water, he dug in the sand, he made lap after lap, jumping over sun-bathers while I apologized and they laughed. That was three years ago. Just three. Henri was happy but at his age one fast lap was all he needed to be content. We strolled down the beach together in search of a tourist shop we’d seen and hoped they’d be dog-friendly. I needed a swimsuit so I could make use of the hot tub later and Mindy had promised her daughter a purple seashell.

Sharkheads on Biloxi Beach is dog-friendly with a sign on the door that says pets must be carried. Either that’s more of a guideline than a rule or we looked well-behaved, but they allowed us to come inside. If you forget the beach necessities, need tourist tchotchke, or make promises of purple shells to 3 year olds, go here.

The sun was just beginning to set as we returned to the car. I determined that we had just enough time for a ‘drive-by’ of the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival located in Jones Park about 20 minutes away. I was curious but I didn’t want to miss happy hour or be late for dinner unless it looked really fabulous.

It appeared to be your typical Winter Wonderland, lights in the park, holiday attraction. Live music, train rides, funnel cakes, visits with Santa, and a ferris wheel from which you can see the whole park would be a great family outing or a romantic date night for lovers, but Mindy and I weren’t interested in holding hands and with my proclivity for distraction, I knew we’d miss dinner. It might have been worth missing $2.00 Cosmos, but Henri was tired and I wasn’t interested in the gamble.

Rue Magnolia Art District

Henri waits while I shop

Patiently waiting on Mom

Christmas on the Water marks the official opening of the holiday season for the city of Biloxi. An annual event that began as a small lighted boat parade in 1986, the event has grown into a weekend of family-oriented holiday fun. Part of that fun is Christmas in the City, an arts and crafts festival along the Rue Magnolia Walkway. That’s where we headed Saturday morning. We met several other dogs, chatted with vendors, and were pointed in all the right directions by locals.

Croatian dessert

Yes, I ate an entire dozen

First stop, we were told, HAD to be the table in front of Mary Mahoney’s restaurant for a Puscharte.

That’s Push-ah-rata, if you’re southern.

Made by the Slavic Ladies Auxillary of Biloxi, it is a Croatian dessert of apples, oranges, lemon, pecans, raisins and spices, fried then coated with an almond glaze. It’s like a fruitcake and a donut hole got together and had a really moist, delicious baby. The baking of these tasty treats is the ladies’ big yearly fundraiser and as of December 3rd there was already a waiting list of over 100 to purchase 2016’s treats. If you’d like to try these fabulous desserts, you can call the ladies auxilliary to get on next year’s order list. Right behind me.

The second suggested stop was Mary Mahoney’s for gumbo. The restaurant had already been recommended to us by locals at Harrah’s Magnolia House bar on Friday night and we were told all their food is amazing. The other thing that is amazing is the New Orleans style courtyard. It so distracted me that I forgot about the gumbo.

The cornerstone of this courtyard is a centuries old Oak tree that stretches its branches across the brick for shaded, dog-friendly dining. Ivy grows up the walls and bits of moss drip from the trees. When you think of sipping a cold cocktail in the Old South, this might be the next best thing to exchanging scathing gossip with Scarlet O’Hara on a wrap-around porch.

Many of the businesses located in what is known as the Rue Magnolia Art District are art galleries that were either closed, blocked by vendors, or not dog-friendly. Our meandering eventually lead us to The Radish Loft, a small shop selling a variety of home goods and fashions. We appreciated them being dog-friendly but if your pup is bigger than Henri you may have trouble navigating the store. Henri and I plopped down in the white wicker porch chairs and waited on Mindy, who returned with a Mississippi mug and something called Pecan Pie in a Jar. Our next stumble-upon was the Mardi Gras Museum.

Occupying the first floor of the Magnolia Hotel, the Mardi Gras Museum of Biloxi is an ever-changing museum evolving with each year’s celebration of Mardi Gras. Wall panels depict the history of the hotel- the oldest on the Gulf Coast- as well as Mardi Gras in Biloxi and mannequins dressed in the costumes of past kings and queens are displayed in every room. Much to my delight and Henri’s chagrin, it also has a try-on room where guests of the museum can play in some of the costumes.

Henri quickly tired of my attempts to photograph him with things on his head and that seemed as good a reason as any to get on to our next destination. I was trying to cram way too much into our day and finish it all with enough time to relax a bit at the hotel before the boat parade Saturday night.

Ocean Springs

Ocean Springs

Merry Christmas from Ocean Springs

Ocean Springs is one of those hidden coastal gems and one I’d never heard of until I needed a dog-friendly beach near Biloxi. The town is now right up there with Apalachicola and the Forgotten Coast in my book and I can’t wait to return. I mean, how do you not love a quirky little town with a free-roaming band of roosters?! The next time I’m passing through or planning a stay or thinking about retirement, I’m going to focus on Ocean Springs where practically every place is dog-friendly.

Conveniently located just over the bridge and only about 7 minutes from Harrah’s you can easily have the best of both worlds: quaint shops and moss-draped trees line Washington Avenue, two beaches that allow leashed dogs are just a hop, skip, and a jump from the shopping district, and back across the bridge, casino entertainment awaits. If you’ve no interest in staying at a casino, then check out The Inn at Ocean Springs.

The Inn at Ocean Springs has four rooms right in the middle of the shopping district and plans to open six more at a second location, The Roost at Ocean Springs, in April. All rooms are dog-friendly with no size limits, just the stipulation that your dog is well-behaved and if left alone is crated and quiet. Although we didn’t stay there, it seems a very charming retreat and an excellent alternative to a casino stay. Anna was very helpful with information about their locations and things to do in Ocean Springs.

The first shop we noticed was an art gallery featuring jewelry, pottery, and blown glass. The windows sparkled with holiday décor and the only thing warmer than the ambience was the welcome we received. I wasn’t sure if such a place would allow an animal with a wagging tail but they waived us in and offered us cocktails. It was their holiday open house!

Artist Bob Bows

Bob Bows takes a break to say hi to Henri

You can’t (and shouldn’t) miss Hillyer House. There’s a giant mermaid out front- she was sporting a Santa hat the day we went- and owner Paige Riley features works of art from over 300 local, regional and national artists. In addition to shopping and sipping, we got to meet and chat with Abilene, KS artist Bob Bows about his Turtles of Hope, which are said to give owners courage in the face of diversity.

 

Our next discovery was Coastal Magpie, a store with an “eclectic mix of vintage and modern industrial furnishings, fine art, unique crafts, and one of a kind gifts”. They also have metal dog art and a very honest and friendly staff. While purchasing a stocking-stuffer for my Mom, Henri distracted the staff with his charm and I forgot to get my change. Upon returning to our hotel, I realized the mistake and called the store to let them know that if they were over at the end of the evening I thought perhaps I’d not gotten my change before leaving with my purchase. They assured me they’d call me back if that was the case and they did. When we went back the next day, they’d even restocked their dog treats for Henri.

Other Ocean Springs highlights include Two Dogs Dancing pet boutique, where Henri got some gourmet treats for his nightly turn-down, and several restaurants and cafes with dog-friendly patios. Leo’s and Government Grocery are two of the more popular spots for doggie dining and both have outdoor spaces that are covered.

The best thing about Ocean Springs is that you are only a few minutes from the beach. In fact, if you’re a walker, Front Beach is less than a mile from The Inn.

Both Front Beach and East Beach allow leashed dogs and, as I mentioned, it’s less than 7 minutes from the casino. Front Beach was one of the stops we made on our way out of town on Sunday and one of the first places I’ll return if and when I ever go back.

There wasn’t a lot of sandy shoreline but Mr. BJ, who walks his dog, Foxy, there everyday, said there’s usually more. We had quite the storm Saturday evening and it was still pouring when I took Henri to potty Sunday morning. Not only had the tide come in a little further than normal, the fog had yet to lift, creating a peaceful, quiet scene. Aside from the no-see-ums that chewed up my ankles, we practically had the beach to ourselves.

Public fire pit

Front Beach fire pit is an invitation to linger

I’m not sure what the sun bathing on Front Beach would be like on a warmer day, but with a public fire pit, it is exactly the reason I always have a few tailgate chairs- Razorback, of course- in my trunk. I suspect that at the end of a warm spring day as the sun sets and the temperatures start to cool, this is the perfect place to linger and just be.

Last Stop

Our last stop in Biloxi was a gas station and thankfully they sell beer on Sundays! I always grab a few sixes of Yuengling anytime I’m east of the Mississippi River. We can’t get Yuengling in Arkansas but with my parents planning a move to Destin at the end of this month, I expect to remain fully stocked in this department, as well as be passing back through Biloxi in the very near future.

A few things I’ll be checking out on our next trip include the new Blind Tiger on the Great Lawn at Harrah’s, a cruise on one of the schooners or a Biloxi Shrimping Trip, and LOTS and LOTS of time in Ocean Springs.

Hey, Ocean Springs! Do y’all need a resident dog trainer? I can do roosters, too.

A note about the boat parade: Although the parade was part of the reason I chose Biloxi for our Christmas trip, it was by no means the highlight of our adventure. After joining the crew of the Big Bobber in Oklahoma a few years ago and seeing those boats, I had pretty high expectations from a coastal parade. Sailboats, barges, and sea-worthy yachts decorated with lights galore made spectacular scenes in my head, but unfortunately, not on the water. If you’re already in or near Biloxi, go see the parade; if you aren’t close, it isn’t worth a special trip.

To view more photos of our trip visit us on Facebook and be sure to LIKE our page. If you really want to stalk us, then follow us on Twitter and/or Instagram @MyTravelTails.

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Casino on the Coast

harrahs-on-the-water

A view of Harrah’s from the Schooner Pier Complex

There’s a dog-friendly casino on the beach where the oysters are fresh and the Yeungling is cold. I’d call it Heaven but let’s face it, if it were really Heaven, I might not have gotten in right away. Fortunately, I was able to make a reservation at Harrah’s Gulf Coast Casino in Biloxi and spend a whole weekend Christmas’ing on the gulf coast.

We actually started planning our trip to Harrah’s about a year ago when some girlfriends of mine were there trouble-making and saw a dog. That alerted me to the fact that this was someplace Henri and I needed to go. I reached out to the marketing department but the hotel was just beginning a major renovation that wouldn’t be completed until late spring. They got busy. I got busy. The ball got dropped, and then it was football season and we were left trying to find an away game weekend.

Blah, blah, blah. December.

Turns out it was the perfect time to head to Biloxi. Not because of the weather but because of the season. In only three nights, we managed to catch a lighted boat parade that cruised right past the hotel, a Christmas arts and crafts festival, and a holiday open house. Not to mention good food and finally finding a bartender who can make a Cosmopolitan as good as my Dad’s.

Welcome to…

The Playground of the South

Playground of the South, Redneck Riviera, whatever you call it, Harrah’s Gulf Coast is the place to be if you’ve got your pooch in tow (and even if you don’t). This boutique casino offers everything you need for a few days of anything you choose with an ocean view. Fine dining? Check. Sports bar? Check. Golf course? Check. Spa? Yes. Gambling? Duh. And if you want to head to the beach, take in some maritime history, or a do a little shopping, it’s all nearby. What’s more…valet at Harrah’s is FREE so getting in and out is a breeze!

Pet Stay room at Harrah's Gulf Coast

Double Queen Pet Stay with a gulf view

Unlike a lot of places, when Harrah’s says pet friendly, they mean it. There are seven rooms set aside specifically for guests vacationing with pets. They feature tile flooring (reason enough for requesting one even if you don’t have a dog) and are all conveniently located in one area on the second floor.

Potty Station at Harrah's

The sign says “Potty here”

For potty duties, head to the ground floor, go out the door, hang a right on the sidewalk and walk straight to the designated area. You can’t miss the green space with the potty station and it couldn’t be more convenient. The property is owned by Harrah’s and designated for their furry friends. I’ve suggested they fence it for absolute perfection, but it’s pretty great regardless. I don’t know of any other hotel that has this type of space.

One warning: You WILL need to check your pooches paws after walks here. There are lots of burs. I pulled several out of Henri’s paws and stepped on one or two that had been shed onto our hotel room floor.

If traveling with a pet (not a service animal) be sure to mention you need a Pet Stay Reservation. You can also request treats and a hang tag for your door. It isn’t included on the amenity form but it is available. I was told this is an “area of opportunity” and I suspect you’ll see changes to this in the near future.

Black lab mix is casino guest

Pilot is a Harrah’s regular and his Mom gave us some tips

Pets are limited to two dogs under 50lbs per room and there is an extra $50.00 per night fee. Dogs are allowed in the lobby and hallways, and no one seemed to mind if we sat in the cafe, but pooches are not allowed in the pool area, casino, or dining areas. There is one other casino on the strip that allows pets, but you can’t leave your pet in the room unattended. That’s not very vacation friendly, if you ask me. Henri has no use for gambling.

Speaking of which…

Harrah’s Gulf Coast boasts one of the LEAST smokey casinos I’ve ever visited and the craps dealers are patient with learners; I’ll skip the discussion of my success at blackjack. 16 gets me every time.

Knowing I’d spend at least some time at the gaming tables, I came prepared with a trash bag in my suitcase (a little trick I learned from my parents) for my smoke smelling, casino floor clothes, but I didn’t need it. Granted it was off-season on the coast but we made it to the floor both Thursday and Friday nights, and my allergies did not suffer. Another place I visited both Thursday and Friday, and I admit it, Saturday too, was Magnolia House.

Magnolia House

Magnolia House by Kelly English is Harrah’s fine dinning restaurant. My first experience with their service was Thursday night when we arrived. I’d just spent nine and half hours in a car and I didn’t do it to eat ‘bar food’. I wanted oysters. Raw oysters.

Those aren’t on the menu at Mix and Mingle sports bar and at 9:30 p.m. Magnolia would only be open another 30 minutes. The waitress at M&M suggested I run over to the Magnolia bar and get an order to go, which I did. The bartender was only too happy to take my order and not at all put out that I wouldn’t be dining with her. I suspect she was ready ‘to go’ too.

Tito's happy hour

Magnolia House features Tito’s martinis.

On Friday evening, we had dinner reservations at 8:00 p.m. When we returned from our day’s adventures I quickly threw on a little black dress and some cowboy boots, fed Henri, then hurried downstairs. Tito’s Happy Hour is from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday- Sunday and I didn’t want to miss it.

The bar was full and seemed a good mix of locals and southern characters. Represented were: Texas, Biloxi, Baton Rouge, Alabama, and some poor ol’ guy from Pennsylvania whose football team isn’t in the SEC. Considering the cast, we chose to dine at the bar instead of our table for two. One of the locals suggested that eating at a casino when I was on the coast wasn’t a good choice, but I’m guessing he was about as informed as he was charming (insert sarcasm here).

Chef Kelly English is a James Beard Award semi-finalist and was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine. Using fresh from the region ingredients, he’s put together a menu that gives you no cause to leave. We started with an appetizer of gulf crabmeat au gratin- a gooey, cheesey bowl of delicious served with fresh French bread. My photographer, Mindy, had Big Daddy’s King Salmon with wild mushroom fried rice, wilted spinach, and ginger soy broth. On the bartenders recommendation, I ordered Gulf Snapper with sauce Ponchartrain and market vegetables. Don’t ask me specifics about the vegetables because they don’t matter. Sauce Ponchartrain is all you need to know.

By the time we were finishing our meal, it was getting close to 10:00 and the bar was shutting down. We skipped dessert, but overhearing my comment that “I only drink my Dad’s Cosmos because no one ever makes them right!” Jeanne, the bartender, felt personally challenged and obligated to show off a little.

Her name is Jeanne. You want her to make you a Cosmo. You will probably want her to make you more than one. Let me remind you that Tito’s Happy Hour is Tuesday- Sunday from 5-7 p.m. and Cosmos are $2.00. You’re welcome.

Lots of Options

There are currently five dinning options at Harrah’s with a soon to be added sixth. The sixth, an open-air bar and restaurant is under construction on the 10.5 acre Great Lawn and will have a dog-friendly patio overlooking the water. The Blind Tiger is guaranteed to be the best seat in the house for summer shows on the lawn, as well as the perfect place to watch next year’s lighted boat parade. Both the restaurant and the green-space are connected to the casino by a crosswalk that extends from the gulf-facing pool deck over the four lanes of street traffic, offering guests safe passage to and from the hotel to the restaurant and lawn.

The Blind Tiger bar and restaurant at Harrah's Gulf Coast

The Blind Tiger located on the Great Lawn will feature a dog-friendly patio

The Great Lawn is technically an event venue and dogs won’t be allowed during concerts and festivals, but it’s worth a mention because they are allowed the rest of the time. It’s not a place you’ll go for quick potty duties, but if you have a pup that is reliable off-leash, it’s perfect for an afternoon game of fetch. I always try to keep in mind that no matter how well-behaved Henri is on our travels, he’s still a dog and needs the freedom to act like one on occasion. I figure after being ushered from ship to shop all day, he’s earned the right to romp.

No Dogs Allowed

Paw prints in the sand

Leave paw prints, take pictures.

Although the beaches in Biloxi (Harrison County) don’t allow dogs, Harrah’s is still the perfect place to stay. It is right in the middle of everywhere we wanted to be. We could walk to the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum’s Schooner Pier Complex for a dogs-welcome cruise aboard their 65 foot schooner; a 5-minute drive took us to Main Street Biloxi for Christmas in the City on the Rue Magnolia; less than 20-minutes got us to Jones Park in Gulfport for the the Harbor Lights Winter Festival; and over the bridge only seven minutes away was downtown Ocean Springs– my very favorite part of the trip.

We’ll tell you more about our adventure and all the great dog-friendly places we discovered and people we met, including where the beaches are, in part two, Christmas on the Water. In the meantime, check out the amazing photos by MJW Photography in our Facebook album, or follow us on Instagram and Twitter using @MyTravelTails. We’re always up to something and you never know where we’ll go next.

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Pre-Holiday Decompress in Ponca, AR

Wild elk in Arkansas

Elk lounging roadside in Ponca, AR

If the current political climate or the prospect of spending the holidays with 30 cousins and all their babies crammed into a tiny house with nary a bottle of wine among you has you feeling more #stressed than #blessed, then I suggest you head to a place where cell phone service is non-existent and the only sounds are that of bugling elk or unnamed critters rustling through the leaves.

In preparation for the whirlwind of travel, shopping, and social engagements this time of year always brings, that’s exactly what Henri and I did last Friday night- a last minute, barely planned ditch of civilization.

It was the perfect 24-hour reset and something to feel truly thankful for.

With just enough time between obligations to sandwich in an overnight, Henri and I drove to Ponca, AR for a stay at Lost Valley Canoe and Lodging. Normally, weekend stays require two nights but when we inquired earlier in the week they told us if we called back Friday morning and the cabin hadn’t been rented, they’d let us have it.

Friday morning. Score #1.

After my appointment with some very cute and very rowdy beagle puppies, I headed home to pack. One carry-on size bag seemed sufficient for a no make-up, sleep naked, come home in the clothes you wore overnight trip. My bag- sweater, tennis shoes, moisturizer, tooth brush. Henri’s bag- blanket, stuffy, food, bowls. Done. Only two more stops before hitting the road. Grocery and liquor. In Arkansas, those are two different stores.

With a full ice chest and an hour of winding roads lined with the remnants of fall color ahead of us, we rolled down the windows, turned on Kenny Wayne and headed East.

My Mema always says I “get my ass between my shoulder blades”, but thankfully there’s something about leaving the city that just relaxes me. As soon as the buildings are few and the pastures are many, as soon as I realize there are no bars on my cell phone or that the only structures are farm houses and churches, those shoulders revert to their natural position. As I relaxed, my mind started to wander and I began to think of the elk.

Rocky Mountain Elk were introduced to the Buffalo National River area to replace the Eastern Elk that were hunted into extinction. Fall is the best time to catch them as it’s mating season and the bulls are in full rut. The herd tends to feed in the fields that lie along the Buffalo National River between Ponca and Boxley just after sunrise and then again in the late afternoon. I’d never seen them, but we’d timed our departure so as to be driving through the viewing area- a 7 mile range on Hwy 43- at the right time and making our cabin before sunset.

Friday afternoon. Score #2.

Between Ponca and Boxley there’s an Elk Education Center and an elk lookout. I don’t think the elk know about the lookout because they aren’t always there. However, if you want to find them, simply drive from Ponca down Hwy 43 to the south. Keep your eye on the fields on the east side of the road. Roadside elk-viewing spots can be had anywhere from the Ponca access to the trailhead for the Buffalo River Trail. If you see cars pulled over to the side of the road, join them.

After our roadside elk viewing pit stop, where I left Henri in the car and tried without success to find a hole in the fence, we continued on to our cabin. I was super-intent on making what I was sure would be a gorgeous sunset.

Our cabin was actually only about five minutes from the elk stop so after checking in at Lost Valley and being advised to ‘just gun it’ when going up to Hillside Cabin #1, we arrived. This is not a cabin for the lame or handicap, or the Toyota Avalon. In fact, in another five years I’m pretty sure my hip will give out and I’ll need a Sherpa to make it at all. Please God let me have a truck by then!

All this being said, the cabin is fabulous! A wrap around deck with rocking chairs, a hot tub and a charcoal grill does not disappoint. It even comes with a nice gray kitty. The only drawback is…no view of the hills, just woods. Fortunately, long summer days on the water have made me an excellent sun chaser and spying a sunny hilltop in the distance, I got it my mind that we should just drive in that direction. My plan worked.

Friday sunset. Score #3.

We drove in the direction of the mountaintop which led us to the entrance of the Steele Creek trail. From the entrance it’s just downward, not good for sunset viewing, but I found a great little spot across the road to throw a blanket and plop down. As the clouds changed from white to pink to dark blue and the mountain slowly sucked the light from the sky, I babbled to Henri about the majesty of sunsets. With patient eyes he stared, if only to appease me. He’s used to my ramblings.

Once I was satisfied with having seen the best of what would transpire that evening, we returned to our cabin for dinner.

At the store, we’d picked up all the necessary supplies for a long quiet evening of snacking, good eating and drinking. Cheese and crackers would tide me over while I built a fire and enjoyed a drink, and when I started to get really hungry, I’d planned to fire up the charcoal (bring your own) grill for a steak. Bacon-wrapped filets, roasted rosemary potatoes, and Michael David Petit-Petite were on the menu.

Henri split his time sniffing around our hillside and cleaning out the cat food bowl which I relocated to a table top out of canine reach. My rule for out-of-sight free-range is that I just need to hear his rustling or the jingle of his collar. This summer I discovered an LED collar at an outdoor store and it might be my favorite new dog accessory. If I can’t see the collar or hear him, I call him and he returns.

The sky was clear and starry and the night a cold, quiet reminder that winter is coming. It was perfect hot tub weather and a relaxing end to the day.

Saturday morning. Naked.

The crisp chill of the Saturday morning air led to one more dip in the hot tub while drinking my coffee. And the realization that if Travel Tails were a TV show, there are a lot of things I might not do. Like, sit naked in a hot tub while drinking my coffee. Or spend two days without make-up (lipstick doesn’t count).

Check-out was at eleven and we’d planned to grab some lunch and get in a hike before heading back to town. The hike was the whole point of the trip and not getting it was a major disappointment. Unfortunately, we discovered too late that many of the trails in the Buffalo National River area do not allow dogs. They allow horses, with their big hoofs that tear up trails and giant piles of crap that no one picks up, and there’s a HUGE controversy over a factory hog farm that was allowed to be built, but NO DOGS. I won’t ruin this story with a rant, but suffice it to say that I don’t get it!

We settled for a drive through Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and lunch at Low Gap Café. Neither was actually a ‘settle’ as the view at Horseshoe is nothing short of stunning and lunch was great. Horseshoe doesn’t allow dogs and is yet another reminder that I need a truck, but if you’re a frisbee golf player, you should get yourself there ASAP. I didn’t even bother trying to take a picture because I knew there was just no way to do it justice.

Low Gap does have an outdoor patio but it was a little chilly for that, so Henri had to wait in the car. They have excellent food, a BYOB alcohol policy (they’ll serve it to you in a red solo cup), and music on the weekends. It was a wonderful little surprise and certainly a place I’d eat again.

Once we returned home, I tweeted my disappointment in the availability of dog-friendly trails to @BuffaloNPS, the official Twitter source for the Buffalo National River. They responded to let me know that “Henri would love the Mill Creek Trail (Pruitt), Forrest Trail (Buffalo Point), and Overlook Trail (Buffalo Point)!” They also let me know that Hawksbill Crag/ Whitaker Point is a popular dog-friendly trail in the Upper Buffalo near Boxley, which is closer to where we were but temporarily closed due to a wildfire.

She gets political.

I’d guess a majority of the population of Arkansas is familiar with the Buffalo. For those that aren’t, shame on you. Get there. STAT. In addition, check out the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. I don’t get political very often but when there’s a factory hog farm near our nation’s first national river and its existance is a threat to a vast and beautiful wilderness, I get a little opinionated.

For the rest of you, plan a visit. I have no doubt that afterwards you’ll understand what we are trying to protect.

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Penguin Palace in OKC

A gift from guest services

Our sweet gift from Haley & Allie. And they spelled ‘Henri’ right!

I’m generally not a huge fan of art museums. Not because I don’t like art but because the places are always so stuffy. No food, no drinks, no gum, no touching, and although I’ve never seen a sign that says “Quiet Please,” I always feel like the loud kid at the library waiting for someone to shush me.

21c Museum Hotels aren’t like that at all and what hotel priding themselves on Southern hospitality wouldn’t be dog-friendly?!

If you haven’t stayed at one of the six museum hotels, you’re missing out. From the location and building design to the food served, each location boasts a local flare. Part boutique hotel, part contemporary art museum, 21c is making art accessible and fun. Henri and I are regulars at the Bentonville, AR location but living a mere twenty minutes away, we’ve never needed to stay the night. So when the newest hotel opened just three hours from us, it was time for another adventure.

Located on the West end of downtown Oklahoma City, OK and occupying the historic Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, this 135 room space was designed with great attention to the kind of details that would accentuate the history of the building as well as preserve its architectural character. Giant columns and original floors are left exposed in the lobby and the door of the elevator shaft that moved cars from floor to floor is painted bright red. In the rooms, carpeting resembles tire tread and faucet knobs look like the steering wheels of old Fords. From the public spaces that include the galleries, bar and restaurant to the guest rooms, art is staged in every nook and cranny. Only over-night guests with key cards are allowed past the first floor, so I suggest you book a room for the full experience. There’s plenty of other things to do in OKC and you won’t regret choosing 21c as your weekend base camp.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

A quick drink at the OKC Memorial

Getting a drink at the OKC National Memorial.

21c check-in isn’t until 4:00 p.m. That gave us just the right amount of time to make OKC before rush hour and spend some time at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Technically, the memorial space ISN’T dog-friendly, but we wandered into the green space from the side and didn’t see the signs until we were leaving. Several park rangers saw us, but no one asked us to leave. Maybe they thought Henri was a service dog…? In any case, the only comment made to me was that I shouldn’t let him drink the water in the fountain because it was chemically treated on a regular basis.

If you’re in, near or around OKC and you haven’t been to this site, it’s worth a detour. If you don’t do the museum, it won’t take much of your time and on a Thursday afternoon in October it wasn’t crowded and parking was a breeze. Placards and video boards throughout the space allow for a self-guided tour and park rangers are available for questions if you have them. It is a beautiful, peaceful space, and a powerful reminder of what happened there.

Bleu Garten Food Truck Park

After checking in at 21c and being out of the car for a bit, we were in need of food. Unfortunately, there is no portion of the bar, restaurant or patio at this 21c that is dog friendly. In search of options, we discovered Bleu Garten Food Truck Park in Midtown. It’s conveniently located across the street from Midtown Mutts Dog Park, which was a perfect place for Henri to stretch his legs and handle potty duties.

Bleu Garten. What can I say? Except what I said in my tweet.

Bleu Garten, Oklahoma City

Bleu Garten provides an amazing space that includes open air seating, fire pit, covered areas with TVs and two bars: one with beer taps and wine, the other with liquor, BOTH with bowls of dog treats. In addition, each night they’re open they welcome a rotating list of food trucks to provide a variety of dinning options.

The night we were there, I had a Pimento BLT from Pitchfork. It was as good as it sounds, and while I ate my sandwich, I chatted with some local girls who were there with a 9 week old Doodle named Millie. They suggested I skip the touristy Bricktown in favor of the Paseo Arts District or The Plaza. When the guy we met at the botanical gardens dog park the next day made the same suggestion, it was a done deal.

On Friday morning when I began to stir I realized Henri had to potty. By the elaborate dance he was doing, he meant that we should go quickly.

In a state of haste, I threw on my 21c robe, slipped on my cowboy boots, and headed downstairs with my dog.

A sight I’m sure, and why this would be so much more entertaining for y’all (and embarrassing for my Mom) if a camera followed us. Fortunately, the staff was highly amused and the private party taking place was Grease themed. The women at the check-in table were in robes and curlers a la Beauty School Drop Out and I was one teen angle short of fitting right in!

After returning to our room I ordered a breakfast of yogurt with honey, granola and dried fruit. It was way more than I could eat, so Henri got to share.

Myriad Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens are within easy walking distance of 21c but there’s a lot of urban renewal going on in the area and sidewalks are hit or miss. Also, when I got hustled in broad daylight at the national memorial, “No, I do not want to give you a blessing from Jesus,” I decided walking anywhere might not be in my best interest. Driving in downtown OKC is thankfully easy and the gardens are only about a 5 minute car ride from the hotel.

Five minutes. As in right in the middle of downtown OKC.

Myriad Botanical Gardens boasts 15 acres of natural beauty that includes splash fountains (now closed for the season), an off-leash dog park, and on the day of our visit, the children’s garden, a bustling scene of happy laughter, was staged as ‘Pumpkinville.’ Since dogs aren’t allowed into the children’s area, ‘PupVille’ had a place outside the entrance that was perfect for photos.

Taking photos at Pupville

A Pupville photo opportunity.

Now that Halloween is over, they are setting the scene for Christmas. So even though you missed Pumpkinville, you haven’t missed the holiday fun. The Devon Ice Rink opens November 11th, Winter Shoppes and the Merry Carousel return weekends starting November 25th, and I was assured that if your pup had a Christmas wish list to share with the jolly ol’ elf, he’d be glad to listen during Saturday’s with Santa.

We spent over an hour strolling the grounds and eventually made our way to the off-leash area for some sniffing and peeing. That’s where we met the cutest little puppy and his Dad. We tried to get the scoop on dog-friendly places to eat, but having lived in both Austin and New Orleans, he assured me I wouldn’t find anything interesting in OKC.

He doesn’t know me very well!

Paseo Arts District

Established in 1929 as Oklahoma City’s first commercial shopping district north of downtown, the faux Spanish village with its stucco buildings and clay tile roofs is now home to many of OKC’s local artists. We weren’t sure how dog-friendly Paseo Arts District would be but we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did.

Our first stop was Betsy King Shoe Boutique. Betsy was happy to welcome Henri into her shop and she was VERY displeased to discover we’d been told there was no good food in OKC. While I tried on a cute pair of animal print sneakers, she made us a list of some of her favorite patios including suggestions for what to try. Several spots at the Plaza made her list, as did Cheever’s in Uptown, and Picasso, right next door. Needless to say, you can always trust a woman with fabulous shoes to know exactly where to go!

In our meanderings through the Paseo, we discovered several dog-friendly shops and galleries. In fact, only one didn’t welcome Henri and that was because he was too big; carried dogs were welcome. Our favorite stops included The Purple Loft Art Gallery, where you will sometimes find the owner’s dogs at work with her; Craig’s Emporium, an eclectic mix of things you didn’t know you wanted; and Bone Dust Cowgirl, a vintage clothing and custom jewelry store where I almost lost my mind and my savings. One pair of Cayman Tail and one pair of Ostrich boots later, I left my business card and a request for a call if they come across black Ostrich quill with a walking heel. 8 ½ women’s, please.

After that unexpected score, I decided it was time to test Betsy’s recommendations. She’d told me that Picasso not only had a fabulous Basil Mojito but a ‘Dog Dish’ just for pups on the menu.

I have to be honest here. I had kinda discounted Picasso. A quick internet search of Paseo restaurants revealed a “local health-conscious café” with a “farm-to-table menu with vegan options.” Oh, look. All the food trend buzz words. Eye roll. I was hungry and hoped to find something not too weird, but having not actually looked at the menu, I was relying on Betsy. Trust the woman with the shoes, I tell ya.

First, let me start by telling you that Picasso has six menus including a drink menu that’s longer than the other five put together. Second, there are plenty of delicious sounding non-vegan options. Our waiter told me that the goal of Picasso was to create a place with something for everyone at the table. So guess what I had?

Fried Green Tomato Po Boy

Vegan? Me? Noooo!

Fried Green Tomato Po’ Boy with Picasso greens, cucumber chow chow, and garlic aioli on a fresh hoagie bun from local bakery, Prairie Thunder. With a side of Parmesan Risotto, it was FAN-Freaking-Tastic!

The Basil Mojito? Perfect.

Henri’s Dog Dish consisted of chicken and rice with fresh spinach and fancy carrot curls. For those of you wondering if humans and dogs share the same plates, they don’t. The Dog Dish is served in a disposable paper bowl.

Good job, Picasso, for exceeding expectations on every level, and thanks, Betsy, for the recommendation. Next time we’re in OKC, we’re hanging out with you!

Once Henri finished picking the chicken and rice out of his bowl and scattering the carrots for the birds hopping around on the patio, we paid our tab and made our way back to 21c. It was my plan for us to rest a bit, then head back out and get into something else. I had a great recommendation from the 21c staff, but even the promise of a newly opened wine bar with a dog-friendly patio, didn’t rally us. OKC Abstract was having a huge party in the gallery space and that was as far as we got. An hour of that had Henri ready for some quiet time. While one of the abstract relators held Henri for me, I grabbed a glass of wine from the bar and took it to our suite.

Although I wish dogs were at least allowed in the lounge portion of the bar and/or on the patio at 21c OKC, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt more welcome in a hotel. Not once did we enter or exit the lobby without someone greeting us, usually calling Henri by name and sometimes stopping to pet him. On Thursday evening, an employee offered to hold Henri’s leash outside the bar while I grabbed a drink and on several occasions someone offered to take a photo for us. I’m pretty sure all of the employees we encountered have dogs of their own and that lent itself to the genuineness of the hospitality. We shared stories and photos of our dogs, they made recommendations about places to go, and they seemed truly interested in our adventures and experience.

Each 21c is different, but I’m guessing you can expect the same great attention, if not access, at every location. Their Furry Friends Policy states that pets must be kept on a leash or in a carrier in public areas, and while pets may be left unattended in guest rooms, the front desk should be notified with information regarding how long you’ll be gone and a phone number where you can be reached. A fee of $150 per stay will be charged for any pet, and though not a hard limit, the preference is for pets to be under 60 lbs. Both the weight restriction and fee are waived for service animals.

“In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse lock yourself in your room and defend yourself against the inevitable horde of zombies. Feel free to use any guest room items and/or equipment to protect yourself.” -From the 21c Safety Guidelines.

I’m guessing if this occurs, payment for additional cleaning bills or repairs will also be waived.

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