Road trip selfie

ROAD TRIP!

Just in case you’re a regular reader who doesn’t like baseball and beer (you still like the beach, right?!), I have good news for you. There’s more to St. Louis than the Cardinals. It’s an easy girls weekend get-a-away, and it’s really dog friendly in case said girls weekend includes two dogs. The Explore St. Louis website has an entire section dedicated to pet lovers and the St. Louis Petlover Coalition issues ‘Pet Friendly establishment’ stickers to businesses.

I first discovered the pet lovers link when confirming my reservation at the Westin St. Louis. I inquired if there was anything specific they might recommend for us to do and my contact sent me the link. This was only the beginning of the great hospitality we experienced while staying at this 255 room hotel located just minutes from Busch Stadium, the Gateway Arch, and the mighty Mississippi.

We rolled into town on a Friday night about 2 hours before a ball game. Traffic was getting thick, so we opted to take advantage of the valet parking. For only $10 more ($20 self-park, $30 valet), we did not have to get back out there until we left on Sunday. As much as I love traveling, I really hate driving. And I really, really hate driving in city traffic in an unfamiliar place. Re-routing, re-routing.

Once unloaded- do you know how much stuff two dogs and two single women have?!- we went to the front desk to check-in. The on-duty manager immediately greeted both dogs BY NAME. Now, you’re supposed to know my name; it’s in your computer with my reservation. But when you know the name of my dog AND his traveling companion, you’re scoring major paws up. It only got better.

We headed up to up to our room with a very suspicious Charlie in tow. Though Charlie is used to car travel he’s never been in the car over three or four hours. We’d just done almost six. Additionally, Charlie goes from one familiar place to another familiar place. He’s never stayed in a hotel, and elevators, though he has been on one, are totally suspect.

What do you mean the ground is moving and we are trapped in here?

I do not mean to make it sound like Charlie panicked, he did not, but the difference in Henri’s casual ‘whatever’ attitude and Charlie’s cock-eyed observations was noticeable. Until we got to the room.

Westin Welcome

Welcome to the Westin St. Louis

Our room was prepared for our arrival with two signature Westin Heavenly Dog Beds, dog bone shaped poop bag dispensers, place mats with food and water bowls, and…wait for it…a welcome basket that included not only snacks for the humans but a big bowl of freshly prepared (it was still warm) hamburger, rice and veggies for the dogs.

Much like a bloodhound and his nose, Charlie is guided in all things by his rumbling gut, and suddenly, strange places weren’t so bad. After eating and unpacking a few familiar items, all was right with the world.

 

Downtown St. Louis

First on our agenda was an evening constitutional for the dogs. At check-in, we’d been pointed in the direction of the large green space at 9th and Clark on the corner opposite the hotel as a good place for potty duties and/or a grassy stroll. After that, we were off in search of the Tito’s Airstream I’d spotted just down the street from our hotel. I was sure they were there for the Pooches in the Ballpark event and hoped they would have the much coveted (by me) Vodka For Dog People swag.

SCORE! Not only did we snake the swag and a cocktail, the airstream is an air-conditioned lounge, which further reinforced for Charlie that travel was good. We chatted with the Tito’s folks about their Route 66 tour benefiting animal welfare organizations, and learned of a newly opened dog-friendly bar with some interesting baseball inspiration. The bar was right next to the the place we’d planned to walk for dinner so we added it to our agenda. After finishing our drinks, we thanked the Tito’s folks for their hospitality and walked the several blocks to Bridge.

Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar is only about a half mile from the Westin and features dog-friendly seating at the street-side café tables located on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. I suspect Locust street might be pretty busy during the day or on a regular, non-game Friday night, but this particular evening there wasn’t much traffic. Bridge boasts an extensive beer and wine menu featuring 200 plus beers with 55 on tap, and over 100 wines with more than 20 available by the glass.

This was the perfect choice for us. Jennifer is always looking to try to new beers and log them on her ‘UnTapped’ app, and I’d seen something on the menu called ’Wine Over Whiskey’ that I was sure I needed.

Bourbon and Wine

Wine Over Whiskey

We started with an appetizer of Smoked Striploin shaved thin and served atop toasted focaccia with tomato jam, Gorgonzola and arugula. My apologies for the foodie photo fail. It was delicious and half gone before either of us thought that perhaps we should have taken a picture. Consider it a compliment to the chef.

The appetizer portion of Striploin was large enough that we decided to split the entrée of Mac and Cheese made with roasted poblano pepper, tomato, Schlafly IPA, cheddar, and pretzel crust. The pretzel crust was a great addition but since I’m not a big IPA fan, I didn’t enjoy the flavor as much as Jennifer did. That Smoked Striploin was amazing though, and I’d get it again and not share.

I’m also in the process of burning through a bottle of Bulleit Rye trying to recreate the Wine over Whiskey cocktail.

After dinner we moseyed next door to Tiny Bar, the Tito’s rep’s recommendation. Aptly named, the 250 square ft space takes its inspiration from 3’7 pinch hitter for the St. Louis Browns, number 1/8, Eddie Gaedel. With only one at bat (he walked and was quickly replaced by a standard size pinch runner), he is the shortest player in major league history. Like Gaedel, Tiny Bar is small on space but big on style.

Please note that I am about to use ‘unpretentious’ and ‘craft cocktails’ in the same sentence.

The bartender, Jen, who frequently brings her Chihuahua to work with her, welcomed us she immediately got a bowl of water for the dogs and then took our order. A laid back and unpretentious environment, the chalk board menu features signature craft cocktails including the 1/8: a shaken concoction of rum, Velvet Falernum, orange curacao, pineapple syrup, and grenadine served on the rocks. They also serve draft beer, Bud and Bud Light by the bottle, wine by the glass, Tito’s- obviously, and a couple varieties of good bourbon.

Since the place only has about 10 seats and they were all occupied, we plopped down on the floor next to our dogs. We eventually moved to the outdoor cocktail table because the high-ceiling architecture lends itself to a rather loud echo and Charlie seemed to be reaching his ‘new things threshold’. We only had one drink before the dogs let us know it was time to go.

It was a relaxed stroll back to the Westin with a lot of what seemed to be locals walking their dogs. St. Louis gets a bad rap sometimes, but I didn’t feel unsafe. Once back in our room, Henri was more than happy to take up two dog beds since Charlie wasn’t using his. If his bed was anywhere near as comfortable as mine, I can’t blame him.

It was easily the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve ever slept in. ‘Heavenly’ indeed.

Westin Heavenly Dog Bed

Henri approves of the amenities at the Westin

 

A note here about big city dog walking

At Tiny Bar, we noticed Charlie was chewing his foot (part of the reason we didn’t stay longer). Unable to see anything that could be an irritant, we decided to just rinse his paws when we got back to the room. This is something I’ve never had to do or thought to do with Henri, but because of the obvious irritation, we did it with Charlie.

Boy were his feet dirty!

All kinds of debris dislodged with that quick rinse. So I feel like it’s worth mentioning that if you have a dog with fluffy Clydesdale feet and you’re doing a bunch of walking on busy, big city streets, it might be worth a quick rinse once you get back to your room just to be on the safe side. We rinsed Henri’s paws too after that, and though not near as bad as Charlie’s, it was worth doing. It will definitely be something I pay more attention to on future travels, and paw wax is now a part of our travel arsenal.

Ballpark Village

On Saturday morning, we woke up pretty excited. We were about to take our dogs to a Cardinals baseball game. Of course, I had to caffinate first and this is where the ability to open your back door and let your dog out to potty while you start the coffee pot is grossly under-appreciated. Fortunately, Jennifer and Charlie get up a lot earlier than I do and Henri had already been out with them.

I’m not a big breakfast eater and we still had travel snacks and the fresh fruit from our welcome tray. However, the Westin Eat Well breakfast menu, and in fact, the entire menu featuring ‘All Day Dining’ from 11-11 and ‘Late Night’ from 11-6:30 is pretty great. I really loved the variety of healthy and gourmet options available. Breakfast options included fresh smoothies, and all day options featured everything from Sesame Seared Salmon Salad to Tenderloin.

Ready and out the door by 10:30, we headed downstairs, where the dogs were, again, greeted by name. We walked the short distance to Busch Stadium in hopes of roaming and getting in a few tourist shots before it got too crowded or hot. It also seemed like a good oppurtunity to let the dogs orient to the surroundings. I don’t think about these things when I travel with Henri because he’s used to it and usually just goes with the flow.

It was a great experience for me to travel with another dog and notice the differences between the two.

Since we didn’t have to check-in with Purina until 1:15, we decided to grab a light snack. The ONLY restaurant in Ballpark Village with a dog-friendly patio is Drunken Fish. That works out ok though, because they’ve been voted Best Sushi and Best Happy Hour in St. Louis. I haven’t been to any other place in St. Louis for sushi, so I can’t comment other than to say “I’d go back to this one.”

Appetizer on the patio

Edamame Hummus and cocktails

The service was excellent with immediate greets and bowls of water for the dogs. The staff was super-friendly, and I think most everyone in the restaurant, including the manager, came out to say hello to the pups. Our server made sure to tell us about the free appetizer if we checked in on Yelp and I’m really glad she did! The Edamame Hummus is a ‘zesty, smooth blend of edamame soybeans’ served with fried wanton chips, and is yet another thing I’ll be attempting to recreate at home. Following our appetizer, I had a simple cucumber roll and Jennifer a salad; both were fresh and tasty.

After lunch, we headed to the game and it was arguably one of the coolest things I’ve done in a long time. I’ve been to several baseball games with Henri, but Purina does a really great job with the Pooches in the Ballpark event. When the game was over we decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel.

Another great thing about the Westin is the noon check-out. Aloft does it too, so maybe it’s a Starwood thing. Not being a morning person, I’m a big fan. #SPGlife

Turns out we didn’t need the extra time this trip because we had brunch plans at the home of an old friend of Jennifer’s. It’s too bad ‘Janine’s’ is a private residence. Fresh fruit, biscuits and gravy, two breakfast casseroles, grilled asparagus, bacon…Sorry y’all!

If you need a brunch plan, check out our review of the Boathouse in Gateway to the West.

Brunch left us pretty full, and frankly in need of a nap, but we had one more stop on our way out of town.

AKC Museum of the Dog

Henri and Charlie pose

Henri and Charlie are ready to explore

Located about 20 minutes from downtown St. Louis, the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog opened in the historic Jarville House in 1985 and is the world’s finest collection of art devoted to the dog. The 14,000 sq. ft. facility includes three levels and six galleries displaying over 700 original paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, sculptures, bronzes, and porcelain figurines, as well as a variety of decorative art objects depicting man’s best friend.

My two favorite exhibits were the temporary Faces, Families, and Friends: Dog Photography of Lynn Terry (showing April 14th- August 7th) and the permanent exhibit honoring war dogs. I maybe teared up a few times reading some of those soldiers’ stories.

 

The dog museum is part of a larger public space, Queeny Park. In addition to the museum it features the Tails and Trails Dog Park. The museum attendant told us we could go there, but when we did, we discovered it is a private, membership only park accessible by code. This unpleasant surprise made me mad, so I tweeted St. Louis County to let them know of my disappointment. They got back to me to let me know that day passes to the dog park WERE available. Once home, I did some digging and got the scoop.

Sometimes my random indignance is useful.

There are two sides to Queeny Park: the Mason side, where the dog museum is located, and the Wideman side, where the Greenfelder Recreation Complex is located. You’ll have to go to the rec complex to purchase your one day guest pass to the dog park. The cost is $5 and you’ll need to show proof of rabies, distemper, and bordetella vaccination. The complex is open 7 days a week Monday-Friday 8:00-4:30 and Saturday-Sunday 8:00-4:00.

Third Time’s A Charm

This is our second trip to St. Louis and who knows, we might do a third! There’s no shortage of places to stay or things to do with your pup.

We really loved the hospitality and the downtown convienence of the Westin. You will need to sign a waiver of responsibility acknowledging that you agree to the terms, including not leaving your dog unattended in the room, but there are no extra fees or deposits. The weight limit is what I call a ‘soft 40’.

Dogs over 40 lbs are allowed at the hotel’s discretion; just call.

If you’re taking your first trip to the Gateway City, then stay downtown. There’s plenty to do during a weekend and it’s all within walking distance. If you’re not up for a stroll, then take a carriage. A lot of them are dog-friendly and it’s a easy way to see the city.

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