Dog's Day Out in Orlando, FL
Looking for a unique boutique? Hunting down that perfect bottle of wine or box of chocolates? Or maybe you just want the Parisian experience of sipping a great cup of coffee in an idyllic Old World setting. The shops and restaurants of Park Avenue have both you and your dog covered. Upscale restaurants and cafés all feature outdoor seating for you and your pup, and most of the stores allow you to bring your dog with you as you browse. Known as the “Little Europe” of Central Florida, this row of shops running opposite a large and well-manicured park hosts dozens of festivals, including the prestigious Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, allowing both you and your dog to have new experiences throughout the year.
Located just north of the Kennedy Space Center, a straight hour shot out of Orlando, this pristine wildlife sanctuary and park puts you into some of the most raw and beautiful Florida around. While dogs are not permitted on the beach, they are free (as free as they can get on a leash) to explore the lagoon side of things. Nature trails and parks meandering through long stretches of shimmering wetland help acquaint tourists and lifelong residents alike with the state’s natural glory, and it’s an experience made even better with your pet. Reserve your spot on a guided pontoon boat tour of the estuary to see even more hidden gems.
What visit to Orlando would be complete without some thrill rides? Old Town in neighboring Kissimmee is a boardwalk-style attraction comprised of shops, food, games and rip-roaring rides for all ages. But unlike the major theme parks, dogs can join their owners for (most of) the fun. Leashed dogs are allowed in the common areas and at the outdoor restaurant seating. Check their calendar for upcoming shows and events. The wide variety of entertainment ranges from free concerts to the Saturday Nite Car Cruise, featuring more than 300 restored classic hot rods and ramblers – the largest weekly cruise of its kind in the U.S.
For a taste of true Orlando, trot your dog over to the Audubon Park Garden District on Monday nights from 6-10 p.m. With a committed focus on local fare, this community market brings in organic produce – often grown within the city – seafood caught right off the coast, prepared food using local ingredients and handmade crafts, soaps and more from artists you can meet. Live music usually accompany the festivities, and you can check out information on how you can get involved in projects around town. Whether you’re interested in starting a home garden or you just want to support local merchants, this market will make you and your dog feel a little closer to the city.
If you work up an appetite strolling around downtown with your four-legged friend, head a little east to Thornton Park, where Dexter’s offers outdoor seating and gourmet menus. The atmosphere is perfect in this quiet but trendy neighborhood to enjoy the company of other dog lovers over a savory meal. Tasty selections from malted Belgium waffles to white spinach lasagna to pan-roasted mahi mahi with pepper jack grits are available from brunch to dinner. Dexter’s also features a wide variety of wines, martinis and specialty drinks, and with their daily drink specials, your dog may wind up walking you home.