Dog-Friendly Orlando: Where to Eat, Sleep and PlayBy David K. Gibson
If man’s best friend is your travel buddy, Orlando is becoming a great destination for you and your furry kid. While the city offers canine owners several dog-friendly hotels (check out The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes), finding things to do with your pet outside of your room can be a little more challenging. Here are four fantastic ideas:
Grab a Cup with Your Pup
Your dog needs a morning walk. You need your morning caffeine. You’re in luck, since many Orlando coffee shops have outdoor seating that welcome four-legged friends. Among the best are Stardust Video and Coffee in Audubon Park, where hipsters come to heel, and Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen on Winter Park’s tony Park Avenue. Just down that avenue is Palmano’s, which not only has great espresso and Italian lunches, but a large back courtyard for dogs who don’t fit on sidewalks. In the Mills50 district, Dandelion Communitea Café welcomes dogs to its front lawn, though you’ll have to pack your own kibble if you’re not raising a vegetarian Vizsla.
Find a Pint
The Florida heat can provoke thirst at both ends of the leash, but the pair of you won’t have to walk far in Orlando to find refreshment.
The king of the pet-friendly taverns is Burton’s Bar in Thornton Park; happy hour there often serves as many hounds as humans, and the bartenders know the local dogs by name. A few blocks west, the trail around Lake Eola (crowded with both joggers and swans, so keep the leash tight) is Relax Grill, Orlando’s best lakeside casual spot. The place is crowded with canines, and they aren’t there for the peel-and-eat shrimp. (Well, no one is there for the peel-and-eat shrimp — but the beer is cold.)
Due north, and with a view of another popular lakeside exercise path, is Ivanhoe Village’s Hammered Lamb. The Lamb allows dogs on their “patio,” which is a fully covered breezeway that makes up half the bar. The staff there are such dog lovers that they hosted a Puppy Bowl party in celebration of some locals — dogs from the Florida Little Dog Rescue Group — who were playing in the big game. Nearby, Thirsty Topher Beer and Wine Bar offers great beers on tap and good wines by the glass, and the front wall rolls up to create a rather porous border between inside and outside.
Another short walk, this time along the shore of Lake Formosa, leads you to Brass Tap. They’re a bit stricter about keeping dogs on the patio, but since the patio is about twice the size of the actual bar — and there’s a big green lawn adjacent to it — that’s not much of a problem.
Fetch Some Dinner
In most Florida cities, it’s legal for dogs to sit with their owners in outdoor dining areas. And we have a lot of those, from a few tables on a sidewalk to a field full of picnic tables. Around Orlando, Dexter’s (in Thornton Park or Winter Park) is extremely dog-friendly, and Pig Floyd’s offers great barbecue and a big patio. The whole of Winter Park’s Park Avenue is cheek-by-jowl with sidewalk tables, and a rescue pooch is a coveted accessory at any of them. Buried in low-traffic neighborhoods, you can find gems like Maxine’s on Shine and 903 Mills Market. The latter, a sandwich shop, is just a half block from great walking trails at Lake Davis and Lake Cherokee.
Bark in a Park
Unless we’re talking about Pluto or Goofy, pets are not welcome at the Orlando theme parks, although Walt Disney World offers a rather incredible day care program. But you can find plenty of parks made just for dogs in the city, including sprawling off-leash areas with lakes, forests — and squirrels to chase.