In southeast Louisiana, spring basically begins around Valentine’s Day. Sure, there may be a couple more days of bitterly cold weather yet left in the year. But for the most part, the atmosphere seems to start gearing itself up for the ‘dog’ days of summer.
Today I want to call your attention to a few great places you can enjoy with your dog(s), preferably before those aptly-named days set in. These are tried-and-true destinations for us, even though these days we tend not to bring the 4-ring circus out in public all at once unless we have extra manpower. (That’s Daisy, Vinny, Tony and Ladybug!)
Hope you enjoy the list! Please comment and let me know of any good suggestions for places to visit with our pup crew… or just certain members. 😉
1. 30A (Walton County, Fla.)
A few years ago I booked a pet-friendly condo in Miramar Beach, Fla. on very short notice for an anniversary vacation. The reasons I chose this location was 1) it was on the beach and 2) it came up as one of the first Google results when I typed in ‘pet friendly condos florida.’ We’re not huge beachgoers, so enjoying the scenery during the quiet of the off season (end of October) was appealing to us. Having a kitchen and one-bedroom condo was appealing to us. The price was more than all right. So we went for it; pups in tow.
Over that long weekend we discovered the magical Florida County Highway 30A. Just about 30 minutes west of Klassy spring-break-headquarters Panama City Beach, lie Classy beach towns and developments, including Seacrest, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor and Seaside. Some towns are rustic. Some are modern. Some have architecture that replicates old Europe and the Greek Isles. They all have their own character, and most were master-planned, meaning they are walkable while holding on to a very small-town vibe. And best of all – there are no high-rise condos to be found.
You and your dogs can fill many days strolling through canine-friendly towns, going to farmers markets, hitting hiking trails through the no less than eight state parks in the area, or just hanging out at your rented house or condo. Seaside is a great place for a quick lunch with pet-friendly outdoor seating. (Tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches or beignets, anyone?)
I would also highly recommend exploring Grayton Beach State Park, where you and your dog can hike through woods, cross over a massive sand dune and reflect on the meaning of life next to a tranquil coastal dune lake.
While visitors are not allowed to take their dogs on the beach in Walton County, the rest of the area’s natural wonders more than make up for it. And not to worry, there’s a public dog beach adjacent to Pier Park in Panama City Beach. We’ve always visited around Mardi Gras, when people are gearing up for Spring Break but the beaches are still basically empty. I call it ‘the calm before the storm.’
MORE PAWS OF INTEREST:
- Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s Mardi Gras Dog Parade
- Bow Wow Meow Pet Company (for any needed gear and dog food)
2. Bark Park at Lafreniere (Metairie, La.)
This is the closest official dog park to where we live in Luling, La. So when it’s time to take the ‘kids’ for an outing, this is usually where we go. We have never had a bad experience here. (Well, except for that one time Ladybug annoyed all the patrons by barking at the wind. They decided to chase her around while she continued screaming bloody murder. She kind of deserved it.)
As this is a public park, you will come across all breeds, sizes, colors and walks of life (I mean that for both the pets and their families). But everyone has been friendly and courteous to us here.
The park is divided into a large section for all dogs and a smaller section for dogs 20 pounds and under. This is great if you own a pup like Ladybug who is either intimidated by large dogs or just really confusingly loud for no reason. (Really, she starts barking in the parking lot and doesn’t stop until she’s back in the car to go home!)
There’s paved walking trails for the humans (and dogs – why do dogs feel the need to follow the sidewalk?), grassy areas, trees, benches, sometimes-muddy areas, a drinking fountain, a hose to wash off the dirt and ample amounts of poop bag dispensers. Pretty much everything you need for a good dog park experience.
MORE PAWS OF INTEREST:
- The giant Haydel’s bead dog statue right outside the gates
- PetSmart right down the road on Veterans Memorial Boulevard
3. Wetland Watchers Park (Norco, La.)
As far as parks go, St. Charles Parish doesn’t offer very much in the way of scenic beauty. Most parks here are centered around baseball or a neighborhood playground. The parish’s true natural beauty is showcased in its swamps, bayous and river vistas. One of the best ways to enjoy its waterways is in and around the Bonnet Carré Spillway.
While Wetland Watchers Park is not technically located in the spillway, it’s proximity to it and Lake Pontchartrain make it interesting in a lot of ways. It’s interesting to access (take a bumpy gravel levee-top road a couple miles north of Airline Highway and navigate under a raised train trestle and interstate highway), interesting to explore (fan out along one of a few raised wooden nature trails through thick swamps and brush) and interesting to observe (usually you’ll find at least a handful of people here kayaking, fishing or crabbing).
The nature trails and outdoor classrooms are what our pups really love. They’re simultaneously a browsing area full of great smells (rotting swamp gas, local flora, maybe some gator dung) and a raceway (nothing to stand in your way when your walkway is a few feet off the ground). Our kids love it, and you can even bring lunch with you to eat under one of the pavilions right on the shores of gorgeous Lake Pontchartrain.
MORE PAWS OF INTEREST:
4. Dat Dog (New Orleans, La.)
A restaurant with ‘dog’ in the title must be a great place to take dogs, amirite? Dat Dog specializes in hot dogs and sausages (and specifically their amazing crawfish etoufeé fries, but I digress). Their locations on Magazine Street and Freret Street have mostly outdoor seating, and patrons are encouraged to bring their well-behaved dogs.
None of our dogs are city pups, but they all do great here. We even brought one of our foster dogs, Junior, here with no problem whatsoever. The only real problem we ever have is the begging. Constant. Begging. But what do you expect? To a dog, Dat Dog’s menu is basically what St. Francis will serve them when they make it over the rainbow bridge.
MORE PAWS OF INTEREST:
- On Magazine, Petcetera New Orleans
Renee A. Simpson is a communications specialist in the Greater New Orleans area. For more information about her, visit www.melismaticdesigns.com.