We are just one day from the Global Pet Expo in Orlando!
I was particularly upset when Travel & Leisure magazine released its annual list, and tourists gave Orlando a 20 for pet-friendly, but Orlando residents gave the city a 26 -- down from last year!
Orlando often gets the short-end of the stick when it comes to these polls, but I think this one is pretty unfair. Orlando is very pet-friendly. Sure some of our biggest luxury hotels don't allow pets, and Disney is very pet-unfriendly, but there's lots of pet friendly places.
So -- here is why Orlando is perfect for pets:
Orlando has lots of leashed and off-leash parks. Orange County alone has eight dog parks, the closest to the convention center being Dr. Phillips Dog Park. Then there is Fleet Peeples Park in Winter Park, and parks in Casselberry, Winter Springs, Lake Mary and Sanford. In fact, Sanford's Paw Park is considered a top park in the country.
Florida allowed doggy dining on patios starting in 2006 (good thing this is the Sunshine state, huh?), and local governments and restaurants have been getting on board ever since. Orlando was one of the first cities to allow dogs to join their owners.
Near the convention center, Houlihan's, Brickhouse Tavern, and Cafe Tu tu Tango all have pet-friendly dining. Just up the road on Sand Lake Road is Cariera by Castelli, where Lulu enjoys the meatballs. A friend says she often brings her dog to Cantina Laredo as well.
Most places with a patio allow dogs, I find. That includes most of the restaurants along Park Avenue in Winter Park, and in downtown Sanford too, where Lulu and I enjoyed German fare at Willow Tree Cafe.
Looking to get your pet a Florida souvenir? Orlando has lots of pet-friendly shops and boutiques. Woof Gang Bakery is an Orlando-based company with several locations all over the area, including three in Orlando itself, and one on Sand Lake Road. There's also Bark Avenue Bakery on Sand Lake Road. There's also Pookie's Bakery on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park, just 15 minutes up the road on I-4.
In fact, many Winter Park shops allow dogs inside, especially on Park Avenue, where you can get lots of kitschy pet items at stores like The Doggie Door.
We have lots of pet events, with names like Mardi Paws, Pet-a-Palooza and RescueFest! You can find a pet-friendly event almost every month in Central Florida. We even have a Doggy Art Show in April.
While you are at the Global Pet Expo, say hello to some of our local vendors, like Wash 'N Zip pet beds, and Pet Party Printz, a wrapping paper that's safe for dogs to tear apart.
So no, you can't bring a dog on Disney property, and many of our top luxury hotels don't allow dogs (but many treat dogs like kings and queens). But I've given you the names of just a few places that love pets. Consider checking them out, and consider Orlando for your next pet-friendly vacation.