pet parenting

Davi Goes Walkabout in Dog-Friendly Lakeland

Canine columnist is feelin' the breeze

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All I want is to travel. My dream is to set paw in every state and, ahem, *mark* all the dog-friendly spots I visit. In Florida, this is no dream if you know where to look. Take Lakeland, for instance, recently rated American’s Best Dog-Friendly Small City by National Geographic. The ranking was based on pet shops, dog parks, groomers and pet-friendly eateries per capita—or fur capita, if you will.

That fact alone was reason enough to grab my leash and head south. As expected, the Swan City was booming with bone-a-fide dog-friendly fun!

What a treat it was to walk around Florida Southern College’s campus and see buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Leashed dogs and their people may stroll through low-hanging esplanades and paved walkways. Something about the smell of the water dome reminded me of the wet mulch at the park. Whether you’re an architecture buff or a sightseeing dog, the tour gives you a glimpse into the famed architect’s mind, and take you where many people and pooches have never been.

Between sightseeing treks, I combined lunch and a walk in Munn Park. It’s small, but there are lots of green spaces to sniff and scenic paths to get you from point A to B. As for the food scene, downtown Lakeland isn’t limited to humans. There’s a barked-about restaurant that’s great for dogs on practically every corner. Black & Brew’s covered patio was a perfect spot to fill my belly and escape the afternoon heat before continuing our day.

After several stops, we returned to Lake Mirror for a stroll along the water, then took the time to walk through Hollis Garden, resplendent with beautiful flowers and fidgety lizards. It’s a delightful place (admission is free) to smell the roses and let nature inspire you.

No visit to a city is complete without a romp in a local dog park or two. These parks serve as off-leash oases for the canine community, and add value to the city. Among Lakeland’s parks are Dog Leg Woods, a shady retreat layered with mulch, sticks and dirt, and Crago Park, a grassy space with room to run and spots to shelter us from the hot Southern sun. Both have water fountains, waste stations and separate spots for small and not-so-small dogs.

Catching a sunset before a flick at Silver Moon Drive-In is pawfect for a throwback doggie date night, and an old-fashioned way to wrap up a road trip. Just $5 gets you and your four-legger in the gate, so bring the snacks and enjoy the show together!

With so many dog-friendly things to do, it’s no wonder Lakeland was selected as one of the top dog-friendly spots in the nation. The city really does go all out to accommodate pets. While the vibe in Lakeland is small-town mellow, the city gives off an overall good dog feeling. It’s safe to say dogs and people agree that the National Gepgraphic award is a doggone good one.

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Like Bob Seger, Davi the dachshund is up with the sun, gone with the wind.

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