(This road trip with dogs post was updated with more dog-friendly destinations on May 24, 2023.)
As proud new pet parents ourselves, we finally get it: you need ideas for dog-friendly destinations. As you plan your own road trip with dogs, bookmark this post and revisit it from time to time as we add more content.
Every time we go on a new adventure with Duchess — a mini-poodle who just turned 10 months old — we’ll write about it here. Just like we’ve outlined some fun day trips from Toronto, road trips from Toronto, and other weekend getaways in Ontario, you can expect to find hotels that allow dogs (or other lodging, like vacation homes), dog-friendly cafés and restaurants and activities to do with your furry friend at these dog-friendly destinations.
Looking for dog-friendly beaches in Ontario? That post is for you.
A ROAD TRIP WITH DOGS: DOG-FRIENDLY DESTINATIONS
We love how many of you have already told us how much you’re loving our dog-friendly destinations series. We love it, too! It’s definitely been a learning curve travelling with Duchess, but it means so much to us when we can bring her along on our family adventures.
In this ongoing series, you’ll find these dog-friendly destinations featured:
- Lake Placid
- with more coming soon!
Dog-friendly destinations — Toronto
Take a road trip with dogs to: Toronto!
Considering we live in the GTA (that’s the Greater Toronto Area for the non-Ontarians who have entered the chat), it’s about time we featured Toronto in our dog-friendly destinations series. Some parts of the city are more doggy-centric than others – like The Beach(es), where there may in fact be more dogs than people – while some of the downtown core is so incredibly busy with foot traffic that you may want to tread carefully and avoid rush hour walks at all costs in some areas, like near Union Station.
Toronto pet-friendly hotel: Chelsea Hotel
Part of the international Langham Hospitality Group, you can saunter over to the 1865 Loyalty desk upon arrival at the Chelsea Hotel if you’re a member. There was no one ahead of me when we arrived and when I looked over at the regular check-in line that was six people deep, I was delighted that I signed up for the 1865 program back in 2015 when I stayed at The Langham in New York City. (More on that spectacular property when my upcoming NYC post is published.)
First and foremost, the Chelsea isn’t just Toronto’s biggest hotel – it’s Canada’s! Its 26 floors and 18 elevators service nearly 1,600 rooms, but (somehow) it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb downtown, despite its prime location in the Yonge Street corridor near College Park.
And what it lacks in parking options for those driving anything bigger than a sporty CUV since the underground parking can only accommodate vehicles under 5’6”, it makes up for in family-friendly amenities like:
- The Family Fun Zone with a heated pool (like, actually really properly heated!); hot tub; corkscrew waterslide, which has a section that winds its way outside of the hotel (yay!) but it’s fully covered and opaque so you can’t see when you’re outside (boo!); a cute Kids’ Centre with a dress-up area, games, books, a small aquarium and even a couple of very happy-looking bunnies; and the Club 33 Teen Lounge, outfitted with a pool table, arcade games ($), foosball table and TVs – all of which are in great working order (even if the space itself could a bit of jazzing up)
- A breakfast buffet in the onsite Market Garden Restaurant that has an inexpensive kids’ plate option if your littles aren’t big eaters; food is decent and priced with convenience in mind like any typical hotel breakfast. The self-serve dark roast coffee is *chef’s kiss*
- The Show Your Key & Save attractions discounts available for Chelsea Hotel guests, updated regularly to reflect new and ongoing partnerships around the city, including a pet-friendly one that I’ve noted below
- A foodie’s delight – T|bar. Chef-driven menu featuring great flavours and good portions without insane prices considering the quality, but no kids’ menu so this is better suited to families with older kids
There’s also an adult pool deck and fitness centre up on the 27th floor, but this wasn’t a grownups-focused visit to the city, so we didn’t even have a chance to venture up there. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a jar of honey for $5, which comes from the bees on the hotel’s own beehive! All proceeds go to SickKids Hospital.
Pro Tip: Be sure to request one of the newly renovated rooms, depending on availability. We found them spacious, airy and modern with nice, crisp bedding.
Most important for this story, however, is that the Chelsea Hotel Toronto is, of course, pet-friendly.
Here’s what you need to know about bringing your doggy to the Chelsea Hotel Toronto:
- The hotel welcomes small- and medium-sized dogs with a 50-lb. weight limit (and, it should go without saying that your pooch should be well-behaved and housebroken)
- Two pets per room, maximum
- There’s a $50 per stay pet fee, to account for extra cleaning
- The hotel doesn’t encourage you to keep your dog(s) in your room unattended but provided you leave your phone number with the front desk, exceptions are made for those who can be happily and quietly crated, which means you can go down for breakfast as family, for example
- Dogs are allowed in the lobby and hallways to get to and from your room, but not in any restaurants or common areas like the Family Fun Zone or adult pool, and must be leashed at all times when not in your room
- Just beyond the hotel’s Elm Street exit, you’ll find a pet station with poop bags and faux grass. Some dogs are definitely using it to do their business, but ours wouldn’t and the next-best option (with real grass) is across the street at College Park
- Any damage or guest complaints due to your pet are your financial responsibility
- You can find the Chelsea Hotel’s full pet policy here
- There’s an enclosed patio just outside of the Market Garden Restaurant that’s perfect for dining with your dog if you’d rather not leave him or her in your room when you eat; just be aware that it’s not covered, so it may be closed due to weather
THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO WITH DOGS:
Dogs, dogs and more dogs. Or activities like puppy yoga if you don’t have a dog of your own. Toronto is FULL of dogs.
Once you’re done eating at or having fun in the Chelsea Hotel, there are lots of ways to spend quality time with your dog in Toronto:
- Visit The Distillery Historic District – there’s an adorable shop called Sniffany & Co with luxe pet products and handmade, high-end treats plus top-tier food brands and your dog will also be welcome in a number of other shops throughout this historic district. The cobblestone-lined area is riddled with dogs of all shapes and sizes, and thanks to a number of patios and coffee shops, you could stay all day (so bring a portable water bowl). You can stay well into the evening, too, thanks to the dog-friendly Haunted Walk, which meets at the Distillery front gate (tickets must be purchased in advance and Chelsea Hotel guests get 15% off); we learned so much about the area and heard some very creepy stories in the process. It was a huge hit with almost 15-year-old K Man!
- Go to a park – High Park and Trinity Bellwoods are both awesome for dog owners, with dedicated off-leash areas that aren’t traditional “fenced in” dog parks. Parking isn’t great for either location, but you may luck out and find free street parking in both spots if you go early enough (we did). High Park – which is enormous and you could easily spend all day exploring – has more dogs running free than we have ever experienced anywhere else, and although our experience was a positive one, you just never know what kind of dogs and dog owners you’ll encounter so be sure to be extra-conscious while you’re here
- Go to the beach! Cherry Beach has free parking and a large fenced-in off-leash zone that’s full of mature trees, plenty of room for an exhilarating game of fetch and even a dog-friendly section of beach complete with mild Lake Ontario waves. Why bring your own ball when there are free sticks up for grabs?!
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK IN TORONTO DURING YOUR ROAD TRIP WITH DOGS:
When patio season hits, Toronto has one of the best scenes anywhere. Even if the City of Toronto has made it harder (read: prohibitively expensive) to secure extended patio permits, like we saw during the height of COVID, there’s no shortage of regular patio options in The Big Smoke. This section will definitely grow over time, so keep coming back for more!
We (alphabetically) recommend:
- Black Lab Brewing – since it’s not a restaurant, this brewery plays by its own rules and allows dogs even indoors. Duchess was one of about eight dogs in the joint during our visit and loved making some new furry friends. Although there are foodstuffs available onsite, you’re also encouraged to bring your own food in and stay as long as you like. I’m not usually a beer gal, but I can’t say enough about Black Lab’s Jelly Bean Kennel Sour – OMG. So good!
- Goppion Caffe – when the neighbourhood dog has its own dog bowl at a cafe, you know it’s not just dog-friendly, it’s dog-fanatical! Bring your pooch inside or enjoy the patio life near Fort York, sipping on coffee beans from Italy and noshing on homemade ice cream (which my kids gave four thumbs up) or the yummiest doughnuts delivered daily from the one and only Donut Hive (the pistachio raspberry is #YUMazing!). And don’t be surprised if the owner treats your fur baby to some soft serve…
- Grenadier Cafe – don’t have the bandwidth to organize a picnic lunch for a day at High Park? Not to worry, the Grenadier Cafe is within the park itself and allows dogs on its patio. Be prepared for a lineup and pass on the basic machine coffee in favour of some bottled water to go with your chicken Caesar wrap or chicken fingers and fries, both of which are respectable meal choices here
- HOTHOUSE – this is a long, longtime favourite of ours; Big B and I have been going to HOTHOUSE near St. Lawrence Market since we started dating more than 20 years ago. Its famous Sunday brunch is the epitome of gluttony goodness and you can enjoy it on the patio alongside your BFF – best furry friend
- Lobster Burger Bar – though the rain foiled our patio lunch plans here, we really had our hearts set on lobster rolls and the Lobster Burger Bar’s dog menu. That’s right – they have a DOG MENU! Even though I found there was much less lobster meat in the rolls compared to the last time I ate here a few years ago, and I wouldn’t bother with the lobster chowder again, the double cheeseburger and mac ‘n cheese were both outstanding and the lobster cheese gravy made the French fries sing. But, best of all, the dog menu. Wow! We ordered Duchess the $6 portion of the Beef Lovers recipe made with locally sourced beef, beef liver, broccoli, kale, carrots and organic supplements. She went absolutely bonkers for this stuff and devoured it with more gusto than even the raw topper we add to her (very expensive, high-quality, Toronto-made) kibble. This was the ultimate treat for her weekend getaway in Toronto!
- Market Garden’s patio at the Chelsea Hotel – you can use the Grab ‘n Go offerings just inside the patio doors or grab a bite-to-go from any of the nearby restaurants or quick-serves and pop a squat in this really pretty courtyard, dog in tow
- Mildred’s Temple Kitchen – we hadn’t been to Mildred’s since it moved to this newer location in Liberty Village, so it had easily been a decade since I sunk my teeth into its iconic buttermilk pancakes with blueberry compote. Tasting it and re-living our carefree Toronto brunch memories with Duchess at my side made it that much sweeter. There are no reservations on weekends and you can expect to find yourself in a lineup if you arrive after 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday, but there’s seating a-plenty on this dog-friendly patio. Just be mindful that while indoor dining opens at 9 a.m., the patio doesn’t actually get going until 10 a.m. Pro tip: get a Petite Thuet croissant (or three) to go
- Mill Street Brewpub – the duck wings are no longer on the menu (#sadface), but the Korean BBQ sauce on their regular ol’ chicken wings is a mighty fine alternative. Your dog is welcome on the large patio and because its in a prime spot within the Distillery District, your meal also comes with a side of great people-watching
Dog-friendly destinations — Ottawa
Take a road trip with dogs to: Ottawa!
We had the Lake Placid trip detailed above planned for some time before I decided it would be wise to look at our route to pre-determine pee breaks (for both the kids and Duchess). I mentioned aloud that Ottawa would be a good spot, despite it being a minor detour. The kids heard and begged us to hang out in Ottawa en route home.
So, we did even better than that and decided to add an entire weekend in Ottawa at the tail end of Lake Placid. Sure, it meant stopping to buy extra dog food and underwear, but what the heck? Because apparently we are crazy.
If you’re travelling in the warmer months, you’ve gotta check out these 9 weekend getaways in Ontario — one of which is Ottawa.
Dog-friendly hotels in Ottawa: The Westin Ottawa
We’ve stayed at Westin hotels many times, including Blue Mountain and Mont-Tremblant, but never Ottawa. This is the first time we’ve even been conscious of just how dog-friendly the chain is. The Westin Ottawa was also a really good test for Duchess’s housetraining, because we were up on the 20th floor; that meant, after holding it in all night, she had to wait for an elevator and then cross the road to reach a patch of grass. (Happy to report that she passed with flying colours!)
Here’s what you need to know about bringing your pooch to The Westin Ottawa:
- Dogs up to 80 pounds are welcome, but you do need to add them to your reservation ahead of time
- You’ll need to sign a waiver at check-in before your dog goes anywhere in the hotel
- Your room will be set up with a Heavenly Bed specifically for your dog, along with food and water bowls
- All animals must be on-leash and in their owners’ control while in the hotel’s public areas
- Pets are not allowed where food and beverages are being consumed throughout the hotel
- If you leave your room, your pet must be with you
- You will be charged a fee for any room damage
We really appreciated the Mirror Lake Inn’s rule that allowed dogs to stay in guest rooms alone, provided they’re crated. At The Westin Ottawa, we had to split up to eat breakfast in Daly’s Restaurant onsite since someone had to be with Duchess at all times.
Pet-friendliness aside, we absolutely loved The Westin Ottawa’s location, which put us within easy walking distance of the ByWard Market, Sparks Street, the Parliament buildings and so much more. I have to say, though, perhaps my favourite bit is that it’s connected to the Rideau Centre (fab shopping mall), which meant that even though it was snowy AF outside, we could put on our flip flops and saunter coat-free to the mall! My kids, however, would tell you that the pool was their favourite part of staying at The Westin Ottawa.
Things to do in Ottawa with dogs:
Did you know that Ottawa is ranked one of North America’s most dog-friendly cities? (Learn more in this article from Doggos.ca)
Like Lake Placid, it’ll be fantastic to revisit this post after a summer visit to Ottawa because there will be so much more to see, do and enjoy with Duchess. Winter weather with a puppy that tires quickly is a tad limiting, but we definitely covered a lot of ground:
- Walking along the Rideau Canal — especially once it’s frozen and becomes a huge outdoor ice skating attraction! You can access the Canal simply by walking across the street from the hotel; we’re talking 45 seconds, max.
- Visiting the Rink of Dreams — set up in Marion Dewar Plaza, just outside Ottawa City Hall, this rink is lit beautifully at night and enjoys a long outdoor skating season (about mid-November to mid-March) thanks to a
refrigerated surface. During this time, it operates seven days a week and, aside from the LED lighting, it also features a heated change hut, picnic tables and benches. Best of all? It’s FREE if you bring your own skates! Skate rentals are available onsite if you don’t have your own. Obviously, your dog can’t go on the ice but if you’re taking your kids, you and your furry friend can watch together from the sidelines
- Wander around the Parliament Hill grounds — see the Centennial Flame that bursts out of a fountain (it never freezes!), marvel at the spectacular architecture and remind yourself that you’re in the nation’s capital by breathing it all in
- Explore Sparks Street — it’s pedestrian-only, making it an amazing space for dog-owners. While we were there, Sparks Street was adorned with Christmas trees, lamppost garlands and a light court for its Winter Wander festival, but there are permanent art fixtures and installations there, too
- Check out Major’s Hill Park — it’s behind the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel and has a nice, loop-style path with beautiful views of Parliament, the Ottawa River and the National Gallery of Canada. And it’s the perfect place for a poop. (For your dog, not for you!)
Where to eat/drink in Ottawa during your road trip with dogs:
- Beyond the Pale Brewing Company — who were willing to bring out a picnic table had the weather decided to co-operate, and are super-duper dog-friendly when patio season is in full swing! The food at the Smoque House here was excellent; get the poutine, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, jerk chicken egg rolls (the best!) and pulled-pork mac n cheese. If you’re not eating onsite, grab some beer for a DIY flight at home or your hotel. I’m not even a beer drinker and thought the Pink Fuzz, a grapefruit wheat beer, was delicious. Big B tried a smorgasbord of beer and couldn’t even decide on a favourite
- The Ottawa Farmers’ Market — farmers from eastern Ontario and west Québec (within roughly 100 km) gather here each Sunday all year; from May through October, it’s an outdoor affair but between November and April, it’s housed in the Aberdeen Pavilion, a beautiful heritage building. Even when it’s held indoors, well-behaved pets on leashes are
allowed inside! We nabbed some serious goodies here, so come hungry! There’s also a small (and free) skating rink behind the Pavilion and a leash-free area for dogs, the Sylvia Holden Dog Park, about a four-minute walk away. Don’t leave the market area without grabbing a mocha from the Indigenous-owned Beandigen Café
- Altcetera Cafe — in Ottawa’s Alt Hotel, which is also dog-friendly, this is the one-and-only cafe I could find where Duchess was welcome to stay for a dine-in experience. It’s part of the Happy Goat Coffee Co. chain, which I wrote about in the Ottawa section of my weekend getaways in Ontario post (because it’s really, really good coffee), but don’t go thinking all of the other locations will let your pooch settle in while you enjoy your java onsite. That’s reserved for this location only, though the others will let you pop in with your pup for takeout
Dog-friendly destinations — Mont-Tremblant
TAKE A ROAD TRIP WITH DOGS TO: MONT-TREMBLANT!
Is Mont-Tremblant dog-friendly? HECK, YES!
We already knew from years of walking the pedestrian village that people love to bring their dogs to Tremblant. But until we were dog parents ourselves, we had no idea that the village is so pet-friendly that they even have stickers that shops can put on their doors. I lost count of how many of the storefronts sported green hearts – it was very much the rule rather than the exception.
Summertime will be a truer test for Tremblant when we will no longer have a puppy and can venture out on hikes and perhaps even try some cycling with Duchess. And for restaurants… Although we had no trouble keeping Duchess exercised and mentally stimulated, it was actually pretty surprising that with all of the pet-friendliness we encountered in the shops that the one heated patio that was open (Lucille’s) was confused about its pet policy. But more on restaurants below.
My things to do Mt Tremblant post might just be the most comprehensive guide to All Things Mont-Tremblant that you’ll find on the web, so be sure to head there for even more Tremblant inspo!
Pet-friendly hotels in Mont-Tremblant: Fairmont Tremblant
We loved introducing Her Highness Miss Duchess to our long-time favourite slopeside lodging. The Fairmont Tremblant is one of only three pet-friendly hotels in Mont-Tremblant’s pedestrian village, and the only ski-in and -out property.
And they LOVE dogs! (In fact, they used to have a house dog with his own dog house in the lobby.)
I’ll only be providing a quick overview of the Fairmont in this post since I have a newly updated and expanded Fairmont Tremblant hotel review with a much bigger look at the hotel as a whole, so be sure to check that out, too.
Looking for other places to stay in Tremblant if you’re planning to leave your dog at home? Here’s the ultimate hotel Mont-Tremblant guide plus some winter activities in Mont-Tremblant.
Here’s what you need to know about bringing your furrrriend to the Fairmont Mont-Tremblant:
- There are no dog size or weight restrictions (but, obviously, it should be well-behaved and housebroken)
- There’s a $48 per night pet fee, which accounts for enhanced cleaning protocols – and all of the homemade dog treats you like from the front desk!
- Dogs are not supposed to be in your room unaccompanied but exceptions are made for those who can be happily (ergo: quietly) crated, which means you can go skiing as a family for a few hours before you start taking turns dog-sitting
- Dogs are allowed in the lobby and hallways to get to and from your room to the village, but not in any restaurants or other common areas like the outdoor pools
- All of the Fairmont Tremblant staff members we encountered were true dog lovers, even as Duchess’s puppy excitability came out and she jumped up to greet them
THINGS TO DO IN THE TREMBLANT VILLAGE WITH DOGS:
Since the village is pedestrian-only, it’s a dream to be able to walk around not worrying about cars and roads. There are plenty of other dogs in the village, too, offering your pooch lots of opportunities to socialize. We only came across one other dog owner who said her dog wasn’t friendly enough with which to interact.
Here are some other things to do:
- Go shopping! The Tremblant village is exceedingly pet-friendly and you’ll see stickers near the doors (with green hearts) for just about every store inviting you to bring your pet in and shop. Even the most expensive store in the village welcomed Duchess with open arms
- Look for the photo-ready vignettes in the upper and lower villages and take Insta-worthy family pics with your pet
- Schedule a pottery-painting session at Studio Créatif around your dog’s naptime; provided your dog is happy to quietly sit or lie down for an hour or two at your table, s/he is welcome to join you here
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK IN TREMBLANT DURING YOUR ROAD TRIP WITH DOGS:
This is one area where Tremblant could improve its pet-friendliness. I’m not sure if Quebec’s restaurant regulations legally preclude dogs (other than service animals, of course) from joining their families on outdoor patios, but we were surprised to learn that even though there was a new heated patio open the weekend of our visit, dogs were not permitted. Lucille’s looked like it had a kickin’ vibe and we hope they work out a consistent policy before our next visit. More on this (and all of Tremblant’s eateries) in my Mont-Tremblant restaurants post.
Other than room service, there sadly wasn’t an option for us to include the fifth member of our family in any of our foodie experiences. We will look forward to visiting in the warmer weather when there are more patios open to update this section.
In the meantime, you can certainly get takeout from any of the Tremblant restaurants and take it to the outdoor lounge areas (look for the fire pits!) or even back to the Fairmont Tremblant.
You can also obviously consider crating your dog (or leaving your older kids at the hotel to dog-sit) to go out for a nice meal or cocktails. Some favourites include the buffet breakfast at Le Comptoir at the Fairmont Tremblant, the Veuve Clicquot-branded apres-ski at La Terrasse (also at the Fairmont, outdoors alongside the Nansen run), Le Shack for pulled pork poutine and the traditional raclette experience at La Savoie.
Dog-friendly destinations — Haliburton
Take a road trip with dogs to: Haliburton!
We’ve been to Haliburton, Ontario, a few times in the last couple of years — but this was our first winter visit. And our first pet-friendly one, too! Even though the colder months are going to be inevitably more challenging when it comes to things like dining out with your dog, we loved exploring Haliburton from this perspective and uncovering some really awesome options for y’all to consider.
DOG-FRIENDLY HALIBURTON COTTAGE RENTAL: MÖKKI STAY
Mökki Stay is dog heaven! With eight glorious acres belonging to the property, leading off of a side road with very little traffic, your city- and suburban-dwelling pooches may not even know what to do with all this freedom at first. You can read a much more detailed post about this vacation home, plus see way more photos of it and learn about its pricing structure in my Haliburton cottage rental post.
The five-bedroom vacation home, which has just hit the Haliburton AirBnB circuit, is the perfect setting for a multigenerational family getaway, a girlfriend retreat with your besties or a multi-family vacay. The top floor features three bedrooms — one with a king, one with a queen and one with two twins — and a bathroom with a bath/shower combo. There’s also a stunning, Nordic-style living space with a full kitchen, a large dining table and a cozy living room with a TV and books that will inspire you to find your inner woo.
Downstairs is another king bed and a room with a single-over-double bunk bed — plus a bathroom that boasts a deep freestanding soaker tub. With high-end bath salts to boot. There are two distinct living and entertaining spaces down here, too, giving your entire group plenty of room to spread out and have both together-time and alone-time. The K Man would like you to know that the big-screen TV on the lower level is better than the one we have and made his anime the best he’s ever seen.
We loved using the beginnings of the onsite trails here, which are set to be even more defined by the end of this summer, to test out all of the hard work we’ve been putting into Duchess’s training. We took a leash down into the woods and then let her loose — with some of her favourite treats handy, of course. Trails are a safe distance from the roadways and with all of the snow that fell leading up to and during our stay, Duchess had to jump like a bunny through all of it, so she couldn’t get too far too fast anyway.
Every detail here is thoughtful. Aside from the wood-burning fireplace there’s also loads of built-in entertainment, including:
- Several pairs of snowshoes available
- A foosball table
- A mini curling game
- A ring-toss game
- Board games
- A huge whiteboard (for Pictionary or to simply amuse kids who like to draw)
- A dart board
- And Big B’s highlight: the wood-burning sauna nestled into the forest’s edge
Even though you can tell that everything is carefully put in place, it’s still homey and chill. We used the blankets in the decorative baskets, put our slippered feet up on the couches and really felt at home. There are also two robes in every room and a basket of basic slippers available if you don’t bring your own.
Mökki Stay is a minute or two from the well-stocked Eagle Lake Country Market — where you can pick up everything from a week’s worth of groceries to locally baked goods or simply stock up on Kawartha Dairy ice cream — and only a four-minute drive to Sir Sam’s Ski & Ride and about 15 minutes from downtown Haliburton. It doesn’t have lake access onsite (not an issue for this gal who refuses to swim in lakes anyway), but the owners do plan to make the pond swimmable.
Here’s what you need to know about bringing your puppers to Mökki Stay:
- There’s no dog discrimination at Mökki Stay; your dog can be any size as long as it’s well-behaved and housebroken
- There’s a $95 pet fee, which accounts for extra cleaning protocols that may be required after you check out
- Dogs can remain in the cottage unattended provided they’re comfortably crated
- Dogs are not allowed on furniture or beds
- There are a couple of leashes available at the front door and a roll of poop bags (but definitely bring your own and consider these merely a back-up plan)
- There is so much forested acreage to explore with your dog! Trails are still being eco-consciously carved out, but we were comfortable letting Duchess off-leash all across the property because her recall is now very good. That said, there are some considerations for leashing — first, there is a pond that was completely snow-covered during our visit and its perimeter was not clear as a result; there is a family of deer who frequent the property, so if your dog is highly prey-driven, keep this in mind for the deer’s safety; and, finally, there are other wild animals in Haliburton (including bears, wolves and bald eagles), so depending on the time of year, your dog’s size and propensity for wandering out of eyeshot, be mindful of potential predators
It’s the little details that really caught my attention at Mökki Stay. Things like a bar fridge stocked with cold, locally sourced beer and other non-alcoholic bevvies. Things like the Mökki Movie snack pack for kids, and an assortment of some of the owners’ favourite things in a welcome basket (that are all peanut-free, BTW). Things like all of the kindling, dry wood and fire-starter you’ll need for your stay.
Mökki Stay is downright special. It captured our hearts and we had to tear the kids away when it was time to leave. The Mökki Stay mantra is “the forest is calling,” and it sure is already calling us back.
THINGS TO DO IN HALIBURTON WITH DOGS:
Aside from enjoying scenic drives through the Haliburton Highlands with your doggo in tow, you outdoorsy folks are going to love getting out into nature here no matter what time of year it is (though we’ll definitely be updating this list after a summer visit).
For now, here are some things to try during winter:
- The Abbey Gardens groomed trails, all of which are free to enjoy. There are about five kilometres of marked trails through 140 acres of mature forest, most of which are wide enough to enjoy with your pup if you like fat-biking and snowshoeing. Of course, you can always just walk! Depending on the time of year, be on the lookout for the therapy horses, bees (at the bee yard) and Chantecler chickens
- A private kicksledding lesson! Got a dog who loves to pull? Book an unforgettable experience with an award-winning competitor and instructor through YoursOutdoors. Although Duchess is still too young to be harnessed and asked to help pull these modified dog sleds, your dog doesn’t have to be a husky or any specific breed (or even as big as you might expect) to participate. Instructor Karen Koehler can even bring her own dogs if yours doesn’t fit the bill physically or behaviourally. Either way, you’ll spend about 1.5 hours learning how the sleds work, how you help propel — and stop — them, practising your new moves and then going on a run with the dogs connected to your kicksled. It’s super fun and you can expect to get a bit of a sweat on, too, so dress like you’re going cross-country skiing
- Snowshoeing at Haliburton Forest. With dedicated trails at the ready, bring your own or rent snowshoes when you get there. It’s free to use the Forest’s maintained trails and dogs are welcome (don’t forget your poop bags so everyone can enjoy the trails)
If you’re visiting and the snow is *checks notes* up to here, you’ll want to take advantage of the crating policy at the cottage and hit some runs at Sir Sam’s Ski & Ride. Like I mentioned, it’s less than five minutes away by car and the drive itself is so pretty.
Sir Sam’s may not be the biggest ski hill in Ontario — OK, not even close — but, WOW, is it picturesque. And with private lessons for less than $100 per person and plenty of forgiving terrain, it’s also a fantastic spot to learn or fine-tune skills on the slopes. Our kids raved about their individual instructors and both commented how lessons continued even on the chair-lift rides, which is unusual in our experience — but very welcome when you’re paying $95 an hour.
Unfortunately, our day at Sir Sam’s was cut pretty short thanks to a cold front that brought minus-41 temps to the area and made us give in after only a couple of hours. I barely have any photos of the runs because I was truly risking frostbite when I took my hand out of my ski mitt.
We’re itching to go back in nicer weather, though, because they’ve done a beautiful job cutting runs through trees and making the hill feel bigger than it is. There were even some ungroomed runs that mimicked what you might find at a resort with more vertical. Impressive.
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK IN HALIBURTON DURING YOUR ROAD TRIP WITH DOGS:
In the winter months, this is going to be predictably more challenging than when warmer weather hits and patios start to open. But, once they do, there are two dog-friendly breweries in the Haliburton Highlands worth visiting for more than just beer: craft brewers Boshkung Brewing and Haliburton Highlands Brewing.
We hit both of them during an outstanding Sip, Swill & Savour tour that we customized with YoursOutdoors. Guests tell YoursOutdoors how long they have and what their food-and-beverage-loving hearts desire and they’ll help create a unique-to-you itinerary to visit some of Haliburton County’s best spots — and they’ll do all the driving so you can imbibe responsibly. In addition to these two breweries, we also hit up:
- Abbey Gardens — where we enjoyed the same coffee beans prepared two different ways alongside some freshly baked yummies. Ask to see the two therapy horses onsite while you’re there (they’re an Ojibwe breed and some of the rarest in the world)
- Eat Minden Cheeserie and Cocktails — featuring fabulous high-end cocktails, a tasty charcuterie platter and the most wonderfully random environment (stay with me here…you walk in and there are bedazzled shoes for sale on your left but as you look straight ahead, it’s a hair salon; then, on the other side of the open-concept space, it’s a bar with some tables and ornate stand-alone lighting fixtures, surrounded on nearly all sides by things for sale — from candles and shackets to glassware and fuzzy blankets. But wait, there’s more! Head to the bathroom, with more shopping in the hallway en route, and what awaits is unlike any washroom I’ve experienced, including a vibrant Pride-inspired Christmas tree in one corner)
- Wintergreen Maple Syrup and Pancake Barn — the husband-and-wife owners will probably be onsite and Tom is a character who is all smiles, funny and engaging, and loves a good story (but may not be for the more sensitive types). As part of the Sip, Swill & Savour tour, we toured the sugar shack and tried all four kinds of maple syrup produced here and some maple-fied alcoholic bevvies, too. You absolutely MUST take home a bottle of the dark or very dark maple syrup; even though Wintergreen’s light syrup is technically the award winner of the lineup, we were smitten with the darker varieties, which add incredible flavour complexity to a cup of coffee!
Truss Foodworks Smokehouse — which will open a summer food truck outpost at the local marina (cleverly named Smoke on the Water) this summer with an 80-person patio; it so badly wants your dogs to join you that the team puts out and refills dog water bowls all day. Truss’s primary home, just past the entrance to Haliburton Forest, is open year-round and dogs can definitely join you for your meal outdoors. Have the duck wings with kettle chips and the Pitboss poutine, drowning in slow-smoked brisket and pulled pork.
Last but absolutely not least, consider leaving your dog (and kids) at Mökki Stay so you can enjoy a beautiful dinner at Rhubarb. Just because you’re doing a road trip with dogs doesn’t mean they have to be by your side from start to finish!
There’s a roaring fire in the back with warm lighting throughout and handsome leather chairs that will easily hold the extra seven or so pounds you stand to gain while seated as you order course after course of what must be Haliburton’s best fine-dining restaurant. We tried so many different dishes — all from the daily specials menu since the standard menu is guaranteed for what I know will be many return visits — and each one hit a home run.
There was a smoky soup with bacon that had sweet notes peppered with jerk seasoning. There was a lamb shank the size of Texas that fell off the bone. There was a flourless chocolate torte with raspberry coulis that still has me drooling today as I write this. And cocktails; oh, there were fabulous cocktails!
Forget taking a taxi to and from Rhubarb, though. The local taxi company (yes, there’s only one) comes with terrible reviews online that were corroborated by the locals to whom we spoke. If you really don’t want to drive — and Rhubarb’s cocktails are definitely worth finding an alternative — you can book your YoursOutdoors Sip, Swill & Savour tour for later in the day and make Rhubarb your final stop, which means it’ll be your tour guide driving you back to your vacation home! (Just don’t forget to bring a tip for your guide.)
Dog-friendly destinations — Lake Placid
Take a road trip with dogs to: Lake Placid!
When we started thinking about this new evolution of travel content here at MommyGearest.com HQ, the first of many dog-friendly destinations on our list was Lake Placid. We’ve visited many times over the years with our kids and it’s always been noticeably welcoming to visitors on four legs.
If you’re looking for the best skiing in Lake Placid, info about the Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll or summer family activities in Lake Placid, just follow those links after you’ve finished reading more about Lake Placid below.
Lake Placid dog-friendly hotel: Mirror Lake Inn
When I found out that the Mirror Lake Inn — one of my all-time favourite hotels in Lake Placid, New York, allows guests to bring their dogs with them, I was all in. After all, if you’re visiting a dog-friendly city by car, it makes both financial and emotional sense to bring him or her along.
I’ve got an updated Mirror Lake Inn review that goes far beyond just its dog-friendliness, so be sure to give that a read if you want to learn more about this exceptional property, one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Pulling from that, here’s what you need to know about bringing your four-legged friend:
- The Mirror Lake Inn has 40 of its 127 rooms designated as pet-friendly
- There are some common-sense rules and there’s a contract to make sure you follow them
- Your dog must be 70 lbs. or less and crate-trained, unless you never plan to leave him/her in your room unaccompanied
- There’s a US$50 per night pet-related cleaning fee that will be added to your bill. A portion of every pet fee goes to the
Joshua Fund, a local non-profit fund that supports dog rescue, care and adoptions
- You need to allow housekeeping into your room every day of your stay — no exceptions
- The Classic Rooms are great for families who bring their dogs; we were comfortable with a king bed, pull-out sofa and a rollaway cot. We also brought Duchess’s travel-friendly Diggs Crate for times we needed to leave her in the room, like going for breakfast at The View each morning
- You will be responsible for any compensation that the hotel is forced to provide other guests should your dog cause any disturbances, so if you don’t have a well-behaved doggo, this may not be the kind of adventure for you
Things to do in Lake Placid with dogs:
Lake Placid is a very, very, VERY dog-friendly city! Here, it’s not about figuring out where you can bring your pooch but rather the rare exceptions where you can’t. Shops, cafés — even the wine store on Main Street! — the bookstore, you name it…the overwhelming sentiment is “we don’t just tolerate your dog, we LOVE your dog.”
At the very top of the list, my biggest shout-outs go to:
- The Smoking Cork — a fab little wine shop with a spitfire of an owner who won’t just sell you some great wine, but she’ll also happily tell you about all of the other places in town where you can take your dog
- The Bookstore Plus — a great bookstore that’s bigger inside than it appears from Main Street! Come in and browse, ask for recommendations and don’t be surprised if the staff offer your dog a treat at the checkout counter
- Lake Placid Ski & Board — this is my fave ski gear shop in Lake Placid and I’ve shopped a lot here over the years, so it was a delight to bring Duchess in with me this time around
I should also point out that although you should already be travelling with your own as responsible dog owners, there are several poop bag stations around Lake Placid if you happen to run out while you’re exploring:
- Mirror Lake Town Beach
- John Brown Farm
- Heaven Hill
- Henry’s Wood’s
- Peninsula Nature Trails
Other things to do in Lake Placid on your road trip with dogs
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in Lake Placid. Our visit was a short one this time around, and it was wintertime, but these are at the top of my list to do with Duchess the next time we visit:
- We had hoped to make it into Man and Beast, which sells pet foods, supplements and giftables, but ran out of time — it looked great as we window-shopped!
- There’s a dog park at the back of the Horse Show Grounds in an enclosed area, which apparently offers incredible views of the ski jumps and Whiteface Mountain. To get there: turn off Cascade Road into the grounds and stay straight on the road; then go to the back and look for signs for the off-leash area
- Take an afternoon walk at Heaven Hill, which reportedly offers jaw-dropping views of the Great Range across a gorgeous meadow
- Hike at Henry’s Woods and take the Rocky Knob trail for a view of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain
Don’t forget: if you’re visiting in the summer, this activities in Lake Placid post will come in handy.
Where to eat/drink in Lake Placid during your road trip with dogs:
Even though, technically, New York state does not allow indoor dining with pets (with the exception of service animals), we found Lake Placid was…well…flexible to some degree.
My biggest shout-outs go to:
- Lisa G’s restaurant — I’m putting this first, because where — seriously, WHERE ELSE?! — does a restaurant have a completely sheltered, heated patio set up for people to eat dinner all winter long with their dogs? It was a wonderful surprise to learn that we could all dine together at one of my family’s favourite Lake Placid restaurants
- Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery — where there’s a $1 doggy treat (vanilla soft serve topped with a dog biscuit), which you can add to your order, and if it’s too cold outside to enjoy your yummies, your pup is welcome to stay and enjoy everything with you inside if you score the limited seating that’s available
- The Coffee Bar — located in The Alpine Mall on Main Street just a stone’s throw from The Smoking Cork, all of your coffee fantasies await (get the mocha), along with a killer lake view
- Summer visitors will be glad to hear that Lake Placid has many dog-friendly, open-air patios, such as:
- Big Slide (another one of our faves!)
- Great Adirondack Brewery
- Wiseguys Sports Bar & Grill
- Lake Placid Pub & Brewery
- Dack Shack
I hope you’re inspired now to take a road trip with dogs to Lake Placid! I know we’ll be back again soon with Duchess.
Coming soon to my Road Trip with Dogs series:
- Take a road trip with dogs to: ??? coming soon
DISCLAIMER: while some of these destinations may have sponsored this content, others may have been entirely booked on our own. Destinations are not invited to review or approve anything in this series and all opinions and suggestions are my own.
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