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Dogs, Horses & Critters

Taking Fido to Florida

Taking Fido to Florida:


Dogs also vacation in Florida, and Key West shops even offer sun visors to keep your pooch cool. Max, the author's pet, is shown here on a vacation in Key West.*

Five Resorts Have Dog Treats Ready

By Ginger Warder

While the Sunshine State is known throughout the world for its famous mouse, Florida’s top four- and five-star resorts are rolling out the red carpet for Pluto’s brethren with gourmet “barkery” confections, canine room service, and pampering pet massages.

Woof! Just massage my back a bit more!* 

So grab your canine companion and check into one of these pet-centric properties:

The Curry Mansion Inn, Key West

One of the most historic buildings in southern Florida, the Curry Mansion Inn (800-253-3466 or www.currymansion.com) , 511 Caroline St., Key West, is situated amid a most pet-friendly city. Formerly the home of the state’s first millionaire, lumber baron William Curry, the mansion dates to 1869.

While the inn contains original period furnishings and fixtures, owner Edith Amsterdam succinctly states the Inn’s pet policy: “We welcome small dogs with well-behaved owners, without an additional deposit, asking only that you don’t leave your pet alone in your room”.

Key West is known as a pet-friendly destination. It’s rare to find a boutique, restaurant or tourist attraction on the isle that doesn’t have water bowls and treats set out on the front stoop. And if you visit a hotel that doesn’t accommodate your best friend, sometimes the front desk staff will even arrange for a pet-sitter. Or, they might watch your crated pal at the desk until you return.

With a prime location one block off Duval Street, the Curry Mansion Inn oozes Southern hospitality. The day begins with a sumptuous breakfast buffet by the pool. And sunsets are celebrated with a complimentary happy hour in the same location. Both are included in room rates ranging from $220 to $345 in high season and $175 to $265 in the off-season.

The Don Cesar, St. Petersburg Beach

Known to its repeat guests as just “the Don”, the Mediterranean pink-and-white architectural confection with Moorish towers and turrets formally known as the Don Cesar Beach Resort (800-282-1116 or 727-360-1881 or www.doncesar.com), a Loews property, opened in the late 1920’s. From the outset it hosted the rich, the famous and the infamous of that era including F. Scott Fitzgerald and gangster Al Capone. But you don’t have to be an outlaw to bring your pet along on the family vacation.

The legendary pink palace on St. Petersburg’s white sand beaches offers a “Pumped Up Pets” package that includes a collapsible water bowl as a welcome amenity, a deluxe room for two humans and their pampered pooch, an in-room pet meal, pet workout tips and dinner at the Sea Porch Café.

In-room pet massage is available from the spa for an additional fee, and certified therapists will teach you how to make Fido relax with strategic stroking. Nearby, Ft. DeSoto Park is Fido’s version of Disney, a fantasy dog park and private dog beach where both of you can swim and play. Rates begin at $354 with a $25 non-refundable pet deposit and proof of current vaccinations.

The Sarasota Ritz-Carlton

Known for impeccable service and sterling guest amenities, the five-star Sarasota Ritz-Carlton (941-309-2000 or www.ritzcarlton.com), 1111 Ritz-Carlton Dr., Sarasota, treats canine visitors as VIP’s (very important pets). Darlene Davison, director of spa services, has created a line of innovative “head to paw” pet massages, a pilot program that may catch on throughout the chain.

This pampered and happy pet is luxuriating on vacation at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.*

Treatments range from Swedish Pet Massage and Invigorating Sports Massage to specialized Senior Massage techniques for older dogs with arthritis or joint stiffness. The one-hour sessions are $130. Included, of course, is a lesson for the owner on how to perform the massage.

The Sarasota Ritz-Carlton offers a "Privileged Pup Paw Package" ($350 and up) which includes a massage of Fido’s choice, a scenic walk over the Ringling Bridge, a Bon Ton Pet disposal kit, an organic gourmet stew and Evian (water) room service delivery, gourmet dog biscuits, a manicure and a souvenir “Paw Experience” Photo.

The Chesterfield Hotel Palm Beach

Furnished with antiques, fine fabrics, and Frette linens, the Chesterfield Hotel (561-659-5800 or www.chesterfieldpb.com), 363 Coconut Row, Palm Beach, welcomes refined dogs up to 50 pounds. Located just blocks from Worth Avenue's exclusive shops, the hotel provides fashionable Fidos with pet beds, dog bowls and treats.

Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway, the Chesterfield offers old world amenities such as afternoon tea in the wood-paneled library and Cognac and cigars in the Churchill room. You'll feel like you and your hound (or other well-behaved breed) are lords of the manor.

The courteous staff will even prepare a dog-walk itinerary for you. Or, they'll arrange for a pet-sitter while you shop. A deposit of $150 per stay -- $75 of that refundable -- is required. Room rates range from $220 a night in off-season to $1,620 for a high-season vacation in the penthouse.

Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal Orlando Resort

You and your pooch can live “la dolce vita” at the Italian Riviera-inspired Portofino Bay Hotel (407-503-1000 or www.loewshotels.com), 5601 Universal Blvd., Orlando. The hotel is in the heart of Universal Studios. The waterfront resort has two dedicated pet walking areas.

Other in-room perks include feeding bowls and mats, treats, and a special "dog door hanger” to alert housekeeping that your pet is on guard in your guest room.

While Fido has roaming privileges on the resort property, you can't take the pet with you to the theme parks. The parks only admit certified service animals.

A member of the Loews Loves Pets Program, the Portofino Bay Hotel does not have a weight limit. But, as all Loews properties, it does require proof of pet vaccinations before arrival.

A $25 non-refundable cleaning fee per stay and a limit of two pets per room applies. Rates for you and your pooch begin at $269 per night.

Pet-Friendly Resources

Pets love a soothing and gentle massage, as seen given here at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.*

Interested in discovering more pet-friendly properties? Check out this sampling of resources. 

  • www.fidofriendly.com This quarterly national magazine is dedicated to traveling with a furry family, and also offers membership to the Fido Friendly Travel Club (think AAA for canine travelers).


  • www.pethotels.com is one of several databases that list pet friendly accommodations. Before setting out with Fido, though, call each specific property for its current pet policies and fees.


  • "Vacationing with Pets" by Eileen Barrish, is a comprehensive directory by state of pet-friendly hotels, motels and B &B’s. It’s available from Amazon.com. For a direct link, click on the Amazon.com logo on the left column of this page.   

Professional travel writer Ginger Warder, a Tampa Bay resident, learned the ins and outs of travel as a tour manager and publicist for Grammy-winning artists like Janis Ian. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, she specializes in travel with pets, arts and entertainment, and European destinations.

*Photos on this page are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota or Ginger Warder. Please do not link to or copy these photos.

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