Pets Welcome: Wisconsin's Top Dog-Friendly Attractions
Last Updated: 4/22/2016
If you’re the type who would never dream of vacationing without your precious pooch or fluffy feline, then pack up your pet carrier and start exploring pet-friendly Wisconsin.
You might even say that travel in Wisconsin has gone to the dogs because the tourism businesses have embraced the trend of traveling with Fido and Whiskers, whether it’s providing upscale lodging for dogs and their owners, hosting festivals devoted to man’s best friend or opening pet boutiques. And you can bet the animals are showered with the same genuine hospitality as the humans.
Friendliest Lodging, Budget to Luxe
Once you’ve decided on your destination, it’s time to find pet-friendly digs. Just look for the "Pets Welcome/Inquire" feature in our Places to Stay directory.
Our Cabins and Cottages category earns the highest mark for pet-friendliness, great news for visitors heading to one of the state’s many woodlands for a laid-back vacation. Lake resorts are often pet-friendly, too, like Baker’s Sunset Bay Resort on Lake Delton in Wisconsin Dells and the historic Gibson’s West Harbor Resort on Washington Island.
You may be surprised to learn that upscale boutique hotels, like downtown Milwaukee’s Iron Horse Hotel, are also getting into the pet-friendly business. This motorcycle-themed hotel provides V.I.Pooch treatment with its Big Dog Package that includes the dog’s name on the welcome chalkboard in the lobby, a big dog room service menu, and a map to dog-walking areas and outdoor restaurants.
At the Jefferson Street Inn, located in the historic arts district of downtown Wausau, the staff really rolls out the red carpet for pets. Case in point, this boutique hotel hosted Jack Hanna, star of “Into the Wild.” He was in town for a performance and had a menagerie of animals in tow, including a penguin, snake, flamingo and tiger. The inn’s Pet-Friendly Package is a popular favorite.
Another style of lodging that seems particularly pet-friendly are Bed & Breakfasts, with innkeepers proudly posting photos on their websites of their own pets along with their guests’. Check out the cozy Feathered Star B&B in Door County, or the country estate, Speckled Hen Inn, in Madison.
Festivals Catering to Canines
Every dog should have their day in the sun, at least that’s the philosophy among a number of event organizers around Wisconsin. Door County holds a Scottie Rally gathering every May. Ripon’s big fall event, Septemberfest includes a dog walk and pet parade. There’s also Cambridge’s Barktoberfest, which features demonstrations and a prize for the best owner/pet theme costume.
Taking the Dog for a Walk
A getaway with your dog should include a stop at one of the state’s many pet-friendly state parks. Pattison State Park in Superior offers dog-friendly trails in addition to Wisconsin's highest waterfall. Lake Kegonsa State Park near Madison features a pier to teach your dog to jump into the lake.
If you fancy the recommendations from Dog Fancy magazine, the most widely read dog magazine in the world, then don’t miss a chance to visit the Jefferson County Dog Park near Johnson Creek, rated among the top 40 in the country by the publication and the only one in Wisconsin to make the list.
Shops Dedicated to Dog Treats
Taking your pet on vacation also means showering them with souvenirs. You can make your dog feel extra special on vacation by visiting Paws for Treats in Lake Geneva or the Door County Dog Store in Sturgeon Bay. Just steps from the Mississippi River at Flat Pennies Ice Cream in Bay City, pups can enjoy Woof Wafers while their people eat ice cream at this self-proclaimed “Pet Rest Stop.”
There’s also Bad Dog Frida, a whimsical store in Madison that is dedicated to honoring dogs and the joy they bring into people’s lives. The shop also aims to give visibility to pet-centric artists, to offer products that reflect the bond between humans and dogs, and to support pet rescue operations, all under “one woof” as the website states.
- For a pleasant getaway with your pet and to make sure you’re welcomed back, here are some common “petiquette” tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations and has a current ID tag.
- Take a minute to locate the closest veterinarian to where you'll be staying.
- Book a room on a ground floor near an exit for easy bathroom breaks, then always clean up after your pet.
- Ask the front desk staff for recommendations on best places to walk your dog.
- Don’t leave your pet unattended in your hotel room; if you must, alert hotel staff.
- Keep your pet on a leash.