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The Dog Lover’s Guide to a Long Weekend in Sarasota – Sarasota

Sarasota Magazine
513 Central Ave
Sarasota FL 34236
Photography by Cooper Levey-Baker November 6, 2023 Published in the November-December 2023 issue of Sarasota Magazine
Image: Phuttharak/Shutterstock.com
More and more travelers are packing their pooches along with socks and a toothbrush these days, and there’s a slew of hotels and vacation rentals, not to mention bars and restaurants, that now cater specifically to people with dogs in Sarasota. We’re a dog lover’s destination, with plenty of pet-friendly accommodations and eateries that will keep you and your furry friend busy. A note: Pack proof of your dog’s vaccinations, which is needed to access some local attractions.
The Aloft hotel in downtown Sarasota is centrally located and allows dogs up to 40 pounds, but that’s hardly your only option. The Westin also welcomes dogs up to 40 pounds, and while The Ritz-Carlton is open to dogs, as well, the weight limit is capped at 30 pounds. At Hotel Indigo, the max weight is 35 pounds.
Start your trip with a leisurely stroll through downtown Sarasota’s Bayfront Park, which will let you and your pooch stretch your legs while you take in the downtown skyline and orient yourself to the city. This is a perennial dog-walking destination, so you’re sure to run into other pets to ooh and aah over. After that, it’s time for coffee. Stroll over to Main Street’s O & A Coffee and Supply, where you can enjoy a pour-over while lounging at one of the café’s outdoor tables.
O&A Coffee Supply
Image: Daniel Wagner
Once you’re fueled up, it’s time to get active. Sarasota County is home to only one dedicated dog beach: Brohard Beach and Paw Park, which is located in Venice. If your dog loves splashing in the water, this should be the first place you hit up. Dogs here can run loose and wild, with owners throwing balls and frisbees to help them get their crazies out. But be considerate. Clean up after your dog so his or her waste doesn’t wash into the Gulf (that can feed toxic algal blooms like red tide) and restrain your dog if needed. Once your pet is done rolling around in the sand, take advantage of the showers on site to give them a rinse before getting back in the car.
Brohard Beach and Paw Park
Image: Aleksandr Lysenko/Shutterstock.com
For a quick bite to eat, there’s nowhere else to go but the Old Salty Dog, which has multiple area locations, including one in Venice just three miles from the dog beach. Continuing the canine theme, consider ordering the famous “Salty Dog,” a battered and fried hot dog, or just stick with a plain hot dog supplied by Geier’s Sausage Kitchen in Sarasota.
Boo’s Ice House and Dog Bar
Image: Hannah Phillips
After all that fun in the sun, it’s time for a nap back at the hotel before you venture out for the evening. Your destination: Boo’s Ice House & Dog Bar, a newish hangout specifically for dogs and their humans. The bar has a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces where your dog can socialize, plus a food menu heavy on pizzas and burgers and other pub grub. To bring your dog, you will need to purchase an $8 day pass, or you can spring for a longer-term membership if you think you’ll come back. You’re required to show proof that your pet is vaccinated, so bring that paperwork you packed.
You’ve explored the beach and the Gulf, now it’s time to head inland for a hike through gorgeous Old Florida. Myakka River State Park is located about 15 miles from the coast, and its 58 square miles are crisscrossed with dozens of trails that will take you from swampy hammock to dry pine flatwoods. We like to stroll Ranch House Road, a wide dirt path that will take you east from the park’s main road out into gorgeous open prairies and toward Bee Island, a shady camping area that makes for a great pitstop. Be aware: Away from the park’s main attractions, you won’t find running water, so be sure to fill up a bottle and bring a bowl to keep both you and your pup hydrated. It’s Florida, and it gets hot. Also be conscious of alligators and other critters. You don’t want your lil guy or gal to end up as gator bait.
Pack a picnic, because the park’s concession stand was damaged by Hurricane Ian last fall. You can find a limited selection of items at a temporary facility near Upper Myakka Lake, but it’s best to bring your own food.
Woof Gang Bakery
Image: Courtesy Photo
After all that nature, it’s time for some pampering. Cruise north along I-75 to the University Town Center and Lakewood Ranch area, where you’ll find bakeries that specialize in dog treats, like Three Dog Bakery and Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming. Let your dog sniff out a favorite baked good, then pop into a nearby Kahwa Coffee for one of its outstanding nitro cold brews, because you deserve a treat, too.
Celery Fields
Image: Hannah Phillips
Treats at Three Dog Bakery
Image: madexmama/instagram.com
Close out your weekend with a sunset stroll around the Celery Fields, a manmade hill in east Sarasota that offers some of the only elevated views in town. To toast your perfect weekend, head to Sun King Brewing in north Sarasota, which allows dogs in its pleasant backyard and hosts various food trucks throughout the week. Raise a pint to you and your dog. With all that activity, you might need a vacation from your vacation once you’re home.
It’s no secret that Sarasota’s summers are sweltering, so if you’re traveling when the heat is high, don’t overdo it on the outdoor activities, and avoid walking on hard, hot surfaces during the day. And never, ever leave your pet in a hot car, even just for a few minutes.
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