Miles, a Bichon Frise, has been the “doggie ambassador” at the Hotel Indigo in Columbus, Indiana, for 11 years. PHOTO CREDIT: Columbus Area Visitors Center

It’s time for pets to pack their bags & travel Indiana this summer!

Story by Elizabeth Granger 

For many, a family trip is more fun when the whole family goes. Lodging and dining spots are paying attention – and increasing their options for dogs, cats and various other pets. Here are a few pet-friendly Hoosier suggestions which can start you on that all- inclusive family vacation.

Miles went to work for Hotel Indigo in Columbus, Indiana, when he was just a pup. That was 11 years ago, when the Bichon Frise was eight weeks old. He’s been on duty ever since, welcoming a variety of overnight guests that have included dogs, cats, rabbits, even a parrot – along with their human companions.

“He likes to be with people,” general manager Leanne Barker says.

“He likes to sit up on the counter. A lot of people think he’s a stuffed animal; they’re surprised when he moves.”

Dogs, who are welcome at West Baden Springs Hotel, especially like the atrium-view rooms where they can enjoy great people-watching. PHOTO CREDIT: French Lick Resort

The affable greeter, the hotel’s “doggie ambassador,” is often at the registration desk. He has accepted thousands of hugs and belly rubs. “Many people cannot travel with their pets, and they miss them,” Barker says. “Miles fills that void.”

As a revered staff member, Miles has his own business card complete with his own email. He lives at the hotel. With someone on duty 24/7, he’s never been alone. He isn’t available to spend the night in a guest room, but the hotel has a fish in a fishbowl that you could borrow. “We don’t want guests to feel lonely,” Barker says.

Miles hosts monthly “Canines & Cocktails” events on the patio June-October. A fundraiser with music to benefit animal-related causes, it’s open to the public as well as to hotel guests.

The October event includes a “Howl- O-Ween” costume contest.

Most lodging sites do not have a Miles, but in increasing numbers, they’re welcoming pets. The lodging’s size or location doesn’t matter. Think of small out-of-the-way places in the country. Also think of large hotels in large cities.

Indianapolis’ Conrad Hotel, for example. Public relations manager Maria Alviz says it’s a great perk for guests. “We do love our pets here,” she says. “Dogs make people happy, so it’s a good reaction from guests.”

Visiting dogs get a bandana, a dog bowl, and, upon request, a dog bed. “We do have a lot of guests who return because their pets are welcome in the guest rooms.” Alviz adds.

Dogs are welcome at Metazoa Brewing Company in Indianapolis, which donates a percentage of its profits to animal and wildlife organizations. PHOTO CREDIT: Visit Indy

If the hotel staff knows the dog will be celebrating a birthday, the Conrad surprises it with a customized cake from Three Dog Bakery. And because the Conrad is on the Cultural Trail, the hotel has treats and water bowls for passing canines. Its outdoor patio is also welcoming of pets.

Southern Indiana offers a double feature at French Lick Resort with two world-class hotels in French Lick and in West Baden. Both offer pet- friendly rooms for dogs and cats, and there’s a canine menu in West Baden. The in-room doggie dining menu includes Bo’s half pounder, Moses’ meatloaf, steak or chicken a la Pooch, and the biscuit du jour.

Four-legged Flo (with help from Elle Humbert, her human companion) has posted a blog with insider tips for visiting dogs. She writes that both hotels have welcoming front porches, so “if you wag your tail enough and smile at the associates working at Scoops, they will give you a piece of waffle cone to enjoy.” And on the free trolley, “the conductor will take a photo with you and let you be ‘conductor’ for a ride.”

Dogs are welcome at the Conrad Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. PHOTO CREDIT: Conrad Hotel

Located on Lake Shafer in Monticello, the Lighthouse Lodge has seven deluxe suites and three private cottages, and they are all pet-friendly. Owners Bonnie and Mike Triplett embrace travelers’ love for pets and their own dog, Patches, is always available to run and play with their four-legged guests.

Bloomington is crazy about pets and has a hefty number of pet- friendly lodging and dining sites, many offering treats and water bowls. Among them is the new boutique hotel Graduate Bloomington, where a complimentary BarkBox, along with a water bowl and blanket, is presented at check-in.

Strawberry Fields guest house on Lake Lemon offers a fenced yard.

“I love to meet the dogs when they come with well-behaved people,” owner Sura Gail Tala says. She tells each potential guest that she “requires” the dog to come if they have one.

The Queen and I Bed-and- Breakfast in Crawfordsville welcomes dogs, too. “We like to travel with our dogs,” innkeeper Isaac Hook says, so guests’ four-legged “children“ are welcome.

Cave Country Canoes, on the Blue River in Milltown, welcome dogs every day. But during The Dog Days of Summer (Aug. 17-25), paddlers with dogs get a discount. PHOTO CREDIT: Cave Country Canoes

In Brown County’s Story Inn, dogs are welcome to spend the night in designated guest rooms and horses are welcome in the horse barn.

Brown County Vacation Homes, which owns and manages several rental properties in
Brown County, offers pet-friendly accommodations too. This includes Allison House and Barn Treasures, both conveniently located in downtown Nashville.

State parks welcome overnight pet guests at more than 7,700 campsites as well as in designated rooms at the seven state park inns. Turkey Run and Whitewater Memorial state parks also have some pet friendly cabins. For more information on pet- friendly state park activities, check out the Outdoor section in this issue.

As for dining, many restaurants welcome dogs to their outdoor patios but not inside the buildings. Some have special food items for pets. Donatello’s in Carmel, for example, invites dogs to its outdoor patio always but adds special “Dine with your Dog Thursdays” that include a dish of chicken and rice for Fido. “It’s so dog owners can feel comfortable, and also so they can connect with one another,” co-owner Adam Aasen says.

Craft breweries often invite dogs inside to their tap rooms because they typically don’t have full kitchens. Instead, there may be food trucks nearby, and patrons are encouraged to bring food into the breweries. Metazoa Brewing Company in Indianapolis donates 5 percent of its profits to animal and wildlife organizations.

Kokomo’s Barktober Fest takes place in October. PHOTO CREDIT: Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau

Wineries are also embracing pets. At TwoEE’s Winery in Huntington County, dogs are welcome in all outdoor areas, including the patio and amphitheater. Their “Uncorked” events, which feature live music and food trucks, are popular for pet owners and take place Friday and Saturday nights April through September. “Our staff loves it when pets come to the winery,” says Stephanie McIntyre, director of marketing and events for TwoEE’s. “Besides special events, pets and their owners love to hang out on the lounges in our patio area.”

Perhaps the most popular activity is just walking the dog, often along hiking trails found in many locales. Some are close to lodging and dining sites which offer water in dog bowls as well as snacks for pets just walking by.

The No. 1 option for hiking trails may well be state parks. Other well-known trails include
the Indianapolis Cultural Trail; Monon Trail in Marion and Hamilton counties; Cardinal Greenway through Marion, Muncie and Richmond; Wabash Heritage Trail in Tippecanoe County; B-Line in Bloomington; Whitewater River Gorge Trail in Richmond; and Pumpkinvine Nature Trail in Elkhart County.

City and county parks often offer impressive green spaces. In Indianapolis, dogs are welcome at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indiana War Memorial Plaza, Military Park, and Garfield Park Conservatory’s Sunken Gardens. Richmond has two remarkable nature settings at Hayes Arboretum and Cope Environmental Center.

Take Fido sightseeing at the Wilber Wright Birthplace in Hagerstown, Gabis Arboretum in Valparaiso, and Irwin Gardens in Columbus. Attend a music festival at Bill Monroe’s Music Park and Campground in Bean Blossom. Stroll through a local farmers market.

Carmel has been recognized as one of the top dog-friendly cities in Indiana. PHOTO CREDIT: City of Carmel

Beasley’s Orchards in Danville welcomes dogs all the time, even inside the market, and hosts a special Dog Days at the Maze in October to raise funds for animal rescue groups. Dogs looking for new homes are there; they can be adopted and taken home that day. “It’s to find a forever home for our four-legged furry friends,” agritourism manager Jim Finley says.

There’s a costume contest for the dogs; a talent contest, too. “We’ve had dogs that wave and do obedience tricks and sit pretty,” retail manager Jordan White says. The dogs also come dressed for Halloween. They go on hayrides, walk through the corn maze – everything that humans do.

“That’s the weekend we have the most happy, smiling faces,” White says. “Everyone’s happy, everyone’s having a great time, everyone’s petting the dogs.”

Several pet-friendly annual events benefit local humane societies or animal rescue organizations. Among them is the Mutt Strut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in April, billed as “the greatest spectacle in dog-walking.” There are also the Dawg Gone Walk & Fiesta in Brown County in May, PugFest in Fort Wayne in June, Dog Days of Summer in Greenfield in August, and Barktober Fest 5K and Dog Walk in Kokomo in October.

Cave Country Canoes on the Blue River in southern Indiana welcomes dogs every day – in the store, on the bus, especially on the river. There’s a dog souvenir section in the store with bandanas, dog life vests, and river-themed leashes. The Dog Days of Summer, Aug. 17-25 this year, offers a special incentive: a discount for patrons who bring a pet.

And then there are the special treats. In Brown County’s Nashville, Bone Appetit dog bakery has healthy snacks for dogs. Truth be told, many are designed with the human companion in mind since Fido probably doesn’t care what that peanut butter/molasses/bacon- flavored treat looks like. But buyers are definitely smitten by the treats shaped like fish or ice cream comes or even egg on toast.

It’s a similar story at Three Dog Bakery, with locations in Indianapolis and Noblesville, and at A Dog Bakery in Carmel.

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