If your dog enjoys getting out, here are some dog-friendly destinations around Florida. Next week: lodging advice and general tips.
Dog Beach and Paw Playground at Fort De Soto State Park. In 2010, Southern Living magazine named this spot in Pinellas County one of the top five dog beaches in the South. It's a gorgeous and peaceful place. The Gulf of Mexico is usually warm and calm, and dogs of all sizes love to play in the soft surf. Dogs can run on the beach and swim off-leash, then enjoy a large, adjacent fenced-in grassy dog park area. There are water fountains, waste bags and a place to wash salt out of dog fur. Admission to the park area is $5.
Dinosaur World in Plant City. Located halfway between Tampa and Disney, Dinosaur World features 150 giant dinosaur statues and trails winding through the lush Florida landscape. Leashed dogs are welcome on the trails and it's a great opportunity to snap a photo of your pooch with a giant Stegosaurus. Tickets are $14.95, dogs are free; open daily.
Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville. This 25-acre, privately owned park is entirely fenced in and allows off-leash play. A separate small area nearby has chairs where owners can sip coffee and chat. There are two ponds, Lake Bow Wow for the big dogs and Lake Fifi for little ones, plus doggie sand piles, shady areas and tires for dogs to climb on. Day visits are $11. Additional services are extra.
The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine. Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles discovered this spring in 1565 and the Timucua Indians lived here for 4,000 years before that. You and your dog can sniff around and drink from the fountain. Tickets are $12.
Downtown Naples. A great place to stroll with your pet with lots of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants where you can dine al fresco with your dog. Several stores specialize in upscale pet accessories, clothing and food.
Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Located on South Beach, this pedestrian-friendly shopping area is the place to watch all of the beautiful people and their designer dogs. Outdoor restaurants and tropical drinks abound.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound. This park north of Palm Beach offers miles of trails that showcase how Florida looked before development. Dogs must be leashed. Admission is $6 per vehicle.
Panama City Beach dog playground. This Florida Panhandle spring break favorite offers 400 feet of beachfront and the new Panama City Beach Conservation Park with 12 trails (dogs must be leashed for both).
Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, Tallahassee. This park in the state's capitol is popular with local dog owners because of its beautiful trails and secluded grassy areas.