Down a Garden Path

Tavish in the garden

A public garden for every season!  Top left:  Spring’s peak azalea bloom at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Top right: Summertime Lily Fest at Kenilworth Aquatic Park & Gardens in Washington, DC. Bottom left: Autumn splendor in the Prairie at the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Bottom right: Winter at the Orland E. White State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce.

 

“In the marvelous month of May when all the buds were bursting,
then in my heart did love arise . . . .” — Heinrich Heine

 

Tavish at River Farm

Tavish at River Farm, home to the American Horticultural Society and–you guessed it–some pretty spiffy gardens!

April showers bring May flowers, and what better time to head into the garden? If not your own, then how about one of the hundreds of botanical gardens and arboreta throughout the country? Truth be told, public gardens are there for you year-round providing a feast for the senses, a tonic for the soul . . . and a great place to go for a long walk with your intrepid pup!

To celebrate public gardens, we’re providing a stroll down a virtual garden path, starting with a horticultural grande dame and then continuing on to a public garden for each of the four seasons, “hand-picked” from Intrepid Pup’s travels over the past year.

Our first stop is River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia. The grounds were once among George Washington’s extensive land holdings, later given to his wife’s niece as a wedding present. Although the property has changed hands many times over the centuries, since 1973 the historic and picturesque 25 acres along the banks of the Potomac River have been the national headquarters for the American Horticultural Society. Leashed dogs are welcome, and during our visit to River Farm, Intrepid Pup Tavish strolled through the same gates as did 28 U.S. presidents! The circa 1819 northeast ceremonial gates to the White House were relocated here in the late 1930s after a renovation project. Tavish explored the meadow and gazed out over the river. He also sized up the largest Osage-orange tree in the United States; at nearly 200 years of age, the famous tree is believed to be a gift from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington. Finally, while we will neither confirm nor deny, it’s highly probable that Tavish photo-bombed some newlyweds’ formal pictures—the Estate House on the grounds is a popular wedding venue.

Onward to our seasonal picks . . .

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

These excursions register as a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter, because they’re as easy as a walk in the park!

Just get up and go.

 

 

Tavish at the U.S. National Arboretum

U.S. National Arboretum: Tavish stands sentinel in the Grove of State Trees (top) with the closest one being Vermont’s sugar maple. (Below) Giving a “stump speech” along the azalea walk.

SPRING
38°54′30.65″ N,  76°58′18.95″ W
U. S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC
Free admission; leash required

Go for the azaleas, but stay (and plan your return trips) for everything else. Intrepid Pup has previously chronicled the National Arboretum’s iconic azalea bloom—a riot of color which traditionally reaches peak in late April/early May—but spring is many-splendored here. There are bulbs and flowering cherries. Dogwoods and lilacs. Herbs and bonsai trees.

Intrepid Pup Tavish is particularly a sucker for the 30-acre expanse that is the National Grove of State Trees. Because of the District of Columbia’s relatively temperate climes, almost all the official state trees thrive here, even though they were acquired directly from their representative states. Seemingly no trip to the arboretum is complete for Tavish without rolling around in the grove’s long, cool grass.

On our most recent visit, a section of the arboretum was temporarily cordoned off but for the best of reasons:  for the first time in nearly 70 years, a pair of bald eagles had built a nest! There were bird watchers galore craning to get a glimpse so instead we headed up onto the hillside paths that meander through the azalea collection. We took lots of photos, and Tavish’s aptitude for posing drew lots of bemused smiles and questions, not to mention people taking pictures of us taking pictures!

Tavish at Lilyfest

Like stepping into a real-life Monet canvas: Tavish at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens’ annual Lily Fest

SUMMER
38°54′45.50″N,  76°56′31.24″W
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
, Washington, DC
Free admission; leash required

Tell folks you’re heading into these sultry gardens in the middle of a humid Washington, DC summer, and people are bound to think you’re already suffering from heatstroke. But . . . the rewards are the magnificent lotus flowers and water lilies. Kenilworth is the only National Park Service site devoted to the cultivation of aquatic plants—you’ll want to read our earlier post about the site’s unique history.

The freshwater plants bloom in late June and July, and when they do, it’s like being immersed in a Claude Monet painting with sun-dappled greens and bursts of white and pale pink. But a word to the wise: go before the heat of the day, because as soon as the temperatures hit the high 80s/low 90s, the delicate blossoms shut until the next morning. Be sure to bring along plenty of water for you and your pup so you both don’t wilt!

We timed our visit with the park’s annual Lily Fest cultural event in mid July. As bands played, we wandered the boardwalks. The lotus flowers towered over us, and dragonflies zoomed by in their herky-jerky version of floral connect-the-dots. A pretty surreal way to enjoy this urban oasis!

 

Nichols Arboretum

(Top) At the Arb’s Washington Heights entrance with the Urban Environmental Education Center in the background. (Bottom) A warm autumn afternoon along the Huron River.

AUTUMN
42°16’50.07″N,  83°43’36.55″W
Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Free admission; leash required

Affectionately known as “the Arb,” Nichols Arboretum is managed by the University of Michigan, its undeniable main draw since 1927 being its world-famous peonies. When they peak in late May/early June, there can be as many as 10,000 flowers in 270 varieties—the largest collection in North America. Sadly, we missed this spectacle by about five months, but we discovered that the Arb is beautiful in October, too. We visited on a weekday afternoon when university classes were in session and didn’t have too much difficulty finding free parking near the Washington Heights entrance. Team Tavish had been on the road and visiting with relatives for a couple of days, so this stopover was a chance for Tavish to really stretch his legs and burn off some energy. We passed the dormant peony beds and a whimsical Faerie Garden, heading gently downhill. The trail entered woodland and then skirted the Huron River. Tavish dipped his paws in and was fixated on a large crayfish chilling out in the shallows. Reluctantly Tavish left the river’s edge only to be equally fascinated by the open Prairie section that followed. The tall grasses had turned golden with autumn, and it was hard to believe we were so close to a bustling college campus. We circled back through the shaded Hawthorn Valley, ultimately covering about three miles.

Tavish at Virginia State Arboretum

Tavish exploring the State Arboretum of Virginia.

WINTER
39° 3’51.72″N,  78° 3’51.67″W
Orland E. White State Arboretum of Virginia, Boyce, Virginia
Free admission; leash required within 200 yards of parking areas and/or any of the public buildings

The University of Virginia manages this 172-acre arboretum as part of the larger, 712-acre Blandy Experimental Farm. Located in the northern Shenandoah Valley, the arboretum is only 60 miles west of the nation’s capital but feels a world away for as little as it resembles metro Washington’s urban sprawl. The gardens originated in 1927 but weren’t dubbed the State Arboretum until 1986.

Four walking loop trails originate from the main parking lot and range in length from 0.75 to 2 miles. Longer still is a 7.5-mile bridle trail that winds throughout Blandy. Unlike many public gardens, dogs are allowed off leash throughout most of the site, provided that they don’t disrupt wildlife or the plantings. Additional caveats are that your dog must be under immediate voice control and be put on a leash when within 200 yards of the parking areas or any of the public buildings. As a dog-friendly locale, pet waste stations are provided.

We visited on a sunny February afternoon just ahead of a stormy cold front. Nothing was in bloom, but the vast grounds still exuded a stark and vaguely haunting beauty. We encountered a few other hearty walkers and dogs as we made our way around. Birds scrabbled over winter berries, and evidence of deer was in abundance. In addition to manicured landscapes were test plots where various studies were underway, including research to create a more disease-resistant chestnut tree. The highlight for Tavish was the open landscape flanking the Wilkins Lane Loop Drive. The scrub grasses—bleached and brittle from winter—put Tavish on high alert, and he bounded in, picking up on scents of upland game that only his nose could.

Retail Hound

Tavish at Orvis

Dogs Welcome: The sign is right at dog’s-eye level! Tavish can’t read, but fortunately he didn’t need to. He spotted the water bowl just inside the doorway instead.

While adventures at national parks and historical sites are the usual fodder for IntrepidPup.com, this time we’re exchanging the woodland trail for a little detour down Main Street and an adventure of a different kind:  shopping. Yep, the retail jungle.

It’s de rigueur to bring your pet to places where you’ll be shopping for them (think: pet boutiques, PetSmart®, Petco®, etc.). But, honestly, where can you go when you happen to be out shopping with your pet? For a variety of perfectly justifiable reasons—usually having to do with local ordinances or health codes—many businesses don’t allow Fido or Fluffy unless they’re assistance animals, so it’s unrealistic to expect every commercial establishment to welcome your furry friend with open arms.

When traveling with Tavish, leaving him unattended isn’t an option, so we’ve mastered the drill of taking turns going into stores while one of us remains outside with him. And that’s okay. Seriously. We’ve ended up having some wonderful conversations with folks over the years by virtue of waiting outside a shop with the Intrepid Pup. But when there are exceptions to the rule and we can bring him inside? Those tend to be memorable win-wins.

Here’s our roundup of six favorite dog-friendly re(tail)ers from the road this past year:

 

Dogging the (Retail) Details

42°17’49.82″N, 83°52’12.60″W
Motawi Tileworks,
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks, Ann Arbor, MI

Tavish got the royal treatment at the tileworks. They even snapped a photo of him for Motawi’s Facebook feed!

Fact: We’ve been fans of Motawi Tileworks for years and have quite a few of the company’s signature art tiles in our home. Nawal Motawi started the business in her garage in 1992, and today it’s a tour-de-force in interior design. Carried in more than 350 showrooms and museum shops nationally, Motawi tiles have been featured in Huffington Post and will appear in a 2015 episode of PBS’s acclaimed “Craft in America” series. So when our travels took us through eastern Michigan last autumn there was no way we weren’t going to visit the Motawi factory. It’s in an unassuming industrial park a little ways from downtown Ann Arbor. With Tavish along for our Midwest road trip, we parked in the lot and figured one of us would walk Tavish around the grounds while the other reconnoitered inside.

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks

Motawi’s “Boneyard”: Tavish was a little disappointed there weren’t real bones here, but the humans were excited! It’s actually the firm’s seconds room, where tiles with slight imperfections can be found at reduced cost.

 

 

 

Long story short, the showroom manager caught sight of us through the picture window and beckoned us all in. “Oh, we’re absolutely dog-friendly,” she said, and then added somewhat cryptically: “People are going to be really excited.” With that, she disappeared down a hallway, and moments later, several employees piled out of the back to come fuss over Tavish!

This ended up as a classic example of how being dog-friendly can make good retail sense. Because Team Tavish didn’t have to split up, we were able to browse at a more leisurely pace. What could easily have been a hurried 15-minute stopover turned into a great, nearly hour-long customer experience! Motawi staffers got their dog fix, and we purchased several new tiles as mementos of our visit.

Tavish at Reiner's

“Say, do you guys know where they keep the treats?” Tavish befriends the menagerie at Reiner’s.

43°15’17.49″N, 79° 4’16.79″W
Reiner’s
, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Last year our travels took us across the border to Ontario, Canada, and we spent an afternoon in charming Niagara-on-the-Lake. While eating a light lunch on the outdoor patio of café Taste, the window display of the shop next door caught our attention: finely crafted leather ottomans in the shapes of hippos, rhinos, bears, bulldogs and more! It turned out to be a newly opened flagship store for Reiner’s. Established by German immigrant Reiner Henneveld in 1967, the company has remained in the family all these years, and the pieces are handmade some 90 miles west in Kitchener. The two saleswomen (the store manager and a new trainee) eagerly welcomed Tavish, shared a bit about the company’s history and showed us the various animals. Before long, we’d decided a moose ottoman would not only make a good Canadian souvenir but also a nice addition for our living room. Better yet, we were able to select the leather and have the piece custom made. It was shipped to us about six weeks later—a nice reminder of our dog-friendly shopping experience!

Saks Fifth Avenue

Tavish was particularly fascinated by the woman setting up her Cartier station. Treats? Are those treats?

40°45’28.95″ N, 73°58’38.35″ W
Saks Fifth Avenue
, New York, New York

Cartier, Prada and Gucci, oh my! Although we’d read that Saks was dog-friendly, we were still dubious in approaching this grand dame of Fifth Avenue establishments. Really, a fancy department store? But the doorman assured us we weren’t mistaken, and so we were ushered into the opulence of the women’s accessories and fragrances departments. When presented with big echoing spaces, Tavish has a damning habit of barking a few times, and the glittering ground floor of Saks was no exception. He must think it’s a riot. We, however, were cringing and thinking the doorman would reappear at any moment to escort us out. Au contraire. Tavish’s excited barks turned out to be the siren song that summoned every boutique associate within hearing radius to come over and pet him. Charmed life, mon ami.

 

Tavish at Annapolis Pottery

Amid platters, vases and coffee mugs, Intrepid Pup found a selection of pet bowls, too!

38°58’42.20″ N, 76°29’24.00″ W
Annapolis Pottery,
Annapolis, Maryland

Head to historic Annapolis, Maryland, and an array of dog-friendly options await—from patio dining to taking in views of the Chesapeake Bay or strolling through the picturesque campus of the United States Naval Academy. But if ceramics are your thing, then don’t miss the Annapolis Pottery located on State Circle in the shadow of the Maryland State House. Much to our delight, it’s dog-friendly! For more than 40 years the shop has carried functional and decorative ware hand crafted by talented potters working onsite, as well as sourced from ceramic artists around the country. There’s a dizzying array of forms in colorful glazes, and your well-behaved pup’s visit just might be rewarded with a complimentary dog biscuit or two!  Bonus: the well-stocked Paws pet boutique is just a few doors away.

Orvis_inside

Scanning the retail horizon at Orvis. Adventuresome and outdoorsy…hey, that appeals to me, too!

The Orvis Company, Inc.
(67 retail locations and 11 outlets in the U.S.)

Since the founding of Orvis in 1856 in Vermont, the company has become the oldest mail-order outfitter and longest continually-operated fly-fishing business in America. The company’s retail locations both in the U.S. and in the U.K. sport rugged yet stylish outerwear and clothing, fly fishing equipment, and gear for hunting upland birds. It just so happens they have a pretty extensive selection of dog beds, collars and travel gear, too.

While we’re *pretty* sure that Tavish couldn’t read the “DOGS WELCOME” decal right at dog height on the door, he did see the water bowl just inside the doorway and made a beeline for it. We hadn’t visited an Orvis store in years (there wasn’t one near where we used to live), so Tavish pulling us in was a homecoming of sorts. We got reacquainted with the brand while the sales associate got acquainted with Tavish, lavishing him with a couple of dog treats that “magically” appeared from behind the counter. Hey, whadya know, it ultimately resulted in our purchase of three men’s shirts and a sweater. Retail therapy? Sure, but here’s another thing to feel good about: Orvis is a socially responsible company, donating 5% of its pre-tax profits annually in support of environmental initiatives, community projects and canine well-being. Orvis also runs a cover dog contest for its biannual “Dog Book” catalog and since 2009 has specifically raised over $1 million for canine cancer research grants. Two paws up.

Tavish at Torpedo Factory Art Center

So many studios! Tavish takes in the view from the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s main concourse.

38°48’17.57″ N, 77° 2’23.19″ W
Torpedo Factory Art Center
, Alexandria, Virginia

The Torpedo Factory Art Center was among the early paragons of the adaptive reuse/working studio movement. In 1974, the founding artists took over a dilapidated, former munitions factory on the Alexandria, Virginia, waterfront, converting the cavernous industrial space into a hive of creativity. More than 40 years later, it’s still going strong:  home to 82 artist studios, six galleries, two workshops and an art school. Explore all three floors and you’ll discover jewelry, ceramics, fiber art, sculpture, fine art photography and works on paper and canvas to fit any budget. Each studio is part workspace and part retail, meaning you have surprising access to converse directly with the artists, ask questions and gain insight into their artistic processes; many accept commissions. What might come as even more of a surprise are the studio dogs.

Tavish with Opie in Studio 16

When studio dog Opie (right) is in residence in Studio 16, he’s as big a hit as owner Lisa Schumaier’s whimsical creations in papier-mâché and raku.

Indeed, many generations of artistic muse in canine form have accompanied their owners to the Torpedo Factory and made the studios their homes away from home. Peer past the gate by the counter in Studio 226 and you might just catch a glimpse of Lab mix Donut contentedly lounging in the sun. Look closely, and you’re just as sure to spy Rocky the chihuahua curled up in Studio 214 or dachshund Chester sitting patiently in Studio 321. And it’s because of these resident pups that yours is welcome at the Torpedo Factory, too. So grab a leash and soak up an art scene like no other!

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A Day at the Bay

St. Michael's collage

Glimpses from around the 18-acre campus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. Clockwise from left: a) Goofing around with the cut-outs in front of the museum; b) In the boat building workshop; c) Surveying the shoreline with the Hooper Strait screwpile lighthouse in the background; d) A tasty view of the harbor from atop the 1879 lighthouse; e) Catching some rays on the pilothouse of the buy boat Thor; f) Exploring the history of Maryland’s crab fishing industry.

It was a beautiful spring day, and we decided to head to Maryland’s eastern shore to do some exploring in St. Michaels, a town known for its Chesapeake Bay breezes, traditional Maryland fare (think:  blue crab and Smith Island cake, which are the official state crustacean and state dessert, respectively), and history (more about that later). To reach St. Michaels, you head for Annapolis which is a pretty snazzy dog-friendly stop in its own right, go over the Bay Bridge, and about 50 miles later (less than an hour, if the traffic gods are smiling upon you) wind up at your destination.

We didn’t set out with a real plan this time other than to savor the sights, the day, and okay…maybe some crab cakes. We followed Route 33/Talbot Street about a half mile into St. Michaels’ downtown and turned right to park in the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s lot.

Tavish at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

What!? Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is dog-friendly. How cool is THAT?!

We of Team Tavish were trying to figure out where along the fence line was the best spot to photograph Intrepid Pup Tavish with the museum’s signature lighthouse in the background, when…. whaaaaat?? Wait. A. Minute. Just on the other side of the fence we spied a Mutt Mitt Dispenser! You wouldn’t have one of those planted there if dogs weren’t welcome, right? So we stopped into the museum’s Admissions Building and inquired.  “Yes, of course!” the visitor services attendant replied. “You’ll need to keep your dog on a leash and clean up after him, but otherwise he’s allowed anywhere on the campus, except in buildings that have carpeting.” With that, we happily shelled out our entry fees (Tavish was free) and ended up spending nearly three hours there!

The museum was a real treat:  unexpectedly dog-friendly and far more extensive than we’d imagined. There were only four carpeted pavilions Tavish couldn’t go into. For those, we just took turns while one of us waited outside with Tavish, who did his share of rolling in the grass and watching the passing boats. Tavish even spied a beautiful tabby keeping an eye on us from a scrub pine. We later learned she’s a former stray who is now the museum’s resident salty boatyard cat, Ms. Edna Sprit! As for places Tavish COULD venture into, there were many! We wended our way through the Small Boat Shed housing the nation’s largest collection of Chesapeake Bay watercraft. We explored a dredgeboat to learn all about oystering and clambered out on the wharf to the working waterman’s shanty, where we got to check the eel pots and clumsily experiment with using oyster tongs.  And a real highlight was navigating a narrow spiral staircase and crawling through a hatch to reach the top of the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse!

Tavish with Chesapeake Bay Retriever

An homage to Maryland’s state dog: Tavish sizes up this cast iron statue of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever outside the “Waterfowling” pavilion.

A bonus for dog lovers is the museum’s waterfowling exhibit chronicling a key element of bay heritage. While Tavish couldn’t partake of the fascinating display of hand carved duck decoys and tools of the trade, there was a stolid cast iron Chesapeake Bay Retriever statue outside with an interesting story (see photo at right).  It just so happens that in 1807, Marylander George Law was sailing home from England aboard the Canton, when he intercepted a sinking British vessel and rescued its crew and two Newfoundland puppies. When Law arrived safely at port, he purchased the puppies from the captain and brought them home. He named the male Sailor and the female Canton. Since Law ultimately had to go back out to sea, he gave the dogs to two men who allowed them to breed with local dogs, probably coonhounds. Their progeny had dense dual coats, took exceptionally well to the water, and were prolific in their versatility and ability to retrieve waterfowl. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever as a breed was born, and in 1964, it was recognized as Maryland’s official state dog.

 

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter meansDogging the Details

 38°47’14.35″N,  76°13’13.73″W
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
, St. Michaels, Maryland

St. Michaels ranks a “2” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for being exceptionally dog-friendly and offering plenty to do for pup and person alike.

 

Tavish at the Crab Claw Restaurant

Hmmm. . . lobster I’m familiar with from living in Maine. You? Not so much!

If you’re spending the day in St. Michaels, you’ll need to grab a bite to eat, and fortunately there’s a quintessential Maryland-y option that’s also dog-friendly: The Crab Claw Restaurant. This is definitely fair-weather casual dining, because with your pup in tow, you’ll be eating outside on the partially covered, spacious deck. Be prepared to wait a bit for your picnic table, since lots of people will have this very same idea on sunny weekends. It’s worth it, however, for the good food and spectacular view of the bay. Truth be told, the people-watching is equally entertaining, as folks pull up in boats of all shapes and sizes. After noticing a young couple a few tables away too full to finish off their dozen crabs, we decided to order the less messy and labor intensive option: crab cakes. Tavish was acting particularly winsome that afternoon, and it wasn’t long before the woman from the couple came over to pet and take pictures of Tavish.  And. . . somehow we ended up with the remainder of their steamed crabs! Tavish is a shameless charmer and seemed both intrigued and pretty smug about this turn of events (see photo at left). Unbelievable.

Tavish at the Broken Rudder Doggie Bar

Talbot Street in St. Michaels caters to dogs with this complimentary, walk-up watering hole: the Broken Rudder Doggie Bar.

You’ll want to walk off your lunch, and St. Michaels’ Talbot Street/Route 33 is lined with plenty of shops, including a pet boutique named Flying Fred’s. If you pause to read historical plaques along the way—or fancy ducking into the St. Michaels Museum at St. Mary’s Square—you’ll learn that St. Michaels was where young Frederick Douglass lived as a slave from 1833-36. You’re also bound to hear how the resourceful residents of St. Michaels “fooled the British” during the War of 1812. With the British fleet approaching in August 1813, townsfolk hung lanterns high in the trees at the outer boundary. The British fell for the ruse and aimed their cannons such that most overshot the village, ultimately sparing it from a worse fate. We encountered many dogs along our walk, and several local businesses had treats for dogs and bowls of fresh water outside.

At this point, you might have worked up a thirst of you own, so a stop at Eastern Shore Brewing is in order. This local microbrewery opened in 2008 and operates out of a historic mill complex right on South Talbot Street.  They have a couple of year-round offerings and a half dozen seasonals on rotation. We tentatively poked our heads into the entrance just to survey the scene, assuming we’d have to come back another time minus our dog. No sooner had we done so, however, than one of the brewery staff spotted Tavish and hurried over to greet us.  “No, stay!” he said. “If your dog’s friendly, we’re dog-friendly. Heck, most dogs are better behaved than some of our patrons, so come on in!” And with that, we were swept inside to where a live band was playing and there was already a healthy crowd gathered for mid-Saturday afternoon. The bartender immediately brought over a bowl of water for Tavish, who promptly settled himself into a care-worn overstuffed leather chair (and got his photo taken by a few smartphone-wielding guests), while we tried a couple pints.

From there, we crossed Talbot Street and headed down West Chew Avenue to San Domingo Park, scenic green space that overlooks San Domingo Creek. If you bear to the right, you’ll see a trailhead and a covered bridge. The short paved trail runs more or less parallel to Talbot Street but through residential neighborhoods. A fifteen-minute walk will deliver you to Railroad Street, and you can hang a right to re-connect with North Talbot Street again.

On our next visit, we’ll definitely take the narrated, 70-minute sightseeing cruise aboard the two-level, 149-seat Patriot. We simply ran out of time that afternoon to fit this in, but in talking to the Captain dockside, we learned that the cruise is pet-friendly at his sole discretion. We’ll be back! Also nice to know is that even though ours was just a day trip, St. Michaels boasts several pet-friendly lodging options, from motor lodges to inns to vacation rentals.

The National Howl-iday Scene, Part V: The Biltmore

Biltmore_grounds

Being there: Intrepid Pup Tavish heads to North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate to see how America’s largest home–and also among the most dog-friendly–prepares for the holidays.

Tavish and the Biltmore lion

Tavish cozies up to one of the lions flanking the entrance to the Biltmore.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so it’s high time for Tavish the Intrepid Pup to resume his series on the national “howl-iday” scene, scoping out what are arguably among the country’s most iconic—and dog-friendly—holiday spots. (Visit the index to find the four other venues that have made Tavish’s list to date!)

The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, defines elegance and hospitality on the grandest of scales. George Vanderbilt II—grandson of renowned American industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt—was a prominent art collector who carved out his own considerable legacy in taking six years to build his magnificent country retreat on 125,000 acres with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With Richard Morris Hunt designing the house and preeminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted masterfully curating the grounds, Biltmore’s châteauesque appearance is reminiscent of fine European estates and stands as a testament to the sumptuousness of the Gilded Age. Vanderbilt debuted his home on Christmas Eve of 1895, so it’s especially fitting to make a visit during the holiday season. The annual “Christmas at Biltmore” festivities run from early November to mid January, and although most of the outdoor formal gardens have gone dormant for the winter, the home itself is arguably at its most splendid.

Antler Hill Village

Tavish extended his Biltmore experience at Antler Hill Village, five miles from the main house but still on the grounds of the estate! There you’ll find the winery, an exhibition gallery, a farmstead, trailheads, and (weather-permitting) ample dog-friendly patio dining.

The transformation of Biltmore to its opulent yuletide finest is a highly orchestrated affair involving legions of designers, florists and staff. There’s different themed décor each Christmas, and preparations are well underway by September. According to one of the guides we met, the final two weeks of October are when things really hit a fever pitch. A giant live tree (always at least 35 feet tall!) is carefully installed in the Banquet Hall and adorned with hundreds of ornaments. Garlands are hung, and pastry chefs put the finishing touches on the signature gingerbread house. Unfortunately, photography isn’t permitted inside Biltmore, so you’ll just have to take our word for it that everything is as magnificent as you’d hope!

The tickets required for entry to the grounds  include parking, shuttle service, a brochure-guided tour of the house, and access to the estate’s Antler Hill Village. Don’t miss the winery, where you’ll receive a complimentary tasting. Special Candlelight Christmas Evening tours are also available. Plan on spending a minimum of 90 minutes on the house tour—longer if you partake of the recorded audio guide (an extra fee applies). You’ll traverse three floors of living space—plus the basement kitchens, servants’ quarters and recreation areas. With 250 rooms, you can readily see why Biltmore is the largest private residence in America!

Leashed dogs are welcome at Biltmore, and while they can’t go in the house, there’s plenty of room to roam outside. You’re expected to clean up after your pet, and receptacles are conveniently located throughout the grounds. Biltmore offers a few outdoor self-service kennels, but we recommend savoring the Biltmore wonderland by exploring with your pup!

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter means35°32′26.02″N,  82°33′8.35″W
Biltmore, Asheville, NC

Biltmore earns an enthusiastic “3” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for its unique offerings, canine heritage, and dog-friendly experiences.

Asheville is a refreshingly dog-friendly destination with—at last count—more than 30 accommodations for those traveling with pets. Team Tavish stayed at the Days Inn Biltmore East on Tunnel Road, just a 15-minute drive along I-40 to the Biltmore. Like many area hotels, ours offered the convenience of purchasing Biltmore passes directly from them at no markup. We visited Biltmore on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (one of the estate’s busiest days of the year) and even though we arrived shortly after the grounds opened for the day, parking spaces were already filling rapidly. Shuttles chauffeur guests from the various lots right to the front door. Dogs aren’t allowed on the shuttle, but when we let the parking attendant know we were traveling with a dog, he radioed ahead and kindly directed us to a parking area within easy walking distance instead.

Deer Park Trail

Tavish ran the Deer Park Trail, which offers varied terrain, panoramic mountain vistas, and great views of the house. The trailhead for this 2.6-mile round trip hike is adjacent to Biltmore’s South Terrace. It feels like the backdrop for a movie set, and indeed portions of the films Being There, Last of the Mohicans and Forrest Gump featured these very grounds!

Tavish was eager to burn off some energy, so we checked out our hiking options. After George Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, his wife Edith “downsized,” selling off 87,000 acres to the U.S. Forest Service. Not to worry:  8,000 glorious acres remain with some 22 miles of trails from which to choose. A series of short loop routes (each under a 1/2 mile) total 2.5  miles in just the gardens alone. Longer trails of up to 4 miles round trip originate from the main house and also from the Antler Hill Barn near the winery, a 15-minute drive from the main parking lots. Since we were taking turns going on the house tour and walking Tavish, we selected the Deer Park Trail which begins at the house’s South Terrace and meanders through a hilly landscape down to the Lagoon. Racing through the tall grass, catching fleeting scents of various wildlife that consider Biltmore’s grounds their home, Tavish was following in the paw prints of the many dogs who’ve gone before.

Dogs have historically been numerous and well-loved at Biltmore. George and Edith Vanderbilt had a kennel of Collies and owned Borzois/Russian Wolfhounds and St. Bernards. The dogs purportedly had run of Biltmore’s first floor. Imagine that! The Vanderbilts’ only child Cornelia shared their affection for canines. As an adult, Cornelia maintained a kennel of Llewellin Setters and later, with her husband John Amherst Francis Cecil, had Salukis. And it seems the tradition continues; upstairs in the main house, we spotted a circa 1990 Cecil family portrait complete with a regal looking standard poodle named Blackberry.

The Biltmore's dog-friendly legacy

This circa 1910 photograph (inset) depicting Cornelia Vanderbilt and beloved St. Bernard, Cedric, was replicated on Biltmore’s grounds in a 2010 sculpture by Vadim Bora (1954-2011). It was the artist’s final commission.

But of all Biltmore’s dogs, it’s Cedric that represents the pack. Cedric was the pet St. Bernard who appears in several vintage photographs held in Biltmore’s Archives. The Vanderbilts even gave Cedric’s progeny to family and friends. He lives on as the “voice” of the home’s audio tour for children. And if you head over to the estate’s Antler Hill Village, you can’t miss Cedric’s visage on the sign of his namesake tavern.  If the weather is nice, sit out on the dog-friendly patio and raise a glass of Cedric’s Pale Ale or Brown Ale in his honor. A charming statue of Cedric playing with young Cornelia is out front (see photo above). While you’re there, you’ll also want to pop into the neighboring Outdoor Adventure Center and the Mercantile—Tavish discovered that the shopkeepers offered a complimentary treat to visiting pups! Biltmore’s staff members seem to genuinely embrace the pet-friendly ethic, making this historic home a great place to visit at Christmas or in any season.

Intrepid Pup Heads to Virginia’s Hunt Country

Hunt Country Collage

Virginia’s Loudoun and Fauquier counties await you and your dog!
From left: downtown Middleburg, Barrel Oak Winery, and Glenwood Park

Just an hour’s drive west of Washington, D.C., gridlock—both vehicular and political—gives way to polo grounds, stunning equine facilities, foxhounds, and vineyards. That’s right, Virginia has wineries. . . approximately 200 of them!

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter means
Here are three activities that will not only get you out to Virginia Hunt Country but also keep you coming back. Collectively these have earned a “3” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for appealing to your canine sensibilities, whether in viticulture, field sports, or history:

 

BOW_bottle

The Barrel Oak label features a dog gazing up into an oak tree and graces everything from a tasty Tour’ga Franc to a popular “Chocolate Lab” dessert wine. Tavish approves.

38°52′58.42″N,  77°54′13.95″W
Barrel Oak Winery (BOW)
Delaplane, Virginia

There’s a lot to love about a dog-friendly vineyard that turns out award-winning wines and whose official greeter is a Vizsla named Birch.  Sited on 22 acres with sweeping views of  the foothills of the Piedmont, Barrel Oak Winery (a.k.a. BOW) has all the comforts of your living room—if you happen to have 20,000 vines growing in your backyard! Founders Brian and Sharon Roeder planted their first grapes in 2007, opened to the public in 2008, and haven’t looked back since.

While several of Virginia’s wineries now permit dogs on their grounds, it’s BOW that goes the extra mile by welcoming dogs into its lodge-like tasting room as well.  That means your pup can sit patiently at your feet as you decide whether to sample 6 wines or splurge on the full flight of 12. Varietals include Viognier (Virginia’s state wine grape), Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Traminette, Chambourcin, and Norton.
BOW_Birch

Vizslas unite…what a life! Tavish feels right at home hanging out in BOW’s expansive tasting room with the vineyard’s top dog, a senior Vizsla named Birch. When he’s not chilling out, Birch–with a slight hitch to his gait–systematically makes the rounds of checking on each and every table of guests on the patio. Birch is such a beloved staffer that the vineyard annually celebrates “Happy Birch-Day.” That’s just awesome. 

BYOP (Bring Your Own Picnic), and select a wine from BOW. They’ll uncork it and bring the bottle out to you chilling in a bucket of ice.  Plant yourself at a picnic table or at one of the bistro tables on BOW’s spacious patio overlooking the vineyard, and you’re good to go!  There’s rarely a weekend when there isn’t live music, and BOW also generously hosts and supports various charity fundraisers, including animal rescue organizations, since the Roeders have  four dogs of their own. As for your pups, “Doghaus Rules” apply; they need to stay leashed and at your side, and BOW makes that a fun place to be by providing a water bowl and complimentary dog biscuit.  Intrepid Pup has now been out to BOW on several occasions, and there’s never been a time when Brian hasn’t personally come over to say hello. It’s that kind of hospitality that defines the BOW experience and makes a lasting impression on canine and human alike!

 

Middleburg races

Tavish watches the field intently at Glenwood Park.

38°59′25.79″N,  77°44′8.79″W
Steeplechase Races at Glenwood Park
Middleburg, Virginia

Experience the beauty of Virginia’s Hunt Country by taking in one of its oldest and most unique traditions: a steeplechase race.  The “season” here begins in late April and runs through mid October. While the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup races are the most celebrated, there are plenty of smaller, more accessible events.

Glenwood_paddock

Crowds can get an up-close look at the horses warming up in the paddock prior to each race. It’s also great for spotting other spectator dogs: lots of Jack Russells and GSPs! Always double-check the event listings beforehand just to ensure that your leashed dog will be welcome.

We particularly enjoy heading out to Glenwood Park, a 112-acre grassy expanse at the edge of Middleburg that serves as the venue for several equine and agricultural events throughout the year. We go specifically for the Middleburg Spring Races and Middleburg Hunt Point-to-Point (both in late April) and the Virginia Fall Races in early October.  Pricier tickets get you into tents and enclosures (think fancy hats, fascinators, and gourmet spreads). We tend to opt for general admission, which can range from $40 for a carload of 4, all the way up to $30 per person, depending upon the event. We bring along the Intrepid Pup, a blanket, a couple of collapsible chairs, a picnic, and a bottle of wine; honestly, if the weather is glorious, there are few better ways to spend an afterHunt Country lawn jockeynoon.  We set up on one of the knolls overlooking the course and watch the pageantry unfold over timbers, hurdles, and on the flat.  A horn is sounded to call “riders up,” and a race steward in a perfectly tailored red hunt coat leads the field from the paddock to the start.  Since the course is fairly open and sloping, you have a clear view, even when the horses are traversing the far sections. The crackle of excitement is palpable as the announcer calls the race over the public address system, and it’s a thrill to witness the colorful blur of silks as the horses thunder past on the final uphill curve to the finish.

Want to be an insider? Take note of the iconic Red Fox Inn dating to 1728 as you head into town. Each year, the lawn jockey at the corner of the property is painted in the winning silks of the Temple Gwathmey Hurdle Handicap which is run during the Middleburg Spring Races.

 

National Sporting Library and Museum

Outside the National Sporting Library & Museum is a heartbreaking bronze sculpture by Tessa Pullan of a haggard horse. It’s the gift of philanthropist Paul Mellon, in memory of the 1.5 million horses and mules of the Union and Confederate armies who were killed, wounded, or otherwise died of disease during the Civil War. As the accompanying plaque notes, many perished in June 1863 in battles fought within just 20 miles of Middleburg.

38°58′1.29″N,  77°44′19.32″W
National Sporting Library & Museum
Middleburg, Virginia

Even though your dog can’t join you inside the National Sporting Library & Museum, you’ll be rewarded (and your pup will give you style points!) for having explored the literature, art, and culture of equestrian and field sports.  Located on Vine Hill in the heart of Middleburg’s charming downtown, the organization started out as just the library in 1954.  Today the library occupies a modern day carriage house constructed in 1999. Its former home—a historic brick residence on the property—was restored, expanded, and reopened with much fanfare in October 2011 as a museum dedicated to sporting art.  This handsome facility draws upon a strong collection and rich exhibition tradition.  The museum’s inaugural show, Afield in America: 400 Years of Animal and Sporting Art (2011), was exceptional for the diversity and quality of artifacts.  Dog-lovers, take note:  other recent exhibitions have included Intersection: Field Sports and the Evolution of Conservation (2012) and American Sporting Heritage: A Portrait Survey of Contemporary Hunters and their Gun Dogs by Jesse Freidin (2013).