Dog Days Inn

Tucker poses beneath the Days Inn & Suites sign

Kath Usitalo, a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, gives in to her husband’s plea and allows Tucker, the family dog, to be part of a mini getaway.

Traveling with a dog is overrated. Don’t get me wrong—we love Tucker, but his blend of Australian shepherd and terrier translates into lots of energy. His last road trip (one week with two teenagers) convinced my husband, TJ, and I that Tucker and trips just don’t mix.

With the kids in college, however, we decide to give Tucker another try—just a side trip—in what became affectionately known as our Dog Days Inn trip.

On our way home from our cottage in the Upper Peninsula, we detoured to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. After researching the Grand Traverse area, we decide on the Days Inn & Suites. With the 10 percent discount from their ad in Michigan Travel Ideas, we partially recover the $15 fee for Tucker.

We park outside our door, which makes it easy to unload our gear and Tucker. It’s a standard room with simple decor. The room includes a mini fridge, microwave and safe (for Tucker’s treats?). We drop off our bags and set out to find a dog-friendly eatery.

A restaurant meal with our dog is a first for us, but many Traverse City outdoor cafes welcome pups. We sit under an umbrella at a table on the deck at Folgarelli’s, a gourmet market, and tackle fabulous, made-to-order sandwiches. Two of us (sorry, Tucker) share The Mobster, a tower of Italian meat and cheese. It’s so filling that we decide we’ll have to try the luscious smoked salmon sandwich at lunch the next day. Tucker licks a classic vanilla cone from Dairy Lodge.

Too worried about leaving Tucker alone in the hotel, we skip the indoor pool. Next time, maybe. We like the flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. Did I mention the convenient dog run? Before hitting the road the next morning, we take turns walking Tucker and enjoying the complimentary breakfast bar.

To take Tucker’s mind off food, we head to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to enjoy the Sleeping Bear Dunes views. Well, TJ and I enjoy the panoramas of water and sand; Tucker barely glances up from the nearest shrub.

D.O.G. Bakery makes yogurt-frosted cookies in dozens of shapes, including the Michigan mitten.

D.O.G. Bakery makes yogurt-frosted cookies in dozens of shapes, including the Michigan mitten

After the drive, Tucker gets free samples of WoofWhomper Dog Cookies at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. While nibbling on cherry cobbler on the deck, we strike up a conversation with a couple who fall for Tucker. Of course, Tucker gives them the look hoping to score a head rub or more treats. In Traverse City, we can’t pass up the all-natural dog snacks from D.O.G. Bakery, a bright inviting shop.

All in all, we had a good weekend. We may give this Dog Days Inn thing another try; the chain has hotels throughout the state.

Kath Usitalo is a freelance magazine writer who is bi-peninsular. She is at home in the Detroit area and at her family’s Lake Michigan getaway, Blue Skies, in the UP. She travels and writes about Michigan—usually without her dog—for a variety of outlets, including Michigan Travel Ideas and her Great Lakes Gazette blog.

Sleeping Bear in the Off-season

Photo credit - Ashley FoxTraverse City outdoorsman Mike Norton is glad that the rest of the country considers the Sleeping Bear Dunes the “Most Beautiful Place in America” – but he thinks they’d love it even more if they came in the autumn, or even in winter.

Up here in Traverse City, we like to tell people that we weren’t surprised when more than 100,000 viewers of “Good Morning America” voted for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as the Most Beautiful Place in America.

“Of course,” we say. “We knew it all the time.”

But the truth is, we were surprised. It’s not that we don’t love Sleeping Bear ourselves – we really do – but it came as a shock that so many other people love it just as passionately, even though most of them don’t know it the way we do.

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