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A Dog-Friendly Trip To Philadelphia

by Lisa Kelley
Editor of Jersey Pets Magazine

Looking for a quick and easy get away with your best friend? Hop in the car and take a ride into nearby Philadelphia. The city that loves you back is just waiting to show you how much they love your pets.

Philadelphia is a city rich in history and architectural landmarks. One of the most popular sites of the city skyline is the famed PSFS (Philadelphia Saving Fund Society) building. The building was completed in 1932 as the new headquarters for the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society, the first savings bank in the United States, established in 1813 at a different location. The PSFS Building was a significant change in the architectural scale as the skyscraper was a technological marvel and the world’s second with central air conditioning. The architects George Howe and William Lescaze lavished the building with an abundance of marble, polished granite and rare woods. The building’s materials and features would be impossible to afford today. Cartier supplied art deco clocks that are featured on each floor, by the elevators as well as three more that are located on the former banking floor including the escalator entrance and the 12th Street elevator lobby. While the building and the bank that it housed were able to withstand the Depression Era, they were not able to make it out of the 90’s.

The giant PSFS letter on the top of the building, that had shone for so long went dark on December 11, 1992. However, due to public outcry the lights were turned back on within a matter of days and remain unaltered to light the night sky. In 2000 the building was renovated and reopened as the The Loews Philadelphia Hotel. The hotel chain best known for its luxury and business class is also in love with your pets.

Loews first introduced its "Loews Loves Pets" program in 2000 allowing pets of any size to be treated like royalty along with their human companions. While pet-friendly hotels are a rapidly growing trend there are usually strings attached, for example, limitations on the size of the animal or extra fees. This is not the case at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. I learned very quickly first hand how they value your pet companion when I pulled into the Loews Philadelphia parking garage with my dog Phoebe. I wasn’t traveling with some "pocket pooch", but a 56lb. black lab mix about to experience a weekend of adventures drastically different from her daily routine.


Phoebe enjoying her hotel room.

The preparation for the almost two hour journey by car had peaked her interest and with tons of new smells to investigate she couldn’t wait to get started. At the front desk of the hotel a welcome bag awaited us featuring a nice letter with some of the city sites, a list of pet-friendly services such as retail shops, veterinary services and pet sitters. Of interest to my traveling companion, the bag also included a dog toy, a tasty treat, a dog bowl and placemat set and a special "do not disturb" sign to hang on the door for my Phoebe’s privacy.

This trip was an opportunity to mix some business with pleasure as were invited to Philadelphia by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation to experience first hand the city of animal love along with other selected media representatives from Dog related publications, websites and travel publications.

The hotel sets aside two complete floors for visitors that travel with their pets. The sanitation is impeccable and the carpeting is deep cleaned regularly. Our rooms were large and well appointed and we definitely recommend a "pet and people" vacation or even just an overnight stay at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.

We started our evening with Yappy Hour held in a suite filled with toys and treats for the four-legged visitors. All of the invited media people were introduced to one another and the daily schedules of the weekend’s activities were discussed.

As with all well planned events you always need a "Plan B" when the weather is a factor. A planned dining at an outdoor restaurant had to be cancelled but our hotel was more than happy to accommodate us. Since they allow pets in the lounge area of their Sole Food Restaurant, it easily provided us with a place to eat with our pets and the staff here is more than pet-friendly; they are pet-obsessed. Most of them are pet owners so they understand and appreciate that our pets are important members of the family.

After a night of great food and getting to know each other we were headed off to our beautiful sleeping accommodations. The next day was going to bring many new experiences for us. Phoebe was already struggling with riding the elevator, not something she deals with in everyday suburbia. Using the alley for her "personal business" was posing another problem for her although by the end of the weekend she had become a real pro.


Phoebe on the tour bus being driven to more dog-friendly places.

On the agenda for the day was a trip to Fairmount Park for a small hike on the Andorra Nature trail. Fairmount Park is the largest landscaped city park in the world with more than 8,500 acres and two million trees. We were fortunate enough to have Doug Gelbert, author of The 55 Best Places to Hike With Your Dog in the Philadelphia Region and Miriam Hughes, founder of the Chester County Canine Hiking Club as our guides for the day.

The Andorra Natural Area of Fairmount Park is located in the northern end of the Wissahickon Valley. This 210-acre preserve is one of the last natural places in Fairmount Park. You can start your hike by checking out the Tree House Visitor Center, which was created when a massive sycamore tree grew right through the enclosed front porch of the home of the nursery’s chief plant propagator. The tree had to be removed in 1981 when it started to weaken, but the house is still standing and serving as the visitor center.

We would be taking the Forbidden Trail, which earned its name in the 1920’s when it was closed to automobiles. While the full trail is a 7-mile journey we were just sampling the route and looping back on one of the many smaller named trails. There were several areas for the dogs to access the Wissahickon Creek and I don’t think they missed one opportunity to splash around with each other. These trails are also open to bikers and horses so be sure to keep your dog on a lead, a park requirement, to help keep you, your dog and everyone else safe and happy during your visit.

After we rested for a picnic in the park, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest before we had to continue our exploration of the city a little later in the day. The destination was Rittenhouse Square, known as the most fashionable residential section of the city. It was home to Philadelphia’s "Victorian aristocracy" and some of the mansions of that period still survive facing the square, although most of the grand homes gave way to apartment buildings after 1913. Rittenhouse Square today serves as a wonderful community park were city dwellers can enjoy an afternoon out in the sun on the spacious lawns. The park was filled on a sunny Saturday with dogs and their owners alike just relaxing, meeting friends and enjoying the atmosphere.

While in the neighborhood we also took advantage of some wonderful shopping opportunities by stopping at Pooch, a unique boutique for the pampered pooch and their fashion conscience owners. You will even find matching outfits for you and your couture loving best friend at this delightful shop. Some of the dog owners we met there informed us that most of the stores in the area are pet friendly allowing dogs to accompany their owners into some of the best shops in the Rittenhouse Square area. We did not test this out for ourselves so if you plan on shopping until you drop you might want to investigate before you leave the hotel.

Once we were done shopping we returned back to the hotel to meet the pet sitters from Too Little Time, a professional lifestyle management concierge service that Loews recommends for all of their four-legged guests, when your best friend just wants to stay in and you want a night out on the town. Having never left Phoebe with anybody other than my family I felt like a new parent leaving my child with a sitter. However, after meeting with Denise Baron, owner of Too Little Time and several of their sitters, Phoebe made the final choice for her companion for the evening and I was able to relax and enjoy a wonderful night out.

We headed out to the White Dog Café located in University City. The White Dog Café is more than a neighborhood restaurant, it is a neighborhood institution. Known for their owner Judy Wicks socially responsible beliefs as well as their eclectic American cuisine the White Dog has plenty to offer any visitor. The White Dog Café was named after the founder of the Theosophical Society Madame Helena P. Blavatsky. She was a scholar, spiritualist, author, teacher, uninhibited eccentric and former resident of 3420 Sansom Street, which is now home to Judy and the White Dog Café. As the story goes in 1875, Madame Blavastky became ill with an infection in her leg. She dismissed the doctors and surgeons who suggested amputation and instead had a white dog sleep across her leg by night, curing her in no time. The White Dog today is Judy’s dog Alice, the model for the dog silhouette that appears as their logo.

Because of Judy’s social conscience she has helped local farmers stay in business by organizing other local restaurants and caters to buy their fruits, vegetables and even meat from them. When Judy read an article which detailed how inhumanely pigs were raised, she immediately went into the kitchen and removed pork from the menu. She refused to serve pork until she found a farm that raised range free pigs and it was located in Lancaster County.

This might be the only restaurant that sends out a tri-annual newsletter, but when you have as many guest speakers and special events happening as the White Dog you have to let the people know. For example the Dance of the Ripe Tomatoes, which is a celebration of sustainable and humane farming that, benefits the Philadelphia Fair Food Project, or Café Chien Blanc, held in celebration of Bastille Day. This year will mark the 22nd annual Bastille Day Street Party. This is just a small sampling of what this wonderfully active establishment has to offer. You have to visit it and experience the atmosphere to appreciate their role in the community.

Once again we were headed back to the hotel for much needed rest and a good night’s sleep. I was fairly anxious to see how Phoebe faired with her first pet-sitting experience. As I should have expected everything was fine. I have received greetings from Phoebe that are usually quite exuberant, but this one was different. In some way we had become even more bonded on our adventure away from home, just some girl time as we went out on the town for our last walk of the night.

We wrapped up our trip in Philadelphia with Sunday morning brunch in Old City at The Continental. Sitting at the sidewalk café on what was another picture perfect day we enjoyed the company of Lindsay Condefer, owner of Chic Petique. Lindsay talked about how she turned to natural and holistic remedies when traditional medicine was no longer helping one of her pets. It was based on this experience that she started her store and as her store has grown so has her role in the animal community as she started to rescue and fosters homeless animals. As we sat outside feasting on more delicious food I couldn’t help but notice all of the dogs out for a Sunday stroll. Many passed by the table where Phoebe was sure to greet them and send them back on their way. These were dogs of all shapes and sizes living in the city. So often you hear how small dogs make the best apartment dwellers but these big dogs were telling another story.

After brunch we were invited back to Lindsay’s shop Chic Petique a few blocks away to visit and learn more about some of the natural and holistic items she stocks. The dogs however, had some other shopping in mind with browsing the toys, beds and other treats the shop has to offer.

We went back to the hotel one last time to check-out, pack up the car and say good-bye to Philadelphia. Phoebe curled up in the backseat and settled in for our drive home. I couldn’t tell if she was sad to say good-bye or maybe she couldn’t wait to get back home and tell the boys all about our fun in the city. I knew I couldn’t wait to tell everybody about our great time and how I much fun it will be to go back and visit again with the rest of the family.


Article written by Lisa Kelley, Editor of Jersey Pets Magazine. This magazine is about the special bond between humans and their chosen animal companions. In each issue you will find articles written by pet professionals or perhaps your next-door neighbor. 


For more information on dog-friendly places in Philadelphia, click here for DogFriendly.com's Philadelphia City Guide.

 

 

 


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