By Kristine Hansen | Pictured: Colectivo / ©Travel Wisconsin

Checking into a dog-friendly hotel means everyone in your group gets to be pampered during a trip to Milwaukee and no one — including your fur baby — stays behind. With its Lake Michigan shoreline, 150-plus county parks, and restaurants and hotels staffed by dog lovers, Wisconsin’s largest city is a great destination for a vacation that involves your canine. This is especially true in the warmer months, when the city’s Riverwalk and beer gardens are open for the season, providing even more outdoor spaces for your dog to explore with you.

At The Journeyman hotel in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, new pet-friendly offerings — with no weight limit for dogs, as long as they fit in the door — include two toys and two baked treats from the kitchen. Dogs are also invited to join their owners while they dine outdoors at Tre Rivali, the hotel’s Mediterranean-fare all-day restaurant, via a Yappie Hour Menu that debuted this spring. On the menu are house-made dog treats folding in pet-friendly flavors like peanut butter, chicken, white cheddar and bran-peanut. As for the humans, wood-fired pizzas, grilled octopus and surf-and-turf entrees are among the menu’s specialties for lunch and dinner. In each guest room is the aforementioned comfy bed, so no one’s hogging the covers, and a ceramic dog bowl.

Another boutique hotel in Milwaukee that welcomes pets with open arms is The Iron Horse Hotel, next to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Walker’s Point and boasting one of Milwaukee’s largest outdoor patios, The Yard. Dogs are welcome to hang out in this space, which features a mix of sofas and bar-height tables, and serves a food and drink menu all day long.

Thirty minutes west of downtown Milwaukee, The Delafield Hotel also welcomes dogs — of any size — with its Top Dog Package. Frosted bone-shaped, peanut-butter biscuits from The Lovin’ Oven Pet Bakery are waiting in the room, along with a tennis ball depicting the hotel’s logo. Surrounded by a grassy lawn, and a few blocks from the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Riverwalk, along the appropriately named Bark River. One of the state’s most visited state parks is also nearby: Lapham Peak State Park, within the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Once the weather warms, many Milwaukee bars and restaurants open their patios. Some also welcome dogs, including The Hounds and Tap in Menomonee Falls, functioning as a one-stop shop for pet care. Not only can you sip a pint of beer with your pup, there’s also grooming services available. With both outdoor and indoor pet parks, it’s a great place to hang out year-round.

Another outdoor spot where locals often take their dogs are Milwaukee’s many beer gardens, including ones at South Shore Park, Estabrook Park and Humboldt Park. Each offers food service and, of course, local craft beers on tap, but you can also bring in food as a picnic or take-out from a local restaurant. Picnic-table seating allows your dog to easily socialize with other dogs and humans.

If coffee and lattes are more your vice, all of the Colectivo Coffee locations offer dog-friendly outdoor seating in some fashion. At the Lakefront location, the sunburst chairs made popular at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union are arranged under pergolas, across the street from Lake Michigan.

In recent years, Milwaukee has opened unique dog-friendly businesses you won’t find in most other cities. This includes Salty Paws, which opened in the spring and serves up dishes (and cones) of ice cream and hosts dog parties, in case your four-legged friend has a birthday coming up. The store also sells pet apparel and gear, treats and even cake mixes that are pet-friendly.

Riley’s Social House, a dog-friendly bar in the Third Ward, was started by two dog owners who experienced success with their dog-friendly Riley’s Sandwich Co. in Shorewood after its 2021 opening. Through a take-out window, their sandwiches can also be bought at Riley’s Social House, paired with 24 beers on tap, along with cocktails and wine. Another place to enjoy a drink that’s dog-friendly is Vino Third Ward, a wine bar with a patio.

Like any destination, Milwaukee and the surrounding suburbs have off-leash dog parks where your pup can roam and make friends with other dogs. There are six in Milwaukee County and they are more than just city lots. Warnimont Dog Park in Cudahy and Currie Park in Milwaukee both include trails with mature trees, where you can run or walk with your dog off-leash. For each of these county parks, a day pass ($5) or annual pass ($15-$35) is required but the application process is super easy and can be completed through Milwaukee County Parks’ website.

If your pup loves to swim, then the 223-acre Fox Brook Park in Brookfield might be pure utopia. There’s a man-made swimming lake and beach that’s entirely fenced in. Also in the park is a beer garden called The Tap Yard that launched during the summer of 2022 and pours 24 different draft beers.

Two indoor swimming pools just for dogs are also in the Milwaukee area: Dog Paddle (near Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, offering 30-minute swims by reservation, just one dog at a time) and Aqua Therapups (in Brookfield and Richfield, focusing on water-therapy needs for dogs recovering from surgery or other types of injuries).

Even if your plans are to stay downtown, there are many places to walk a dog, including the Riverwalk. Who knows, you may find a bar, brewpub or restaurant with outdoor seating where you can both rest your legs. The sidewalk along Lincoln Memorial Drive, which hugs Lake Michigan from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to the Milwaukee Art Museum, is an attractive spot for dog walkers, too, with the marvelous lakefront your view the entire time.

Pet Travel Tips

If you’re headed out on a road trip that includes your best four-legged friend, there are a few things to consider and plan for before departing home.

  • In the vehicle, keep your dog restrained, whether in a hard crate that is secured with a seatbelt or anchor or an actual pet restraint.
  • Create a pet-friendly travel kit that includes: food, a bowl, leash, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and first-aid supplies.
  • Understand hotel policy regarding pets that can include: weight/ size restrictions, additional fees and the inability to leave your pet alone in the room.
  • Many dogs become anxious in unfamiliar surroundings, so bring reminders of home like their favorite pillow/bed and toys.

Click for even more dog-friendly destinations and dog-friendly parks throughout Wisconsin!


Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer who calls Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood home.

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