Dog lovers who don’t want to leave their pet at home might think campgrounds and the occasional cabin are their only options for full-family getaways, but a few of Wisconsin’s boutique hotels welcome four-footed travelers too.
How pet friendly is Wisconsin? Friendly enough for the state tourism department to emphasize travel with pets as a major marketing effort his year. “Dogs are welcome in Wisconsin, and they can bring their people, too” is one ad slogan, introduced at this month’s annual state tourism conference.
Heather Stetzer says travel with pets is increasing at HotelRED, 1501 Monroe St., Madison. “There are two dogs in the lobby right now,” the hotel’s sales/marketing director said on a recent Friday morning. “We’ve hosted everything from a large American bulldog to a toy poodle, and all sizes in between.”
Bringing a pet means keeping it on a leash and adding $50 per stay; base rates at the 48-suite hotel begin at $125. hotelred.com, 608-819-8228
The pet owner receives a map with pet-friendly walking areas. The dog’s name goes on a welcome sign at the concierge desk, and the pet receives treats from bad dog frida, a one-of-a-kind pet store at 2094 Atwood Ave., Madison. baddogfrida.com, 608-442-6868
The Pet Friendly Package at Jefferson Street Inn, 201 Jefferson St., Wausau, provides a bag of treats, bottle of water and use of pet dishes for canine stays. Don’t confuse this with the Dog House Package, whose lovely amenities – champagne, flowers, sweets and a dining credit – aim to help you get out of the doghouse.
Deb Rice, general manager, owns a miniature sheltie named Lily. Her staff at the 100-unit hotel keep dog treats behind the registration desk. Just across the street is the 400 Block (downtown park and outdoor concert area); also nearby is the paved River Edge Trail, which shadows the Wisconsin River and passes numerous parks. Rates start at $116, and $30 is added per day if a guest brings a dog (or cat). jeffersonstreetinn.com, 715-845-6500
In Milwaukee, the edgy and 100-room Iron Horse Hotel, 500 W. Florida St., puts an oversize pet pillow in the room as part of its Big Dog Package. Look for the dog’s name on a chalkboard in the lobby, and a room service menu tailored to pooch cravings.
Gourmet treats, toys and lists of dog-friendly parks and outdoor dining also are part of the deal. The full treatment costs an extra $125, or simply add $75 to the room rate (which starts at $209 for humans) and bring your own amenities for Fido. ironhorsehotel.com, 414-374-4766
The treatment is similar at the 121-room Inn on Woodlake, 705 Woodlake Rd., Kohler, which is on a small lake with walking trails. Add $100 to your stay for up to two dogs that weigh no more than 70 pounds; room rates begin at $112.
There is more room to run at the more elite Sandhill retreat that sleeps up to six people and a dog or two. The isolated, rustic-looking cabin with thoroughly modern kitchen, bathing and lounging amenities sits on 350 acres, just outside of Kohler. An overnight starts at $785 per person, with a three-night minimum. For any Kohler accommodation, consult destinationkohler.com, 855-444-2838.
Other pet-friendly boutique hotels in Wisconsin include the art deco-style Plaza Hotel, 1107 N. Cass St., Milwaukee, and the renovated Hotel Marshfield, 2700 S. Central Ave., Marshfield. plazahotelmilwaukee.com, 414-276-2101; hotelmarshfield.com, 715-387-2700
Regardless of the location, expect to sign a waiver that holds you liable if damages occur because of bad behavior.
Cat lovers, far be it for me to ignore you. Most of our kitties detest travel, but if you need a feline fix when away, now Madison offers a $10 option. That is how much it costs to enter the new Cat Café Mad, 1925 Monroe St., the first such business in Wisconsin.
Up to 15 cats live at the sparsely decorated, 2,300-square foot café. Although from various animal shelters, most are not up for adoption. The animals roam freely between the uncarpeted floor, bungee chairs, cubbyholes for napping, visitors with toys and students with laptops at tables. A door flap lets the animals escape from it all.
The only thing inside a cage is a self-serve beverage area, where all choices are non-alcohol. One drink is included in admission.
“Cats calm people down and lower their blood pressure,” notes Cheryl Glover, café co-owner with daughter Lauren and son Kirk. “It’s a wonderful environment.”
About 30 cat lovers waited in line as the business opened this month. “I really miss my cats from home and hardly ever see them,” explains Jenny Day of Minnesota, a University of Wisconsin student.
Cheryl was sold on the concept while visiting a cat café in Seoul – “we sat there for hours” – and expects to present cat-themed anime nights, quarterly Halloween costume nights, talks by veterinarians, adoption fairs (for shelters to bring in adoptable cats) and a gift shop with cat-centric merchandise for pet and owner.
“Senior citizens and college students are two groups that really miss their pets,” she says. “We’ll work with retirement homes to bring in people to sit with our cats, too.
Cat Café Mad, for now, is open 3-6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 3-11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The grand opening is April 1-3. catcafemad.com