The kids are buckled up in the van, lunches are packed in the cooler, and everyone has been slathered in sunscreen. You are ready for a great day out with the family. But as you are pulling down the driveway, you look back and are suddenly filled with an overwhelming feeling of guilt, because staring back at you with those sad puppy dog eyes is just that-the sad puppy dog you have left behind.
But taking along Fido isn't just as simple as throwing her in the car and packing up a bowl of water and a few treats. Many places aren't exactly rolling out the red carpet for you, your kids and your pets.
However, more places and attractions are becoming "pet friendly," making planning a fun family day out even easier.
When you think top tourist attractions, you immediately assume dogs aren't allowed. But it is quite the opposite at Chicago's biggest tourist attraction, Navy Pier. While animals are not allowed inside the shops or attractions, they are more than welcome to accompany you on the pier itself, and can even join you for a bite to eat at the outdoor food court seats. And if a walk and a bite to eat are just not enough, your family can head out on the water together.
Leaving from Navy Pier's Ogden Slip, Shoreline Sightseeing boat tours allow you to bring your pet along for its one-hour architectural cruise. Pet owners are encouraged to call ahead and make reservations (as are all riders) due to space limitations. shorelinesightseeing.com, (312) 222-9328.
If your family and your dog are more adventurous and would rather take a speedboat ride across Lake Michigan, then get on board with Seadog Cruises at Navy Pier. The captain cranks up the turbo-charged motors and cruises back to the pier at 45 miles per hour across the lake. Dogs are permitted when room allows, so it may be best to call ahead and check before putting a pair of racing goggles on your dog. seadogcruises.com, (888) 636-7737.
Rather keep your two feet (and their four) on the ground? Head up to the north side and check out Of Mutts and Men at 2149 W. Belmont Ave. This Roscoe Village hangout is the perfect place for you and your pup to play. For your furry companion, it offers a leash-free play zone (think indoor dog park), and for your entertainment there are pool tables, TVs, chess boards, and even free coffee in case you need a pick-me-up. Not only is the coffee free, but you are, too (there is a $3 per dog charge to enter, or buy a monthly pass for $40). (773) 477-7171.
Taking your pet to Petco or PetSmart is easy enough, but let's face it, there isn't much at these stores for you and your family. If you want to go shopping for the day and don't want to leave your dog behind, there are more than a few places your family and your leashed friend can hit.
Bloomingdale's (both downtown and in Skokie) welcome well-behaved, leashed dogs into their stores, as do the Harley-Davidson locations downtown on Ohio Street and up on Western Avenue. All of the area Anthropolgie stores (anthropolgie.com) also welcome dogs.
If your dog is more of the outdoorsy type, hike on over to the Orvis Company Store at 142 E. Ontario, or if they would rather wear a cool graphic tee and see the latest fashionable home décor, you can peruse any of the area's Urban Outfitters with your leashed companion.
Sun and sand
After some sightseeing and shopping, it is probably time for you, the kids and your pooch to kick back and relax a little bit. What better place to do that than at the beach? While Chicago is generally a pretty pet-friendly town, don't even think about trying to take your dog with you to popular lakefront stops like Oak Street or North Avenue beaches. Instead, head to the dog beach in either Evanston, at Belmont Harbor, or the best one for both play area size and ease of parking, Montrose Harbor.
In order to use the beach at Montrose Harbor, you do need an annual permit ($5 per dog), and you must keep your dog leashed between your car and the fenced-in beach area. Owners who do not obey will be ticketed (minimum fine is $75).
Whatever you do on your day out with the entire family, you know not only will your kids enjoy bringing along their furry best friend, but your dog also will enjoy not being left alone at home for once (although part of me thinks they probably enjoy the alone time a little too, just like mom and dad).
Chris Thomas is a freelance writer and dad living in Brookfield.