Rusty’s rating: 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Equal to Folly Beach!
It’s travel time again, which means I’m sneaking time in between chasing down the details of a vast Russian conspiracy to travel America with Rusty, my golden retriever and sidekick. Today, I’m going to talk about Durham, N.C., which might rival Folly Beach, S.C. as the most dog-friendly destination I’ve yet visited. This occasional series is designed to encourage dog-owners to take their furry friends with them on the road — since I started doing this about 10 years ago as a book tour, things have only gotten easier for our four-legged friends and companions.
Durham is part of Research Triangle and the home of Duke University — a place many people love to hate. If that’s you, set your basketball feelings aside, and head to North Carolina for incredible barbecue, bakeries, and brew pubs.
Our Durham stay began and ended with Fullsteam Brewery, which was completely dog-friendly, inside and out. We ended up there on belly dancing night, which somehow translated into extra belly rubs, and that was fine with Rusty.
While there, plenty of dog owners said hello and began listing off other places we could go, including an off-leash park that has lights for night-time — it was once a Little League baseball field. They did warn me to make sure Rusty was friendly with strangers if I took her off the leash. This is because there have been a few incidents where a personal injury lawyer had to be contacted as someone had been bitten by a dog off the leash. Rusty is fine with other people though. The newest joint was called Barley Labs. In the top picture, Rusty is paying his tab. Barley Labs began as a business selling dog treats made of barley, but now it’s a full-fledged brew pub. (Yes, there is a lab named Barley behind the name). We also found our way to Bull McCabe’s, an Irish pub with massive outside space right down town. Rusty was welcome at all the picnic tables there.
There’s more to life than brew pubs, however (?), so we also had several super brunches at places like Guglhupf, a German bakery with a funky courtyard, and Parker and Otis. Rusty was plenty welcome in the ample outdoor space at both places, and really every place. There’s also the massive American Tobacco Campus, a factory-turned-mixed development, which felt a bit like a dog park with occasional spots for humans to eat and work. Kudos to the folks at Cuban Revolution who walked out with a dog bowl full of fresh water, and then a plate of six dog biscuits elegantly arranged for presentation purposes.
As per usual, I stayed at a La Quinta Inn. The entire chain is dog-friendly, with no added fee, which makes life so much easier when I’m traveling. Some LQ’s are a bit more dog friendly than others; the Durham hotel is great. There’s an indoor hot tub, too (Sorry, Rusty can’t go in there).
Obviously, Durham and Research Triangle offer a ton of other things to do, thanks to the several nearby universities. And it’s not far for most east coasters — roughly an 8-hour drive from New York. Durham comes highly recommended.
What is this story doing here? Regular readers of my column know I’ve spent many years having travel adventures with my golden retrievers — first Lucky, now Rusty. Why travel with a dog? I’ve answered this before, but to review: Sure, it’s a hassle, and it means you just can’t do some things (fine dining? Unlikely…). But traveling with your dog gives you peace of mind that your pet is being well cared for, and you don’t have to worry if your plans change. Most important, dogs make friends easily, as do people with dogs. The best part of travel for me is meeting locals, or fellow travelers, and swapping stories. I’m inherently shy. That’s a terrible quality for a journalist. Lucky and Rusty have solved that for me. It’s no exaggeration that I have enjoyed 100s of great encounters with all kinds of people that would have been unlikely without my sidekick journalist in tow. So for me, the answer is obvious. I travel with my dog.
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