BY HEATHER DOWDY
Summer is here, and that means that many of us are out and about in search of ways to have fun with our canine companions. After hibernating all winter, my pups, husband and I are always eager to get outdoors! While nature activities such as hiking, camping and boating are always fun, we also like spending time with our pooch pals in the city and in quaint, small downtown areas.
Luckily, Middle Tennessee is more dog-friendly than ever, boasting a variety of pet-friendly businesses, parks, events and more. Whether you’re looking to hang out in Nashville, Murfreesboro or downtown Franklin, there is a bit of something for every two and four legged summer lover to enjoy!
Listen to Live Music with Other Dog Lovers
That’s right—you can enjoy live music, the outdoors and your dog at Musician’s Corner, one of Nashville’s fastest growing and most popular music festivals. Hosted by The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park with the support of Mayor Karl Dean, this free festival is held in Centennial Park from 12:00-5:00pm on Saturdays in May, June, September and October. Aside from the great music, you’ll also enjoy a beer garden, food trucks, kids activities and more.
In fact, Mayor Dean stated, “Musicians Corner is destined to become one of Nashville's favorite entertainment sites.” Due to its rapid growth (it welcomes more than 40,000 guests each year), the festival will be receiving a permanent performance venue as a part of the city’s $6 million, two-year renovations to Centennial Park.
Now in its fifth season, this year’s Musician’s Corner welcomes the addition of Dogville, a special pet-friendly section hosted by The Farm at Natchez Trace. Dogs and their people will enjoy free activities, demonstrations, vet and trainer Q&A sessions and more, in addition to adoptable pets, microchips and spay/neuter education courtesy the Nashville Humane Association. You’ll also be able to pick up free copies of your favorite magazine (read: this one!) and we’re also happy to partner with The Farm for the “Dog of the Day” contest, in which one lucky winner will be drawn each Saturday to receive a gift from The Farm as well as a free subscription to Nashville Paw.
Dogs and their people enjoy music, food and fun at Musician’s Corner, Nashville’s popular music festival in Centennial Park. This year, the event introduces Dogville, a special dog-friendly area hosted by The Farm at Natchez Trace. Photo: Jon Karr
Forage for Food with Fido
Community farmers markets are an absolute favorite of mine! Aside from growing your own food, your local farmers market is the best place to find locally grown produce as well as everything from organic cheeses and breads to homemade soaps and healthy dog treats!
Leashed dogs are always welcome at the East Nashville Farmers Market, now held at a new location in Shelby Park. This weekly producers only market (meaning the vendors are the growers, bakers and producers of the food and products they sell) is a great place to find locally sourced foods and features hourly giveaways, food trucks, CSA sign ups, live music and a variety of fun activities. The market is held each Wednesday from 3:30-7:00pm.
I also enjoy taking my dogs to the Hip Donelson Farmers Market, held each Friday from 4:00-7:00pm through the end of October. There is always a fabulous selection of vendors as well as live music. Their mission statement: “We believe that knowing your food means knowing your farmer. We champion healthy food and healthy communities by providing a place for everyone to support, enjoy and learn about fresh, locally grown food, local music, cuisine and arts.” Also a producers only market, all the vendors come from within a 150-mile radius, which guarantees locally produced crops and products. And for Fido? Be sure to stop by the booth for The Barker’s Market to pick up locally made, all-natural dog treats as well as fun pet accessories.
Shop Till You Drop with your Dog
It’s a given that you can bring your pup to all the pet supply stores, but did you know that some local boutiques also welcome our furry friends?
I am in love with Sugaree’s, a fabulous women’s boutique that sells vintage and vintage-inspired fashion, located on the Public Square in Murfreesboro. I always find something unique and gorgeous! The shop also has a fantastic selection of handmade jewelry. Not only is owner Staci Higdon a huge animal lover and a doggie mama, but she loves it when you bring your pooch pal in to browse alongside you. In fact, she has a “pets welcome” sign hanging on her front door! So while you search for the perfect summer outfit, Bowser can score some water and a yummy treat!
Another favorite spot is My Sister’s Closet Consignment in Green Hills, where leashed pets are always welcome. Owner Lori Elam is also the founder of Noah’s Ark Society, a local animal rescue group. In fact, there is usually an adoptable dog or two hanging out in the store! In addition to clothing, the boutique offers a fun selection of gifts and supplies for dogs and pet lovers to boot. Bring your furry pal by to pick up a fun treat and to browse a great selection of gently used, super stylish clothing and accessories. Oh, and guys—you’re in luck, too! Elam’s “brother store”, Free Beer Men’s Consignment, has a fantastic collection of men’s clothing and accessories and is also pet-friendly.
Cool Off at our Pooch Pool Party
Last year, our annual Nashville Paw Canine Summer Splash welcomed nearly 300 pooch pals with their people to enjoy off-leash swimming, splashing and playing in the fully-fenced, walk-in outdoor pool at the Sumner County YMCA. This is Middle Tennessee's first and original dog swim event, and it's growing in size and fun every year!
This year, the event will be held on September 6 and will feature three swim sessions: dogs under 25 pounds enjoy the pool from 10:00-11:30am; dogs over 25 pounds swim from 12:00-1:30pm; and dogs of all sizes can play from 2:00-3:30pm. Guests will also enjoy a variety of pet-friendly vendors. Meanwhile, our presenting sponsor, The Farm at Natchez Trace, will be hosting a fun Olympic-themed contest each swim session, with prizes for Gold, Silver and Bronze winners.
Entry is $15 per dog and supports the YMCA's nonprofit "Learn to Swim" program for kids as well as helping to keep Nashville Paw a free community resource.
Relax on a Pet-Friendly Patio
Fortunately, Middle Tennessee is home to more pet friendly patios than we can list here. These are just some of my personal faves. Our dogs really dig them, too!
12 South Taproom
Located in the heart of the hip 12 South District, The Taproom has served as a favorite gathering spot for many Nashvillians since 2006. Dogs are welcome on their pet-friendly patio, where you can relax with a cold beer and a veggie burger, quesadillas or grilled salmon—but beware that your dog will be begging for a bite!
Beyond the Edge
The laid back, comfortable sports bar vibe and two sprawling patios at East Nashville’s Beyond the Edge make it an ideal setting for folks with dogs. In fact, the awesome staff is always happy to bring over a bowl of water or anything else your pampered pup might request! Hey, they really do love dogs… just check out their Facebook photos!
Although all of their locations rock, the Calypso Café in East Nashville is an especially doggone great spot for patio dining under their covered porch. It has long been one of my favorite local restaurants, serving up Jamacain style fare (I love the black beans, callaloo and coconut sweet potatoes!) as well amazing fruit tea and desserts, all for a price that can’t be beat.
What began as a once-a-week “Lappy Hour” finally gave way to a full-time dog-friendly patio at Eastland Café in East Nashville. The garden patio is the perfect spot to chill with your pooch and enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail with your artisan meal.
Once a pet shop, this awesome coffee shop in Hillsboro Village has expanded into a full fledged restaurant with delicious noms for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I love relaxing with our pooch pals at a sidewalk table, and love the table numbers that showcase various adoptable pets. I also happen to love that they are one of our busiest pick-up locations for the magazine!
Jackson’s Bar & Bistro
A popular corner bistro in Hillsboro Village, Jackson’s is a longtime favorite pet-friendly patio for many Nashvillians. In fact, their sprawling patio has been voted the best in town by various publications, including our own Readers’ Choice Awards.
Pa Bunk’s Natural Market & Café
When we moved to Murfreesboro in October, I was super excited to have this natural market in our own backyard! Owned by dog lover Corey Williams, the store strives to feature the best local and regional products—including natural dog treats from Spoil Me S’mo. I can’t get enough of their sandwiches made daily by The Health Nut Sandwich Company, and they always have free treats and a fresh bowl of water on the patio for your pooch pal. A great place to relax and watch the happenings on the Public Square… and to grab a free copy of our magazine!
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant
Home-cooked country fare can be enjoyed on the picnic tables outside Puckett’s, located in the historic Leiper’s Fork area of Franklin. Founded in the 1950’s as a general store and gas station, the restaurant and shop now features local live music and the most delicious biscuits. Get one for you, and another for your four-legged friend!
Located in Hendersonville, Barefoot Charlies hosts a Yappy Hour the first Sunday of each month, weather permitting. Dogs are welcome on their pet-friendly patio and "beach", and during yappy hour they receive yummy pup treats, water and lots of extra love! It's a fun little island-inspired getaway for you and your pooch pal.