Vacation Sanctuaries That Welcome You – and Your Pet
The next time you go on vacation, you might want to consider taking your four-legged canine family member with you, instead of leaving him or her at home. Vacations are wonderful, to be sure, but they can be extra special if every member of the family is with you. It seems that Americans agree, too. Fully 29 million Americans traveled with their pets in 2007 and 14% demand to bring them along on a regular basis. In 2010, 60% of pet owners took their pets on vacation, 76% by car and another 2% by other means of travel. Because of that, vacation destinations are sitting up and taking notice. (Note that while feline family members are often welcome, too, there are fewer options for them, as you'll notice.)
Some places even cater to pets, in that you can be sure your dog will be pampered and as welcome as you are, not just "put up with." And indeed, why not? Today's pet owners know that their pets are every bit as much a part of the family as their children are. Take a look at some of the top places you can take your pet for fun, sun, and adventure:
Wisconsin and Arkansas are two of the top states that welcome pets. As long as dogs and cats are easily controlled, these two states allow these pets into their state-owned parks and other public lands, such as recreation areas and forests.
• The Appalachian Trail and other hiking wonders
Arkansas is the "Natural State," with approximately 1500 miles of hiking trails and almost 3 million acres of national forest. The Appalachian Trail goes from Maine to Georgia, runs 2170 miles in total, and can be hiked on foot with your best pal wherever you stop. Most people choose to hike just part of it, but others are ambitious and do the entire trail.
In addition, Maine, Wisconsin, Georgia, and many other states are rife with hiking trails, where you and your furry friend can take in the sights and getting a little exercise at the same time.
Especially in the summer, it can be difficult to beat the heat, and your furry friends are no exception. Although their fur provides them some protection from the heat because it's a sort of insulation, they need cooling, too. Many dogs love the water, and to that end, many travel destinations these days are welcoming dogs and sometimes cats to their watery entertainment sites.
In Minnesota, for example, this "Land of 10,000 Lakes" is perfect for boating fun and a quick dip or two, as well. Michigan has the most shoreline of any of the continental states, bordered by four of the five Great Lakes. Most Michigan State Parks have boating and water facilities, and pets are welcome.
• The St. Augustine Scenic Cruise
In Florida, St. Augustine Scenic Cruise in St. Augustine, Florida welcomes pets aboard with open arms as long as long as they are leashed. Similarly, the Nature and Sightseeing Cruise in Bar Harbor, Maine is a two-hour cruise that runs from mid-July through mid-September every Sunday. Pets are welcome as long as they are leashed.
• Boston Harbor Islands Dog Cruise
With the Boston Harbor Islands Dog Cruise, you and your dog can go on a three-hour cruise to Boston Harbor Islands, departing from Long Wharf. It'll cost you $35 for the cruise, but your dog can go for free.
There are beaches that welcome dogs, and there are also beaches specifically for dogs, as long as those dogs are well behaved.
For example, Coronado Island, California has the Coronado Dog Beach, and the Susan Kimmelman Off-Leash Dog Beach at Chicago's Montrose Beach caters to dogs, too.
In Campbellsport, Wisconsin, the Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit has training for dogs to give them water skills, while the Spring Branch, Texas' Guadalupe River State Park and Virginia Beach, Virginia at First Landing State Park welcome dogs as long as they're on leash. All of these areas have plenty of surrounding park areas to run and play in, hiking trails that are friendly to dogs, and canoe and boat rentals that welcome (mostly) canine friends.
Outdoor eateries that welcome pets
• Chicago's SkyBark
While most indoor restaurants frown upon trying to bring your dog or cat inside (unless it's a service animal, of course), plenty of outdoor cafés and eateries welcome pets with open arms, and some even provide meals for animal friends. There are a few restaurants that cater to pets, such as Chicago's SkyBark, and some indoor pubs, as well.
Enough about pet accommodations. What about pet fun? For many people, no vacation is complete unless the family cat or dog gets to get in on the action, too. While outdoor activities like hiking, boating, swimming in the lake, and camping already lend themselves to pet participation, there are activities specifically meant for pets to make them feel included when family fun happens.
• The Hound of Music
Nashville summers will never be the same with the advent of the aptly named "Hound of Music." This summer event has you and your best canine buddy going to the studio in a chauffeur-driven limo. After some training from a professional voice coach, your dog is given the chance to bark in time to his favorite karaoke beat. The original Hound of Music event gave pooches the chance to appear on America's Got Talent; while that amenity may not be available anymore, at the very least, you and your favorite furry friend will take home a CD of the session, in a personalized case. In addition, other accommodations include room service for your buddy or "lady," a grooming session, and a massage.
• Dog Awareness Week
In tandem with the River City Cluster of Dog Shows, the city of San Antonio, Texas hosts events for a week in July centered around our favorite four-legged "best friends." In addition to the AKC dog show events, there are also fun pet-centered events, and celebrity greetings from celebrities such as Cesar Milan, the famous Dog Whisperer.
Every year, people and pets come together to celebrate pooches in this one-of-a-kind country fair, held in Marysville, Washington. In addition to the Canine Disc Championships, there are also other contests to participate in, such as best costume, wackiest pet trick, best "pooch kisser," and more.
• Dog Days of Summer
The aptly named Mutt Lynch Winery hosts a Dog Days of Summer event every year in August. Although wine tasting is common to the human world, this may be the only event where dogs actually get to taste wine, too. Canine and human friends can socialize together and enjoy dog art while contributing to animal welfare with donations to the Healdsburg Animal Shelter. Dogs can come free, with admission $10 for humans. Extra "poop" or "bark" taxes are charged for dogs who may not quite have their manners in place for such an auspicious occasion, but these proceeds, too, are donated to the shelter.
• Fido's Festival USA
This festival is held in Woodstock, New Jersey, at the Salem County Fairgrounds in August. Games and Frisbees abound, with lots of food (both human and canine) available, too. The fairground is also open to camping, and canine friends are of course welcome.
Relax and enjoy
If being pampered is your true idea of a vacation, luxury resorts are becoming ever more popular -- and they cater to your dog and sometimes your cat, too.
Specialty, catering to doggies AND kitties
• The FireSky Resort and Spa
Of specific note to cat lovers who want to travel with their cats and make sure they have accommodations, too, is the Scottsdale, Arizona-based FireSky Resort and Spa. Typical in-room amenities include scratching posts, customized pet beds, room service menus specifically for kitty, freshly kept litter boxes, and food and water bowls. In addition, kitty and "human" are pampered with spa packages including massages for the ultimate in relaxation.
• New Orleans W Hotels
New Orleans' W Hotels provide birthday cakes, massages, and catnip toys to feline guests, and New York's Ritz-Carlton not only welcomes cats, but also provides "carry bags" for feline guests to be out and about with mom and dad, sightseeing as they do.
Pet pampering with luxury hotels (general)
If you'd rather not have a lot of outdoor fun and would prefer to be city-bound instead, you're in luck. Your pooch or kitty will be welcome at many luxury hotels, including those around Beverly Hills, Atlanta, New York, and Nashville. While an increasing number of hotels say that they are "pet friendly," many luxury hotels in these areas also cater to pets, with special massages, bathrobes, meals, and more. Even simple "pet friendly" hotels are getting in on the action with special meals for furry family friends, even if other "luxury" amenities aren't provided.
• The Dog House Resort
For your dog, you can expect similar accommodations but with a little bit more physical activity included. Jefferson, North Carolina welcomes dogs and owners to the Dog House Resort in suite specifically named for canine "heroes" that have appeared in the movies. Canine guests can canoe down the Red River, and then relax in their (or their humans') favorite movie "star" suite.
• Ysidro Ranch
Montecito, California's Ysidro Ranch not only welcomes canine guests, but actually offers room-service menus, fenced play areas, and pet sitting, as well as massage, among its amenities. On the grounds, 17 miles of trails meander through the ranch's gardens for a guided tour, and plenty of canine fun and exploration.
Just about any vacation (even those that are largely road trips) can be made "pooch friendly," as long as you provide plenty of options for romping outside. Potty stops are a necessity, to be sure, but make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise, too. In addition to finding a friendly pet hotel along the way, consider stopping in the following dog parks in the north, east, south and midwest, depending on where you're going. There are lots of other options, too. Search for dog parks where you're going to be going, or consider these public dog parks, some of which allow dogs to run free and without leashes.
• J. Hood Wright Park
Free and open to the public, Manhattan's J. Hood Wright Park is located on W. 173rd Street, on the upper Westside. It has a gravel surface, and allows dogs to run free, no leash required.
• Bernal Heights Park
Perched atop Bernal Hill in San Francisco, California, Bernal Heights Park caters to canine friends. The park has sections for both on- and off-leash play, and plenty of strategically placed benches for dog owners to sit and rest, enjoying breathtaking views as their "children" play. In winter months, the park is lush and green, and in summer months, it's a bit more sparse, but still with plenty of room for dogs to stretch out and enjoy some wide open space, making canine friends at the same time. There are plastic bags and waste receptacles located at the entrances to the park, although owners are also encouraged to bring their own and to, of course, clean up after their dogs as necessary.
• I-5 Colonnade Park
Located on Lakeview Boulevard and Franklin Avenue East in Seattle, Washington, I-5 Colonnade Park caters to its canine friends. It boasts 1.2 acres of off-leash fun, right off of the interstate, and water fountain just for dogs. There's also shelter provided from the elements by the I-5 deck.
• Discovery Green Dog Park
This dog park is located in Houston, Texas on McKinney Avenue. It's actually part of the larger downtown park shared by Houston residents; the dog park's official names are The Kinder Large Dog Run and Harriet and Joe Foster Dog Runs. With a gravel surface, benches, and drinking fountains for dogs, there's a separate area for smaller dogs. There's no grass, so your dog may get a little bit dirty, but it certainly provides plenty of area for him or her to run and play when you're traveling.
• Barnum Dog Park
Located in beautiful Denver, Barnum Dog Park is acres of wide open spaces for your dog and you to enjoy. The park is not fenced, so it's advised that your dog obey voice commands readily. This fresh, green spot right in the middle of Denver is a great place for weary two-and four-legged travelers to take a rest and have a picnic.
• Fido's Indoor Dog Park
As perhaps a nod to its sometimes rainy seasons, Fido's Indoor Dog Park, located on W. 25th St. in Portland, Oregon, is one of the few in the country that serves its clientele (both four- and two-legged) in the great... indoors. It's a fully climate-controlled indoor park with trees, bushes, grass, and a chemical-free, naturally-cleaned swimming pool for swimming. There are overnight boarding facilities for pets if needed as well, and grooming supplies are also provided. Free drinking water is available throughout the park for canine visitors, and WiFi is also available for human visitors.
Although it's not free as many parks are (it's $10 a day for a grass or water park pass, or $20 for a combination pass), it is still well worth it for a day of romping indoors, whether you choose access to just water, grass or both. In addition, the park's owners have taken care to make the environment as organic and toxin-free as possible, limiting or completely eliminating use of chemicals and choosing natural options, instead. Quite a feat, considering that this is perhaps the only indoor water park that caters to dogs available – and it's safe and as free from toxins as possible, for both you and your pet.
A Day in the Life at Fido's.
Retrieved October 13, 2011.
Barnum Dog Park-Denver.
Retrieved October 13, 2011.
Discovery Green Dog Park.
Retrieved October 13, 2011.
Find a Dog Park.
Retrieved October 13, 2011.
Fun Pet Events around the Country.
Retrieved October 12, 2011.
Top-Five Pet Friendly Vacation Spots.
Retrieved October 13, 2011.
Pet Travel Industry Skyrockets.
Retrieved April 10, 2015.