If you love dogs, you’ll love Denver. At the city’s Watering Bowl tavern, you can drink beer and eat pizza while your pooch scampers in a 7,000-square-foot fenced dog park. Staying overnight? Rooms at the Crawford Hotel provide a dog bed, food and water bowls, chew toys and treats for four-legged guests. At the Curtis hotel, dogs’ photos are posted in the lobby.
Denver was named America’s top city for dogs in an April 2021 survey by dog-walker search site Rover.com and real estate site Zillow, but plenty of other cities, parks and hotels nationwide are eager for your pooch’s business (and yours, too). Here are some of the nation’s most tail-waggingly fun destinations.
Some towns have particularly good reputations among pet owners.
Portland, Oregon, for example, has many pet-friendly trails and 34 dog parks, the second most per capita in the United States, according to the Trust for Public Land (Boise, Idaho, is number one). If you go, check out the dog park at Mt. Tabor Park: After your dog plays in the off-leash area, you can walk to the top of a dormant cinder cone volcano, gaze upon the city's downtown or have a picnic near the reservoir.
Many of Portland’s restaurants and more than 70 breweries have outdoor patios that welcome pets. The Lucky Labrador Brew Pub even hosts an annual “Dogtoberfest” that claims to be Portland’s biggest dog wash (try the Black Lab Stout before scrubbing your dog).
New York City has more dog parks across its five boroughs than any city in the country. Not only can you walk your dog through most of Central Park (some locations, such as ballfields and bodies of water, are off-limits), but from 6:00–9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.–1:00 a.m., your dog can be off-leash in certain areas. To give your canine a Big Apple culinary experience, head to Madison Square Park, home to the first-ever Shake Shack. While you gorge on a burger and fries, your dog can eat a Bag O’ Bones (five dog biscuits made by the city’s Bocce Bakery).
Louisville, Kentucky, was ranked number one on a 2021 Orvis list of 100 dog-friendly cities due to its plentiful dog parks and numerous restaurants with pup-friendly patios (the Old Louisville Brewery even has a fenced-in dog area). In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Shooters Waterfront restaurant hired a veterinarian nutritionist to develop a pet menu (doggie diners can select from turkey, chicken or beef dishes). You’ll also find many parks, including the city's Bark Park at Snyder Park, with canine swimming holes.
Other options: Chicago has the most dog-friendly restaurants in America (558, followed by San Diego, with 555), and Austin, Texas, has the most dog-friendly shopping malls (28), according to a 2020 study by SmartAsset.com.
Pets frequently aren’t allowed on trails or in wilderness areas at the country's 63 national parks, but there are exceptions. At Acadia National Park in Maine, leashed dogs are welcome on 100 miles of trails and 45 miles of carriage roads, as well as at three campgrounds (Blackwoods, Seawall and Schoodic Woods). Outside magazine named Acadia the nation’s most dog-friendly national park.
Other good parks for pets include New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia (pets are allowed on all trails), Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona (you can walk leashed dogs on paved roads and trails and in wilderness areas) and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (leashed pets are welcome on all but 20 of the 500-plus miles of trails). At White Sands National Park in New Mexico, leashed dogs can scamper across the soft sand and dunes.
Review the park’s pet rules before you arrive. At Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park, pets are allowed on trails above the South Rim but not below, and Yavapai Lodge has the park’s only pet-friendly rooms (you can board your dog during the day and overnight on weekends at the South Rim Kennel). The National Park Foundation published a list of seven dog-friendly national parks that also includes Yosemite in California, North Cascades in Washington, Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.
Note that the National Park Service urges dog owners to protect their canines from overheating. In July 2021, three dogs at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area died on trails from heat-related illnesses. “Dogs can succumb to heatstroke in just 15 minutes,” says Ken Low, a park ranger at the recreation area.
State parks are often more pet-friendly than national parks, though policies vary. Consider California. Dogs are prohibited from most state park beaches, but you’ll find different rules for each of the state’s 11 park districts. For example, leashed dogs can frolic on the sand at Bean Hollow State Beach, about an hour’s drive south of San Francisco, but they’re allowed only on trails at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Orange County. (See pet policies for each of California’s 280 state parks.)
Every state has dog-friendly gems. Shellie Anne, blog editor for Virginia State Parks, touts Pocahontas State Park, about an hour and a half southwest of Richmond. Dogs love hiking the 64 miles of trails, leaping over old logs on the beaches, and joining their humans for canoe rides at Swift Creek and Beaver lakes. At First Landing State Park, people and dogs can run on the wide, 1.5-mile beach and dip their toes (or paws) in the Atlantic, free from the crowds and tall hotels at nearby Virginia Beach.
Join today and get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.
In Oregon, the state Parks and Recreation Department calls Elijah Bristow State Park a “dog paradise” for its 5 miles of trails and grassy off-leash area, which features play tunnels and access to Lost Creek. The park is about 20 miles southeast of Eugene-Springfield (check out the state’s dog-welcoming parks and trails listing). Want to explore a 100-acre coastal dune lake and even take your dog paddle boarding? You can do it at Grayton Beach State Park in Florida, near South Walton (where you can sample the fare at such pet-friendly eateries as The Perfect Pig, The Shrimp Shack, Airstream Row — a collection of food trucks in sleek vintage Airstreams — and La Crema).
Pennsylvania will add 130 pet-friendly campsites and cabins to six state parks in 2022, but there are already plenty of outdoorsy dog-welcoming destinations throughout the Keystone State, from the 60-plus mile Montour Trail in Allegheny and Washington counties to Presque Isle State Park, about 15 minutes from Erie (dogs are allowed on certain beaches).
GoPetFriendly.com maintains a list of pet policies and pet-friendly amenities — from campgrounds to beaches — for every state in America.
Hotels, Inns and Resorts
From bed-and-breakfasts to vacation rentals, pet-friendly lodging is plentiful these days. But there’s a Great Dane-sized difference between hotels that allow pets and those that pamper them.
“Hotels have become so accustomed to people traveling with pets that offering a dog bed, a welcome biscuit and a water bowl outside the entrance have become the bare minimum,” says Pavia Rosati, founder of the travel site Fathom and coauthor of Travel North America (and Avoid Being a Tourist).
In June 2021, Fathom and animal wellness company Pumpkin created a list of 23 dog-friendly destinations, highlighting such unique options as The Cottages in Nantucket, where pooch perks include souvenir dog tags, dog-walking services and even doggie turndown service. The Paw House Inn in Rutland, Vermont, has an intriguing twist on pet fees. Instead of charging extra for bringing a dog, they charge $10 if you don’t bring a dog. The inn features a football field-sized dog park (complete with tennis balls and agility equipment) and a dog-sitting facility.
Other possibilities: The Lora hotel in Stillwater, Minnesota, has a pet-friendly room service menu; the Quirk Charlottesville hotel in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, uses “dog in room” door hangers; and the Kimpton Gray hotel in Chicago gives pets a handmade bow-tie and a hand-drawn charcoal portrait by a local artist (you need to provide a photo seven days before arrival).
Need something more spacious? The new apartment-style Morton Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was designed for travelers with dogs. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pet areas, a dog wash, dog beds and leash hooks in each room. At Barkwells, an eight-acre, eight-cabin “dog lover's vacation retreat” just minutes from Asheville, North Carolina, dogs can play in a fenced-in meadow and leap into a pond for swimming and ball chasing. The cabins have dog doors and fenced-in yards, so Fido is free to roam. (Barkwells also has a two-cottage property near Brevard.) If you’re traveling by RV, the Waggin’ Tail Ranch RV Resort in Pilot Point, Texas, has an agility course, doggie day care, dog wash stations and a swimming pond.
You can also find a wide range of home rental properties that allow dogs on sites like VRBO and Airbnb (filter your search for “pets allowed”). Depending on the owner, you might pay a modest cleaning fee.
For info on pet-friendly lodging, visit PetsWelcome.com, Bring Fido, AAA and Pet Travel. Rosati’s hotel advice: Before booking, ask about extra fees for pets, whether animals are welcome in public areas like lobbies and restaurants, and if the hotel offers a pet-sitting option.
Ken Budd is a Washington, D.C.-area journalist and author of the memoir The Voluntourist. His feature stories and travel writing have appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, The Atlantic, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveler and more.