20 Top Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations for You and Your Best Travel Buddy
It was mid-2008 when Amy Burkert and her husband Rod found themselves adopting a stray German shepherd. The puppy was found near their home in Philadelphia, and after a few weeks of looking for his family to no avail, they decided to adopt him as their own and name him Buster. The issue? The couple, who at the time had a small dog named Ty, was planning a huge trip up to Canada about a month later and hadn't accounted for two dogs coming along.
Burkert searched online for dog-friendly hotels and dog parks along their route, but didn't come up with much. The trip went well, but the experience taught her that other people probably were also looking for the same information.
In 2009, she launched GoPetFriendly.com, a comprehensive pet travel platform that quickly took off. Soon after, she and Rod, both who work remotely for their CPA firm, sold their place in Philly, hit the road in an RV, and haven't looked back since.
"In a few months, we will have been on the road for 11 years," Burkert says, adding that Ty and Buster have sadly passed, and they now have a new pup named Myles. "We love it, and by doing that with our dogs, we are walking the talk."
Since we're all attached to our dogs at the hip, here are some of Burkert's recommendations for how you can bring them along once it's safe to travel for a vacation again.
How to Choose a Dog-Friendly Vacation Destination
Consider Your Itinerary
There are many things to consider when traveling with your dog, from where you'll go to how you'll get there to fun activities to do along the way. While in the decision making phase, Burkert recommends thinking about what you and your dog like to do together first.
"Do you like to go to the beach?" she asks. "What about hiking? Exploring cities? Or sitting at a coffee shop watching people walk by? It's important to think about how much your dog physically can and would want to do and what you'd want to do together."
And be prepared to make a few sacrifices for your four-legged companion. Dog-friendly vacation spots can come in various forms. Taking a road trip with your dog to New York City, for example, may not seem like a good spot because of the population density, but there are actually tons of great green spaces for your dog to play.
"That said, you might consider sacrificing your trip to the Guggenheim if you're with your dog," she says.
Think About Where You'll Stay
Your choice of accommodations is another important thing to keep in mind when planning your trip. While some locations have hotels that allow pets, other destinations with more natural surroundings might require flexible arrangements like renting a unique Airbnb or camping.
"A lot of people think that camping is a wonderful thing to do with a dog on vacation, but not if you're planning on leaving him or her in the camper all day," Burkert says. "That isn't much of a vacation for your pet. Instead, try to find a place that will work for you both."
As you decide the best vacation destination for your family (fur babies included), these Burkert-recommended places both domestic and international might just do the trick.
Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations on the East Coast
Among the places on the East Coast to take your dog on vacation, a place called Dog Mountain in the Eastern Vermont town of St. Johnsbury, ranks highly for Burkert.
"The people managing it have turned what was a dairy farm into an off-leash dog heaven," she says. "There is a pond, trails, even a dog chapel."
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
The town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, is home to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which offers breathtaking trips through the Pocono Mountains. According to Burkert, the trip is a must for dog owners and is among the best dog-friendly vacation spots in the eastern U.S.
Bar Harbor, Maine
The 5,500-person town of Bar Harbor, Maine on Mount Desert Island is a great place to bring your pet companion, especially if you're interested in hiking at Acadia National Park. This island is the best of both worlds with mountains and sandy beaches within the park, and pet-friendly patios for eating in town. Doggie visitors are encouraged and there are tons of trails both you and your pup will enjoy.
Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations on the West Coast
The 100,000-person town in central Oregon is so obsessed with dogs that they are allowed almost everywhere. Dog-friendly hiking trails are abundant at the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range, and within the city limits you'll find many outdoor food carts, food truck parks, and breweries (including the award-winning Deschutes Brewery), all of which welcome dogs.
San Diego, California
Sunny San Diego is among one of the best dog-friendly vacation spots thanks to its many open areas that accommodate them. If your pup likes to play on the beach, there are plenty dog beaches and off-leash dog parks in and around this SoCal city. Check out Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, or Morley Field Dog Park in San Diego's famed Balboa Park.
If you're a lover of the sea, take advantage of SD's coastal location and rent a boat or a yacht to let your dog feel the wind in her hair. If you're looking for an activity that will satisfy your pup's competitive nature, catch a Padres baseball game at Petco Park where they have a special viewing area called The Barkyard just for people and their pets.
Many people are surprised to learn that Grand Canyon National Park, located in Northern Arizona, is a vacation spot that allows dogs. As Burkert explains, the South Rim is your best bet if you're bringing your furry friend.
Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in the Midwest
"I love going to Chicago with dogs," says Burkert. She suggests checking out the trails along Lake Michigan and exploring Navy Pier, as just a few examples of things to do.
Grand Haven, Michigan
Grand Haven is a picturesque town on Michigan's West Coast loved by tourists and their dog companions alike, mainly for the amount of greenspaces and beaches. Grand Haven City Beach is a great place to go with your pup on a warm summer day. The vacation town even boasts the Must Love Dogs Boutique & Spa, a pet-friendly shopping spot where you can bring your pup to sniff around the store.
Indianapolis is filled with great places to take your dog on vacation, including breweries, outdoor restaurants, and open spaces like White River State Park. The city's growing number of outdoor dining spots that allow dogs makes Indy a no-brainer for foodies bringing along their fur babies.
Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in the Southern U.S.
Asheville, North Carolina
The sprawling Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., allows dogs on its grounds and outdoor patios (but not inside buildings). Still, at more than 8,000 acres to explore, it's absolutely worth bringing along the pooch, especially on a beautiful day. Once you've gotten your steps in stomping around the mansion gardens, the nearby town of Asheville has a ton of pet-friendly activities for the two of you to take on, as well. Check out the street art in downtown Asheville, or sniff out some local goodies at one of the town's many bustling outdoor farmer's markets. After you've gotten your fix of city life, head out to explore the miles of trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains and book a camping spot for your and your furry friend to soak in the sounds of nature.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is one of the most dog-friendly U.S. cities on our list, featuring many pets-allowed restaurants like Brown Dog Deli and Poogan's Porch, named after the friendly neighborhood dog who greeted guests until he passed in 1979.
If your dog wants to live like a princess for a day, Charleston Carriage Works offers historical tours of the city and allows dogs to come along for the ride in style. When you're ready to stretch your legs, check out Charleston's beaches at Sullivan's Island and Morris Island. If the weather isn't favorable, take your dog for a dip in the indoor dog pool at Wag-n-Splash.
Brohard Beach and Paw Park is among the top places to go in Sarasota if you have a pup in tow. The beach is especially accommodating for pet parents with its dog showers and fire hydrants for puppy bathroom breaks, according to Burkert.
International Dog-Friendly Vacation Ideas
Before you head out on an international adventure with your favorite travel buddy, keep in mind that there can be potential health risks when taking your dog on long flights. It may make more sense to explore the spots where you can safely bring your dog along in the car on a road trip, or even via train travel, before booking a trip to one of these pet-friendly international cities. As always, it's best to talk with your veterinarian about whether it's safe for your dog to accompany you on long flights or to visit other countries. Your vet will help you understand the risks and what you need to know before your pup gets a new passport stamp.
While may not be many sprawling greenspaces in Venice, dogs are still welcome in the charming Italian city limits. Pups are allowed in many water boats and are able to stroll the street with you. Just be aware that sometimes the small alleyways can be crushingly busy, so it's best to go in the off season in November–March so your pup's not overwhelmed with the crowds.
Japan celebrates six native dog breeds, called the Nihon Ken, which have been designated as national monuments. So as you can imagine, the country is incredibly dog-friendly. Dogs are allowed in hotels, stores, some restaurants, and there are tons of dog parks for them to run in cities like Tokyo. Some of the best of the capital city include Yoyogi Park Dog Run, Honmoku Sancho Park, and Ueno Park.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Recognized as one of North America's most dog-friendly cities, Vancouver is well-known as a great destination for dogs and their human counterparts looking for an adventure. While here, make a stop at any (or all!) of the great beaches or off-leash parks throughout the city and don't miss a day playing at the world renowned Stanley Park and arboretum.
When you get hungry, take an afternoon stroll through the Mainstreet Station Farmer's Market on Wednesdays in the summer months. Or explore all that Granville Island public market has to offer, from food to art to some pretty cool historical architecture, any day of the week. Outside of the city limits, Vancouver also has a lot to offer nature lovers, including some of the best hiking you'll ever do in every season.