If you’re one of the 48.2 million households in the U.S. that includes a dog, you know how important your four-legged friend is. And if you love to travel, the only thing that can make your next vacation even better is bringing your canine companion with you.
With that idea in mind, we came up with a list of America’s best dog-friendly vacation destinations. From quick trips to dog beaches to national park road trips, we have you and your pooch covered.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Located on the coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is a gorgeous park where you can see a wide range of birds and other wildlife. Pets are welcome in Acadia National Park, as long as you keep your pooch on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet. There are a hundred miles of walking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads where dogs are allowed, so there’s plenty of space to explore. Your dog can even join you on the free shuttles that run around the park.
Beau’s Dream Dog Park, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster is a great place to visit Amish farm country, go antiquing, and enjoy Pennsylvania Dutch foods. While there, you can also visit one of the best dog parks in America.
In 2012, Beneful held a contest where the winner’s town would get a $500,000 dog park makeover. A resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and her dog, Beau, were declared the winners, and the local dog park was completely transformed. Now, Beau’s Dream Dog Park is considered one of the top dog parks in the country, and it’s completely free to visit.
The park has both large and small dog areas, splash pads, and a tree that launches tennis balls for dogs that love to retrieve. There are also obstacles and tunnels for dogs that enjoy climbing and exploring.
Fort De Soto Dog Beach, Tierra Verde, Florida
About an hour from Clearwater Beach, Fort De Soto is known for its gleaming white sand beaches. But it’s also home to one of the few fenced dog beaches in the country. Dogs can run on the beach and swim off-leash. There are separate areas for small and large dogs, and there are wash stations and drinking fountains just for dogs. Nearby, there are also a number of dog-friendly eateries so you can enjoy lunch and a drink after a long day of play.
Dog Mountain, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
In 2000, Stephen Huneck and his wife, Gwen, opened Dog Mountain, a 150-acre property reserved just for dogs. It’s full of walking trails, meadows, open fields, and swimming ponds — leashes are optional. With breathtaking scenery, it’s a great place to spend some quiet time with your pup. Its motto is, “All Creeds. All Breeds. No Dogmas Allowed.”
The park also has a Dog Chapel, a place where families can remember pets they’ve lost. The walls are lined with postcards and pictures from people who have visited and posted stories about their beloved pets. Admission to Dog Mountain and the chapel is free, but visitors are encouraged to make a nominal donation.
If you’re looking to meet your dog-minded tribe, Portland may be the vacation destination you’re looking for. The city has more than three dozen off-leash dog parks. There are also hundreds of pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. In fact, some eateries — including the Tin Shed Garden Cafe — have a menu just for dogs.
Pawtoberfest, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Every fall, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region hosts Pawtoberfest, a massive dog-friendly festival and fundraiser. It features craft brews from dozens of local partners, a two-mile dog walk, vendors, music, games, contests, and canine obedience and agility demonstrations. Last year, approximately 2,000 people participated and raised more than $168,000 to benefit the Humane Society’s work helping animals in the region.
Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho
If the weird and wacky appeal to you, you can’t miss the Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho. This bed-and-breakfast is built inside a massive, multi-story beagle-shaped building. There’s only one lodging unit in the beagle, so it’s a good idea to make reservations well in advance. And, of course, dogs are welcome to stay with their owners as long as you make prior arrangements. A $15 nonrefundable fee applies.
Doo Dah Parade, Ocean City, New Jersey
The annual Doo Dah Parade kicks off this summer beach town’s season with a celebration featuring music, marching bands, and hundreds of basset hounds, with most of the dogs decked out in elaborate costumes. The parade marches down the town boardwalk. After it ends, you can enjoy pet-friendly accomodations in town.
If your dog loves the sand and surf, you can also take your pup for a swim at the Longport Dog Beach, just a short drive from the boardwalk. It’s an off-leash park where your dog can run and swim to his heart’s content.
Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe, New Mexico
It might seem like an odd place for dogs, but stick with us on this one. Modeled after a traditional Japanese bathhouse, Ten Thousand Waves is a resort, spa, and restaurant in which guests are encouraged to wear kimonos and enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine.
Your dog can enjoy the experience too. All lodging rooms are pet-friendly, and guests are provided with pet beds and food and water bowls. Some rooms even have fenced-in courtyards. Best of all, if you book a private bath in the spa, your dog can accompany you for a relaxing dip. Hey, being a dog is exhausting!
Central Park, New York City, New York
New York is a surprisingly dog-friendly city, and Central Park is a great place to spend time with your furry friend. There are beautiful walking trails and off-leash areas where your dog can play. And there’s plenty of outdoor seating and concession carts for a good meal or picnic.
Central Park is also home to Balto, a bronze statue of the famous sled dog who battled through a blizzard to deliver lifesaving medicine to sick children in Alaska. Balto’s heroics have been immortalized in books and movies, and dog-lovers enjoy taking their pictures next to his statue.
The Campsites Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Orlando, Florida
If you’re planning to visit Walt Disney World in Florida and don’t want to leave your dog at home, camping at the Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is a great budget-friendly option.
If you plan on staying in an RV or camper, you can book a pet-friendly spot close to a dog park and walking trails, or you can rent a pet-friendly cabin. Either way, you can stay with your pet and enjoy perks like Disney transportation to the theme parks, horseback riding, canoeing, and multiple pools for swimming.
If you plan on spending all day at the theme parks, you can even drop your dog off at day care at the nearby Best Friends Pet Care Resort
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah
Looking for breathtaking views? This hotel is right next to Zion National Park, which is known for forest trails, steep red cliffs, waterfalls, and hanging gardens. Leashed pets are allowed on only one trail in the park, but it’s a 3.5-mile trail and takes about two hours to complete.
The nearby SpringHill Suite by Marriott is notable in that it allows three pets per room, and the hotel will give each dog treats and a frisbee upon check-in.
Mystic Krewe of Barkus, New Orleans, Louisiana
Think of this as Mardi Gras, but if it went to the dogs. Each February, the Mystic Krewe of Barkus — a nonprofit organization — holds a parade throughout the streets of New Orleans. Dogs and their owners take the matter very seriously, decking themselves out in costumes. And, yes, there are beads involved. Best of all, all the proceeds of the parade go to animal rescue organizations throughout Louisiana.
If you’re coming in for the parade, you should know that New Orleans on the whole is a dog-friendly town. According to BringFido, there are 224 hotels in the city that allow pets. And there are hundreds of restaurants with outdoor seating and multiple off-leash dog parks where you can play.
Exotic Resort Zoo, Johnson City, Texas
If you just can’t get enough time with all sorts of animals, take your dog on a safari at the Exotic Resort Zoo. Well-behaved dogs are welcome to join you on a guided 45-minute safari tour, during which you’ll learn about and interact with more than 600 animals. If you want to stay overnight, the zoo also has cabins you can rent. And, yes, they’re dog-friendly, too. The zoo is just an hour outside of Austin, which is an extremely dog-friendly city with hundreds of hotels and restaurants that welcome pets.
Color Me Mutt 5K and 1 Mile Color Walk/Run, Sevierville, Tennessee
If you and your dog love to run, consider trekking to Tennessee for the Color Me Mutt 5K and 1 Mile Color Walk/Run. Both four-legged and two-legged participants are showered with colors as they cover the courses, and there are water stations for both humans and dogs. All proceeds benefit Wilderwood Service Dogs, which trains service animals for adults and children with neurological issues.
There are a number of pet-friendly accommodations nearby, including a La Quinta Inn and Sleep Inn, both of which are also budget-friendly. There are several eateries that welcome dogs and even offer dog treats, so both you and Fido can enjoy a good post-run meal.
How to save money on a road trip with your dog
If this list of potential canine capers has you overwhelmed with trying to pick just one place to visit with your dog, it’s time to get creative with money so you can plan multiple trips. Here are some ways to stretch your budget further:
- Sign up for a travel rewards credit card. When you sign up for a travel rewards credit card, you can earn valuable miles or points. For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you’ll earn 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. You can use those rewards toward future hotel stays, flights, and more, making your trip more affordable (or maybe even nearly free).
- Join loyalty programs. If you tend to stay in a certain brand of hotel, make sure you join its loyalty program. You’ll earn points for every night you stay, and your status can help you qualify for perks such as free room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and even free Wi-Fi access. The points you earn can then be used toward future free hotel stays.
- Use a general cashback card. Use a good cashback credit card on all of your routine purchases, such as gas, groceries, and dog food. You’ll earn rewards on every transaction, which you can use to bolster your travel fund. And, if you and your dog are going on a road trip, be sure you have a good cashback card for gas purchases on hand.
- Do your shopping through Rakuten. Use a rebate app like Rakuten whenever you shop online. You’ll earn cash back at select retailers. For example, as of Feb. 2020, you can get 3% cash back when you shop at Chewy, a popular pet retailer. If you spent $100 on dog food, toys, and treats, you’d get $3 back in free cash. Over time that cash back can really add up.
- Buy discounted gift cards: You can sometimes snag discounted airline, hotel, rental car, and restaurant gift cards on sites like Gift Card Granny and Raise. These gift cards typically sell for a fraction of their actual value, so you can get more for your money. And if you can stack your rewards strategy by using a rewards credit card to make the purchase and earn even more travel rewards or cash back.
If you consider your dog to be a part of your family, taking her along with you on vacation is a great way for you both to have fun. There are so many places all over the country that are dog-friendly and enjoyable, regardless of your budget. All you have to do is pick a destination on our list, and then come up with a travel plan that appeals to you and your pooch. Happy trails (and sniffs)!
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