This post is sponsored by Beneful® brand Dog Food.
What constitutes a good, better, or even best dog park? What criteria should be in place for a dog park to be labeled one of the best? In my nearly 20 years of traveling with dogs, my motto has been “love me, love my dog.” If you welcome my dog and make him or her feel special, I’ll remember these special considerations and will want to return (of course, my dog would be happy sleeping on a pile of my dirty laundry, but that’s another story). It’s all about perspective for me.
According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 78 percent of vacationing pets are dogs. So where is Rover roaming, and what do I look for in an area when planning a vacation (with my dog, which is well, always)? Mainly, access to activities, shops, eateries, and things that both involve and engage my dog. Pet peeve: Hotels that say they are “pet friendly,” when the only evidence is the uncarpeted room you stick me in at the end of the hall.
If having a dog park that goes above and beyond when vacationing is of importance to you, like it is for me, here are 10 worth checking out:
1. Pilgrim Bark Park, Provincetown, Massachusetts
Not only is Provincetown extremely friendly to dogs, but each fall the Carrie A. Seaman Animal Shelter holds a fun, day-long event for people and their pooches. Pilgrim Bark Park was opened in 2008 by the Provincetown Dog Park Association, which is a non-profit group. Boasting a section for dogs under 25 pounds and a section for dogs in general, the artsy town’s influence is seen in the structures, sculptures, and benches peppered throughout this acre of land.
Bonus points: A stroll down nearby famous Commercial Street in the heart of P-Town (where some restaurants allow dogs) makes for a fun after-park activity.
2. Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park, Iowa City, Iowa
Featuring 12 acres, a pond for water warriors, a fenced-in area for smaller dogs, a Lucky Pawz Playground, running water, and eco-friendly disposable waste bags with pipes to underground “poop tanks” where the bags biodegrade when in contact with water — is it any wonder Thornberry made our top 10? Open from dawn to dusk, Iowa City requires a yearly access fee of $35 per resident ($40 for non-residents) with a discount for dogs who are spayed/neutered.
Bonus Points: With its Halloween parties and dog paddle events, Thornberry works with the city of Iowa and welcomes volunteers.
3. Millie Bush Dog Park, Houston, Texas
“Paradise” is what visitors tend to say after visiting this west Houston wag fest. With 13 acres, the Millie Bush Bark Park takes fun to the next Fido level. It features three ponds for splashy spaniels (two for big dogs, one for guppy puppies), but there’s no need to fret about having a stinky pet with the park’s many washing stations for after-fun clean-up. With plenty of shady areas, benches, scattered trees, and water fountains, the park is open seven days a week from dusk until dawn.
Fun Fact: The park was named after Millie, the English Springer Spaniel who was the White House dog during the former President’s administration.
4. Freedom Bark Park, Lowell, Indiana
A former farmland turned into 114 acres of developing park, five acres are devoted for Fido to run free. Four acres are allocated for larger dogs and nearly one acre for dogs weighing 25 pounds and under. From Halloween parades to a “sand bunker digging area,” the park opened in 2008. Featuring a solar well for drinking, butterfly garden for snooping, prairie grass areas for exploring, and shelter for shade, this fenced-in piece of freedom is a “must see” on the list of dog parks for which we swoon.
Doggone Dedication: The park was established thanks to private donations and close to 3,000 hours of volunteer service.
5. Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville, Florida
Dog Wood Park features 42 acres for people and pets to swim and play, with over 25 of them fenced. Self-serve dog bathing, raised warm-water tubs, an agility course, and puppy kindergarten and obedience/agility training — think Chihuahua squared on this one. Single day visits are $11 per dog, but we’ve already got our charge card geared up.
More Barks: The park includes Barkham Woods (which features 10 acres of nature trails), three lighted acres for use after dark until 10 p.m., special events, and Lake Bow Wow, a two-acre swimming lake with fountain.
6. Beneful Dream Dog Park, Alabaster, Alabama
Splash pads, a miniature football field, a walking course, off-leash play areas for a variety of sizes, synthetic turf, all to the tune of $500,000 — we’re so there. This recently opened dog dream features freedom times infinity. We love the rubberized mulch path, shady areas, and senior dog hill for lounging and chilling.
Play Bow: Resident Jenny Wilson won a contest to have the park built in Alabaster. She found her dog, Honey Belle, a stray, at the now dream park’s location.
7. Bea Arthur Dog Park in Norfolk, Virginia
Don’t go home! Really. Though just 5.75 acres, we put this on our “must see” list of dog parks because it is open 24/7, with double-gated, water ramp access for dog paddling in the Elizabeth River. The park is located near downtown Norfolk and is free of charge to use.
Fun Fact: This dog park was named for the famous Golden Girls actress.
8. Point Isabel Regional Shoreline and Dog Park, Richmond, California
It’s one of the largest public off-leash dog parks in the United States, and approximately 500,000 dogs visit here per year. What’s the fuss? Twenty-three acres, free of charge, open until 10 p.m., and the waterfront landscape makes for the “paw-fect” park experience.
Also Sniff Out: Mudpuppy’s Tub & Scrub for bathing facilities and Sit & Stay Café nearby for human and dog treats. PIDO (Point Isabel Dog Owners & Friends) sponsors a monthly park clean-up, complete with Mutt Mitts. We raise our sparkling water bowl to you!
9. Jackass Acres K-9 Korral, New River, Arizona
Though a members-only park, we want in! Founded by Anthem Pets, this was the first green dog park in the state. Operating with a solar water pump, solar lighting, all metal artwork from recycled cars, and turf recycled from pro football fields, the park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Housed on 2.5 acres, the name tickles our Fido fancy, too.
Bonus Points: The group features a 24/7 hotline for lost pets.
10. Fort Woof, Fort Worth, Texas
They say everything is bigger in the south, and with a Barktoberfest each October, how can we not put Fort Woof (love the name) on our list? Early Bowsers take heart in the 5 a.m. opening time, with closing time at 11:30 p.m. Five acres, extended hours, pooches who party, hydrants galore, and obstacles and agility equipment has us wagging (and woofing) for this Fido fort.
Remember: Follow park rules, ensure your dog is socialized, and clean up after your furry family member.
What do you consider “above and beyond” at a dog park? Let us know in the comments!