Many parks, eateries, and hotels have rolled out the canine welcome mat in dog-friendly attempts to cater to the millions who travel with their pets. With an estimated 72.9 million U.S. homes owning a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2011/2012 National Pet Owners Survey, the face of pet travel has changed.
Fido is welcome at many oft-overlooked attractions. Having traveled for over 18 years with Cocker Spaniels, I’ve found eight roads less traveled but worth checking out — as they are, indeed, dog welcoming.
The 8 Dog Friendly Day Trip Ideas
1. Arlington National Cemetery
Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome to tour these historic resting grounds near Washington, D.C. Dexter donned a doggie backpack, and we hiked the cemetery last year. Situated on 612 acres near the Potomac in Virginia, some of those interred at these hallowed grounds include Chief Justice William Rehnquist; President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; astronauts “Gus” Grissom and John Chaffee; and civil rights activist Medgar Evers. There is no admission fee.
2. Dog-Friendly Shopping Centers
Bargains have gone to the dogs as retailers are taking note of the $53 billion expected to be spent in the pet industry in 2012. Armed with a canine and a credit card, many open-air malls are welcoming dogs and their parents. One of my favorites is Stony Park Fashion Park in Richmond, Virginia. Of the nearly 100 stores on site, many welcome pets inside. Clean up areas and doggie pit stops peppered throughout the complex make for a fun day of re-tail therapy.
3. Pet-Friendly Wineries
A bottle of red, a bottle of white, and some sparkling water for your roving Rover: Dog-friendly wineries are popping up across the country. The Wine Institute provides a listing of pet-friendly wineries across the state on their website. California wine country is a popular weekend warrior getaway for families, including those with pets.
4. Whale Watching
Float Fido’s boat at the tip of Cape Cod, as this three-to four-hour whale-watching tour by Whale Watch Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown welcomes well-behaved dogs. Since you’ll be on the open ocean, ensure your pooch is accustomed to water travel, equipped with a life vest, and has sunblock, fresh water, and sea-faring snacks. Friends have set sail with their pooch aboard the tour and reported several whale sightings while their German Shepherd and Yorkie dogs rested afoot. Ask staff if waters are rough or choppy before departing, as they are unable to turn back for seasick travelers of the human or canine variety.
5. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Nestled in Farmington Hills, Pennsylvania, is the five-star Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, situated on 2,000 acres. Dogs 30 pounds and under are welcome to stay in certain rooms of the resort, but Nemacolin Wooflands Pet Resort & Spa is minutes from the main property. While visiting Nemacolin, imagine my glee at being able to visit up close with lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!
Dorothy had Toto, and yours truly has Dexter. My boundless ball of energy merrily strolled through habitat after habitat, each species quizzically eyeing one another. Llamas, zebra, and buffalo led to the pièce de résistance: Prince Nemacolin, a white lion born in July 2010. Drive through or take a much-recommended walk.
6. Glamorous Camping
If your idea of ruffing it is hearing the familiar chirp of crickets and making s’mores outside with Rover — but without the hardcore camping aura — then “glamping” might be up your alley. It’s generally eco-friendly — think less sleeping bag and more glammed-up tents, teepees, tents, or bungalows. Guests are often privy to typical outdoor activities (fishing, hiking) but return to the likes of a personal butler and private master bath. Pet policies vary by glamping sites, so ask ahead.
7. Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum
Paw-don me, boys is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo? Close. One of my favorite states in the nation for its overall sense of dog welcoming and friendliness is Maine, home to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. After a day of shopping and al fresco dining along Portland, Maine’s waterfront district, you can enjoy spectacular views and gain a history lesson at the museum. Powered by steam and diesel locomotives, the short but worthwhile ride permits well-behaved leashed dogs for no additional fee.
8. Drive-in Movie
Flicks, fries, and your furry family member: What could be more fun? According to Drive-Ins.com, there are a believed 468 drive-ins open worldwide, with 365 in the U.S. and 62 in Canada. Born in the ’50s, there were an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 nationwide at their peak. Drive-ins are a slice of nostalgia and a welcome wagging break to unplug Fido-style now and then. A night under the stars for under $10 a person — pack the bug repellent, blanket, and Bowser for this budget-conscious night out.
Featured Image Credit: Raquel Pedrosa Perez | Thinkstock.