DON'T LEAVE FIDO BEHIND
Leaving Fido at home while on vacation can be expensive -- whether it's the cost of boarding or hiring a pet sitter -- and stressful for both humans and man's best friend. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable vacation options that accommodate dogs. Here are 19 of the best dog-friendly vacation spots in the U.S. -- plus an international wild card, should finances permit.
Branson offers several unique options for dogs and owners to enjoy together on vacation. Buster's Old Time Photos, which was featured in National Geographic's "The Dog Lover's Guide to Travel," transports visitors back to the Victorian age, the Wild West, the Roaring '20s, and more with retro costumes, sets, and props. For burning off energy, dogs and owners will love the Elmo Rosalea Marrs Memorial Dog Park, where dogs can roam on 1.5 acres off-leash. Day passes are $5 plus $2 for each additional dog. This is no average dog park; it has agility and play equipment for dogs, watering stations, and more. Need more outdoor time? Visit Table Rock State Park with its many trails. There are also campgrounds where dogs are welcome. Pet-friendly restaurants include Danna's Bar-B-Que Burger Shop and Billy Bob's Dairyland.
MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
Most of the scenic and free public beaches in this popular coastal destination are pet-friendly year-round, although times are limited during summer and a leash (7 feet or shorter) is required at all times. Visitors can also enjoy two free Barc Parks, where large and small dogs can play off-leash in separate areas. Barc Park South even features a doggie lake. Myrtle Beach State Park also welcomes leashed dogs in most areas of the park; adults pay $5 and kids $3 for admission. No vacation is complete without some eating out, and luckily dogs can tag along to some restaurants in the area, including Sharkey's Beach Bar, Bruster's Real Ice Cream (which offers a doggie ice cream cup with bones), and Liberty Tap Room Grill, which sports an outdoor covered area for dogs to lounge with their owners.
SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA
Just off the coast from Fort Myers, Sanibel Island has several dog-friendly beaches, including Algiers Beach (aka Gulfside Beach, where a parking fee applies) and Bowman Beach, which features hiking trails. Another popular spot is J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge, which has more than 6,400 acres of mangrove forest and 245 bird species. Admission is $5 for vehicles, or $1 for hikers and bikers. Dogs must be leashed. Should Fido run out of any of his favorite goodies, just 6 miles down the road is Island Paws, a family-run store filled with natural foods and treats, doggie gear, and creative gifts, including souvenirs for fellow animal lovers back home.
Sin City probably doesn't come to mind as a getaway to take with the dog, but it's actually a pretty dog-friendly town. It easy to find a pet-friendly hotel, and many restaurants in the area accommodate dogs. For just $5 a vehicle, visitors can take their dogs to Red Rock Canyon, less than half an hour from the Strip. Dogs and owners can explore the canyon, the overlook, and its facilities so long as the dog is leashed. Dogs can play off-leash at one of the area's dog runs: Kellogg-Zehar Sports Complex Dog Park, Desert Breeze Dog Park, and Centennial Hills Dog Park. For dining with the pup, try Grape Vine Cafe for Italian food, the MadHouse Coffee for coffee and pastries, and Capriotti's for sandwiches.
Gatlinburg's pet-friendly attractions run the gamut. Paws N Claws Pet Fashion, along the parkway downtown, carries fancy and adorable collars, sweaters, college clothes, and dresses -- as well as strollers, doggie sunglasses (doggles), life vests, and raincoats. The boutique is worth a stop just to browse and be amused. The Gatlinburg Sky Lift offers panoramic views of the town and the Smoky Mountains from Crockett Mountain. Guests ride in ski-lift-style seats ($15.50 for adults; $12 for kids) and dogs are welcome to ride along. To satisfy hunger cravings, stop by Fannie Farkle's, a combination food cart and arcade downtown. The sausage subs, cheesesteaks, and foot-long corndogs are popular offerings. Funnel Cake Co. features fried dough treats with tempting toppings and offers seating for dogs.
Related: Traveling With Pets: 12 Need-to-Know Tips
Fiesta Island in Mission Bay features huge off-leash areas where pups can play in sand dunes and the soothing bay waters. At Original Dog Beach, one of the first official off-leash beaches in the country, dogs can roam without a leash at anytime of day. Afterward, go for a quick bath nearby at Dog Beach Dog Wash. Dogs are welcome on Cowles Mountain trails, at Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, and at the Cabrilla Tide Pools Trail. Finally, many restaurants feature outdoor seating areas (thanks to San Diego's idyllic weather) where dogs are permitted, and the city sponsors some popular outdoor dog events throughout the year.
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
It might come as a surprise that one of the most famous attractions in Asheville, the Biltmore estate, is dog-friendly. Leashed dogs can accompany owners through the well-manicured grounds and explore 250 acres of landscaped gardens. Visitors can take photographs for personal use outside, so be sure to snap some shots of the pooch in front of the Vanderbilts' Châteauesque mansion. For more garden action, don't miss the 434-acre North Carolina Arboretum, full of cultivated gardens and miles of trails. Dogs on leash are welcome and admission is free (with a $12 parking fee). Asheville also has Azalea Park, a huge, lovely public space that allows leashed dogs and includes two off-leash play parks. French Broad River Park is another favorite of local dog owners and a great spot to let Fido play and meet some new Carolina friends.
OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND
Chow down on tasty Ocean City seafood at Macky's Bar and Grill, Bayside Skillet, and Micky Fins, and feel free to bring the dog along. All these famed restaurants, specializing in local seafood, feature large outdoor seating areas -- with spectacular sunset views -- where guests can dine with well-behaved, leashed dogs. Paws and Claws, Etc., a fun store with food made just for pets, offers a large selection of products at two Ocean City locations. Guests and dogs are free to browse to their hearts' desire. On the Maryland side of Assateague Island, dogs can romp along the Assateague National Seashore. The 58-acre Northside Park features nature trails for humans and dogs to explore together.
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
Beaches, nature trails, restaurants and pubs, and a first-class animal clinic make Santa Barbara a prime vacation spot to visit with dogs. Hendry's Beach, Castle Trail, Orpet Park, and the Douglas Family Preserve (which has an off-leash dog beach open sunrise to 10 p.m.) all make great choices for outdoor activities. For owners of small dogs, dining on the patio at Tupelo Junction is an option. For dining with dogs of all sizes, try the Brewhouse Santa Barbara, the Set at the Fess Parker, or Louie's -- all fine, pet-friendly choices for good food and wine. Finally, the St. Francis Pet Clinic is a welcome resource for dog owners should an unexpected doggie emergency arise.
If the dog fancies a boating trip, head to Destin, Florida. Both Crab Island Cruises and Dockside Watersports Parasailing offer pontoon boat rentals to visitors and their dog friends. Destin also has a 1.5-acre dog park with a separate area for small dogs, and dogs can walk on leashes along the nature trails at Henderson Beach State Park. Many restaurants in Destin go out of their way to accommodate dog owners. Jim 'N Nick's BBQ features outdoor seating for diners with dogs, and Poppy Hammerhead's Bar Grille offers a doggie menu. Other dog-friendly restaurants in the area include Cuvee Destin and Dewey Destin Seafood Restaurant.
Related: 8 Tips for Finding Pet Care Before You Go on Vacation
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Albuquerque epitomizes Southwestern culture, with its rustic scenery, historic sites of Spanish and Native American heritage, and fascinating architecture and museums. Gecko's Bar Tapas on Academy Road has a patio where dog guests receive complimentary water dishes and perhaps a treat, and Kellys Brew Pub features a patio with dog food on the menu. Flying Star Cafe has six locations around the city with "petios," offering spots to tie off leashes, water troughs, and biscuits. Dogs can romp at about a dozen off-leash parks, along with Petroglyph National Monument, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, and Sandia Foothills Open Space.
The City of Lakes offers a wide variety of dog-friendly places, including restaurants, that make a pet-inclusive vacation rewarding and worthwhile. At Barbette, diners can enjoy updated French cuisine with their dogs at outdoor tables. Trattoria Tosca also welcomes four-legged friends (and their owners). After eating, take a stroll through the beautiful Lake Harriet Rose Garden, which welcomes leashed dogs. Minnehaha Regional Park, which features hiking trails, river overlooks, and an amazing 53-foot waterfall, requires a permit to let a dog run without a leash.
The Texas capital features many restaurants and bars that open their patios to dogs and dog lovers. Freddie's Place sells a dog burger and provides complimentary dog biscuits and watering stations (and cheap drinks for pet owners). The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. runs charity events and created a beer specifically to benefit an animal welfare group. The Doghouse Drinkery Dog Park combines a bar, game room, and dog run and provides toys and supplies to pet owners. Finally, the Draught House hosts essentially tailgating events, where visitors pull up cars, drink beer, and bring dogs around for free brats on Saturdays. Guests pay $5 a day for admission.
Seattle claims to have more dogs than kids, and the city and its businesses are clearly invested in dog-friendly living. The Leary Traveler and Norm's Eatery Ale House are just two of the pubs that let dog owners bring pets inside. There are dog-friendly canoeing, hiking, and kayaking options, and getting around is made easier by a bus system that welcomes well-behaved animals. A few outdoor malls, including University Village, permit leashed dogs to accompany their owners, and there are plenty of trendy, independent dog stores, including Paddywack, Health Mutt, and Eastside Dog. Locals often carry dogs around wherever they go, so vacationers with canine companions will fit right in.
Particularly in warmer months, Chicago offers lots of dog-friendly vacation activities. Highlights include Montrose Dog Beach, the city's first legal off-leash beach, open sunrise to 9 p.m. Admission is free, but a $5 dog-friendly area, or DFA, tag from the city is required, so vacationers need to plan in advance. Belmont Harbor Beach also has a small, fenced off dog beach. For a true maritime adventure, Mercury Cruise Line offers canine cruises through Chicago's waterways, where guests (and pups) can view the city from unique perspectives and guides point out fun dog-related facts about the city. On dry land, the cleverly named Wiggly Field dog run in Noethling Park boasts doggie fountains and pools. Visitors can also go to the Grant Park and Chopin Dog parks. Nordstrom stores in Chicago welcome dogs, and there are countless dog-friendly restaurants throughout the city.
Designated dog parks peppering the city of Denver include the popular Lowry, Stapleton, and Kennedy dog parks. Dogs and owners can also hike the 6.8-mile Platte River Greenway Trail together. Some celebrated restaurants and bars that welcome dogs include the Watering Bowl, LoHi Steakbar, Jake's Food Spirits, and Black Pearl Restaurant. All have pleasant patios for dogs to dine with owners, and the Watering Bowl is conveniently located next to a private dog park. (Note: City health officials recently ruled against allowing dogs inside breweries.) Finally, dog lovers might want to check out Earth Dog Denver, a posh day care and boarding facility that features play equipment, a doggie pool, and other amenities.
Tucson offers several serene, scenic spots for vacationing dog lovers to stroll with their animal friends. Check out the Rillito River Park Trail, Agua Caliente Park, and Catalina State Park to relax and take in stunning desert vistas. The top-ranked off-leash, public dog parks in the area include Brandi Fenton Memorial Park and Northwest Community Park. For outdoor dining with dogs in tow, check out Renee's Organic Oven, Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress, Mutts Premium Hot Dogs Sausages, Ghini's French Caffe, and Barrio Brewing Co. The Pima Air Space Museum allows owners to bring leashed dogs to help explore more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft on display. Admission is $15.50 for adults and $9 for kids.
Pets aren't always welcome on public transportation, but dog-friendly Boston is an exception. The subway system, known as "the T," permits dogs on leashes during off-peak hours so long as they don't annoy others or use seats. During peak hours, animals must be in containers. Dog-friendly sailing tours and charter-boat rides are available from the city. Many restaurants and bars feature "yappy" hours, and some allow dogs inside. Check out the Behan Irish Pub in Jamaica Plain, the Kinsale Irish Pub Restaurant, and the Tremont 647, which features $2 tacos on Tuesdays.
Craft breweries are all the rage, and in Sacramento many welcome dogs along with customers on their outdoor patios. Some of the hippest brewpubs, including Track 7, Bike Dog (for cyclists who love dogs -- talk about a niche brewery), Oak Park, New Helvetia, and Rubicon, are canine-friendly. For eating out, some of the top-ranked restaurants on Yelp with dog-friendly areas include Juno's Kitchen Delicatessen, Burgers and Brew, and Iron Horse Tavern. The Sacramento area also boasts numerous dog parks and dog-friendly hiking trails.
Many Americans know France to be a friendly nation for international travelers with pets. American dogs can travel freely to France without worrying about quarantine for rabies. Paris happily welcomes pooches into many public places, including lodging, gardens, restaurants, and bars. Jardim du Luxembourg (largest public park in the city), the Tuileries Gardens (gorgeous gardens overlooking the Seine), Bois de Vincennes (an east Paris wooded area), and the Jardin du Palais Royal (dating back to the 17th century) all welcome dogs. When dining with a dog in tow, enjoy chic French food at La Société, breakfast at Café de l'industrie, or ice cream at Berthillon. Be warned, however, that dogs typically aren't welcome on French beaches.