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Pack your leash and dog-poop bags and head for the city by the bay, where options abound for you and your canine companion.
Whether you’re going for the day, for the weekend or longer, San Francisco provides plenty of landscape for you and your dog to enjoy the crisp ocean breezes and big city life. With dog parks and beaches, sidewalk seating at restaurants and even an open policy about dogs on Muni buses and cable cars, the city welcomes visitors with pets and, in some cases, caters to them outright.
Spending the Night
Lots of San Francisco hotels allow dogs, including any of the nine Kimpton properties. With pet beds and water bowls, and available packages that provide treats, chew toys, dog-walking services, pet massage and more, Kimpton hotels don’t charge additional fees for dogs to stay and impose no limitations on breed, size or length of stay. In Fisherman’s Wharf, choose the Argonaut Hotel or Tuscan Inn; in the Financial District, stay at Harbor Court Hotel. Six other hotels—Triton, Palomar, Monaco, Prescott, Serrano and Sir Francis Drake—are in the Union Square District.
The InterContinental San Francisco, a landmark with 32 stories of bluish glass rising above the lively South of Market District, also accepts dogs. It’ll cost you—$50 per pooch, for which each dog receives a bed plus food and water dishes for the duration of the stay.
One of our favorite spots is the cozy Marina Motel on Lombard Street. From the street (the very busy street), it looks a little suspect—lighted sign announcing kitchenettes and all—but step into the courtyard and discover a Spanish-style inn with well-kept grounds, dog-poop bags, a watering dish and, best of all, individual parking garages that are—wait for it—free. Room rates start at $109 (online booking), and with free parking, that’s a steal in San Francisco, especially since the rooms are clean, cute and more than comfortable. Your dog will cost you $10, and you can’t leave him alone in the room unless you’ve got a crate. (Not to be judgy, but who would leave their dog alone in a hotel room, anyway?) There are no perks—bring your own dog bed and dishes—and make sure to reserve an interior room to keep away from the traffic roar of Lombard Street.
One reason we love the Marina Motel is its proximity to Chestnut Street, where a stretch of shops and restaurants includes Animal Connection II. A neighborhood pet store that invites your dog in even if there’s not much room for him, Animal Connection II stocks dog foods, treats, toys, leads, you name it. Also in this neighborhood: Catnip & Bones, a pet boutique where the array of fancy dog treats—doughnuts, anyone?—will entice your dog back in any old time.
Along this stretch of Chestnut Street (blocks 2000 through 2500), you’ll find shops to wander (someone might need to stay outside with the dog), such as Lucky Brand Jeans, We Olive (tasting samples galore), Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, The Ocularium (for eyeglasses), Smash Shoes and Books, Inc. The mix of large chains and small mom and pops, scattered among coffeehouses (Peet’s, Starbucks, Chestnut Street Coffee Roastery) and restaurants (more on these in a moment), makes this one of those hopping San Francisco neighborhoods you happen upon and love and hope to remember the next time you come to town.
Thanks to the active sidewalk scene on Chestnut Street, many restaurants here cater to patrons with four-legged friends. At Judy’s Cafe, which has a partnership with the Marina Motel, guests can get two-for-one breakfast. Big omelets (try the Italian, with sausage, mushrooms, two cheeses and marinara), cream cheese French toast, scrambles—anything on the menu could fill you up for the rest of the day. The egg dishes come with a side of toast, English muffin, blueberry muffin or housemade pumpkin loaf—go for the pumpkin. For lunch, hit Tacolicious, where some really innovative tacos grace the menu. Ever had one with butternut squash, peppers, Swiss chard, nopales (cactus) and spicy pepitas (pumpkin seeds)? The ones made of fried local rock cod are some of the best fish tacos we’ve ever had. The “snacks” menu includes albacore tuna tostadas, fried sweet plaintains and other items you can’t get just anywhere. Have a signature grilled crab melt at Squat & Gobble (you can sit and gobble), where crepes also bring in crowds. Delarosa, an Italian place with a good number of outdoor tables situated warmly under heaters, serves pizza (clam pizza, anyone?), spiedini (skewered meats served over a bed of vegetables—the beef over arugula, carrots and onions tastes great on a cool evening) and simple but delicious pastas (orecchiette, broccoli pesto and pecorino, period). Linger over a bottle of wine while your pooch sips water under the table, compliments of the establishment.
Time To Play
San Francisco boasts numerous off-leash dog parks, but two stand out as favorites: Fort Funston and the beach at Crissy Field. At Fort Funston, the old two-gun battery off Highway 35 above Ocean Beach, dunes and trails lure walkers, runners, hang gliders and leashless dogs. It’s a gorgeous spot with fantastic views of the ocean. It is legal to let your dog off leash provided he is under voice command, although this may change in the coming months as dog regulations are being reconsidered.
At the Crissy Field beach, you’ll find plenty of free parking and a high population of dogs dashing through the sand, splashing in the surf and chasing balls, Frisbees and all manner of fetchable items. Put this stop last on your agenda before the drive home so you don’t have to contend with a wet, sandy dog in your hotel room.
Go for a Walk
Clasp a leash on the dog and walk through the Fort Mason area, past Aquatic Park, on up to Ghirardelli Square for a visit to the Yap storefront, where the specially made Yap Wraps dog harnesses can be purchased and your dog will receive plenty of treats. Grab a sample square of chocolate for yourself at one of three Ghirardelli Chocolate outlets, then continue toward Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can belly up to an on-street counter to buy a bowl of gooey clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. Nab a bench and gulp down the chowder yourself, then share the bread bowl with your buddy.
At Inspiration Point in the Presidio, take a 1.8-mile loop walk. On a clear day, you can see the bay, Alcatraz and Angel Island, and during springtime, wildflowers burst into bloom on the hillsides. Walk beneath eucalyptus, redwood and cypress trees—take a deep breath and notice the fragrance.
Another fun on-leash walk: Take your best friend up to Twin Peaks, right smack in the center of San Francisco. These two completely exposed hills beckon visitors to climb the steps that have been built into the hillsides. It’s usually windy up there, and the climb is a little strenuous and harrowing if your shoes aren’t grippy, but the view is worth every white knuckle. It’s panoramic, and extends to Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais, even the Farallon Islands. Bring your camera.
San Francisco’s highest point at 927 feet, Mount Davidson drew some fame from its role in Dirty Harry. (Remember the scene with the cross?) It’s also known for its trails and views of the city that unfold as you make your way up. If your dog’s a bird chaser, hold tight to the leash or let her go—chickadees, northern flickers and wrens abound in the woody sections. It’s not an official off-leash park, but people do it all the time. So . . . at your own risk.
Do Your Online Research
Before you leash up your pup and head for the city, figure out where to go by visiting any of the following websites:
Bringfido.com—Do a San Francisco-specific search and you’ll discover hotels, restaurants, attractions, events and parks. The list of hotels is especially helpful because it indicates pet fees, weight restrictions and other rules.
Diningwithsophie.com—Sophie is a schnoodle (miniature schnauzer/poodle mix) whose owners created a website devoted to Bay Area dining possibilities for people accompanied by dogs. We love the fact that for each sidewalk-seating option, the site indicates how many seats and whether the location has heaters.
Dogfriendly.com—A search for San Francisco will reveal a plethora of accommodation, dining and recreation options. Word to the wise: Use the site as a general guideline, but call ahead if you’re planning to visit a specific business. Some of the information is out of date.
Take the Bus
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says you can bring your dog on the bus or streetcar during off-commute hours. Dogs must be muzzled and they don’t ride for free: You’ll pay the same fare for her as you will for yourself.
Find Your Dog
If your dog gets lost while you’re in San Francisco, immediately post a notice on bayareadogs.net and petharbor.com, and check the Animal Care and Control shelter at 15th and Harrison streets.