Every dog owner knows: Your dog just wants to be with you. Whenever we’ve gone off, even just as far as the grocery store, our black Lab, Lincoln, stares hopefully through the French doors from the backyard, ears up, eyes sharp: Can I come? This makes it even harder when we go away for longer than a couple of hours. A weekend or vacation away involves arranging a housesitter to come hang out with Lincoln, or trading dog-time with family friends who will take Lincoln this time if we’ll take Sedona next time. It would be best if Lincoln could come with us.
But travel isn’t for every dog—or every dog owner. If your dog gets nervous, aggressive or competitive around unfamiliar dogs (Lincoln does), leave him home. If a change in scenery motivates stress behaviors such as digging, chewing or barking (that’s Lincoln), same rule applies. But if you can tailor your travel plans to include off-leash parks, pet-friendly restaurant patios and supervision of your dog at all times, vacationing together can be tremendous fun. Increasingly, hotels and restaurants welcome dogs, many providing beds, bones and bowls, and appropriately behaved dogs with conscientious owners can wander the world just like their two-legged friends.
Here are four destinations perfect for you and your travel-happy dog.
Where To Stay: Cypress Inn, where a $30-per-day pet fee rolls out the welcome mat for Rover. Owned by actress Doris Day, the inn sits in the heart of Carmel, within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants and the beach.
Where To Play: Carmel Beach, at the bottom of Ocean Avenue, invites dogs to romp leash-free. Your dog will discover plenty of company—bring a ball or fetchy toy, send it out to sea and let the competition begin. Word of warning: Ingesting too much salt water will make your dog sick, so keep a limit on the fun.
Where To Eat: Grasing’s has local and organic coastal cuisine (try the seared pepper ahi or the seared diver scallops) and a table for you on the patio if Fido comes along. Sit on the Oak Tree Patio at The Forge in the Forest, where your dog can order from his own menu (everything from Plain Ol’ Kibble to a Quarter Hounder). Always popular, PortaBella—with its French cottage ambiance and an extensive Mediterranean menu—sometimes ser-ves dogs water in champagne buckets.
Other Tidbits: Some 870 dogs live in Carmel, so walk around and you’ll find that your dog is welcome in several shops. Keep your eyes open as you negotiate Carmel’s small sidewalks—dishes of dog treats sit outside many establishments, but it’s frowned upon if your dog scarfs down the whole bowlful with one swipe of the tongue.
Where To Stay: Hotel Triton, a 140-room boutique hotel two blocks from Union Square. Created by nine artists whose visions continue in the form of dynamic artworks around the property, Hotel Triton welcomes canine friends for no additional fee.
Where To Play: Let your buddy off leash at Crissy Field Beach, where a stiff wind blows and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands captivate dog-walkers. Bring the ball-thrower and a few snacks and plan to laugh as your dog frolics with others in the rough surf. Golden Gate Park has four designated off-leash dog areas suitable for dogs who can’t tolerate the salt water and sand at the beach. Traffic in the park can make the off-leash areas a little dangerous, but the north-central area near 38th Avenue and Fulton Street, behind the bison pens and west of Spreckels Lake, is 1.4 acres of fenced-off running ground.
Where To Eat: Dog-friendly options abound in San Francisco. Two in particular sit relatively close to Crissy Field Beach near the Marina District: For dinner, try Mezés, a Greek place on Chestnut Street with a welcoming outdoor patio and a menu of mezés (Greek appetizers). Down the street,Bechelli’s coffee shop beckons for breakfast with huge omelets and fruit-topped pancakes. One near Union Square: B44, a Spanish restaurant on Beldon Place, a pedestrian-only alley.
Other Tidbits: Travel by horse and buggy with Waterfront Carriage Rides from Pier 41 along the waterfront—yep, your dog can come, too.
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
Where To Stay: A combination lodge/vacation rental operation, the Inn at Heavenly charges $20 a night for your dog, and choices vary from a log cabin-style room to a whole cabin. Located in South Lake Tahoe, the inn’s accommodations lie close to the lake, ski resorts and hiking or biking trails.
Where To Play: Bijou Dog Park on Al Tahoe Boulevard allows off-leash play, while Kiva Beach and the North Beach at Zephyr Cove give your dog a chance to wade in Lake Tahoe as long as she’s on a leash.
Where To Eat: Burgers it is—several joints encourage dogs to come sit on
their patios: Izzy’s Burger Spa, Colombo’s Burgers A Go-Go and Big Daddy’s Burgers. For something different, try the tempeh burger at Sprouts Health Food.
Other Tidbits: At the Hope Valley cross-country ski center, located 30 minutes south of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 88 at Sorensen’s Resort, your dog can gallop beside you on the trails. Stay the night at Sorensen’s and pay no additional pet fee.
Where To Stay: Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma Resort and Spa, a Marriott property, allows dogs for a $75 one-time fee per visit. Fido can’t swim in the hotel pool, get a massage in the spa or dine in the restaurant, but he can sleep by your bed and join you while you explore Sonoma’s Historic Square or the surrounding wine country.
Where To Play: Dogs can run, play and drink from the canines-only drinking fountain at the Ernie Smith Community Dog Park on Gilman Drive.
Where To Eat: Your dog can sit beside you on the patio at the Harmony Club, the restaurant at the Ledson Hotel, located on the Square. Outdoors at La Casa Mexican Restaurant, you can chomp chips and salsa and devour margaritas without leaving your best friend behind. You could probably even slip part of your taco under the table.
Other Tidbits: At Sebastiani Winery on Fourth Street, dogs can run off leash among the outdoor tables, and owners will gratefully find water bowls and cleanup stations throughout the property. Public wine tastings are $10 per person and include seven generous pours.