A few months ago I was at my favorite dive bar in Philadelphia and saw the best thing in the world – a dog curled up on the floor as his owner drank a PBR. (I won’t say what bar it is because for all I know dogs are not permitted in that bar, and I will not be the one to ruin it all for all future patrons.) In that moment, I realized two of my favorite things were permitted in one place – whiskey and dogs – and I wished I had brought my dog Henry to the bar. He’s not a huge fan of crowds so I would be a little nervous, but I like the idea of sitting next to him in a booth while I do a shot of Jameson.
I rescued Henry almost three years ago, and one of the best things about being a dog owner is finding new places he’s allowed to go and exploring them with him. We took him to Maine this summer, and he went everywhere with us – the woods, an ice cream parlor, the docks, a pontoon boat, a canoe – and he had the best vacation ever. And although I wish I could take him to a zoo (he would LOVE to meet a penguin) or an amusement park, I like being able to go on dates with him in my dog-friendly city.
As I researched this article, I’ll admit I had an ulterior motive. While I wanted to write a fabulous article for all our fabulous PolicyGenius readers, I also wanted to find out where I can vacation with Henry. As more Americans bring their pups everywhere with them — brunch, work, vacation, business trips — it’s imperative to know where pups can go and, more importantly, if they’ll have a good time there. I read top dog city articles and perused studies where they looked at things like walkability, the number of and accessibility to dog parks, and the affordability of vet visits to write a great article and book a great trip. Here are the ten best cities to be a dog:
Cold, snowy weather makes owning a dog tough in the winter. You’re cold, she’s cold, everyone’s miserable. But if you live in Austin, you have beautiful weather pretty much all year long. Beautiful weather means more outdoor dining for you and your pup, especially at places like Bow-Wow Chow, Austin’s first mobile food truck for dogs where "You don’t have to beg!" With over a dozen off-leash dog parks, 60+ dog-friendly hotels, and more than 200 dog-friendly eateries, Austin is more dog-friendly than people-friendly. And if you need a cool down, head over to Red Bull Isle, a popular leash-free park for dogs and those who love them.
In addition to dogs in a bun, dogs on a leash also have a place in the Windy City. With dog-friendly beaches, bakeries, off-leash dog parks, and Chicago landmark Navy Pier (where dogs are permitted at most of the outdoor areas), Fido will definitely have some fun in the sun in Chicago! And if you’re a baseball fan, head to Chi-town for White Sox Dog Day where you and your pup can catch a ball game and really enjoy America’s favorite pastime — a couple of dawgs eating hot dogs on dog day.
You may go to Sin City for the gambling, but you’ll stay there for the affordable vet care. With a plethora of veterinary clinics and off-leash dog parks, your pup will be healthy and fit. And since many of the casinos allow dogs as guests, you may need to remind your dog that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
If you want to enjoy that Miami nightlife, you’ll have to tire your dog out during the day. With its thirteen dog-friendly parks (like the Amelia Earhart Bark Park) and variety of dog-friendly beaches, Miami parties all day and night. Ranked fifth in most veterinarians per capita and fourth in most pet businesses per capita, Miami kind of makes up for its strict breed ban that keeps dogs like pit bulls out of the area (kind of).
Active pups can exercise with you at any of the seven dog parks in Minneapolis while more languid dogs can rest by your feet while you read in Birchbark Books. With countless neighborhoods, apartments, restaurants, music stores, liquor stores, and car dealerships that welcome dogs, Minneapolis is a place your pup will howl over. According to WalletHub, which compared the pet-friendliness of the nation’s one hundred largest cities, Minneapolis ranks fifth for lowest dog insurance premiums — so if he hurts himself in downward dog at doga (dog yoga), it’ll cost you less.
With thirty-three dog parks and nineteen pet massage therapists, saying dogs are spoiled in Portland is an understatement. There are also seventy restaurants – from diners to drive-ins – that allow dogs; some of them even offer doggie menus specifically for your four-legged friend. And if you are a Star Wars fan and own a pug, you may to want to move there, like, now: The 16th annual Pug Crawl takes place in May, and its theme is STAR WARS: The Pug Awakens.
If you and your pup like to hang ten, you’ll love San Diego, the dog surfing capital of the world. Check out their annual dog surfing competition, where surf dogs spend three days donning life jackets and completing against dogs in their own weight division. With gorgeous weather and a myriad of off-leash parks, dog-friendly beaches, and brunch spots, your dog will definitely want to be California Girl. And events like Dogs Dining Out, where at least ten percent of sales at twenty-five participating dog-friendly restaurants benefit local dog welfare organizations, you, too, will want to move to the West Coast.
With more dogs than kids, it’s no surprise San Francisco is ranked first in the country for walkability and third for highest number of dog parks. San Fran also boasts most pet businesses and most pet-friendly eateries per capita. And if you don’t feel like walking to all of these fabulous places, your dog can jump on the trolley car with you. Perhaps your dog – and not Tony Bennett – left his heart in San Francisco (god, I’m old).
Rainy weather doesn’t keep Seattle dogs at bay – they’re welcome on bus lines, ferries, light rail, and even local seaplanes! In Seattle, you can go kayaking with your pup or take him to see the biggest cowboy boots and hat in America. And if you’re single (and sleepless) in Seattle, you can find a mate or some friends for both you and your pup. There are countless meetup groups for dog lovers in Seattle so you can hike, bike, or drink coffee with a match made in doggy heaven!
Visit Bo Obama in Washington, D.C., and enjoy the city’s dog parks, affordable vet care, and clean streams. If she’s been a really good dog, treat her to a pupcake or haircut at the Doggie Style Bakery Boutique and Spa or let her take a swim in the annual Doggie Day Swim hosted by Washington D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.
Bonus city: Philadelphia
I had to include my city, the City of Brotherly Love on this list. With its vast amount of dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and bars, my dog always feels welcome. And according to Mike Pestronk, owner of real estate company Post Brothers (which has no breed or size restrictions in their apartment buildings), there is also legislation in place to protect the welfare of dogs, including fining owners who leave their dogs outside in weather 20° or colder without proper shelter. Philly is also home to more than a dozen off-leash dog parks and hiking trails like Wissahickon Valley Park.
If you don’t live in one of these cities, don’t fret! Since half of American households have pets, there are bound to be constant changes and advances to where pets are permitted to be and what they’re allowed to do. I love being able to take Henry to dinner and on boats, and I can’t wait until the near (hopefully) future where he can go to an aquarium or crash a wedding with me.
Image: Andreas Wagner