As a frequent traveler who lives in a tiny fifth-floor Brooklyn apartment, I was hesitant about getting a dog: How would she work into our frequent weekend escapes and handle our overseas absences? A year ago, we decided that we wouldn’t know until we tried—and so we brought home a wriggling 16-week pug puppy. Although I’ve realized that having a wide range of friends who love to dog-sit makes logistics much easier, we’ve also learned to love traveling with our adorable (and at 15 pounds, fairly portable) pug.
We’ve discovered a few valuable lessons to make things easier when traveling with a pup. Prepare to pay extra for the joy of keeping your four-legged friend around, from extra airline fees to additional nonrefundable hotel deposits. Be flexible with your scheduling, and understand you probably won’t be able to fit in quite as much sightseeing as before. Seek out dog-friendly activities, like mountain hikes and restaurants with outdoor seating—and double-check to make sure everything actually does allow dogs (some trails and backyards won’t!). If you need inspiration for your next domestic jaunt with your pup in tow, look no further than these six doggone awesome American cities.
Austin’s bevy of outdoor cafés, bars, and food trucks are a godsend for traveling dog owners: You and your pooch certainly won’t go hungry here. Check out Radio Coffee & Beer for impeccably poured lattes and mouthwatering breakfast tacos al fresco, or pop into one of the “backyard bars” on Rainey Street for a cocktail (laid-back during the day, raucous late at night). Although popular swimming holes Barton Springs and Hamilton Pool Preserve aren’t open to dogs, you can take your dog to hike up the steps at Mount Bonnell for the sweeping view of Colorado River or experience some authentic Texas barbecue at Salt Lick. Always a good sign: Most of the shops in SoCo—a strip of hip eateries and funky boutiques on South Congress—keep canine treats behind the counter.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Austin gladly welcomes pets under 50 pounds (with an additional nonrefundable deposit). The best part is the sprawling grassy backyard that borders Lady Bird Lake: you can take pups for a walk on the trail, relax in a hammock, or grab a cocktail on the terrace at Trio.
Denver’s claims to fame for humans are just as appealing to dogs: 300 days of sunshine a year, proximity to the Rocky Mountains, and plenty of local craft breweries with patios. Build up an appetite with a walk around Washington Park: It has 155 acres of open space, two lakes, and even an exact replica of George Washington’s gardens at Mount Vernon. Then tuck into a signature red ale at Black Shirt Brewing Co. or a small-batch brew at Denver Beer Co.—both feature dog-friendly patios. For the ultimate hiking experience, take a quick day trip to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs: There are more than 15 miles of trails through the breathtaking red rock formations at the foot of Pikes Peak.
Where to stay: Hotel Teatro is one of Denver’s few luxury boutique hotels, and its art deco vibe is comfortable and well-appointed for both people and pups. Famed for its concierges, they can help with just about anything—even arranging a “pawdicure” or a canine massage for your pup at a local spa. No joke!
Although Manhattan is an oasis for spoiled pups (I imagine dog spas were invented there), Brooklyn is New York’s dog-friendliest borough: The tree-lined sidewalks are far less crowded and frantic. You can wander through the charming streets of posh Brooklyn Heights before soaking up the iconic skyline views with your pup on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Although you’ll get an epic view of the Brooklyn Bridge, I don’t recommend walking it with a dog unless it’s super early—it gets congested with tourist pedestrian and bicycle traffic, which can be stressful. If your heart is set on crossing the East River, opt for the Manhattan Bridge, which has a separate pedestrian lane that offers a stunning view of Dumbo and lower Manhattan. Don’t miss Prospect Park before 9 a.m. on the weekends for the ultimate dog heaven: Although dogs are generally required to be on leash in the park, this is the rare and glorious moment when they can run free. Stop by the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket (open Saturdays year-round) for some local picnic provisions, or tuck into the famed Mexican corn on the colorful Habana Outpost patio.
Where to stay: The newly opened William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg boasts balconies on every room and incredible views of the Manhattan skyline—as well as luxurious digs for your pooch.
Portland strives to keep things weird, and it’s a hipster haven of craft coffee, independent bookstores, and artisan bacon doughnuts. Downtown Portland is lovely to explore on foot: Stroll through the sprawling farmers’ market at Portland State University on Saturday mornings before heading to the trails along the Willamette River. Between Southwest Alder and Washington streets, from SW Ninth to SW Tenth Avenues, there’s a cluster of incredible food carts of varying cuisines—don’t miss the dumplings at Dump Truck. After lunch, you can walk up to the original Salt & Straw for creative ice cream in flavors like strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper or pear and blue cheese. And, of course, take a hike to the most-Instagrammed waterfall in all the land, Multnomah Falls—although dogs will need to stay on-leash, it’s still a scenic adventure for both pups and humans.
Where to stay: The stylishly minimal Ace Hotel features a Stumptown Coffee in the lobby (a PDX staple) and charges $25 a night for pets under 25 pounds.
Be sure to pack your walking shoes and be prepared for some hills: The streets of San Francisco are photogenic, but they sure are steep. Enjoy the view of the famed Painted Ladies while your dog frolics in Alta Plaza Park. Grab a coffee and a chocolate rose doughnut at Dynamo, and let your pup romp in the sand at Crissy Field under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. If that’s not quite enough sand and freedom, head to Fort Funston: The 200-foot sandy bluffs feature seemingly unlimited hiking trails and a generous off-leash policy. Then stop by Andytown Coffee Roasters for a precisely brewed coffee on its sidewalk tables.
Where to stay: Featuring a spectacular atrium lobby, The Palace Hotel is delighted to welcome dogs under 25 pounds for an extra $75 per night.
This perpetually sunny city located 20 minutes outside of Phoenix is a delightfully laid-back and restorative getaway. Scottsdale is a hiker’s (and dog’s) dream with myriad trails to choose from. Head to McDowell Sonoran Preserve for a sweeping vista of Phoenix rising from the valley below, as well as a look at plenty of gorgeous desert flora and fauna. Although you might not expect it, this is an easy place to drink local: Head to Craft 64 for a wide selection of Arizona craft beer and LDV Winery for Arizona-grown wines. Both spots feature dog-friendly patios where you can sip to your heart’s delight. Don’t miss lunch at LON’s at the Hermosa Inn, where you can relax on the expansive shady patio while enjoying your meal (and the fantastic Scottsdale weather). One thing to note: It gets very hot in Scottsdale in the summer, so best to enjoy with your pup autumn through spring.
Where to stay: Hotel Valley Ho is a fantastically restored midcentury modern hotel centrally located in Scottsdale’s super walkable downtown. Bonus: Pets stay free!