DogFriendly.com’s 2009 Top 10 U.S. Cities to Visit With Your Dog

Great pet-friendly lodging, attractions, parks, beaches, shopping and dining. Visit one of these cities with your dog for a top-notch vacation.

[Editors Note: We have a separate list for resort areas and smaller resort cities. This list is for the larger cities only. The top ten resort areas list will be released in June. The last list for Top Ten Dog-Friendly Resort Areas is at this link.]

DogFriendly.com compiles this list for people who want to take their dogs with them on vacation. The rankings take into account the quality of dog-friendly accommodations, transportation, beaches, parks, attractions, stores, dining and things to do with your dog.


1. San Francisco – Luxurious hotels. Plenty of pet-friendly patio dining. Many off-leash beaches and areas. Ride the cable car, walk the Golden Gate.

2. Austin – Dine in outdoor cafes. Visit the Zilker Botanical Gardens. See the Congress Street Bats. Many off-leash parks.

3. Boston – Tour Boston harbor by boat. Walk the Freedom Trail and explore many National Historical Sites. Your leashed dog is welcome on the subway.

4. Northern Virginia – Enjoy a yappy hour or dine in dog-friendly Alexandria. Take the Canine Cruise. Visit outdoor monuments and nearby Washington.

5. Portland (OR)- Enjoy off-leash areas and the famous Rose Gardens. Visit the Saturday Outdoor Market. Have a drink at the Lucky Lab.

6. Charleston (SC) – Take a ghost tour or walking tour. See the grounds of the Magnolia and Boone Hall Plantations. Visit the beach.

7. Chicago – Visit Navy Pier. Ride the Canine Cruise. See Buckingham Fountain, take a walk in Oak Park. Many dog-friendly patio restaurants.

8. San Diego – Visit fabulous dog beaches. Shop at dog-friendly Otay Ranch with its dog park. Dine outdoors and hike many parks.

9. New York – Stay in a fine hotel. Take a walking tour of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. Shop at Time Warner Center. See the Balto Statue and Central Park.

10. Ann Arbor – Visit Nichols Arboretum, rent a dog-friendly canoe. Visit nearby gardens and farms. Visit many local parks.

Honorable Mentions: Dallas, Madison/Wisconsin Dells, Minneapolis, Salt Lake, Seattle

See here for DogFriendly.com’s Top 10 Resort Areas to visit with a Dog in the U.S.

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56 Responses to “DogFriendly.com’s 2009 Top 10 U.S. Cities to Visit With Your Dog”

  1. DogFriendly.com says:

    FROM DOGFRIENDLY.COM EDITORS: We have a separate list for resort areas and smaller resort cities. This list is for the larger cities only. The top ten resort areas list will be released in June. The last list for Top Ten Dog-Friendly Resort Areas is at this link.

  2. Are you kidding me!? If your dog is a pit bull or pit bull mix or looks like a pit bull, it is certainly NOT welcome in the city whether it’s on the subway or not.

    Please reconsider this listing for Boston. It’s pretty insulting to all dog owners that one of the most popular breeds today is not welcome in Boston. The requirements listed on the City of Boston’s web site most certainly knock them off ANY dog-friendly list.

    http://www.cityofboston.gov/animalcontrol/petpeeves.asp

    * Pit Bulls & Pit Bull Mixes $50

    Requirements: Proof of ownership of home or letter of permission from landlord stating that you are allowed to have a Pit Bull or Pit Bull Mix; photo of your dog no older than 30 days; photo of the owner no older than 30 days old; proof of rabies vaccination; proof of spay/neuter.

    Take Boston off your list. Take a look at Understand-A-Bull.com. Boston is listed as one of the most UNfriendly cities for dogs. Denver takes number one for that.

    Sincerely,

    Melinda Fayette
    Milford, MA
    former resident of Boston and current owner of two friendly pit bulls

  3. Karen Ross says:

    If you ever post the BOTTOM 10, I betcha Houston will be on that misbegotten list. I love my adopted home city, but dogs aren’t allowed anywhere. It is very sad.

    If anyone has any ideas about how to lead Houston into the modern age of public dog acceptance, I would LOVE help to get the ‘ball rolling.’

  4. Yeti Ortiz says:

    Carmel is my favorite place for me and my Bernese Mountain Dog. Lugano is both of our favorite restaurant. They have 6 doggie menues.

  5. Linda says:

    Where are hotels that are pet friendly in Boston?

  6. Gene Graham says:

    I am really surprised that Miami Beach, FL or Key West, FL did not receive an honourable mention.

  7. Annie says:

    Don’t forget Huntington Beach, CA!

  8. Stephanie Chorba says:

    Thanks for the information on dog friendly cities. I live in Chicago and will take my dog to Navy Pier and the Canine Cruise sounds interesting.

  9. katy byrne says:

    You might contact In Defense of Animals, near San Rafael ,
    California and see if there might be a way to begin encouraging
    some of the larger towns that are so unfriendly towards dogs
    to re- think it with press releases. Contact information, about
    who to write to about this could be given to us all.
    Town activism can build. And, I believe towns are responsible
    for the tone they set of civility for all community, creatures great
    or small.
    Katy Byrne

  10. Hayden Duke says:

    Frederick, Maryland (about 45 mins to the west of DC) is extremely dog friendly. Dogs are allowed in the majority of Downtown stores. There is an awesome dog store, Two Paws Up (2pawsup.biz) to take your four legged friend to. On the first Saturday in August the “Dog Days of Summer” are celebrated and the entire evening is dedicated to dogs and their owners. During the spring/summer restaurants with patios usually allow dogs outside to eat. If shopping isn’t your thing nearby mountain hiking trails, most start parks and US parks are dog friendly.

  11. Jessica D says:

    Provincetown mass is one of the most dog friendly places i’ve ever been.

  12. Phyllis Hornbeck says:

    I was so glad to see that Fantastic Caveran’s in Springfield, MO are Dog Friendly. I went there when I was a youngster. Now I can go and take my dog! Thanks for all you do.

  13. fadiel davis says:

    the best place is here where i live in the far deep south, ocean view 7975, cape town, south africa is for my dog, nemesis. here is where i run him from ocean to ocean, from cold to warm waters with nature and senses of nature rushes through us while being in the mountains and coming down to the sound of the ocean.
    many paths and places whre you best friend will really look after you while giving then this great blessing.

  14. Robin says:

    I am a Chicagoan, currently living in Phoenix, AZ. This must be one of the worst places to be a dog. People here think that having a dog means buying one and putting it in the back yard and leaving it, even in this heat. Another lady and myself are the only two people in the whole neighborhood who walk our dogs. I have a dachshund and I once carried her into the library and straight up to the checkout desk, which is right inside the door, to return a book. I had her in my arms the whole time and she never made a sound. The library staff rushed me like a quarterback, admonishing me that “dogs aren’t allowed in the library.” (But, all of the noisy, loud, unruly people were!) There are stray dogs everywhere in Phoenix. I’m always looking around, edgy, when we go for a walk. I can’t imagine a worse place in the U.S. to be a dog! On the other hand, Chicago is a fantastic place to have dog! There are so many places to go with your dog and people take great care of their dogs, on the whole. I’m proud that it made your top ten cities list and I can’t wait to move back home!

  15. Michelle says:

    Thanks for compiling the list. Being from Chicago (born and raised), I was very surprised to find Chicago in the top ten. There aren’t many places to take your dog other than the lakefront. Many fine restaurants in the Loop area with outdoor dining do not allow dogs. Chicago’s a city but it’s still the Midwest–there is the feeling that dogs should be at home and not out and about. Other places that we have visited with our dog have been much more dog friendly than Chicago–Arizona, Alexandria/D.C., and Florida. I was surprised that Southwest Florida was not on the list.

  16. greg fee says:

    I am excited to have just finished production of a new pilot for tv called ‘the Dog Soup’.
    It is a travel show about dogs and their owners around the world and has the most unique treatment of any new programming today.
    to see a sneek peek go to http://www.thedogsoup.com – or copy and paste the below into your browser
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LACL0V-oa-c

    -Thanks, Greg
    Hawaii

  17. Janie Sanders says:

    I am from Alabama, not quite pet-friendly yet. Just got back from Wyoming-Yellowstone and Jackson Hole area, I have never been to a more dog-friendly setting, I am ready to move! Dogs on the backs of motorcycles in baskets, in doorways to stores, hanging out of every other car window restaurants… am amazed, maybe that was why the people were all laid back and friendly!

  18. Jeff says:

    Here’s something to add for the Chicago posting–dogs are not allowed anywhere near Millennium Park. Not the most dog friendly place on earth.

  19. Fido Rompus says:

    Great assessment on dog friendly cities. In Austin we like to think we are dog friendly, and we have some great spaces for dogs to roam and channel their inner dog.

    As well, we have a dog-waste problem. Unfortunately being a dog friendly city comes at a price. Some of our most prized parkland is littered with dog waste, left behind by irresponsible dog owners. Not to mention many of these parks are adjacent to waterways. Some of these waterways are becoming so polluted, our city is discussing their closings.

    So… Come visit Austin, bring your dog, and pick up the turd.

    Here’s the link to Austin’s OLAs – http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/offleashareas.htm

  20. Lisa says:

    I came here to say what Melissa Fayette said. Cities with BSL should be automatically disqualified from consideration as ‘dog friendly.’ That’s about as dog hostile as it gets.

    You absolutely do a disservice to your readers when you recommend they visit BSL cities with their dogs. At the very least, you could mention BSL restrictions in your writeup, so people who own bully breeds, or other breeds that could be mistaken as such, can avoid putting their dogs in danger. (And keep in mind that breed IDs are done visually, so just because your dog isn’t a restricted or banned breed doesn’t mean it’s safe if someone decides to call it one.)

    I believe several cities on your list have various types of BSL, from outright bans to breed-specific restrictions such as mandatory s/n, insurance requirements, containment requirements, etc. You owe it to your readers to at least inform them of these local laws.

  21. DogFriendly.com says:

    DogFriendly.com is opposed to BSL laws and other laws that make it harder or impossible for people to enjoy travel with their dogs.

    DogFriendly.com’s position on BSL is at the following page -
    http://www.dogfriendly.com/server/general/corp/bsloverview.shtml

    There is a link to this page on almost every page of the DogFriendly.com directory. As you say there are so many (thousands) of BSL laws in North America with new ones every day that it is not possible for us to keep up with all of them. However, we do link on the above page to links that people can go to to check for more up to date specifics than we can provide. We believe that the law in Ontario Canada is the harshest and we do place warnings on each page in that part of our directory.

  22. [...] if you have ever wondered which cities in the nation are the most dog friendly, then we have it for you. Courtesy of PetMD.com and [...]

  23. Jess says:

    I know there are plenty of pet friendly excursions in and near Pigeon Forge, TN…there is even pet friendly lodging available at very affordable prices. Your pet could experience the Smoky Mountains as part of the family!

  24. Connie says:

    I live here in Kansas City, and I have to say, it is very dog friendly! Especially in the warmer monthe, as you can sit outside and enjoy drinks or dinner with your puppy by your side! Also, we have some nice off-leash areas,( though we could use a few more)! Stroll along the river with your dog, walk him/her around the plaza shops, enjoy the parks and the fountains! KC is a great, underrated city!

  25. Sloan says:

    Los Angeles is not on the list, but we love dogs here! There is a large number of dog parks, and on the Westside of LA it is not unusual to see dogs hanging out with their people around the many oceanside restaurant patios. Many of the hotels in Santa Monica and Venice allow dogs, and for those visitors who have schedules that are difficult for their dogs, services such as Run Dog Good offer dog running, walking and hotel visits so that you can leave your dog for the day and not have to worry. Your pups can even get a massage! There are also many hiking trails around Malibu and within the city of LA that allow dogs. Most of the businesses on Abbot Kinney and Main Street in Venice and Santa Monica have water bowls and treats for dogs that come by. LA is full of dog lovers and dog loving businesses!

  26. Kay says:

    I’d like to respond to the May 27 comments of Robin, formerly of Chicago, now of Phoenix. There are lots of pet-friendly places in Phoenix and the surrounding ‘burbs. As for leaving dogs out in the heat, there are owners all over the U.S. who mistreat their dogs. Occasionally when a dog dies from being left in the heat it’s covered by all local news stations because Phoenicians are appalled. My dog is a 90-pound Briard and it’s obvious to me that I can’t take her into libraries, hospitals, most restaurants, etc. There are many dog-friendly businesses in the Phoenix area. I saw a dog like mine in Norstrom one day; the only comments were friendly and kind. I don’t believe that all businesses in Chicago allow dogs. Robin lived in Chicago and was probably familiar with the best places to take her dog. She’ll learn that in her new home. We’re friendly people…and dogs are just one of the many critters we love and welcome.

  27. [...] I don’t know how accurate this is, but the list is from 2009 – most dog-friendly cities in the US with population of over one million. San Francisco is #1 and Portland, Oregon is #5 (). I don’t know…San Diego sounds pretty impressive with the surfing and kayaking contests! Sounds like California is pretty high on the list for states, too. DogFriendly.com

  28. Charlotte Kersting says:

    Road tripping from Vancouver Island to San Antonio a couple years ago, without ANY reservations, we always managed to find hotels/motels that would allow dogs, and usually on a first attempt.

    I also lived in Portland for 17 years and did not find it all that dog-friendly… even at the Lucky Labrador pub, the dogs have to stay outside.

    Nelson BC will not allow dogs to walk in the city core, even on a leash! But here in Nanaimo, I regularly take my dog with me into all the stores (in a box, in the shopping cart), most notably even the grocery stores. There is no such thing as “health department rule” that can exclude regular dogs yet allow service dogs. Don’t put up with it in your city.

    City dwellers, please consider the smaller breeds, they seem to be welcome anywhere while large dogs are forced out of the action. I’m on my first small one and I’ll never go back, life is sweeter for a small dog in the city.

  29. Michael says:

    Key West is on almost every list as one of the most friendly dog cities.

  30. I Agree with Sloan! what about Los Angeles! Come on People!

  31. Sue says:

    Let’s face it.. the entire USA needs to wake up and realize that dogs are part of our family and should be able to accompany us anywhere, if well behaved. I’ve seen many small children that are dirtier and more out of control than dogs ever would be!! In Europe, my friends take their dogs EVERYwhere with them without a blink of an eye. Restaurants, shops, hotels, airplanes.. everywhere. The dogs are used to these outtings and thus are well behaved. When visiting us, they hit US soil w/their dogs and cannot understand the dirty looks or excessive restrictions. If Service dogs are allowed everywhere, why aren’t well behaved dogs on leashes? Thank Goodness for Carmel.. we visit twice a year and give them our vacation $$ and business as the entire town seems to understand the “Dog as Family” concept.

  32. SM says:

    Ann Arbor now has two dog parks but it took ten years fighting for them and there still isn’t a dog park near the downtown area yet, but businesses downtown are extremely dog friendly though. You can buy a book at the original Borders bookstore with your favorite mutt in tow or buy tools at the local hardware store with him. I haven’t tried the library though! Although our state law says no dogs off leash at the parks there are many wooded parklands that have become defacto dog parks. The other great thing is at the end of the summer when swimming pools are closing and cleared of chlorine many in the area open up for dogs.

  33. max says:

    Someone asked about Key West, it’s on the list of top resorts which are dog friendly
    Charleston is absolutely wonderful for dogs and their people as is Savannah

  34. chuko says:

    This list seems to have been compiled without considering the midwest much. Kansas City is arguably the most dog-friendly city in the country.

  35. Mark says:

    Los Angeles is one of the worst places for dogs. Few parks – the ones that exist are mostly dirt. Not a nice place for people, either.

  36. bon bon says:

    Madison, WI offers just one dog-friendly event in the spring and it is so overwhelmingly crowded, you’d think they would come up with something else during the year for owners to take their dogs too. But they don’t. They cannot hold a candle to Chicago’s dog-friendly atmosphere. I can’t verify for Wisconsin Dells, but you shouldn’t lump it in with Madison. Anyone visiting there with their dog will be sorely disappointed.

  37. Matt Dickson says:

    How did San Diego not even make the list, this year?

    I’ve lived all over the country, including Northern Virginia and San Francisco, and San Diego is definately the most dog friendly place I’ve set roots. Between the perfect weather, allowing for all breeds of dog to comfortably walk and play outside, 365 days a year, to the innumerable off-leash parks and the dog friendly beaches, San Diego is a dog lover’s paradise.

    Since climate plays such a big role in the shared outdoor activity with our four legged friends, that alone would put San Diego in the top 3. But when you add in everything else, San Diego would be hard pressed not to come out at number 1 every year.

    And this is coming from someone who thinks San Francisco is the best city in the nation… So you know I’m being fair. Ha ha!

  38. Matt Dickson says:

    Norther Virginia, by the way, is a weird addition to this year’s list. Have you been there is January? Can you imagine a Chihuahua?

  39. Loredo says:

    I know you listed San Francisco, but Oakland is way more dog friendly. The Jack London Square area of the city is among the most dog friendly places in the entire country. All restaurants allow dogs and most apartment buildings have dog runs. There is lots of green space for dogs to play. It’s a tremendous area with lots of dogs and dog owners.

  40. Mark says:

    To Matt:

    1. Not every city in the country can have perfect weather year-round.

    2. San Diego is on the list. Learn to read.

  41. Candice says:

    Carmel California is definately #1 in my opinion:) Beautiful small town and the dogs can run OFF LEASH on Ocean Beach….

  42. Jen says:

    Hey everyone, if you are ever near Saugatuck, MI, it is an amazing place to spend the day (or weekend) with your pups! it is right on the shore of Lake Michigan, where beaches are available and the little downtown area is full of shops, restaurants and even wineries where your dogs are welcomed and greeted with a smile and affection. My husband and i take our babies there several times every summer and enjoy delicious treats, wine, and shopping before taking the girls to the beach…it is a great place for dogs of all shapes/sizes and even many shop owners bring their pets to work…a very small little town, with a big heart for the 4 legged members of our family!

  43. IdahoNative says:

    One would think that Boise would be a dog-friendly community, but not so! One off-leash park and one trail in the city, and if you dare take your well-behaved dog off leash on the greenbelt or one of the parks, you will be met with dirty looks!

  44. Michelle says:

    I had no idea that Boston had such a draconian ordinance about bully breeds. Makes me want to consider not going there with my doggie (who is NOT a bully breed dog) out of protest. (I walk bully breeds frequently at the shelter where I volunteer. Yesterday I walked one who was so sweet–he just wanted to be petted and loved.) When will city officials begin to understand that it isn’t the breeds that should be legislated. More dog bites are sustained from Labs that any other breed–why aren’t they legislating against “Marley” then? And I’ve met many an unstable Chihuahua. Why isn’t there an ordinance against them? Breed restrictions like this don’t help the situation.

    I agree that Boston should be removed from the list of dog-friendly destinations.

  45. ML says:

    With my 3 dogs, I’d have to say the surrounding LA area is dog friendly. Lots and lots of trails and dog parks to take your pals. Yes, there are plenty of irresponsible pet owners and stray dogs in larger populated cities, but the surrounding LA area has so much to offer you and your dogs that you simply can go to another trail, cafe, park, neighborhood, etc. West Hollywood is probably the MOST dog friendly town for shopping and cafe style eating with your pet

  46. ML says:

    Also Morro Bay and Cayucos along the central coast of California are Very, Very, Very dog friendly. Some stores in Morro Bay even allow you to bring your dog inside!

  47. Welch says:

    I’m reluctant that the Pit bull wants a specific type of proprietor…these pet dogs, regardless of how ‘supportive’ still have teeth, are nevertheless animals not having moral concepts and once they DO bite, won’t let go. As in all creatures…some often be more suseptable to instinctual habits and time and time once again, this breed tends to complete just that.

  48. there are also a lot of great dog friendly beaches in orange county california.

  49. MuttsRule says:

    I just had to respond to the people who said Kansas City is dog friendly. Kansas City is NOT dog friendly – in fact, much of the city leadership is outright hostile to people with dogs and they act like anything to do with dogs is a big joke. KANSAS CITY LEADERSHIP HATES DOGS AND PEOPLE WITH DOGS and has made it clear that we are not welcome here. Many of us are tired of paying taxes to a city that treats us this way and are planning to move or have already moved to dog-friendlier locales. (Seriously – we have about a year until we can move out of here, and I will never be happier than when I never have to pay another dime to a city that treats me and my family this way.)

    Kansas City has only one dog park, and the people who founded it had to fight for a decade or more to get the dog park. (There are a few other dog parks in the suburbs, run by other cities that understand that attracting people with dogs and being progressive is a good thing.) The existing dog park gets short shrift from the parks department and would be nothing but a swamp if not for a great group of volunteers. Our parks are totally empty, yet when people gather informally at parks to let their dogs run off-leash (because there are no dog parks in most neighborhoods) they are routinely ticketed and fined $150 or so. I don’t do this, but can’t blame people who do.

    I was involved with efforts to get a second dog park in Kansas City, and the parks board treated us with open hostility and basically told us that they don’t care about anything unless it’s for children. (One particularly horrible and rude parks board member actually said the only thing she cares about is “little black children” and that there will “never be a dog park” on her watch.) We tried to meet with city council members to get support for a dog park and one Kansas City city council member told one of our members who met with him that he is “not a fan of dog parks” and that he thinks “loose dogs should be SHOT on sight.” Does THAT sound like a dog-friendly city to you when we have these types of people leading the city? People who openly tell dog-loving constituents they think dogs should be SHOT??? Sounds like something from some yeehaw out of the freaking Dukes of Hazzard, not from an elected leader of a large, modern American city.

    What started out as a really optimistic effort to get a second dog park at an underused park in an area of the city with tons of dogs turned sour. The group worked on it for three years and was screwed over, mistreated and insulted at every turn by the parks board of Kansas City, which was appointed by the Kansas City mayor. The group, WOOF, was willing to raise funds and do everything for this new dog park, and even got a professional architect to volunteer his time to design a beautiful, eco-friendly park. The parks board even appointed a sham task force, then ignored all of their recommendations and quickly threw together their own “recommendations” including putting a dog park on top of a toxic dump that they were advised not to put anything else near until it was properly capped (which it hasn’t been.) That’s where they think dogs and dog people deserve to be – on a landfill. (Oh, and they won’t build that dog park either – since no one wants a park on a dump, there is no advocacy group to lead the charge.) Also, another parks board member said no dog park will ever be built in Kansas City unless there is 100 percent support from all the neighbors. Anyone who has tried to start a dog park knows what a joke that is.

    In the meantime, this same parks department/parks board just built a brand new playground because there was something wrong with the surface of an existing playground (nothing wrong with the equipment, just the surface) so they built a whole new playground with all new equipment within a few months, even though there is another playground in the *same park* visible from the newly rebuilt playground, and though they supposedly have no money.

    Well, Kansas City parks board, I’m glad you love children so much. Maybe you can pay for all of their tuition to private school when all the dog owners without kids who pay the taxes to send these urban children to school flee the city because you basically gave us the finger and told us we’re not welcome here. Goodbye, and enjoy your crumbling, crappy city!

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