The Best Places to Visit With Your Dog
The U.S. is full of incredible places to visit, but if you’re planning to take along your furry family member, there are some important things to consider. Outdoor recreation, lodging, and even dining take on added importance when planning a trip with your dog. It’s also safe to say a dog-friendly destination would have some type of doggie daycare and good access to veterinary care in case of emergency.
Overall, having good amenities for your pup can make or break your entire experience. We spent over 150 hours researching what makes the best vacation spot and came up with 100 top locations out of 567 possible destinations to visit with your dog. And why did we do all this? Because we want to help people research and find the best places to visit that don’t require leaving Fido behind.
We determined the top cities to visit with your dog by scrutinizing and cutting from a total of 1,000 of the biggest tourist destinations across the country according to TripAdvisor and Touropia. Using population density, we were able to filter out highly populated metropolitan areas full of traffic, concrete, and crowds – definitely not conducive to a doggone good time.
Next, we graded the frontrunners against seven crucial criteria that would helped a city rank higher on our list. These factors included: number of dog parks, availability of dog trails, amount of dog-friendly restaurants, options for dog-friendly lodging, nearby dog-friendly beaches, availability of dog daycares, and nearby veterinarians or emergency clinics. Based on this research, we grouped those factors into two different city scores: amenities and outdoor activities.
We also talked to three experts who provided additional information about traveling with your dog:
- Erin Ballinger, the destinations editor at BringFido, offered essential tips for exploring the world with a pup.
- Suzanne Bryner of Lucky Fido Dog Training recommended training techniques to turn your dog into a great travel companion.
- And Kathleen Darling, the Infection Prevention Coordinator at Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, explained how to make traveling a safe and healthy adventure for your pup.
What We Learned
In our research, we discovered a majority of our most dog-friendly destinations are in the southeast United States. If you’re traveling in the summer months, Darling recommends limiting time outside and making sure your pup has plenty of water.
We awarded honorable mentions for the most dog trails, most dog parks, the most dog-friendly beaches, the most dog daycares, and the most dog-friendly restaurants. We also had to figure out just the right approach to weighing certain aspects of a destination against another. For example, we determined outdoor activities to be a significant factor for those considering where to visit with their dog. This resulted in a place like Nantucket, Massachusetts, earning an overall high score (and making the top 10) despite having relatively few pet-friendly amenities, since it does have such great outdoor activities.
Our No. 1 city award goes to Scottsdale, Arizona. It scored the highest overall out of all our chosen finalists and has plenty of activities and amenities for your dog. There are top-rated emergency vets, six dog parks, nine trails, dozens of dog-friendly hotels, and an incredible 117 restaurants you can bring your dog to during your vacation to the Grand Canyon State. Check out the Su Vino Winery together or head to the Vista del Camino dog park for beautiful views of the Southwest scenery.
- Overall Score: 70
- Amenities Rank: 3
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 2
Charleston ranks No. 2 on our list of best cities to visit with your dog. With so many outdoor activities, you and your furry friend will never be bored. Take Fido along for an Old Charleston Ghost Tour, view the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, take them with you on a fishing charter, or chow down together at one of Charleston’s 150 eateries. You’ll have lots of options for lodging as well, with plenty of dog-friendly hotels to pamper your pooch.
- Overall Score: 67
- Amenities Rank: 8
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 3
Music City is next on the list with some of the best amenities in the country for your dog. You’ll find close to 200 dog-friendly restaurants to dig into some hot chicken and other Nashville grub. Plus, six doggie daycares for those times you want to boot, scoot, and boogie without them. When you want to get away and enjoy the beautiful Tennessee countryside, check out any of the six dog parks or trails the city has to offer.
- Overall Score: 66
- Amenities Rank: 2
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 7
You and your dog will be in for a great time if you head to Salt Lake City together. Outdoor activities stand out as the must-dos for dogs and humans alike. Head over to one of the many breweries in town for a craft beer on the patio before checking out any of the 12 dog parks. Your dog will enjoy playing and socializing while you take in the gorgeous snow-capped mountains in the background.
- Overall Score: 62
- Amenities Rank: 10
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 6
Explore Jacksonville, Florida, with your dog if you want a great mix of outdoor activities and indoor amenities. With nine dog parks and an excellent variety of 154 dog-friendly restaurants, you can count on lots of fun places to rest or play. Looking to enjoy a leisurely day on the coast? Drop your dog at one of the five available daycares to help them stay safely out of the Florida sunshine during the day.
- Overall Score: 62
- Amenities Rank: 7
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 9
Visit Knoxville, Tennessee, for a walkable fun time with music, adventure, good eats, and southern hospitality. Knoxville is about a day’s drive from places throughout roughly half the country, so you might be closer to this hidden gem than you think. With 149 restaurants to try, dozens of hotels to bring Fido, eight dog parks and eight doggie daycares, you’ll find plenty of accommodations for your pup. Our recommendation? Check out the Dolly Parton theme park, Dollywood, while you leave your dog at Doggywood for a themed daycare experience.
- Overall Score: 62
- Amenities Rank: 1
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 22
If the beach is more your dog’s scene, check out Virginia Beach’s dog-friendly beaches. Throw the Frisbee around, go for a swim, or dig up treasures in the sand together – just make sure your dog has some fresh water to drink after all that play. Virginia Beach ranked high on our amenities list, so you can find lots of doggie-catered establishments for when the beach gets a little too hot.
- Overall Score: 60
- Amenities Rank: 4
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 16
Birmingham, Alabama, has a variety of trails and parks for you to explore with your dog – check out Railroad Park and Oak Mountain State Park for incredible views of waterfalls, creeks, or rivers. Then, find yourself a cozy spot at one of the many breweries or restaurants in town. With a good mix of dog amenities and outdoor activities, we recommend penciling in a trip to Birmingham for balanced city and nature exploration.
- Overall Score: 58
- Amenities Rank: 9
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 13
Discover tons of outdoor activities with your dog in Nantucket, Massachusetts – ranked No. 1 in the country when it comes to outdoor activities. Explore the coast on a sailing excursion or catch some salty sea air on one of the many ferry tours available in town. Nantucket is home to the most dog-friendly beaches and the most dog trails, so you’ll always find somewhere beautiful to explore on the island. On the other hand, amenities (such as local vets and dog parks) are few and far between since Nantucket is such a small community. But with all the coastline to explore, we think that’s an easy tradeoff for this vacation destination.
- Overall Score: 58
- Amenities Rank: 100
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 1
Columbia, Missouri, landed at our No. 10 spot with its top tier outdoor activities and multiple available amenities catered toward your four-legged friend. Check out the dog-friendly lakes, take a hike at Finger Lakes State Park, explore the beautiful Mizzou campus, and take your pick from the dozens of lodging options for your dog and family.
- Overall Score: 57
- Amenities Rank: 43
- Outdoor Activities Rank: 5
Top 100 Listed with Scores
Top Destinations in Each Category
Full Methodology/Point System
Before we could start considering factors and rankings, we had to figure out which cities actually qualify as a tourist destination. Using data from Trip Advisor and Touropia to identify the top cities by tourism for all 50 states, we compiled a list of over 1,000 cities. We then applied a filter based on population density since it plays such an important role in traffic, infrastructure, and, most importantly, the overall dog friendliness for each of these travel destinations.
Avoiding cities with high population density and which can be difficult to move around in cut the list down to those which give you and your furry friend more space and time to focus on more dog-friendly outdoor activities and amenities. Once we established a population density limit, we counted up the number of vets, as well as the availability of emergency vets. We also counted dog parks, trails, dog-friendly restaurants and lodging, dog-friendly beaches, dog daycare facilities. Essentially, the more of any of these facilities/recreational activities a place has, the better its score. Using the final scores on a 100-point scale, we then broke it down by two key categories that pertain to people traveling with their dog: outdoor activities and amenities.
Click HERE to download the full list of 500 places to travel with you dog.