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Top 5 Pet-Friendly Towns

Filed Under: United States

Choosing where to vacation with your pet is a lot like choosing where to vacation with a romantic partner. You have to find somewhere you’ll both be happy, comfortable and entertained. Accommodation is key, of course, but the best pet-friendly towns offer more ways to include your pet in the fun: hiking trails, beaches, off-leash dog parks, animal-friendly restaurants and shops, as well as sightseeing activities.

"There are two things that make a town really pet-friendly,” said Jerry Hatfield, who founded PetTravel.com 16 years ago and now serves as its marketing consultant. "Part of it is the attitude of the people who live there, laid-back and not too rigid in their ways. The second is a city that has recognized that it needs to make arrangements for the pet owners and visitors."

Read on to find out Travel Channel’s top picks for towns offering positive pet travel experiences.

1. Key West, Florida

Not only do most accommodations and outdoor restaurants welcome pets here, but nearly everyone seems to have a furry friend. “There is a breed of dog indigenous to Key West,” said Carol Shaughnessy, a 30-year resident and multiple pet owner who does tourism PR. “We have basket hounds.” Rent 2 wheels with a basket or a trailer at Re-Cycle, then hit the Coconut Retriever cart for locally crafted, brightly printed leashes, collars and even dresses. Dogs are also welcome aboard the kayaks and paddleboards at Lazy Dog and at the dog beach next to Louie’s Backyard restaurant, which, along with the Higgs Beach Dog Park, is a hoppin' pet hang out.

2. Asheville, North Carolina

Even the government loves pets in North Carolina. The state recently passed a law that allows restaurants to host cats and dogs in their outdoor areas. Relax and sample the local suds of Beer City USA on the big patio of Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company. Or show Fido the fancy life at the gardens of Biltmore, the estate built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s. But the best thing to do with your pets here is enjoy nature. Follow the pack, then, and make for the trails of Pisgah National Forest, or Rock State Park, both of which allow leashed dogs on most trails. Or stay in town and stroll the historical Urban Trail.

3. Bar Harbor, Maine

This town got a boost of attention when President Obama and his family — including first dog, Bo — spent a summer vacation there. Take a cue from the Obamas and hit one of Acadia National Park’s 140 miles of paths. Leashed dogs are allowed to join their humans on almost all of the hiking and carriage trails here, and freedom seekers can opt for the Little Long Pond off-leash park in Seal Harbor. Take in the maritime views on a cruise aboard the dog-friendly windjammer Margaret Todd, or splash around on Bar Island, which you can walk to at low tide. Newbies should stop by pet stores Bark Harbor or Walkin’ the Dog for a handy list of pet-friendly recommendations.

4. San Diego, California

In addition to myriad pet-friendly lodgings, restaurants (some with dog menus) and shops, the area boasts 3 dog beaches: the sandy, northern end of Ocean Beach, Fiesta Island in Mission Bay Park and the beach on Coronado Island, where your dog can learn to surf. That’s right, nearby Loews Coronado Bay Resort offers canine surfing lessons in partnership with the Coronado Surfing Academy and plenty of pet pampering at the hotel itself.

5. Austin, Texas

The Pampered Pet Program at Austin’s Driskill Hotel provides cats and dogs with fancy beds, designer food bowls, souvenir toys and more. Outside the hotel, your animals will feel just as coddled: The city has 10 off-leash dog parks. “And they vary greatly depending on what your dogs like,” said Kim Salerno, founder of Travel with Pets,“water holes for swimming, small and large dog areas, areas for laid-back dogs, one for active dogs.” Pups who want to stop and sniff the flowers can join you, on a leash, at Zilker Botanical Garden, and salty dogs can canoe or kayak with you at Zilker Park Boat Rentals. If you’re a bit New Age, sign up for Austin Doga, which is yoga you do with your dog.