For many of us, dogs are a part of the family. So when it’s time to pick a vacation destination, our hearts go out to the one family member who always gets left behind. Luckily for California residents (and their four-legged friends), there are several cities becoming increasingly recognized for their dog-friendly attractions and accommodations.
Dog at the beach — Photo courtesy of Pete Markham
Santa Barbara is one of those cities. Sitting just up the coast from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a bustling beach town that understands just how much people love their dogs. If you’re planning a weekend get-a-away with Fido, it’s the perfect place to make reservations.
Two of the city’s most popular hotels, the Canary and Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, not only allow dogs but anticipate their arrival. The Canary provides a dog bed, bowls and a map of local walking trails at no extra charge. Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort will have a treat bag ready in-room, as well as a room service menu just for dogs. For a $25 fee, the resort allows dogs not only in rooms, but also on the patio of their restaurant by the beach, Barra Los Arcos.
London in Santa Barbara — Photo courtesy of Tori Bodin
After checking into your room, grab the leash and head downtown to State Street. While most businesses allow dogs in-store, policies do vary. The Paseo Nuevo Mall, in the heart of downtown, is especially open to shoppers with accompanying dogs. You and your furry friend can browse through stores like Nordstrom, Kitson and Macy’s. However you might want to keep a short lead when entering The Flip Flop Shop, full of any dog’s favorite chew toy: flip flops.
There are also several restaurants with outdoor patios that allow guests to sit with their dogs. Included in this list are local favorites Pascucci’s and Pierre LaFond Wine Bistro. But for a menu that has literally gone to the dogs, stop by the Brewhouse on West Montecito Street. While you’re enjoying a burger and beer, your dog can order from their own menu, which features everything from frozen marrow bones to “biscuits and gravy.”
Aside from downtown, there are several dog-designated areas within the city limits. One of these busy locations for doggy playdates is Hendry’s Beach. The dog-beach is always full of canines and their companions, both of whom can be seen frolicking in the sand and waves. Hendry’s Beach is also home to the Boathouse, a restaurant on top of the sand that serves a popular brunch and seafood menu. Just outside the glass walls is a tiki hut tie-up for the dogs, which keeps them in the shade and in view while their human counterparts enjoy a bite to eat. After time on the beach and at the bar, there is even a dog-washing station in the parking lot so everyone can clean up before heading home.
Happy pooch at the park — Photo courtesy of WKeown
Another one of Santa Barbara’s cherished attractions, the Urban Wine Trail, boasts of city tasting rooms and wineries within a reasonable walking distance of one another. An activity in itself, the trail is also considered dog-friendly by many of its participants. The Oreana Winery, in particular, features an outdoor patio that hosts tastings, live music and four-legged friends. The Urban Wine Trail is a great way to spend an afternoon in Santa Barbara, sampling local bottles while your dog acts as the “designated walker.”
Last but not least are Santa Barbara’s numerous pet shops for any visiting dog’s needs. And the contemporary pet boutique, Off Leash, is sure to be on Fido’s list of “must-see’s.” The store sells gourmet treats, beds and even dog art. They carry a new line of eco-friendly dog (and cat) gear that is made in America, and they even offer personal shopping experiences for the pampered pooch. They're on vacation, too, after all.
Shopping Bags — Photo courtesy of OffLeash
Santa Barbara also hosts several dog and pet festivals throughout the year, so it may be worth syncing calendars with your canine before picking dates. However no matter when you visit, the pet-friendly amenities of the city will be ready. Santa Barbara is always happy to host travelers who can’t bear to part with their dogs, even for an afternoon.