Somehow, it never feels right to stick Spot or Miss Kitty in the kennel while we take off for a fun trip. Fortunately, traveling with pets has never been easier. In fact, according to Road & Travel Magazine, 78 percent of pet owners are hitting the road with their faithful friends. And to help you put some "wow" in your "bowwow," hotels, shops, and tourist attractions are more than happy to accommodate them.
The Mid-Atlantic is a great place for pet-friendly travel. The region—from the National Mall in D.C. and the historic sites and vistas of Northern Virginia to the pristine shorelines and state parks of Delaware and Maryland—boasts plenty of options for you and your furry BFF. So pack your doggy bags (don't forget the leash and collapsible water bowl), hit the road, and enjoy endless dog-day afternoons.
First pups Bo Obama, Millie Bush, and Checkers Nixon have known all along that Pennsylvania Avenue and D.C. are the provinces of pups. Besides chain and budget hotels, Washington offers many options to bunk with your pet. (Though it's wise to check on size restrictions, since many hotels have a weight limit.)
One of our favorite spots is Capitol Hill's The Hotel George (15 E St., NW, 202-347-4200), which is part of the pet-friendly Kimpton chain. There are no pet restrictions at this hip hotel, and basics—like dog beds and treats—are doled out, as well as suggestions for pet sitters and doggie day-care centers. Weekend prices vary, but are usually $169 per night for double occupancy, and pets stay free. At the refined Fairmont Hotel (2401 M St., NW, 202-429-2400), canine guests are waited on paw and foot, with gourmet biscuits whipped up by pastry chef Aron Weber, water bowls, and green paw and red paw "Do Not Disturb" signs. Weekend rates for the pet package start at $189. The Jefferson (1200 16th St., NW, 202-448-2300) offers a pet room-service menu. Cats are also permitted. Weekend prices vary, but are usually in the range of $300 for double occupancy with a $125 flat rate for pets.
While museums are off-limits for pups, you can spend an entire weekend seeing the sites without ever having to go inside. Consider a 45-minute trip onboard Capitol River Cruises from April through October (Washington Harbour, 31st and K Sts., NW, 800-405-5511). If you prefer to travel by foot, the 150-acre National Mall, located between the U.S. Capitol building and the White House, can't be beat for greeting and meeting other pets and visitors. Also, trek over to the Tidal Basin area of West Potomac Park, where 1,678 Yoshino cherry trees blossom in mid-April.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (West Potomac Park, Ohio Drive, SW, 202-426-6841) is worth a stop since it honors a first pet. America's sole four-term president was so devoted to his dog Fala that a bronze version of the Scottish terrier sits next to FDR's likeness. Another great outdoor spot is The United States National Arboretum (3501 New York Ave., NE, 202-245-2726) with more than 400 acres of rare and protected plants, including extensive collections of azaleas, dogwoods, and magnolias. (Dogs are not allowed inside Arboretum buildings.)
If you've worked up an appetite, outdoor eating options and takeout services are plentiful—from the large patio at Café Milano (3251 Prospect St., NW, 202-333-6183) for pasta and pizzas to Loeb's New York Deli (832 15th St., NW, 202-371-1150). (Health regulations prevent you from dining inside with your pet unless it is a guide dog.) If it's only Fido who needs a fix, Doggie Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Spa (1825 18th St., NW, 202-667-0595)—voted one of D.C.'s best pet shops by Washingtonian magazine—is the place to go for homemade dog treats and unusual chew toys.
VIRGINIA IS FOR (DOG) LOVERS
Just a short drive from the nation's capital is charming Alexandria, VA. Dogfriendly.com recently voted Northern Virginia as one of the Top 10 U.S. areas to visit with your dog. But most pet-friendly choices for overnight stays are chains (such as the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, 625 First St., 703-548-6300), where weekend rates run about $129 for double occupancy (with a $50 one-time fee for pets), or suite accommodations (such as the Residence Inn in Old Town Alexandria, 1456 Duke St., 703-548-5474), where weekend prices are about $99 a night for double occupancy ($150 for pets plus an additional $15 per night). An exception is the newly renovated Hotel Monaco Alexandria in the heart of the Historic District (480 King St., 703-549-6080), where dogs of any size are welcome, and pets stay for free. Weekend room rates usually average $169 for double occupancy.
Kick off your trip with a canine cruise of the Alexandria seaport by Potomac Riverboat Company (Alexandria City Marina, Cameron and Union Sts., 703-684-0580). Ships set sail every Thursday at 7 or 8 p.m., May through the beginning of September. Humans cost $15. (Online tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance.) Pups ride for free. If Spot needs help with discipline or show training, head to Old Towne School for Dogs (529 Oronoco St., 703-836-7643) in downtown Alexandria. Established in 1975 by Carlos and Sandy Mejias, the facility is one of the best around with grooming services that are booked months in advance. Your pet can also spend the day visiting local parks and learning puppy basics while you are off sightseeing.
Visitors shouldn't miss Pat Troy's Ireland's Own (111 N. Pitt St., 703-549-4535). This traditional Irish pub has a doggie menu with chopped chicken, hamburger, and lamb and beef stew. If happy hour is a vacation must, consider attending a "Yappy Hour," held twice a month, at Barkley Square Gourmet Dog Bakery & Boutique (2006 Mount Vernon Ave., 703-548-DOGG), serving wine and beer for humans and an all-you-can-eat Bark Bar for the canines.
For refueling, we love the concept behind the Lost Dog Café (5876 Washington Blvd., Arlington, 703-237-1552), which doubles as the headquarters for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit animal shelter that helps find "forever homes" for unwanted animals. The restaurant is also known for its gourmet pizzas stacked with crabmeat, scallops, and shrimp.
When it's time for the beach, there is plenty to keep you and your canine companion content in America's first state, Delaware. The Lazy L at Willow Creek (16061 Willow Creek Rd., Lewes, 302-644-7220) offers a comfortable, pet-friendly ambiance. This small bed-and-breakfast—with full gourmet breakfasts, a hot tub, screened porches, and a swimming pool—is so accommodating to pets that it's a destination unto itself. Dogs, cats, birds, and creatures of all kinds are welcome here for a $20 flat rate per pet (with a maximum of three dogs allowed). Human rates range between $140-150 for double occupancy in the off season (during vacation season, prices can go up to $210). Owners Debbie Estes and Joanne Cassidy (who have three dogs of their own) pander to pooches' every need with well-maintained grassy stretches, an outdoor dog shower stocked with special shampoos, flashlights for night walks, and home-baked doggie treats. Pet sitting and dog-walking services are also available. Just down the road at Lewes Beach, dogs are allowed to visit after 6 p.m. At the nearby 5,000-acre Cape Henlopen State Park (42 Cape Henlopen Dr., 302-644-5005), dogs are free to romp on the surfing and fishing beaches, though the swimming areas are off limits.
Eating opportunities include Gilligan's Waterfront Restaurant & Bar (134 Market St., 302-644-7230), where you can dine on a boat overlooking the water, or Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant (213 Anglers Rd., 302-645-6888) for fish and chips and oyster shooters. If you need pet supplies, visit Rehoboth Beach's Critter Beach (156 Rehoboth Ave., 302-226-2690) for posh collars, leashes, doggie sunglasses, and treats.
Along our state's Eastern Shore, the famed The Inn at Perry Cabin (308 Watkins Ln., St. Michaels, 410-745-2200)—a circa-1816 manor house once owned by Lord Ashley, husband of textile designer Laura Ashley—is known for its luxurious amenities. The hotel provides respite along the Miles River or serves as a base for exploring. Weekend room rates run between $295-635 for double occupancy. Pets must be under 75 pounds, and there is a two-pet limit. (The first pet costs a flat fee of $100 with an additional $50 charge for the second pet.) The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (213 N. Talbot St., 410-745-2916) pays homage to the area's maritime roots. Well-behaved dogs are allowed on the grounds. Neighboring Tilghman Island also offers pet-friendly accommodations at The Tilghman Island Inn (21384 Cooperstown Rd., 410-886-2141), where there is, thankfully, little to do except savor the fare at the hotel's gourmet restaurant and sit in an Adirondack chair on the deck and relish the sunset. Weekend room rates are usually between $225-300 a night for double occupancy (with an additional $20 a night per pet).
The deluxe Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa, and Marina (100 Heron Blvd. at Route 50, Cambridge, 410-901-1234) allows up to two 70-pound dogs or cats, though reservations must be made 72 hours in advance and given prior approval from a manager. Weekend room rates are usually between $259-359 per night for double occupancy with an additional $50 a night per pet. (A spring getaway deal is being offered from March 26-June 4 and starts at $199 per night Fridays and Saturdays. The promotional code is SFEVER.)
The big draw in Western Maryland is Garrett County's Deep Creek Lake area, a year-round haven for outdoor enthusiasts with 90,000 acres of parks, lakes, hiking trails, and forests. One of the best accommodations is Wisp Resort (296 Marsh Hill Rd., 301-387-4911). Depending on the time of the year, Wisp offers activities from golf and snowmobiling to skiing outside your front door. Dogs (under 40 pounds) and their masters can stay on designated floors. Weekend rates average about $114 per night for double occupancy with a one-time pet fee of $50. While area state parks have varying rules regarding canines, Garrett State Forest (1431 Potomac Camp Rd., 301-334-2038) welcomes four-legged friends. No leash is required if your dog is trained to come to the sound of your voice. You can also camp in the park for $10-20 a night.