6 Tips for Visiting Pet-Friendly Colonial Williamsburg

An eighteenth-century town with large, open spaces and no cars – it sounds perfect for visiting with your pet, right? It is!

Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, where you and your pet can explore the town’s beautiful setting and learn about life in Virginia’s colonial capital.

Your pup will enjoy seeing horses prance by, visiting the cows in the pasture, and exploring acres of grounds with her favorite person.

Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip to Colonial Williamsburg, so your whole family gets the most from your visit:

1. Arrange pet-friendly accommodations

Within the park, the Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, and Williamsburg Woodlands offer a limited number of pet-friendly rooms and are close to attractions. However, there are size restrictions and daily cleaning fees.

Outside the historic area, the town of Williamsburg has several pet-friendly hotels and motels – but the most pet-friendliest accommodations can be found at the nearby campgrounds!

Williamsburg has three private campgrounds: American Heritage RV Park (146 Maxton Lane), Anvil Campground (5243 Morretown Road), and KOA – Williamsburg (4000 Newman Road). All are a short drive to the historic downtown and convenient to nearby attractions.

Williamsburg also has campsites with full hook-ups at Chickahominy Riverfront Park (1350 John Tyler Highway). With miles of trails, this may be the most pet-friendly place to stay of all.

2. Buy tickets in advance

You can enjoy the grounds at Colonial Williamsburg without paying for admission, but tours, access to some buildings, and use of the free shuttle requires you to have a ticket. Pets are not permitted inside buildings or on the shuttle, so it works best if you have a friend and take turns enjoying the building while the other waits with the pets.

You can order tickets online or buy them at the visitor’s center when you arrive, but you’re more likely to ensure your spot in popular events if you make your reservations in advance.

3. Check the weather

Colonial Williamsburg is lovely during Christmas, but shivering on a park bench with your pooch while you’re admiring decorations is only fun for a short time. Picnicking on the village green, strolling down Duke of Gloucester (known as DoG) Street, and lounging on the lawn in front of the Governor’s Palace are all activities best enjoyed on a spring or fall day.

4. Line up your dining options

Just outside the historic area are several restaurants with pet-friendly outside seating areas. Check out the Cheese Shop (410 Duke of Gloucester Street), Seasons Café (110 S Henry Street), Aromas Café (431 Prince George Street), or Pierce’s Bar-B-Que (447 Rochambeau Drive).

If you’d rather have a picnic or are only looking for snacks, stop in at the DuBois Grocer, or McKenzie Apothecary. Even the Visitor Center Cafe has sandwiches and hot food, so you and your pet will have plenty of options.

5. Get out of town

When you’ve thoroughly explored the historic area, Williamsburg has some lovely parks to visit. You can rent a canoe at Waller Mill Park (901 Airport Road), or walk the trails at Chickahominy Riverfront Park.

The second oldest college in the country, William and Mary (116 Jamestown Road) welcomes pets to stroll the grounds.

And of course, you’re only a short trip to Hampton Roads attractions and Virginia Beach, making Williamsburg a great base for exploring the coastal areas of southern Virginia.

6. Find a pet sitter or boarding kennel

When your pup gets pooped, he may enjoy a spa day. St Francis Pet Resort (102 Tewning Road) is a luxury boarding facility that offers dog play groups and spa treatments. And the Pet Resort at Greensprings (2878 Monticello Avenue) offers indoor and outdoor play at its dog day camp.

Some dogs enjoy an afternoon of playtime and pampering. And you can take the opportunity to enjoy the Williamsburg restaurants and activities that are not pet-friendly.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation website has all the information you need to plan your visit. You’ll find links to attractions, information about the town, and can purchase your tickets in advance.

If you’re looking for a vacation destination that combines a love of history and time with your dog, start planning your trip to Colonial Williamsburg today!

When you have the opportunity to combine two things you love – like pets and trains – it’s a special treat! Fortunately, there are train and railroad museums across the country that are happy to have your pet join you for a tour. Be sure to mark these down and plan to stop by on your next road trip!

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site 
Address: 2600 Old Route 22, Gallitzin, Pennsylvania 16641

The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad constructed over the Allegheny Mountains. This inclined plane railroad operated between 1834-1854 and was considered a technological wonder in its day. The park covers 1,249 acres, celebrating the critical role this track played in opening the interior of the United States to trade and settlement.

Leashed pets are permitted in the park, but are not allowed in the buildings or on the beach. Leashes must be no longer than six feet.

Arkansas Railroad Museum 
Address: 1700 Port Road, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71601

See a variety of railroad equipment, locomotives and memorabilia at this museum dedicated to railroads that have operated in Arkansas and East Texas. Well-behaved, leashed pets are allowed on the grounds, but not in the buildings.

Boothbay Railway Village
Address: 586 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay, Maine 04537

Boothbay Railway Village offers many demonstrations and hands-on activities in a reconstructed village setting. With authentic period structures and technologies utilized in Maine from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s, a highlight is the railroad and steam shop, equipped to fabricate and repair historic steam boilers.

Short train rides are also offered daily to enhance their educational programs. Pets are welcome to join you on the grounds, in the exhibits, and on the train in the open coaches or caboose.

California State Railroad Museum
Address: Corner of Second and I Streets, Sacramento, California 95814

Dogs are not allowed inside the museum buildings, but there are several locomotives outside you’re welcome to explore with your pets.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Address: 242 Main Street, Cass, West Virginia 24927

Pets are welcome on the grounds of this unique state park, where an 11-mile long heritage railroad and authentic company town are some of the most popular tourist attractions. This is also one of America’s only authentic operating museums of lumber railroading. Pets are not allowed to ride the trains, but there are six cottages where dogs or cats can stay.

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad
Address: 6140 Bray Road, Flint, Michigan 48505

Enjoy this living history village where period-clothed docents allow you to experience what life was like in a small village in Michigan in the late 1800s. There are 35 historic buildings, a narrow-gauge railroad offering train rides, and a paddle-wheeler taking river cruises. Well-behaved, leashed pets are welcome to accompany you to the village, but are not allowed in the buildings, on the train, or on the boat tours. Leashes must be no longer than six feet.

Illinois Railway Museum
Address: 7000 Olson Road, Union, Illinois 60180

Visit America’s largest railway museum! Leashed pets are allowed throughout the grounds and in the barn buildings, but not in the diner or aboard the trains.

Little River Railroad and Lumber Company
Address: 7747 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, Tennessee 37882

Preserving the history of the Little River Railroad and Little River Lumber Companies, this site includes a museum with several outdoor exhibits. Well-behaved, leashed pets are welcome on the grounds, and small pets may be carried through the museum.

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum
Address: 58 Fore Street, Portland, Maine 04101

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is dedicated to the preservation and operation of Maine’s two-foot gauge railway equipment. Here you can purchase a train ticket, which includes both a self-guided tour of the museum and a scenic waterfront train ride. Advanced reservations are not required for the leisurely, 35-minute ride along the Eastern Promenade of Casco Bay. The small museum features exhibits, several historic rail cars, activities for children, and a unique gift shop.

Leashed pets are welcome to join you as you tour the grounds and ride the train, but are not allowed inside the buildings.

Monticello Railway Museum
Address: 992 Iron Horse Place, Monticello, IL 61856

Walk through the museum cars and view many pieces of rolling stock at this museum. Visit the gift shop, and on weekends from May through October, train rides are available on Saturdays and Sundays. Pets are welcome and can ride the train as long as they are well-mannered and leashed.

National New York Central Railroad Museum
Address: 721 S. Main Street, Elkhart, Indiana 46516

Providing a chronicle of the history of the New York Central Railroad, view the museum’s impressive collection of rolling stock. Leashed pets are invited to explore the grounds with you, but are not allowed in the buildings.

Railway and Forestry Museum
Address: 850 River Road, Prince George, British Columbia V2L 5S8 Canada

This museum boasts one of the largest vintage rail collections in British Columbia with artifacts dating back to 1899. Leashed, friendly pets are welcome to explore the grounds, but are not permitted inside the buildings.

Sioux City Railroad Museum
Address: 3400 Sioux River Road, Sioux City, Iowa 51109

This complex was originally built in 1917 to service the locomotives and freight cars of the Milwaukee Railroad. The site now consists of 31.5 acres and six buildings, including a six-stall roundhouse and working turntable. Leashed pets are welcome to explore the grounds with you.

Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum
Address: Sheepscot Station, Alna, Maine 04535

Learn about the railway systems and equipment that operated in the Sheepscot Valley. Interpretive displays, an impressive collection of artifacts, and exhibits are educational and entertaining. Leashed pets are welcome on the grounds, but are not permitted to ride the train.

If you find riding old trains more exciting than looking at them, check out our recent blog post on pet-friendly scenic train rides.

Dogs and road trips go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind in your fur, sniffing all the new scents, and sharing some fantastic new memories along the way.

Now, imagine you’re planning a tour of America, but can only visit one pet-friendly attraction in each state. How would you choose a single destination that welcomes pets and speaks to the unique attributes that state has to offer?

That was our challenge this year and, at the half-way point of this 15,000-mile pet-friendly tour of the country, we’re having even more fun than we expected! It all started back in February in Carmel, CA, when we took Buster and Ty to the spectacular dog beach for a romp in the surf and some sweet California sunshine.

From there, our route took us across the southern United States, to some of the most memorable and magnificent places this country has to offer. We hiked along the south rim at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, watched the sunset at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, and took the boys on their first canoeing adventure on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas!

We played at one of the biggest off-leash dog parks in the country in Tennessee, cruised down the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, and hit another fantastic dog beach in Florida before starting up the east coast.

You can’t help but be immersed in history when visiting places like Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Not only are these stewards preserving our country’s heritage, they’re doing it in the most beautiful ways and making them accessible – even to those of us traveling with pets!

Between the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Central Park in Manhattan, and Boston’s Freedom Trail, we did a fair amount of urban hiking, and enjoyed thoroughly exploring these national treasures before continuing on to New England.

And what better way to immerse yourself in the culture of New England than by visiting Mystic Seaport, a 19th-century seafaring village replicated on the banks of the Mystic River in Connecticut? To see how the other half lived, we took a stroll along the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island and admired the “summer cottages” built between 1850 and 1900 by some of the country’s wealthiest families.

But, man holds no candle to Mother Nature when it comes to creating real beauty, and Acadia National Park in Maine is one place where you and your dog can fully appreciate her talents.

Acadia was stop #25 of 49 on our tour, and there’s still so much to look forward to! From Dog Mountain in Vermont, to Mackinac Island in Michigan, to South Dakota’s Black Hills, the spectacular Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and ending in Portland, Oregon … it’s possible that the best is yet to come!

For more information on all the attractions we’ve visited thus far, and those on our upcoming itinerary, please visit our GoPetFriendly.com blog. We hope you’ll travel along with us vicariously, and perhaps be inspired to get out and make some #pawsomememories of your own!

After more than seven years in the motorhome, Ty and Buster have acclimated to nearly every aspect of full-time travel. They love sniffing all the smells in each new campground, have a ball exploring the town and trails where we walk, and know that when we buckle them into their safety harnesses that we’re off again on a new adventure.

The one thing that we haven’t been able to help them overcome is their fear of other dogs. Ty was attacked at a dog park when he was 6 months old, and has not trusted other dogs since then. Buster found us as a stray when he was about a year old, and has been uncomfortable around other dogs right from the beginning. My hunch is that he spent the first year of his life in someone’s backyard and didn’t learn dog body language in those formative weeks of his puppyhood.

Training has helped the boys learn to tolerate other dogs from a distance, and that distance has declined (slowly) over the years. But this fear is not something that’s easy to overcome, and it can make traveling with our dogs a bit more challenging.

One of our biggest irritations is when an off-leash dog runs up to Ty and Buster, because whether the other dog is friendly or not, he’s terrifying to our dogs. So, in an effort to get the other dog to move away, Ty and Buster will bark and lunge – not because they’re spoiling for a fight, because they don’t want to be forced to interact.

Now, lest you think this is turning into an article bashing off-leash dogs … it’s not. My life’s purpose is to identify and tell others about pet-friendly places, and if those places allow dogs to play off-leash – even better! Dog parks and leash-free beaches are great for pups who love to socialize with their own kind. And, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those dogs who can take advantage of off-leash trails for hiking, I’m truly envious.

Even finding off-leash dogs in places where leashes are required doesn’t get my hackles up, as long as those dogs are well-trained and respond to their owner’s command the first time it is given. The problem arises when dogs – even the friendly ones – are off leash and not under the voice control of their owners.

Seeing a dog charging toward you with the owner running behind calling, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” is not a comfortable feeling for a human being or dog! And for dogs who are trying hard to trust their people to keep them safe from unwanted canine advances, it’s devastating.

What’s worse is that we’ve been told that we shouldn’t have our “aggressive” dogs out in public if they can’t tolerate being approached by other dogs. These people seem to think their dogs are “just being dogs,” and are not concerned how their rude behavior impacts anyone else.

So, what can you do if your dog is fearful like ours? We have a few suggestions:

1. Avoid places where pets are known to gather off-leash, like dog parks and off-leash beaches.
2. Work at desensitizing your dog to the presence of other dogs through training.
3. Carry treats to help distract your dog when other dogs are closer than they’d prefer.
4. You are your dog’s best advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask people to leash their dog while you pass, or decline a request to have another dog meet yours.
5. Remember that your dog’s behavior shouldn’t embarrass you. Reactivity is an especially difficult behavioral challenge to overcome. Some dogs may never be comfortable in the company of other dogs, so celebrate small improvements, and don’t beat yourself up if your dog’s progress is slow.

And, to those people blessed with dogs without these challenges, I know my dog’s behavior is not your problem, but with a little compassion, you could be part of the solution!

Here are some ways we could really use your help:

1. Only let your dog off-leash when in public in designated “leash-free” areas, or if they are under voice control. (This means they are never out of your sight and respond immediately when given a command such as “leave it” or “come.”)
2. If you meet a leashed dog when yours is not leashed, ask your dog to come to you and wait quietly while the other dog passes.
3. Understand that reactive dogs are not aggressive – they just want their space.
4. Keep in mind that the challenges some dogs and their owners face are beyond your imagination. They’re working to overcome those circumstances, and a smile or word of encouragement goes a long way.

If you’d like more information about our pet friendly travels with Ty and Buster, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.

The dog days of summer have arrived, and in many parts of the country the temperatures are soaring. If you and your pets are looking for a vacation destination where you can beat the heat, we’ve done the paws-on-the-ground research and have a few suggestions!

Anacortes, Washington

Anacortes sits in the most northwestern corner of the continental U.S., and is best known for its popular marina and ferry service to the San Juan Islands. Daytime highs in the summer rarely reach the mid-80s, and there is a fantastic selection of RV park options near town and on Whidbey Island to the south.

The list of things to do here is never-ending, with scenic drives, hiking, boating, wildlife watching, interesting shopping, and lively eateries. The ferries to the San Juans are pet friendly, as is Deception Pass State Park, with its spectacular views and 38 miles of trails.

Banff, Alberta

Driving with your pets across the border to Canada isn’t as complicated as you might imagine, and Banff is one of our favorite pet-friendly destinations! High in the Canadian Rockies, temperatures may reach into the 80s on a summer day, but the evenings cool off nicely, and there are plenty of good RV park options in the area.

Situated inside one of Canada’s most popular national parks, primary activities here revolve around enjoying the spectacular scenery and catching glimpses of the abundant wildlife.

Bar Harbor, Maine

On the rugged Atlantic shore, Bar Harbor enjoys glorious weather during the summer, and this is a perfect place to explore the outdoors with your pet! National Parks have a reputation for not being very pet friendly, but that’s not true at Acadia. Dogs are welcome on almost all of the 120 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in the park and in most of the public areas.

The RV park options are plentiful, with pet friendly campgrounds in the national park and many private options closer to town. If you prefer Mother Nature with a side of civilization, spend your days in the park and your evenings in pet-friendly Bar Harbor!

Carmel, California

Famous for having one of the best beaches in the country, Carmel is loaded with pet-friendly inns, high-end shopping, and excellent restaurants – many that welcome pets on the patio. There are several good RV park options nearby, and the breezes off the Pacific keep temperatures lovely all summer.

Dogs are welcome to romp off-leash in the surf and sand on the city’s main beach, as long as they respond to voice commands. If your pup isn’t a social butterfly, enjoy views of the beach from the Scenic Bluff Path, and make your way to Carmel River Beach, where leashed pets are welcome.

Telluride, Colorado

This beautiful Victorian town is tucked in the back of a box canyon high in the Rocky Mountains. With its elevation of 8,750 feet, humidity is non-existent here, and jackets at night are comfortable – even during the peak of summer.

There’s a very popular Forest Service campground near Telluride, but we prefer traveling a bit further to Ridgeway State Park, where many sites are located with a view of the lake. While you’re in Telluride, don’t miss the free, pet-friendly gondola. Operating during summer and winter, its pet-friendly cars are marked with a sticker in the front window. Birds, dogs and cats are all welcome to enjoy the views – so long as they’re on a leash or in a carrier.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

You may be surprised to see a location in the southwest make this list, but its elevation of 7,200 feet keeps Santa Fe quite comfortable in the summer. And, if the city gets a little sticky, you can take a drive up to the Santa Fe National Forest, where we found snow at the end of May!

The area has a nice selection of RV parks, from full-service resorts to camping in the national forest, and you’ll find plenty to do with your pets. If you like urban hiking, this is a great place to enjoy the hip hangouts in The Railyard, the beautiful, shady Plaza, and the many galleries on Canyon Road.

I hope these ideas help you make a dash for cooler locales with your best travel buddy. If you’d like more information about our pet-friendly travels with Ty and Buster, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.

A question we get a lot from people planning pet-friendly vacations is, “What are the requirements when driving across the border to Canada with a pet?” Navigating the regulations and insuring a safe journey for your pets can be intimidating until you’ve done it a few times. But with these tips your Canadian adventure can be worry-free.

Required Documents

No quarantine period is required when traveling into Canada with your pets, but you must have a current rabies certificate for each dog and cat (older than 3 months) that is crossing the border with you.

The rabies vaccination certificates must be written in either English or French and be signed by a licensed veterinarian. The certificates must include identifying information, such as the breed, color, and weight of your pet. Finally, the form must state that your pet is vaccinated against rabies, indicate the date the vaccination took place, the trade name and the serial number of the licensed vaccine, and specify the duration of immunity. If no duration is stated, the certificate will only be considered valid for one year from the date of vaccination.

Assuming your pet is in good health, there is no need to get a health certificate prior to your travels. However, if you have an older pet or one that has a medical condition and may not appear well on visual inspection, it’s a good idea to have a health certificate stating that he or she does not have a contagious illness.

When returning to the United States, you’ll also need to have these documents with you. However, unvaccinated puppies and kittens are not allowed across the border into the U.S., and young pets who’ve just had their first rabies vaccination must wait 30 days from the date of that vaccination to enter the U.S. Any exceptions to this regulation must be pre-approved by the Centers for Disease Control.

While agents may not ask to see your documentation every time, it’s not wise to take that chance. Both governments make it very clear that they can and will refuse entry to any animal that does not meet their requirements.

Food and Treats

Pet owners traveling from the U.S. to Canada are allowed to bring up to 44 pounds of pet food as long as all of the following requirements are met:

  • The product must be of United States origin and be sealed in its original packaging.
  • Both the product and the pet must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the U.S.
  • The imported product must be fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada.

Breed Bans

The biggest obstacle in traveling to Canada relates to the breed-specific laws that have been enacted there. Pit bulls, and any mixes thereof, are banned from the entire province of Ontario as well as the city of Montreal. These laws allow authorities to seize and euthanize any dog deemed to be a “pit-bull” type, based on an officer’s visual inspection.

Though it’s extreme, it is important that you understand these statutes, because there are no exceptions for tourists traveling with their pets. If you have a pit bull, pit mix, or a dog that could possibly be mistaken for a pit bull, avoiding Ontario and Montreal is the safest choice.

For more tips and ideas for traveling with your pets, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.

Traveling with our pets means taking their needs into consideration in every aspect of our planning – including what we’d do in an emergency. We’ve all seen the nightmare photos of an RV on fire, and we know that preparation is the key to ensuring everyone gets out of that situation safely. So, now it is time to review your family’s emergency RV evacuation plan!

The first step is to identify all possible exits. The National Fire Protection Association requires that RVs have emergency escape windows, and everyone who travels with you should be made aware of their locations and how to they operate. It’s a good idea to open these exits on a regular basis to be sure that everything is in working condition.

Next you’ll want to consider the practical aspects of getting yourself and your pets out of each exit. Every family and RV combination is unique, so your plan needs to be customized to fit your circumstances.

Important considerations when formulating your escape plan:

  • Getting everybody out of the RV quickly and in an orderly fashion is your top priority. Time is your biggest enemy in a fire – an RV can fill with smoke in as little as one minute.
  • Escape plans need to address each individual in the RV – accommodations may be required for children, elderly family members, and pets.
  • Escape plans for the front and rear of the RV are necessary.
  • Practice your plan and make sure each person understands their duties when it comes to assisting others.
  • Designate a meeting place outside where everybody will meet immediately after exiting the RV.
  • When everybody is safely out of the RV call 911 for help.

Based on these considerations, below is what we’ve decided is the best way to get out of our Itasca Meridian in a hurry.

If we had access to the entry door of our motorhome:

If a fire started in the back of the motor home and we had access to the entry door beside the passenger seat, we’d simply grab our pre-packed “go bag,” the dogs’ leashes, which are also kept by the door, and get out.

If we did not have access to the entry door of our motorhome:

If, for some reason, our entry door was not operational – perhaps a tree fell on that side of the coach, or the coach was on its side – we’d use one of the windows in the front of the RV to escape. Our plan is for Rod to go out first and help me get Buster and Ty out, before helping me to the ground.

If a fire started during the night, or we didn’t have access to the front of our RV, we’d be limited to the bedroom emergency exit. This window pushes out from the bottom and is hinged at the top – and it’s heavy! We found an old mop handle that was just the right length to prop the window open and we keep it next to the bed.

Our plan for going out the bedroom window quickly goes like this: As soon as the smoke detector wakes us, Rod opens and props the window, grabs the spare set of RV door and compartment keys we keep in the drawer directly under the window, and climbs down. While he’s doing that, I gather the dogs and get them up on the bed.

At this point in your plan development, it’s a good idea to open your emergency escapes and have a look down. For us, that is between a 7- and 7.5-foot drop. Ty and Buster are unlikely to go happily out that window, so we’ve come up with a couple of ideas to help get the boys out quickly.

Ty is small enough to fit in a pillowcase, which I can grab off the bed, pop him into, and lower him to Rod on the ground.

Buster, at 80 pounds, is too big for the pillowcase, but the wood cover on the fuse panel at the foot of our bed makes a good bridge between the mattress and the cabinet under the window. From the bed, I’d get buster to walk across that panel and, with Rod below, we’d help him to the ground and I’d follow behind.

One weakness of our plan is that we keep our “go bag” in the front of the RV, since that’s where we spend the majority of our time. If we did need to escape from the back of the coach, we may not be able to reach the “go bag” in time – and certainly anyone that has gotten out of a burning RV should never go back inside to retrieve any possessions!

This plan may not be perfect, but it’s 110% better than having no plan at all. If you have any suggestions, or want to share your ideas for evacuating your RV in an emergency, please leave a comment below!

If you’ve been traveling with pets for a while, you’ve likely discovered that most of our national parks are not particularly pet friendly. There are a handful of exceptions. But, for the most part, pets are granted very little access to some of our most popular vacation destinations.

When you consider the National Park Service’s mission to conserve the land, plants, and animals within their boundaries, their restrictions are more understandable. With conservation as the primary motivation, their policies are designed to limit the impact of all outside forces on the natural environment.

Luckily, the National Forest Service has a multi-use directive to balance recreation, sustained harvesting of resources, environmental and wildlife protection, and conservation. This translates into much more welcoming pet policies!

Generally, leashed pets are welcome on all trails at all national forests across the country, and it’s rare that you’ll find a national park without a national forest nearby. That’s great news for you and your pup if your pet-friendly vacation plans include some spectacular hiking options!

When visiting national parks with Ty and Buster, we alternate days in the park where dogs are restricted, with days doing things that are more fun for the boys.

Here are some examples of our favorite national forest alternatives:

Black Hills National Forest when Visiting Badlands or Wind Cave National Parks

There’s nothing quite like the beauty of the Black Hills, and there are some great pet-friendly options to explore near Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks. Custer State Park offers some fantastic hiking options, but if that’s not enough, head over to Black Hills National Forest.

Spanning the border between southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, Black Hills National Forest covers over 1.25 million acres. Comprised predominately of ponderosa pine forests and grassland prairie, it’s a place where time seems to stand still.

Bridger-Teton National Forest when Visiting Grand Teton National Park

Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, and Shoshone National Forests are all within easy striking distance of Grand Teton National Park, so your pet friendly exploration options are virtually unlimited. Our favorite adventures with the dogs include walking from downtown Jackson to the top of Snow King for a great view of the valley, a three-mile hike up to sparkling Goodwin Lake, and a day spent hanging out in Atherton Creek campground.

Dixie National Forest when Visiting Bryce or Zion National Parks

Situated between Bryce and Zion National Parks, Dixie National Forest spreads across almost two million acres in southern Utah. Hiking here is a dream, with trails to meet every ability level. We chose a 5-miler out of Red Canyon and were rewarded with an absolutely perfect afternoon among the hoodoos with the boys.

Gallatin National Forest when Visiting Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is virtually surrounded by national forests, and you’ll find some absolutely stunning scenery along these routes. Two of our favorite areas are Paradise Valley, north of the park, and Gallatin River Canyon, west of Yellowstone – both in the Gallatin National Forest.

The Yellowstone River flows out the north border of the park, through the village of Gardiner, and up Paradise Valley to the town of Livingston. This spectacular river valley, flanked by the Absaroka Range to the east and the Gallatin Range to the west, offers world-class fishing, fantastic hiking, and stunning scenery.

From West Yellowstone, Hwy 191 takes you through Gallatin Canyon, where the milky-blue Gallatin River rushes over rocks that have been worn smooth. Turn-outs, campgrounds, and picnic areas are scattered along the river, so plan to take your time and soak up the beauty of this place.

I hope that the next time you encounter pet policies that seem to be holding you back you’ll remember this article and look for more accommodation opportunities nearby. If you’d like more information about our pet friendly travel with Ty and Buster, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.

Summer is here and it’s time to jump in your Winnebago and hit the road! Today we’re sharing our thoughts on this question we recently received on our Facebook page:

“Would you write something about leaving pets safely in an RV while you’re out & about? What do you do about temperature, air, and safety for both short & longer timeframes?”

The heat has already reached unbearable levels in many parts of the country, and we all know that leaving pets in hot cars puts their lives in danger. Is it the same when you’re in an RV? Yes and no …

If you’re planning to leave your pets alone in your rig while it’s parked in a campground, you’ll first need to make sure that your pets will not disturb your neighbors while you’re away. Also, some campgrounds have rules prohibiting pets from being left unattended, even inside your coach – likely due to bad experiences with dogs “serenading” the other guests. So, be sure you know the policies when you make your reservations. Of course, Ty and Buster would never do such a thing – just look at those innocent faces!

If both of those conditions are squared away, the next thing to consider is the weather. Regulating the temperature in an RV is easier than in a car, but it can still get uncomfortably – or even dangerously – hot for pets. Lowering all your shades to block the sun, opening windows, turning on ceiling ventilation fans, and providing plenty of water will help, but may not do enough to ensure a safe environment.

Unfortunately, there is no set temperature that one can bank on to be safe for their pets – it depends on humidity, air movement, if you’re parked in the sun or shade, and on your pet’s health. Even his breed can affect his ability to keep cool. Short-faced breeds, like pugs and Shar-pei, are known to be affected more by the heat.

When the temperatures are warm enough that you’d need to rely on air conditioning to keep your pets safe, think twice about leaving them. Pop-up thunderstorms, electrical surges, and even careless neighbors can cut off the shore power to your RV. If you’re planning a day trip, take your pets along! If the plans you’ve made don’t allow you to include your pets, consider a pet sitter or doggy daycare facility where they can spend the day. You may even find fellow campers who are willing to trade pet sitting favors!

For a quick run to the grocery store, or similar short trips, leave your cell phone number with the office staff and ask them to notify you immediately if any problems arise with power in the park. Another option is to use use a monitor that sends text and email alerts if the temperature in the RV goes outside the range designated. Of course, with either of these warning systems, you must be close enough to your coach to get back before the inside temperature rises to a dangerous level.

Basically, it comes down to this: If there is any question as to whether your pets will be comfortable alone in your RV, please don’t leave them. Nothing is so important that it’s worth endangering a pet’s life. You may just have to sit and stay (with the air conditioning on), while someone else fetches.

How pet friendly is Asheville? So pet friendly that you’ll need to sit down and prioritize which of the many attractions you’ll have time to visit during your vacation.

Luckily, the Dog City, USA welcome center at The Dog Door (1 Battle Square) offers the perfect place to do just that! With fresh water, a dog exercise area, and information about local, pet-friendly restaurants, accommodations and activities, you should make the welcome center your first stop.

While you’re there, you can shop for toys and accessories, including tools (no-pull harnesses, anxiety treatments, etc.) to make vacations with your pet more enjoyable for both of you.

Of course, the Dog Door isn’t the only place to spoil your pet. In fact, you may start to wonder if Asheville has more stores selling goods for pets than for people! Check out Treasured Pets (5 Regent Park Boulevard), Asheville Pet Supply (1451 N Merrimon Avenue), The Tail Gait Market (328 New Leicester Hwy), Funky Mutt (30 N Lexington Avenue), and Three Dog Bakery (21 Battery Park), just for starters.

Once your pup is rocking his new collar or bandana, it’s time to do a little shopping for yourself. The Asheville Outlets (800 Brevard Road) allow pets to stroll the outdoor shopping area with their people, and there is a pet relief station behind the West Elm outlet store.

The Outlets are only a few miles from the area’s best-known attraction, the Biltmore Estate (1 Approach Road)—a 250-room, French-inspired chateau built for George Vanderbilt II.

The largest privately owned home in the country, Biltmore has impressive grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also planned New York’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park). The gardens and grounds cover 8,000 acres and are pet friendly, though only service animals are allowed inside the house. If your dog doesn’t object, Biltmore offers a limited number of outdoor kennels where your pet can wait while you tour the mansion.

Another can’t-miss destination is the North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way). Only service dogs are allowed inside the buildings and the Bonsai Exhibition Garden, but with 10 miles of trails to explore, you won’t run out of beauty to admire with your pet.

If you and your pooch prefer less-manicured scenery, check out the trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Leashed pets are welcome, and the Craggy Gardens section in particular has many unusual plant species. But you can also find other trails that suit you and your dog by downloading maps from the visitor website.

If you like cold beer and your pup is happy to tag along, stop by the Sierra Nevada Brewery. Start out on the mile-long hiking trail, and then head to the back patio, which offers a variety of seating areas, lawn games (like corn hole and bocce), and live music – in addition to food and beer.

Townie pets will enjoy the Asheville Urban Trail (Pack Place), a short, self-guided tour of downtown historic sites. This tour will take you by The Grove Arcade (1 Page Avenue). Pets are not allowed inside the arcade, but you’ll find pet-friendly outdoor seating at Carmel’s Restaurant and Bar. The Arcade is also where you’ll find the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, where dogs eat and drink for free at the Espresso Dog Bar!

It might take less time to list restaurants that do not allow pets on their patio than those that do. If you see outdoor seating, it’s worth stopping in to ask if your pet is welcome to join you there. For a small city, Asheville has options to suit anyone’s tastes – from vegan fare at Plant (165 Merrimon Avenue), to barbecue at 12 Bones Smokehouse (5 Foundy Street). There’s no excuse to go hungry!

By now, you probably realize that you’ll need a long weekend or more to get the most out of your Asheville vacation. Two RV parks, Asheville Bear Creek RV Park (81 S Bear Creek Road) and Taps RV Park (1325 Tunnel Road), let you stay close to everything. Or take a break from your rig at one of Asheville’s many pet-friendly hotels or inns. For example, 1900 Inn on Montford (296 Montford Avenue) has pet-friendly rooms in their carriage house with access to their own private gardens, and many of the chain hotels and motels offer pet-friendly lodging.

Did we miss anything? Leave your suggestions for pet-friendly things to do and see in Asheville below!

We need to talk about something that really gets my hackles up … companies that say they will help you register your pet as an emotional support animal so you can “travel with them anywhere in just two minutes.”

Perhaps you’ve seen ads like this on the Internet or in your Facebook feed:

Identifying information for this unscrupulous company was removed.

First, let’s get a few definitions out of the way:

  • A service animal means any dog or miniature horse that has been trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button. Service animals are permitted access to all public facilities and accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • While emotional support animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These animals may help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks. Having a doctor’s note does not transform an emotional support animal into a service animal, and emotional support animals are afforded special access only under the Fair Housing Act when their presence would otherwise be prohibited in a residence.
  • Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, like hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions. Therapy animals are not allowed any special access, unless agreed to in advance by the facility.

The nuances between service animals and emotional support animals are not well understood, and questioning those needing an assistance animal can be delicate. Unfortunately, those two factors combined result in a lot of abuse of the system.

So, what’s wrong with these companies offering to register your pet as an emotional support animal?

First, the ad implies that once he’s registered your pet will be able to go with you anywhere, with no fees – just like a service animal. That’s absolutely incorrect. The ADA does not apply to people with emotional support animals. And falsely claiming that your pet is a service animal is a federal offense. Many states also have laws against it.

Second, it’s a scam. There is no universally recognized registration system for service animals or emotional support animals. Further, the law is very specific that service animals do not require any form of identification. Some people requiring assistance animals choose not to be identified as “disabled,” and therefore prefer not to use a special vest or credentials.

Establishing a comfort animal as an emotional support animal requires only a letter of prescription from a licensed medical professional who has completed an examination, determined the person’s condition to be debilitating, and states that a support animal will alleviate the symptoms.

However, be aware that there are only two protections afforded to emotional support animals: They can live with their owners in housing where pets are otherwise not allowed; and they can accompany their people in the cabin of an aircraft. That’s it. These animals are not allowed to go into restaurants, grocery stores, or anywhere else that pets cannot go.

Finally, by exploiting the public’s ignorance about the requirements and protections afforded to emotional support animals, these companies enable their customers (perhaps unwittingly) to take advantage of business owners who are uninformed about the laws. Faking that your pet is a service or emotional support animal raises the suspicion business proprietors cast on people with actual disabilities who are just trying to live their lives.

If you are not blind or deaf, if you are not confined to a wheelchair, if you’re not suffering from seizures, diabetes, or a debilitating emotional condition that cuts you off from the rest of the world, why would you even consider making life more challenging for the people who are?

Use GoPetFriendly.com Instead

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to take Buster and Ty with me everywhere I go. It’s the whole reason we started GoPetFriendly.com in the first place! We wanted to make it easy for all of us to find pet friendly campgrounds, restaurants that welcome dogs on the patio, and fun activities like wineries, beaches, hiking trails, and shopping centers that we can enjoy together. We’ve been traveling full time for more than seven years, and we still haven’t seen it all – so there’s plenty to do with your pets when you’re playing by the rules.


Where can you take your urbane dog for sophisticated fun while still getting a chance to feel the sand between your paws? Why Charleston, South Carolina, of course!

There’s a reason Charleston was voted the 2016 Best City For Pet Travelers at GoPetFriendly.com – this historic, low-country town it’s packed with pet-friendly attractions, hotels, and restaurants.

One of the best things about Charleston is that the downtown is compact and many attractions are walkable. In fact, one of the best ways to explore is to take one of the walking tours available to history buffs, architecture fans, and even ghost hunters.

Free Tours By Foot (107 Ashley Avenue) allows well-behaved dogs to accompany their people on history and architecture tours. And you can’t beat the price—pay what you wish.

The Ghost and Graveyard Tours and Dark Side of Charleston Tours offered by Bulldog Tours (18 Anson Street) are also pet-friendly. Perhaps your pup will sense a ghostly presence … even if you don’t.

If you visit Charleston during the humid summer, small dogs (lap-sized) may enjoy Doin’ The Charleston (375 Meeting Street), a 90-minute, air-conditioned bus tour with a video display. During quiet periods they may allow larger dogs on the tour, but call ahead to check availability.

Small dogs are also allowed on daily sails of the Schooner Pride (360 Concord Street).

But if you want to enjoy seeing Charleston by water with your large dog, you can’t beat the Charleston Water Taxi (10 Wharfside Street). Dogs of any size ride free and humans can buy a $10 pass, which allows them to get on and off the taxi all day. You’ll enjoy great views and probably spot some of the friendly dolphins who make their homes in Charleston harbor.

If you need a little retail therapy, King Street in Charleston has gone to the dogs. You’ll find water dishes outside many shops and some store staff holding treats under the counter. Duck in and ask if your pet can join you inside – you’ll be surprised at how many say, “Yes!”

While there, you’ll find a number of restaurants with pet-friendly patios, such as Kitchen 208 (208 King Street).

But you’ll find other pet-friendly options all over town, such as Fuel Cantina (211 Rutledge Avenue). You can even enjoy fine dining at Circa 1886 (149 Wentworth Street). If you see an outdoor patio, it’s worth asking if your pet is welcome.

A short drive from downtown Charleston lets you enjoy the playful and pet-friendly backyard of The Barrel (1859 Folly Road). With games, live music, over 30 brews on tap and different food trucks, both humans and pups will have a blast. Just don’t let your pooch take off with the corn hole bean bags.

If there’s any time left, head out to some of the nearby beaches that are pet-friendly, such as Front Beach at Isle of Palms (Ocean Boulevard from 10th Avenue to 14th Avenue) or Folly Beach (Near Hwy 171).

Beaches have some seasonal and daily restrictions on pets so check the town websites before your visits to make sure you’re obeying the rules.

During the hottest part of the day, you’ll enjoy touring the beautiful gardens of Magnolia Plantation (3550 Ashley River Road). The oldest public gardens in the country, Magnolia allows pets on nearly all guided tours, including the nature tram.

Perhaps the most unusual pet-friendly site in Charleston is Wild Blue Ropes (1595 Highland Avenue), an adventure and ropes course. Dogs are not allowed on the ropes course but are welcome on the grounds and in the picnic areas. You’ll not have a better people watching anywhere!

Charleston has so many pet-friendly activities, you could easily spend a week and not see them all. Check out Top Eleven Dog-Friendly Things To Do in Charleston or search the Pet-Friendly Road Trip Planner at GoPetFriendly.com to pick the perfect place to stay during your visit.