April 11 is National Pet Day—a nice time to think about adopting a pet or volunteering at a local animal shelter. Of course, you could also observe the day by shamelessly spoiling the critter in your own life, and planning a whirlwind dog-friendly vacation for the two of you to California.
According to the American Pet Products Association, about 37 percent of pet owners travel with their four-footed friends each year. The Golden State is especially dog-friendly, whether your pooch likes to frolic in the waves or breathe in mountain air. “The fabulous weather in California is ideal year-round for dog owners to get outside with their pets,” says Erin Ballinger, Destinations Editor for pet travel site and app BringFido.com. “Californians have a really laid-back attitude in general, and that applies to their acceptance of pets, too. Allowing dogs is pretty much the norm in California.”
No doubt, there are many dog beaches dotting the California coastline, and the state park system includes countless dog-friendly trails. But dogs can go to plenty of traditionally human attractions, too, which BringFido lists in great detail. Check out The Frenchie Winery in St. Helena, which Ballinger calls “Napa Valley's first dog winery. In addition to barrels serving water on tap, the outdoor tasting room has five enclosed beds where your dog can rest while you tour the winery.”
At the Venus de Fido day spa in Palm Desert, you can get a spa treatment while your dog gets supervised play time or a grooming. And California institution In-N-Out offers a plain, salt-free “puppy patty” from their “secret menu,” which can be enjoyed to-go or on the outdoor tables.
Some dogs, however, just like the rest of us, really want the VIP treatment. City hotels and resorts in California have developed a high level of service for traveling pets—check out our list of California hotels that spoil pets. Ballinger also suggests Napa Valley’s Calistoga Ranch, where dogs can sleep on an Italian linen dog bed or book a “bacon scavenger hunt” on the hotel grounds.
At the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, regular “Yappy Hours” let dogs and their human companions enjoy species-appropriate beverages and snacks on the resort’s ocean view terrace. This year’s Yappy Hour series, beginning May 16, will donate proceeds to a non-profit that connects assistance dogs with disabled veterans. “We love our furry friends and are constantly seeking ways to make their experience just as memorable as our human guests,” says Jenna Duran, the spokesperson for the Dana Point resort. The Orange County Ritz-Carlton also offers a dog walking trail map and a Posh Pooch Experience, which includes a plush doggie bed, toys, treats, custom-designed water bowls, and a special doggie menu.
Indeed, says Ballinger, “dogs have it made in California.”