Written by Ginger Warder, Author of “Fido’s Virginia”, for the 2020 Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide
Traveling with your pet has become more and more acceptable, and Virginia has tons of pet-friendly spots that are fun for both you and your four-legged friend! Check out a few of the most dog-loving locations in the Commonwealth to plan your next getaway with your pet.
Long summer days are perfect for exploring the Monticello Wine Trail in Virginia’s Piedmont region near Charlottesville, and Sundays are fun days for Fido. Include a stop by Keswick Vineyards for its Sunday Yappy Hour, where the fenced, off-leash dog park makes it easy for both you and your pooch to socialize. Or head to Southwest Virginia to Chateau Morrisette – literally called the winery that dogs built – where pups are welcome in the tasting room, on the restaurant balcony and in the courtyard for the winery’s free Sunday music series.
While you’re in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, pop into Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke for a little upcycle shopping and meet the human and canine stars of D.I.Y. Network’s Salvage Dawgs.
To cool off, I like to head for the water. In Alexandria, dogs ride free on the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Canine Cruise, a great way to see the city from a different perspective. Or if you’re craving sand between your toes – and paws – head to Virginia Beach. Dogs can play on the north end of Virginia Beach before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. during the summer season and are allowed on the public beaches and boardwalk at any time after Labor Day and before Memorial Day. Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore offers the Sandy Paws off-leash dog beach, as well as a beachside dog park.
Cozy Cabins for Canines
If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure with your pooch, Virginia has you covered! All of our state parks are pet-friendly, and many offer camping and other accommodations. In addition to park cabins, however, some unique hidden gems can be found all across the Commonwealth.
One of my favorite “secret” pet-friendly cabins is located in one of Virginia’s only terrace-style vineyards at Delfosse Winery in Nelson County. The chestnut log cabin — more than 100 years old — was the original tasting room and now gives overnight guests a taste of the lush vineyard scenery from the cabin’s spacious deck. Although you can’t take your pup in the tasting room, you and your leashed pal are welcome to explore the grounds. Grab a bottle of their award-winning Viognier or Petit Verdot and kick back amongst the grapes.
Located in the Meadows of Dan — about two miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwest Virginia — A Blue Ridge Haven has several Appalachian-style log cabins that welcome you and your furry family. Take advantage of nearby hiking trails, relax by the fireplace or visit popular wineries in the area.
If you need to cool off during your travels, check out the pet friendly cabins at the 1,248-acre Smith Mountain Lake State Park in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Located in Bedford County, the lake is the second largest body of freshwater in Virginia, and in addition to a wide range of water sports, the park offers hiking trails, a visitor center and an array of special programs.
Adjacent to the Mount Rogers Recreation Area — home to Virginia’s highest mountain peak — Highland Hideaways offers two charming pet-friendly cabins in an authentic country setting, with wildlife from guineas to goats roaming the property. While there are no size restrictions, the owner requests canine guests with good “company manners” who won’t disturb the other four-legged tenants.
Best Dog Walks
For history hounds – both the two-legged and four-legged species – Northern Virginia, Richmond and the Historic Triangle combine great dog walks with the rich history of our country.
Founding father George Washington was a dog lover – and the inspiration for choosing the American Foxhound as Virginia’s state dog – so it’s no surprise that his historic estate at Mount Vernon welcomes canine guests on the grounds. You and your pal can literally “smell the roses” in the four gardens on the estate, visit the animals on Pioneer Farm or take a stroll along the river and the wharf. On Saturdays in May and October, Mount Vernon offers a special guided walking tour called All the President’s Pups. The 1.25-mile tour gives detailed insight into canine life on the plantation, Washington’s great love of dogs and his breeding program to improve the quality of his hunting hounds.
Richmond is not only the capital of Virginia, but also a capital city for canines. The Valentine offers guided History Hounds tours through various city neighborhoods like Church Hill – home to Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech – and my dogs love the garden-style Hollywood Cemetery along the banks of the James River. Check out the local legend of the black cast iron dog that has guarded the Reese family for more than a century.
For a glimpse into the beginnings of our country, head to the Historic Triangle. A stroll down Colonial Williamsburg’s Duke of Gloucester Street – appropriately nicknamed Dog Street – will make you feel like a time traveler, while a stroll through the archaeological digs at Historic Jamestowne will transport you to the early days of the first permanent settlement in the New World.
If your dog is an “outward hound” who prefers mountain trails, head to Shenandoah National Park or try the challenging hike to Sharp Top at the Peaks of Otter. Take a leisurely drive down the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, where you’ll have an array of opportunities to hike portions of the Appalachian Trail or stop for a picnic at photo-worthy spots like Mabry Mill.
If your pooch prefers hiking on flatter ground, head to the Eastern Shore to Kiptopeke State Park for miles of hiking trails and a special dog beach that allows leashed pups.
Nicknamed the “mother of presidents,” Virginia offers presidential-worthy stays for its furry visitors too, from elegant urban hotels to country estates and river retreats.
In Northern Virginia, rest your paws at the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria. With no size, weight or breed restrictions, this luxury boutique hotel welcomes its visitors with pet pillows and beds, food and water bowls, and other pet perks. The hotel’s motto is “all pets that fit through the front door are welcome,” including cats, birds and even reptiles.
For Gilded Age luxury combined with stellar service and gracious Southern hospitality, you can’t go wrong with a stay at the opulent Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond. For decades, this historic Beaux Arts grand dame has been awarded both five stars and five diamonds, hosting the glitterati from presidents and movie stars to “The King of Rock and Roll.” There is no weight or size limit and the front desk always has gourmet treats on hand for their special furry guests. Need a dog walker or groomer? No problem! The concierge can arrange it for you.
Located in the heart of horse and wine country in Middleburg, the Salamander Resort & Spa not only welcomes dogs – you can even bring your horse! In fact, the estate’s mascot is a miniature horse named Cupcake, who welcomes guests for cocktails in the Living Room during happy hour on Fridays and Saturdays. This 340-acre elegant country estate features an equestrian center, luxurious spa and an array of onsite activities. Pets’ welcome amenities including comfy beds, food and water bowls and organic treats – and the resort literally rolls out the red carpet for canine guests, with a “pup-arazzi” area at the entrance for photo ops.
Relax on the Rappahannock River at the Tides Inn, where you can take a sail, play croquet on the lawn or explore the charming Northern Neck town of Irvington. A favorite summer retreat for locals, the Tides Inn’s Pampered Paws program greets four-legged guests with beds, bowls and a doggie biscuit barrel – the “pawfect” way to recharge while exploring Virginia’s River Realm.
The historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel is located in the heart of downtown Staunton within walking distance of the shops, restaurants and the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace. The beloved president grew up with a greyhound named Mountain Boy and brought his love of animals to the White House, where he kept a herd of sheep to keep the lawn trimmed. The Stonewall Jackson Hotel also loves animals and welcomes dogs with no weight or size limits to enjoy this elegantly restored 1928 gem.