6 Dog-tastic Destinations

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6 Dog-tastic Destinations
Dog-friendly spots worth road-tripping for

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Planning a family vacation? Cancel your kennel reservation and bring your four-footed family members along. Staff at attractions across North America are reporting more pets travelling with their humans. Here are seven must-visit destinations your dog will drool over.


Photo Friends of Dog Mountain, inc.

DOG MOUNTAIN
St. Johnsbury, Vermont
dogmt.com

Set on 150 acres on a private mountaintop, Dog Mountain is heaven on earth for canines. Four-legged visitors can run, play, hike, swim, and meet other dogs—leash free—while their owners take in the spirit-lifting artwork that is the hallmark and legacy of artist Stephen Huneck.

Huneck and his wife Gwen opened Dog Mountain in 2000. The property, covered in hiking trails and dog ponds, is home to the Stephen Huneck Gallery and the Dog Chapel, where visitors can honour pups they have loved and lost. The chapel walls are covered in photos and moving tributes to beloved dogs that have passed on, literally surrounding you with messages of love.

“Many fall in love with Dog Mountain before they have even visited,” says Ali Ide, managing director of Friends of Dog Mountain, the non-profit that now runs Dog Mountain. “Attracted by the art and message, they plan for trips to Dog Mountain with their dogs, years in advance.”

There’s magic here, as the visitors, many of them repeat, attest. “It’s a uniquely joyful experience unlike any other,” says Ide. “Visitors often tell us that their dog has just had the best day of their life. We have visitors from all over the country who return annually to have that unique bonding experience with their dogs.”


Photo Friends of Dog Mountain, inc.

 

Dog Mountain welcomes more than 30,000 people annually from all over the world. Admission is free, and the grounds can be accessed even when the gallery and chapel are closed.

Ide says they receive frequent feedback from people about feeling completely enchanted by their visit to Dog Mountain, specifically the Dog Chapel, where they are surprised by how much it moves them emotionally. She calls Dog Mountain “a unique treasure in North America that honours the healing power of dogs, nature, love, and art.”

“There is a holism to Dog Mountain,” says Ide. “The artwork; the place as a sanctuary and celebration centre for dog-human connections; a recreation resource for local and visiting dogs and people and a site for community arts-related events. Stephen perhaps said it best: ‘It is a very moving experience to see how much everyone cherishes his or her dog. Equally important is celebrating the joy of living and the bond between dogs and their owners. Dogs bring us closer to nature, and they help us live in the moment and feel unconditionally loved. They give us so much and ask for so little in return.’”

 


Photo Rita Gregory

K9 FUN ZONE
Caledonia, Ontario
k9funzone.com

Dogs and owners come to K9 Fun Zone from all over southern Ontario, Canada. Located on three acres of land an hour southwest of Toronto, the park is aptly named: it boasts a dock jumping facility with two heated above-ground saltwater pools where owners can swim with their dogs, as well as a huge area for running, a ball pit, and weekday doggy day care.

“’A guarantee of a tired pup at the end of the day, but not necessarily a clean one’ is the mantra,” says K9 Fun Zone owner Al Wright. 

 
Illustration vectormine/bigstock.com

 

Their speciality is dock jumping, a sport in which dogs jump from the 40-foot-long dock into a body of water. Participants practice distance jumping, in which the handler throws a toy to get their dog to jump as far as possible, and vertical, where dogs aim to touch a bumper that is moved higher and higher. Any breed of dog can participate, from the small (but mighty) Maltese to extra-large breeds, such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Dogs can take part in this sport casually, be registered for dock jumping classes, or join a league.

K9 Fun Zone was inspired by Wright’s first two Labrador Retrievers. “We could not keep them out of the in-ground pool,” he says. They joined the Ontario DockDogs Club and added a dock to their pool after becoming addicted to the sport. It was after Wright and his wife moved to a rural property that they finally had the space for a competition-size dock. They opened K9 Fun Zone in May 2016.

The pools are the facility’s most popular attraction, but dogs love “just getting the chance to have fun, playing with their humans and other dogs,” says Wright. “I often receive photos afterwards of dogs sound asleep—sometimes in the car on the drive home.”

 


Photo courtesy Knoebels Amusement Resort

KNOEBELS AMUSEMENT RESORT
Elysburg, Pennsylvania
knoebels.com

“There hasn’t ever been a time in our 96-year history when dogs haven’t been welcomed at the park,” says Knoebels Amusement Resort public relations director Stacy Yutko. “We are a family park, and we understand many people very much consider their pup an important member of the family.”

One of the few amusement parks in the U.S. that welcomes dogs, Knoebels—the country’s largest free-admission amusement park—opened in 1926 and features nearly 60 rides for all thrill appetites; midway games; a 900,000-gallon Crystal Pool; an onsite campground and cottages and a second campground just a few miles away (leashed pets are permitted at the campgrounds, but not the cabins); a golf course; and restaurants.

“The fact that furry family members are welcome at the park makes Knoebels an appealing place for guests who wish to vacation with the whole family,” says Yutko. Rides that permit dogs include the Pioneer Train, Ole Smokey Train, Grand Carousel chariots, S&G Merry-Go-Round chariots, antique cars, and motorboats. Water bowls are available throughout the park to make hydration breaks a breeze.

Its pet-friendly status has made Knoebels a destination for approximately 1.4 million guests per year. “Some guests will choose to visit because their furry family members need not miss out on the fun,” says Yutko. “It brings happiness not only to families who are able to bring their dogs, but also other park guests who enjoy seeing the pups enjoying the day with their families.”

Knoebels also hosts an annual fundraiser in support of animal-related causes. This year’s Doggie Dive in the Crystal Pool will be held on September 11.


Photo courtesy Canine Cantina

MUTTS CANINE CANTINA
Dallas, Fort Worth,
Allen + Austin, Texas
muttscantina.com

Your dog wants to play outside, but you have plans to meet friends for a drink. What to do? MUTTS Canine Cantina makes this dilemma a thing of the past. “I don’t have to choose between my friends and the dog if I can bring them together,” says MUTTS Canine Cantina Austin owner Lisa Ladewig.

MUTTS Canine Cantina currently has three Texas locations—Dallas, Fort Worth, and Allen—with another set to open this fall in Austin. With not one, but two off-leash parks, the brand-new facility will be a must-visit for Austin’s friendly vaccinated pets. But what really takes MUTTS to the next level is the full bar—which includes local craft beer and mixed drinks, MUTTS’ famous chicken sandwiches, fried pickles, and a dog menu featuring pupsicles and doggie dogs—and all the amenities.

“There are no other dog parks that have K9 splash pads, 15-foot LED Screens, private cabanas, special event spaces, cool and heating areas with a great menu in Austin,” says MUTTS Canine Cantina Austin owner Darrell Landers.

So, which is it? A restaurant or a dog park? It’s both, says Austin-area director Lee Ward, adding, “but we’re also a community. You’ll see a lot of the same faces every day that come in. It’s a lot of the same dogs that you’ll know, and you’ll learn the dog’s names before you learn the names of their owners.”

The parks also host events for dogs and their owners, including outdoor dog-friendly concerts with local artists and vendors and charity-related events.

 


Photo Nicole Randall

DINOSAUR WORLD
Plant City, Florida; Cave City, Kentucky; Glen Rose, Texas
dinosaurworld.com

Many dogs like to bury and dig for bones, but Dinosaur World takes it to the next level.

Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome at all three Dinosaur World locations: in Plant City, Florida; Cave City, Kentucky; and Glen Rose, Texas, where the park is located around the corner from the Dinosaur Valley State Park. In Cave City, canine guests can play archeologist and dig for cast fossils in the dig area of the theme park.

This unique experience brings many canine visitors to the Kentucky location, where Chris Randall is the park director. “We are a planned stop because of our friendliness to four-legged friends,” says Randall, who is also a dog owner. “It is a chance to stretch the legs, he says, “and take in all the neat smells of native Kentucky and maybe see a deer or turkey with the dinos.”

 

Illustration vectormine/bigstock.com

 

Dogs are part of the family, says Randall. “It is always better when they can travel with you. A lot of guests mention that they are travelling with their pets and that it was so nice to be able to experience and share their vacation with them.”

He’s often heard guests call Dinosaur World a magical place, allowing them to escape reality for a while. “When you visit Dinosaur World, you can become a child again and remember all the dreams and adventures that you had as a youth,” Randall says. “I am sure there are other cool places in North America, but I don’t know many that you can see over 150 life-sized dinosaurs with canine friends.”

 


Photo Family Drive-In

FAMILY DRIVE-IN THEATRE
Stephens City, Virginia
thefamilydi.com

When they mean that they are family-friendly, the Family Drive-In Theatre means everyone, dogs included. And as a bonus, the furriest members don’t even need a ticket.

“We are 100 percent pet friendly as long as they are on a leash,” says general manager Ronald Graham.

Those with plans to take their pooches on a movie date will find first-run movies (so your dog won’t have to wait for the latest blockbuster to be released on a subscription service). And when it’s time to stock up at the concession stand, your dog won’t be left out—the theatre offers free biscuits and treats.

The theatre holds pet events to coincide with dog- and cat-oriented movies, and has hosted fundraisers for local rescue shelters, Halloween costume competitions, and canine meetups between features.

Even with plans to upgrade their digital projection to laser light projection, the 66-year-old family-owned classic drive-in theatre is keeping nostalgia alive on its 84- and 55-foot-tall screens every weekend. Not sure what your dog’s preference in film genre is? Graham offers a hint: “Some of the most popular movies for dogs tend to be the popular cartoon or animated movies,” he says.

 

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

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