Are you longing to get away? Desperate for a change of scenery? Though you may need a vacation, if you have a pet, the idea of leaving Fido or Fluffy behind might be too much to bear.
So why not bring your pet along on your trip? Considering that most Americans own a pet -- nearly 40 percent of American households own at least one dog, and 34 percent have one or more cats -- many popular destinations have taken note [source: Humane Society]. A number of cities across the country are welcoming man's best friends into their beaches, parks, hotels and yes, even restaurants.
What qualifies a town as being pet friendly? It not only needs to have many hotels and restaurants that welcome furry friends, but it also has to have a lot of open space for pets (and their owners) to roam, as well as an active Humane Society and high-quality veterinarians.
HowStuffWorks has compiled a list of the most pet-friendly cities across the country. Plan a trip to one of these pet hot spots and tails are sure to start wagging.
5: Orlando, Fla.
With Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World and hundreds of other attractions, it's no wonder that the city welcomes 50 million tourists a year [source: Orlando Convention & Visitors' Bureau]. Many local accommodations and attractions also welcome their two-legged guests' four-legged companions.
Although you can't take your pet on Space Mountain (or any other ride), many of the theme parks will pet-sit for you while you enjoy the attractions. Disney has five kennels -- at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, The Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Fort Wilderness -- that cost about $15 a day. Disney is also planning a first-of-its-kind pet resort, which will feature luxury suites, grooming and a doggy day camp.
Several Orlando-area hotels are pet friendly, especially the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort. The Loews Loves Pets program gives pooches the VIP treatment, with their own special bedding, toys, treats, room service menu and walking service. Loews hotels even offer a Puppy Pager service, which will call you immediately if your pet gets into trouble.
Many of Orlando's restaurants also welcome pets. In 2006, Governor Jeb Bush passed a doggie dining law that allows pets to sit with their owners in all outdoor eating areas.
4: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Colorado's second largest city combines quaint, small-town charm with big-city culture and incredible scenery. The city's ample outdoor space is one of the reasons Colorado Springs consistently tops the lists of America's most pet-friendly cities. There are more than 10,000 acres (40 square kilometers) of public parks, including seven dedicated dog parks [source: Forbes]. Pets are also welcome at many of the city's major attractions, including the Bear Creek Nature Center and Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Red Rock Canyon has a pet-friendly trail and two dog loops where pets can roam unleashed. Another big draw is Colorado Springs' abundance of pet-centered businesses and veterinarians.
Many of the local hotels welcome pets, but one luxury resort really spoils pets -- and their owners. The five-star Broadmoor Hotel, located at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, has a spa, fitness center and championship golf course for humans; for their furry companions, the hotel offers special bedding, food bowls and a complimentary treat.
3: San Diego, Calif.
With its year-round warm climate and 70 miles (112 kilometers) of white-sand beaches, San Diego is an ideal spot to get outdoors with your pet. Many of the beaches allow animals, and at least two will even let your dog roam without a leash -- perfect if you want to play a game of Frisbee. Just a few yards away from the appropriately named Dog Beach is one of the area's pet-friendliest hotels -- Ocean Villa Inn. Many of the rooms have private patios that open out to a communal yard across from the beach.
If you love to shop but hate to leave your pets at home, the Otay Ranch Town Shopping Center has the solution. Although animals aren't allowed in the stores, the shopping center has a doggy park and offers pet-sitting for a minimal charge. Several area stores do cater to pets, however, including Paw Pleasers, a bakery specializing in doggie birthday cakes and ice cream. If your dog is in the mood for something more savory, there's Terra, a restaurant in the Hillcrest Community. The menu features puppy pizzas, gourmet sausages and peanut butter rawhide.
San Diego even has canine-themed events. Visit in the summer, and you can take in a Padres game with your best friend during the annual Dog Days of Summer event.
2: New York City
How could New York not make our list? There are almost as many activities for pets as there are for humans in this city that never sleeps.
However, if you do want to sleep at some point during your stay, you'll find no shortage of pet-friendly hotels. One hotel even offers rental pets. The Soho Grand Hotel will provide a complimentary goldfish to keep you company if you've left your own best friend at home. The Muse Hotel in the theater district offers a Pampered Pooch Package for smaller dogs. The hotel is home to what it claims is the only doggy playground in New York -- a "Canine Court" complete with its own obstacle course.
You can take your best friend along while you tour the city's attractions. New York Dog Tours offers three different doggy-and-me excursions -- to Central Park and the West Side, Midtown and Downtown. On hot summer days, dogs can cool off at the man-made swimming pond in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Your pets can even escort you on a spending spree through some of the city's most elegant department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany's.
1: Portland, Ore.
Money magazine proclaimed Portland to be North America's "Best Big City" [source: Travel Portland]. Portland could easily be termed one of the continent's "best pet cities" because of its many beautiful parks and outdoor areas where pets are free to roam. About 20 of the city's parks are off-leash, and some of them are fenced. Many of the city's most beautiful natural attractions allow pets, including the Grotto -- a 62-acre (0.25 square kilometer) Catholic shrine and botanical garden. Each July, the Grotto hosts a Blessing of the Animals. For thirsty pets, the Shemanski Fountain, located between Salmon and Main, has three low drinking basins, placed perfectly for parched pets.
The Hotel Monaco is a favorite pet hangout in Portland. When you arrive, your pet will be greeted by the Director of Pet Relations -- a friendly golden Labrador retriever named Art -- who will see to it that your four-legged VIP has an unforgettable stay. The hotel spares no expense when it comes to pet amenities, offering everything from a pet masseuse to a pet psychic.
If you're thirsty while in town, stop off for a beer at the Lucky Labrador Brewing Company, or a cup of joe at the Iron Mutt Coffee Company. Both have pet-friendly porches, and at Iron Mutt, your dog gets a free biscuit.
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