Wagging Tails & Water BowlsBy Nina Kolodij
Alexandria, Virginia is one of the country’s up-and-coming dog-friendly cities
Forget going on vacation and leaving Fido home alone. Instead, bring your fuzzy best friend along when you visit Alexandria, VA. Whether you’re in it for the chic hotels, the dining, the shopping, or the exploring, Alexandria will welcome you for a barking good time and endless paw-sibilities.
Hang your hat
If you’re on the lookout for a great place to stay that will welcome your animal companion with a smile and a belly rub, you’ve landed in the right place. The city of Alexandria boasts more than 2,000 pet-friendly rooms for rent—not including the hundreds of listings on independent vacation rental sites.
The Alexandrian, an Autograph Collection hotel, nestles into bustling King Street amid restaurants and boutiques galore. Blocks away from the waterfront, the historic building bears the name of the city’s founders, John and Philip Alexander, and fits right into the classy Old Town vibe. But don’t be fooled—the Alexandrian offers modern rooms and amenities, from high-class suites to the indoor heated pool, and it’s totally pet-friendly.
If you’re in the mood for a cozier experience, complete with a library and a fireplace, the Morrison House is a skip and a jump away. Gaze out over the Potomac River waterfront while unwinding at Hotel Indigo on Union Street, or bask in the luxury of the Kimpton Lorien Hotel and Spa or the Westin Alexandria—all more than happy to serve both you and your four-legged buddy.
Get up & go
Once you’re checked in and bags unpacked, the culture and excitement of Alexandria beg to be explored. No need to leave the hound at home! Sniff around one of the many parks and hiking trails, or opt for something a little out of the ordinary.
The Torpedo Factory Art Center was born in the early 1900s as—you guessed it—the U.S Naval Torpedo Station. After the government shut down the manufacturing of torpedoes at this plant in 1945, it was purchased by the City of Alexandria, renovated, and converted into a gallery in 1974. Now, it’s home to three floors of studios, galleries, and workshops, more than 165 artists, and the flourishing tradition of allowing dogs inside to browse with their people. Converse with creators as they work, and let your pup pick out the newest addition to your art collection.
Dogs ride free on the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Canine Cruise, departing from the Alexandria City Marina, right behind the Torpedo Factory Art Center. For 45 minutes, float a loop around the Potomac River with a posse of seafaring pooches, but make sure to buy your tickets in advance in case they sell out.
Shop ‘til you drop
There’s plenty to purchase in Alexandria, so pull out those reusable shopping bags and hit the town running—on feet or paws. Pets are welcome in more stores than you’d expect, all over the city.
Missing something? Fear not, The Dog Park boutique on King Street has you covered. The staff—many of whom are pet owners and all of whom are animal enthusiasts—are knowledgeable and thrilled to show you around the store, where you can find unique, made-in-the-USA collars, harnesses, clothes, bowls and toys, gourmet treats, beds, and more. Better yet, bring your dog in for a treat and select some pet-sy souvenirs to take home, like mugs, magnets, and greeting cards.
Finish off your shopping list with a variety of pet-friendly supermarkets, hardware, furniture, clothing, and shoe stores in Alexandria. On top of that, spend hours browsing the endlessly curious boutiques in Old Town and beyond. Among many other stores, you’ll find a spin studio and a florist that offer treat stops and a super scratch behind the ears if you’re walking by.
Get a doggie bag
Doggie menus and happy hours are par for course, especially in Old Town where it seems as though you can’t walk five feet without running into a wagging tail or a water bowl. In fact, it’s probably easier to find a restaurant where pets aren’t welcome, no matter what kind of cuisine you’re feeling at any time of day.
To partake in the exquisite Virginia seafood scene, stray no further than Vola’s Dockside Grill. Its namesake, Vola Lawson, fought bravely against racism and corruption and supported the protection of shelter animals. The restaurant honors her legacy by supporting the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter, and they welcome guests and their pups to kick back and sample the classic fare, such as blue crab dip with sharp cheddar and pimentos, the daily oyster selection, or the Chesapeake Bay fish tacos with a side of Old Bay fries. The “For the Pooch” menu lets your pup in on the fun, featuring three drool-worthy dishes: a five-ounce sirloin, beef and rice with carrots and gravy, or frozen yogurt “bones” with apple slices.
Other highly rated restaurants with doggie menus include Virtue Feed & Grain and Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Tap. Fancy something else? Try any of the pet-friendly patios throughout the city and, afterward, take a pit stop at The Dairy Godmother or Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato to share a pupsicle and satisfy that sweet tooth.
No need to beg for more vacation inspiration! Read about a couple’s trip to Alpharetta with their pampered pup.