The Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Cities

Vacations are adventures and there’s no better adventure companion than a pup. That’s why an increasing number of people decide to bring their pup along for the ride on the next family vacation.

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I’ve been lucky enough to visit some of the best pet-friendly cities across the country with Eko by my side. The good news is that no matter where you live there’s likely an awesome pet-friendly vacation city not too far away.

With summer vacation season getting into swing, I wanted to share a few of my favorite dog-friendly destinations. (You can find more photos/info from our trip to each city by clicking on that city’s header)

Austin, Texas 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

Our visit to Austin gave us plenty of reasons to smile

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

And there were delicious treats for all species at Decker Creek Bed and Breakfast (and Biscuit) 

Whatever your speed, Austin has a scene for you and your pup. Zilker Park features both off-leash areas and leashed walking paths. If you’re feeling bold, you can also rent a canoe with your pup at Zilker and explore the river. Or take a short ride out of the city to run on some beautiful off-leash trails.

After a day of fun, grab dinner at any one of Austin’s many pet-friendly patios on 6th Street.

San Diego, California 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

Hang twenty!

Beach bums, look no further than San Diego for the best dog-friendly vacation. We found a very reasonably priced rental house a few blocks from the dog beach. Forget walks around the block, Eko got to hit the beach three times a day.

And no, surfing with your pup is not a requirement, but it is a whole lot of fun. Wherever you visit, I also recommend looking up local event listings, that’s how Eko got to try lure coursing while in San Diego.

Charleston, South Carolina 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

Paddling for two 

Charleston is a gorgeous city to walk through. So much so that Eko and I went on walking tours both during the day and at night. In between we stayed at a beautiful pet-friendly B&B, went on a plantation tour and went for a little kayak trip up the coast.

San Francisco, California 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

Dog-park with a view

It’s tough to beat the view from San Francisco’s dog park/beach nestled in between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. When you’re done playing, hop aboard one of the famous (and dog-friendly) trolleys for a ride.

Packed with dog-friendly destinations both within the city and amazing hikes just outside it, San Francisco offers plenty of fun for a pup.

Portland, Maine 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

The food at Inn by the Sea in Maine is so good for all species that I wasn’t sure which treat was mine

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

Traveling with your dog isn’t just for the summer. Eko and I visited Maine in December and it was one of our best stops of the year

St. Louis, Missouri 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

Living like a King in St. Louis

When it comes to dog-friendly events, St. Louis can’t be beat. Both the Beggin’ Pet Parade and the St. Louis Cardinals “Pooches in the Park” are worth trips of their own. Toss in a trip to the Arch, a comfy stay at the Cheshire Inn and you have yourself a great vacation.

New Orleans, Louisiana 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

My Mardi Gras companion

Eko and I spent Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so the city was rocking. But we also stuck around afterward and really got to enjoy the quieter sides of the city too. Strutting down Bourbon Street with your pup during the day is fun, but don’t forget to check out the Garden District for some great dog-friendly dining.

Denver, Colorado 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

One day they’ll make dog-friendly tourist cut-outs for photo-ops 

Tie your shoes, adjust to the altitude and bring plenty of water. Denver is paradise for active people/dogs. Whether you prefer to stroll sprawling dog parks or want to take on a hike, Denver has it all.

Chicago, Illinois

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The Windy City will blow your hair back!

I promise I’m not playing hometown favorite on this one. Come to Chicago in the summer (definitely not the winter) to see why life is good for Second City pups. From Montrose Beach to SeaDog boat rides, Chicago has so many great destinations and activities for people and pups together.

When you visit, look for a knucklehead and two Ridgebacks at the beach and come say hi!

For the sake of keeping this post shorter than a novel, I’ll close here. But if you and your pup are making trips to Seattle, Portland, Oregon, New York City, Washington DC, Nashville or just about any other major city, there’s so much to do and see.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

 Some of the things your pup sees may confuse him

In all my travel with Eko I’ve learned two important things. One, bringing your pup along on vacation can make the trip so much more enjoyable and memorable. Two, your attitude always matters more than your destination. No matter where we went, we always found a way to have a great trip.

If you have questions about pup-friendly travel to any of the places we’ve visited, you can ask here or shoot me an email anytime at

Rhodesian Ridgeback, adventure, dog-friendly, vacation, puppy

The best adventure buddy

Last summer we didn’t get to travel much since Penny was still a bit young. This summer however I’m on the lookout for a fun road trip destination. Anyone have any suggestions for us?


Lies, and the pets who tell them

Last week I wrote about Penny’s less than truthful habit of starting trouble with Eko and then crying wolf.13.1

The phrase “Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong” comes to mind

After reading the (hilarious) comments on that post I was reminded of all the various “creative truths” our pets like to tell. Here are a few of my favorites.


1. “I’m still hungry.”

Ridgebacks and many other pups seem to come preprogrammed knowing how to tell the “still hungry” lie. Penny used to eat practically her body weight in food, but after every meal she would sit by her bowl and flash me those cute, begging, but deceitful puppy eyes. As for Eko, he’s tricked us into feeding him double breakfast on more than one occasion.


2. “I need to go out. Again.”

Here in Chicago, leaving the apartment means hooking up leashes. Under those terms, Eko only needs to go out 3-4 times a day. Our schedule is regular, but every once in a while he’ll give a whine by the door when I’m running late. The funny thing is that when we stay with Emily’s parents, who happen to have a fenced in yard, Eko all of a sudden desperately needs to go pee 12-20 times a day.


3. “It’s not what it looks like.”

It’s always what it looks like. I’ll catch Penny red-pawed doing something she shouldn’t (like sampling the Christmas tree) but she still pretends like there’s just been some huge mix-up.


4.”Nothing to see here.”

Crash. Yelp! Grooooan. These are just a few of the sounds that send me running from another room to check on the pups. When I arrive, I often find these two frozen in place, looking at me as if to ask, “Hey, wonder where those crazy sounds came from?”


5. “He did it”

A lie as old as sibling-dom itself. When in doubt, place the blame (and in this case the evidence) squarely on someone else.


6.”It wasn’t me!”

Maybe the most popular double-lie in the repertoire. Eko and Penny will both profess their unassailable innocence to some crime. Either someone is a liar or my apartment happens to be haunted by a very active ghost-dog.

All in all, I’d have to say my favorite lie is probably the lie the pups tell themselves after a scolding.


7. “I don’t know why he never believes us.”

I know my little fibbers don’t have the “truthiness” market cornered. I’d love to hear what liberties with the truth your pets try to get away with.

New Jersey, Here we Come

Emily has a week of vacation coming up so we’re getting ready to head back home to NJ for our first visit since picking up puppy Penny.16.1

While we do have half of a reindeer team in our stable, unfortunately it’s not enough to fly us all back to NJ

Em’s flying home Saturday morning, but I’m leading the ground invasion with the pups. Unfortunately the distance between Chicago and NJ hasn’t shrunk since our last trip so we’re looking at a thirteen hour car ride.


“Ha, you crack me up Will! Thirteen hours? Yeah right, tell me another joke.” 

Then I showed Penny the route on Google Maps.


“Oh no. You weren’t joking. This isn’t funny at all.” 

The weather’s ugly here in Chicago the rest of the week, but to survive thirteen hours in the car I’m going to run the pups ragged at the beach, rain or shine.


“Guys, don’t forget about me while I’m gone”


She doesn’t know it yet, but on the other side of that ride there will be plenty of smiles like this for Penny

The last time we were in NJ Penny would fall asleep on walks before we reached the end of the block. This time around I’m excited to show her all of our favorite old haunts. Should be a lot of fun, we just have to get there first!

My Favorite Dog Facial Expressions

Dogs are renowned masters of body language. Be it wagging tails or raised hackles, dog body language is easy to spot if you know what to look for. Pups also have incredible facial expressions, but they’re often tougher to spot or fleeting in duration. That’s why I love looking back through photos to catch facial subtleties I missed the first time around. It’s a rain soaked day here in Chicago so I decided to review some end-of-summer photos from the beach. 14.1

I call this one “the surveyor.” Eko’s default face as he looks over the beach


Eko’s “ohmygoshyouaresoannoying” exasperated face comes up when Penny won’t stop bugging him


I love how this photo captures both Penny’s exuberance and the other dog’s uncertainty about the nutjob on his left


The shared excitement on their faces here is great. The pose would be perfect for the poster of a buddy-cop flick


And when it comes to dog facial expressions, the crazier the tongue, the happier the pup!


An exhausted pup is a happy pup


The exact moment at which Penny realized she may have tried to turn on a bit too steep of an angle


Even from the side, a pup’s face can say it all. Can’t you just hear Penny politely begging for a treat?

The pups got in a good run yesterday, so their faces will remain happily buried in the blankets on the couch through the storm. My legs are still a bit sore from Sunday’s race so that plan suits me just fine and makes this made-for-radio face of mine smile!

Check out Eko and Penny on Instagram!

True to style, I’m crashing the party and doing it well later than I should have. I’ve meant to get an instagram account going with the pups, but I only just started posting this past week. I’m already kicking myself for not starting sooner. Instagram is a fun way to aggregate all my favorite photos in a single place.8.1

I post some of my favorite older photos


Recent photos that I particularly like


And photos like this one which I think are worth resharing


Filters are a fun way to breathe new style into photos. Eko looks even more dashing in black and white


Instagram is also the perfect place to post photo I like (such as this ridiculous one) which don’t necessarily fit into a blog post


If you have an instagram account, stop on by!

I’ve already found a few of you to follow, but if you follow our account (ekoandpenny) I’ll be sure to follow back. And if you have any good account recommendations for who I should follow just let me know.

Chicago’s Best Dog Park (That isn’t in Chicago)

Life for an active dog in Chicago is pretty good. There’s 20+ dog parks, an awesome dog beach and plenty of dog-friendly green spaces. That said, there are just some things you can’t get in a city, and a massive dog-park with acres and acres to roam is one of those things. Luckily Chicago pups need only travel about thirty minutes outside of the city to find Prairie Wolf, a 44 acre dog preserve.

Emily and I took Eko to Prairie Wolf this past winter, but since we’ve had some balmy fall weather it seemed like the perfect weekend for another visit. We brought my brother and his pup along for the adventure as well.

The first thing we saw inside Prairie WOLF Park was this friendly…direwolf? Dog?  Bear? (Side note: anyone have a guess as to what kind of dog this is? He was larger than Eko and very unique looking)

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

The second thing we saw was the dogs take off in flight. Penny was in heaven

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

Dutch was all smiles

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

As we walked the path the pups would dive into the brush looking for mischief 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

This was my view of Penny for most of the afternoon. Then I’d lose sight of her for a second, hear a rustle and…

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

Out she’d burst from the thicket

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

With Eko hot on her heels!

At one point, the trail curves out of sight. When I turned the bend just moments after the dogs had…

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

They were going absolutely crazy in this mud pit!

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

If scientists ever discover an exact formula for happiness, I’m positive a large component of it will be mud

But not to fear, Prairie Wolf also has a large lake where the pups washed off.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

Penny and a little Yellow Lab had fun playing Clash of the Puppy Titans

Of course, after all my efforts this summer to get Eko and Penny swimming they decided to just go for it on their own in the lake.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

Although it may appear Eko is smoking a stogie, that’s just a stick

So yeah, Prairie Wolf may not be in Chicago, but if you live in Chicago you absolutely must make the short trip with your dog. Come on, just look at this smile:

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, adventure, chicago, marking our territory, wolf prairie, blog

To see the pups this happy is worth every extra minute in the car, and then some

After the visit we had, you can be sure we’ll be back to Prairie Wolf soon!

[VIDEO] Teach Your Pet a Silly Trick

Nonsense, shenanigans, tomfoolery – call it what you will, but buffoonery and balderdash are my speciality. Luckily, I have a couple of pups happy to partake in the preposterous proceedings! And best of all, being silly with Eko and Penny happens to be one of the best ways to strengthen a serious bond between us.

Catch you guys next week, hope everyone has at least a dash of silly in their weekend!

[VIDEO] Behind the Scenes of a dog-friendly roadtrip

A couple weeks ago I took a stroll down nostalgia lane and talked about how this blog got its start three years ago. People have found the blog at different times so I received a number of suggestions to revisit some of the earlier content from when Eko and I traveled the country.

I haven’t looked back on those posts in the years since, so it was fun (and a bit horrifying – some of the posts are pretty brutal!) to see how far we have(n’t) come. With that in mind I’m going to periodically share some posts from the early days. Here is one of our very first videos – ah, we were so young!

Looking back does have it’s drawbacks – I’m no pro now, but my camera and editing skills were three years shoddier. And while my videography skills may have grown up, it appears Eko and I were forever and will always be knuckleheads!

Every Dog Has Its Day. And Doesn’t.

Some days the dogs and I wake up and we just have “it.” I don’t know what “it” is or where “it” comes from, but I know there’s nothing like “it.” The pups and I are on the same page, have the same energy and everything about the day clicks perfectly.
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When we have “it,” training is a breeze, walks a joy, and problems nonexistent

Ah, “it” days, there’s nothing better. Of course, for every “it” day we also have what I call “definitely-the-opposite-of-‘it'” days. On these days it seems the pups decide to completely empty out their brains and my own noggin feels the same way. Yesterday was one of those not so glorious days.


All of our loose-leash progress? Gone.

On these types of days it’s not that my dogs don’t hear me, it’s more that they just don’t care what I have to say.


“What’s that, Will? You want me to perform a basic command I know perfectly?”


“Yeah, I could do that, but instead I’m just going to completely ignore you. Cool?”

These types of “not-it” days are not confined to puppies either. Eko (aka Mr. Reliable) has his fair share of days when he decides to act like a complete punk.


The master of insolence

On these types of days, Eko will look at me with those deep eyes to make sure I get the message loud and clear, “I know exactly what you want me to do, but I’m not going to do it.”

The exuberance of “it” days is nearly matched by the frustration of “not-it” days. But you can’t win them all, so I’ve found the best policy is to know when to fold ’em and call it a day. I’m not at my best every day, so the I think the dogs are entitled to have an off day when it comes to training/attitude.


Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum with their heads stuck in Wonderland 

Today is not an “it” day but I’m also happy to report it’s not a “definitely-the-opposite-of-‘it'” day either.

Yesterday got me thinking – what do you do when your pet is having an “off” day? I generally disengage and find a good night’s sleep cures all, but I’m interested to hear how other people help their pets get out of a funk.

Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy learns an important lesson

For the past four months I have blogged about a wide number of important lessons for one Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. Today’s post is not one of those blogs. Today’s post is about an important lesson a different Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy learned with Penny’s help.

It all started like any other trip to the beach. Eko and Penny were tearing up the sand.Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

And making ridiculous faces, as usual

I turned away for a second and when I looked back I saw another Ridgeback pup accosting Penny.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

Like many knucklehead pups, this guy was over exuberant and did not heed Penny’s signals to disengage

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

Luckily my head of security rushed over to break up the scuffle

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

With Eko giving him the stink-eye, the pup trotted off

The pup’s humans apologized for the roughhousing, but I assured them I know all too well about the issue of reckless puppy playing. They kindly asked if I wanted them to move down the beach, but again I assured them. I had a feeling Penny was ready to pass on a lesson she’s still herself learning.

When Eko trotted away, the puppy darted right back to tackle Penny. This time she was ready for him!

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

Not only did Penny chase him off...
Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

She also chased him down

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

It’s fun tackling other dogs, but this guy found out it’s not so much fun when the dogs tackle back

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

Penny really let her new pal have it. You could tell his mind was blown that it was possible for another dog to push him around

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, adventure, dog beach, marking our territory

“Alright, alright, I give up! This chick is crazy!”

It was so fascinating/fun to watch the give and take between the two pups. The two romped and battled and tested each other to find the boundaries of the game. The first time Penny yelped (and Eko intervened) the other pup did not disengage. But I noticed later, after Penny made him yelp and she disengaged, the other pup started to catch on to the behavior.

The two played for the better part of a half hour and by the time we had to leave they were best friends. And Penny’s new friend left one lesson wiser – “Don’t go looking for trouble with other dogs. You might find it!”