“Can I bring my dog?”
It’s an increasingly common – and awesome – refrain in the Bay Area. The weekend has arrived and the plans you make will be way more fun if Max or Bella can tag along.
Whether your best pal is a pandemic pup or been with you longer than your spouse, he or she can join in on more adventures than you might realize, from kayaking and wine tasting to riding a scenic railway. Some dogs, like kids, are really into trains.
Heck, if you’re like us, you might just load Rover in the backseat with your human kids first thing in the morning and see where the day takes you. Here are 10 totally amazing places to start.
Take a dog-friendly winery tour
Forget bring-your-dog-to-work day. In wine country, it’s all about bringing your dog along for the tasting. And dog trainer Dan Cartwright of Good Dog! Dog Training has the inside scoop.
A former marine animal trainer, Cartwright switched to canines about a decade ago when he moved to American Canyon and started working in winery tasting rooms. Through Dog-Friendly Wine Tours, he and his wife and partner, Bulah, take dog owners and their leashed, well-behaved pups to dog-welcoming wineries, like Napa’s Regusci Winery and Sonoma’s Gundlach Bundschu.
He knows, for instance, that furry friends at Rutherford’s St. Supery often receive scarves. And that Grgich Hills, also in Rutherford, almost always has dog treats. Cartwright will plan the day, pick you up at your hotel and head out on a five-hour tour that includes three or four wineries. His Toyota Sienna is stocked with a cooler, so you can bring picnic provisions. And he lets good fur babies — even huskies — ride shotgun, especially when their parents have over-imbibed. “I bring extra doggie bags for humans,” he says.
Best part? Free training tips. He once rid a golden retriever of a leash-pulling habit in the time it took the owners to drain their cabs.
Details: $75 per hour for two adults and one dog; www.dogfriendlywinetours.com
Visit a luxury dog boutique
Hound having a birthday? Treat him to a day worthy of Bruiser Woods, the chihuahua from “Legally Blonde.”
At Mishka Dog Boutique in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood, you’ll find chef-driven, meat paté-style treats enrobed in jewel-toned glazes made from freshly-squeezed organic vegetable juices. Your best pal can pick from tender jerkies, meatballs or a cake made by Mishka owner and dog whisperer Olia Rosenblatt. “Dogs are my favorite people,” she says.
A lawyer by training, Rosenblatt started making premium dog treats about eight years ago while nursing her weak Yorkie rescue back to health (she’s now 16 and thriving). In addition to the treats, which are made from turkey, beef, chicken or lamb, Rosenblatt also sells hand-knitted cardigans, tweed jackets and lux dog beds that are the envy of every Marina pooch.
And the business is expanding. This summer, Rosenblatt is moving to a larger space that will include a luxury dog spa, as well as a lounge for birthday pawties. And in June, Rosenblatt will make San Francisco history when she becomes the first pet food brand ever to open a kiosk inside the Ferry Building.
Details: 2163 Union St., S.F. Also available via Uber Eats and DoorDash; https://mishkacakes.com
Take them on a kayak
Doug Connor can recall when the first person asked if he could put a dog in a kayak. “I said, ‘Sure. No problem,’” says Connor, co-owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. “People have been taking their dogs along on canoeing and rafting and sailing trips for years. There are even Labrador retrievers in the Midwest that have been bred to be about half the size as normal to go bird-hunting from canoes.”
As one of the more popular kayak spots that caters to dog owners, any given day brings pups out on the water — or in the water, swimming behind. Do they enjoy the small-watercraft experience? In canine thinking, it’s better than the alternative.
“What dog, when it sees its people walking out the door, doesn’t want to go? They don’t care where you’re going, as long as they can come along,” says Connor.
Getting a dog onto a kayak can take some work. “Most dogs, they step on it and it’s like, ‘Oooh, this is weird!’ And they get told, ‘No, no. Stay, staaaaay.’ And within a few minutes they’re like, ‘OK, at least I get to go!’ It’s like a dog that gets car sick but wants to go anyway.”
Dogs are encouraged to wear floatation devices with handles, so you can haul them back in, if they go overboard. “It goes around the neck and then over on top of the back. There are clip-on straps that can be adjusted that go around the belly,” says Mitch Powers, manager at Sea Trek in Sausalito. (Rental places suggest you call ahead or bring your own flotation device, in case they run out that day.)
Dog kayaking is best for small to middle-sized hounds. “If you had a Great Dane or a Saint Bernard, it’s going to be challenging in terms of the space on the kayak. And it’s going to be challenging for the owners to paddle, especially if it’s a windy day,” Powers says.
Don’t expect the dog to contribute to any of the work. “He is dead weight,” says Connor. “They are not going to be helpful at all. If anything, half the fun is joking around, like, ‘C’mon, you can’t get in my lap right now!’”
Dogs aren’t supposed to interact with marine wildlife, but they can’t help but look when seals and sea lions pop up. “Some dogs don’t recognize them at all, and others look at them and see another ‘dog’ and bark,” Connor says. “With my last dog, Marley, I was throwing tennis balls in the harbor and a young sea lion kept swimming nearby. It eventually stole his ball.”
Cats can kayak, too, according to Connor’s recollection of one extremely relaxed feline. “It hopped in (its owner’s) pouch or backpack, and they pulled ’em out while they were out there. They said it had a great time – didn’t mind getting wet, either.”
Details: Half Moon Bay Kayak Co., 2 Johnson Pier, Half Moon Bay; open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Tuesday); hmbkayak.com. Sea Trek, 2100 Bridgeway. Sausalito; seasonal hours, open in May from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; seatrek.com
Also: Laine’s Baits and Rentals, Alviso; lainesbaits.com (reservations only, no walk-ins). And Delta Kayak Adventures, 5 Marina Plaza, Antioch; deltakayakadventures.com (bring your own dog flotation device)
Treat pup to a Barkuterie board
If you only have time for one stop in Wine Country, make it Mutt Lynch Winery in Sonoma County.
The Windsor winery and tasting room bills itself as a “world where wine and all things dog combine into something truly special.” Owner-winemaker Brenda Lynch doesn’t just tolerate dogs. She indulges them.
Upon arrival, each canine guest is welcomed by Lynch’s dogs — Violet, a Portuguese water dog, and Clyde, a 7-pound Chihuahua mix — and given his very own dog bed and bucket of toys.
While you’re sipping and swirling through hand-crafted bottles of pinot noir, zinfandel and chardonnay adorned with paw-some labels, your dog can enjoy a flight of locally-made dog treats. The bone-shaped Barkuterie board features a seasonal selection — you might see pumpkin-laced treats in the fall, blueberry-tinged in the spring — that’s complimentary during your wine tasting session $20.
Why go to all this fuss? Because dog owners are so fun and give back to their community, Lynch says. “They are the people I wanted to make wine for,” she adds. “They are my tribe.”
Don’t miss the irresistible pup-centric gift shop and Lynch’s line of wines that give back to animal rescue organizations.
Details: Open daily at 9050 Windsor Road, Windsor; www.muttlynchwinery.com.
Other extremely dog-friendly wineries include:
Many of Livermore Valley’s wineries, which host an annual Wine & Wags event each year to support local animal rescue programs, make dogs feel welcome all year long. Among them: El Sol, Page Mill and Rosa Fierro Cellars.
Hit the dog-friendly hiking trail
There are few things — belly rubs, perhaps — that pooches love more than running alongside their owners on one of the Bay Area’s innumerable sun-dappled hiking trails. But some are more dog-appropriate than others.
Berkeley’s Strawberry Canyon Fire Trail, for instance, the 7.4-mile out-and-back trail that is part of the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, is a favorite among dog owners for its wide, level paths, moderate elevation gain and ample shade for Rover to rest. Farther south, inside Saratoga’s lush and peaceful Villa Montalvo County Park, dogs must be on leash to experience the 2.1-mile loop trail to Villa Montalvo Lookout Point. But the redwoods and garden at the lookout, perfect for sniffing and marking territory, is beyond rewarding.
And when you and the pup hit the Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve in Redwood City, be prepared to make many stops for friend-making (aka butt sniffing), because the easy 2.2-mile Blue Oak and Polly Geraci Trail is often packed with other dogs waiting to bark at the water temple.
Dine where Fido gets a menu
There are doggie menus beyond Starbucks’ Puppuccino, which is just whipped cream in a cup.
At Shake Shack, which has locations in Palo Alto, Oakland and later this year, in Emeryville, Fido won’t give you the stare down because he’ll be nose-deep in a Bag o’ Bones, a doggie bag of five Shackburger beef and cheddar dog biscuits made by Bocce’s Bakery in New York City.
Good boys and good girls that behave on the patio at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, which has locations in Concord, Dublin, Newark and — coming soon — San Mateo, can sink their teeth into a grilled chicken breast or hamburger patty with brown rice on their very own plate.
And the next time you’re in Napa Valley, be sure to reserve Sunday brunch at Fumé Bistro & Bar, where the doggy menu includes grilled salmon, scrambled eggs and all the bacon your sweet pea can eat.
Drink beer to support dogs
Tons of breweries are dog-friendly. But how many can say they actually boost the welfare of our dewclawed comrades?
Ale Industries and Tiger’s Taproom, both in Oakland, don’t just pour beer. They support homeless and maltreated animals, too, hosting “Yappy Hour” adoption events and collaborating on annual beer releases with proceeds going to Oakland Animal Services. The limited-edition cans (this October’s will be a crisp, golden West Coast IPA) feature the bandana-clad pit bull rescue of Tiger’s Taproom owner Brian Chan. “Tiger was my entire world. He came into my life when I was young, and at a time where I wasn’t making the best decisions. I always tell people that not only did I save Tiger’s life, but he definitely saved mine,” says Chan, who named his business after his dearly departed friend.
Patrons can enjoy excellent beers from California and around the world in the hound-heavy patio, with amenities that include bowls of fresh water and treats from 5 Element Pet Food Therapy next door. “It’s like a holistic dog store,” says Chan. “You can take your dog in there and get a flight of homemade bone broths.”
Ale Industries stages regular adoptions and partners with the East Bay SPCA on special releases. Last year, it put photos of 20 adoptable dogs and cats on cans of IPA with links to learn more. (Noted one Untappd.com reviewer: “Purposely chose the dog can, so I don’t drunkenly adopt a cat through the QR code.”)
There are typically one or two dogs chilling in the spacious, industrial interior, where doggie snacks are available at the bar. Human offerings aren’t bad, either. The brewery specializes in “tea beer,” a gruit (nonhopped beer) made by steeping coriander and orange peel in a giant bag in the boil. “The thing with modern beer drinkers is they just think beers are IPAs and that’s how it goes,” says Jonathan Acosta Rosales, director of marketing and distribution. “When they see ‘gruit’ on the label they’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to mess with that.’ So we came up with the term ‘tea beer.’”
Details: Tiger’s Taproom opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 2 p.m. Friday-Sunday at 308 Jackson St. #4, Oakland; tigerstaproom.com. Ale Industries opens at 3 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and noon Friday-Sunday at 3096 E. 10th St., Oakland; aleindustries.com.
Other extremely dog-friendly breweries include:
Hapa’s Brewing Co., San Jose, hapasbrewing.com
Camino Brewing Co., San Jose, caminobrewing.com
Das Brew, Fremont, dasbrewinc.com
Gilman Brewing Co., Berkeley, gilmanbrew.com
Almanac Beer Co., Alameda, almanacbeer.com
Cooperage Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, cooperagebrewing.com
Ride the scenic railways
One of the most decorated dogs in U.S. history is Owney, a scruffy mutt who in the late 1800s traveled on U.S. mail trains from coast to coast, guarding sacks of letters. Honored with a U.S. Postal Service “forever” stamp, Owney was gifted so many doggie tags during his travels, the weight of the metal physically weighed him down. The point is: Some dogs really love riding trains. It’s like a car, but without as much motion sickness and more leeway to stick their tongues out into the wind.
Bay Area folks can recreate Owney’s train-riding days at two scenic railroad establishments south of San Francisco, where dogs always ride free (though they must be leashed). The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad in Los Gatos honors the legacy of Billy Jones, a railroad worker who in the mid-1900s turned an old steam locomotive into an attraction at his ranch where locals could have a blast choo-chooing. The track meanders around Oak Meadow and Vasona Lake parks and past a carousel dating back to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Afterward, you can carbo-load with ice cream, pretzels and weekend barbecue.
Roaring Camp in Felton has two train rides that depart for a redwood forest or Santa Cruz, the latter is a three-hour ride. (Note that dogs aren’t supposed to occupy empty seats; they can sit in your lap, though.) The redwood ride chugs up a mountain into a grove of huge trees once targeted by loggers. The longer journey goes through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and then along a gorge and through a historic tunnel before arriving at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. There a good dog, who was well-behaved on the train and didn’t cause a ruckus, can be rewarded with a treat or a jump into the ocean.
Details: Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad is open from 10:30 to 4:30 p.m. on weekends through spring at 233 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos; bjwrr.org. Roaring Camp is open daily with varying departure times at 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton; roaringcamp.com.
Visit a supremely nice dog park
One of the best and largest dog parks in America is right here in our backyard. Point Isabel Regional Shoreline draws more than a million visitors every year, “most of them with their dogs,” according to the East Bay Regional Park District. The remaining visitors must come just to watch the dogs. It’s a doggie extravaganza, with pups zipping in and out, left and right, up and down and crosswise.
Dogs must be under verbal control of their owners but can go off-leash, guaranteeing they’ll be tuckered out after a stretch of ball-chasing and, for those retrievers and spaniels out there, leaping into the water. Things can get muddy but fortunately, there’s an on-site dog-washing facility that will make your gross friend shiny-new (and manicured, if you desire).
For humans, there’s the Sit & Stay Cafe with coffee and snacks, as well as birdwatching, fishing, biking (the park is on the San Francisco Bay Trail) and the supreme beauty of the Bay, the green hills of Marin and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.
Details: The park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 2701 Isabel St., Richmond; ebparks.org/parks/point-isabel.
Play in the waves
There’s something special about having your dog discover the wonders of sand – digging in it, eating it and jumping in the water and emerging looking 20 pounds lighter.
Thankfully, there are many great beaches around here that are popular with the canine crowd. The granddaddy is the off-leash Fort Funston in southwest San Francisco. Bluffs as high as 200 feet provide little shelter from the bracing Pacific breezes, which curve your tennis-ball throws in challenging ways for your pooch. Owners can get their exercise in as well by hiking a roughly 1-mile trail near the biggest surviving sand dune on the Peninsula.
Buchanan Dog Beach (aka Albany Beach) north of Berkeley provides a more chill experience. It’s sheltered from the waves you’d find on oceanside beaches, and it’s frequented by both dog owners and families looking to picnic in the sun. A side adventure is the nearby Albany Bulb, an old construction dump that was allegedly colonized by a “homeless navy,” who sailed in from across the Bay and established a ramshackle arts community. There’s plenty of outlaw art still there, and it’s wonderfully eccentric.
And in sunny Santa Cruz, there’s Mitchell’s Cove Beach and Lighthouse Field State Beach (sometimes referred to as Its Beach), whose online reviews are 99 percent dog people saying what a great time their pups had there.
The Bay Area boasts near-endless options for outdoor adventures, tasty bites and unexpected day trips. So we created the Bay Area Bucket List, a project that asks our readers to help us find the best activities.
Send us your ideas below. Then we’ll post a sampling so readers can vote and help us pick what cool activities to explore. Be sure to include your contact info, so we can ping you if we select your idea to investigate.
Wondering about those reader votes? Check below for our latest voting round.