How to Get the Most Out of a Trip to San Francisco With Your Dog


Editor’s note: Have you seen the Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our February-March issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Called the country’s No. 1 dog-friendly city by Animal Planet, San Francisco boasts dozens of dog parks and beaches, some with spectacular postcard views and many dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops.

Get out and about

The Golden Gate National Recreational Area is the National Park system’s only entity where off-leash dog walking is allowed in certain spots. Those off-leash areas are in most of Ocean Beach and Fort Funston, open spaces bordering the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the city, Crissy Field, a beach and marsh on the bay with close-up Golden Gate Bridge views (many pet parents’ favorite spot) in the city’s north, and Lands End, a hilltop area next to the ocean in the city’s northwest.

Personally, Fluffy, my Bichon Frise/Poodle mix, and I prefer Ocean Beach, also full of joggers and bicyclists, overlooking a view of the mountains of Marin, a few feet from our house. My sunset photos taken here surpass shots I’ve taken in Hawaii and Fiji.

Golden Gate Park, a 1,000-acre oasis, has four off-leash dog areas, even a fenced-in spot bigger than a soccer field near the Fulton/38th Avenue entrance — as well as a Japanese Tea Garden, Botanic Garden, and the DeYoung and California Academy of Sciences museums. Bernal Hill, a steep hill in Bernal Heights, offers an expansive view of the skyline and bay.

Crissy Field in San Francisco. (Photo by Shutterstock)
Crissy Field in San Francisco. (Photo by Shutterstock)

Put your paws up

Hotels large and small welcome fur children. Inn at the Presidio is a 22-room hotel inside a Golden Gate National Recreational Area park named the Presidio with a 300- acre forest, 24 miles of walking and hiking trails (one just behind the inn), Crissy Field, Baker Beach, and Fort Point, next to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hotel Nikko, a 532-room hotel near Union Square, has a grassy dog run on its rooftop, where your dog may meet Buster, a Morkie and the hotel’s Canine Operating Officer, who has his own Twitter account (plus a “campaign” platform calling for fair wages for hotel dogs, a dog’s right to choose to live with a cat, and free bacon for all).

The CLIFT Hotel, a luxury 372- room outpost of chic Philippe Starck design and color, is just steps from Union Square.

Time for yum-yums

Check out Off the Grid, ethnic-food trucks that set up in certain neighborhoods on certain days from April through October. Dogs find the aromas irresistible. Ditto at SOMA StrEat Food Park, thanks to Yappy Hour, a heated covered patio, and Howl-O-Ween, its annual dog parade and costume contest.

Dog-friendly restaurants range from Tacolicious, gourmet tacos in the Mission, Marina, and North Beach (in the outdoor patios); Zazie in Cole Valley at its sidewalk tables (you’re actually rewarded on Mondays for bringing your dog, with $10 off wine bottles and free dog treats) to Mission Rock Resort, a waterfront seafood restaurant in Mission Bay, on its outdoor deck.

Canine-approved bars include Holy Water for cocktails and craft beers, and El Rio with its big backyard, table tennis, and pool table, both in Bernal Heights. Riptide, by Ocean Beach, often has live music. Project Juice, a juice bar with locations throughout San Francisco, serves certified organic coldpressed juices.

Project Juice has dog- friendly locations. (Photo courtesy Juice.and.izzy in Instagram)
Project Juice has dog- friendly locations. (Photo courtesy Juice.and.izzy in Instagram)

Bring your best friend

At Stuff, a vintage furnishings and clothing shop in the Mission, and the gyms fitBERNAL fit and fitGLEN fit, in Bernal Heights and Glen Park, bring your best friend along. Just remember: No shorts in summer, when it’s cool, cloudy, and foggy. It’s sunniest September through November. San Francisco marches to a different drummer

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