Austin is well-known for it’s dog friendly atmosphere, and even I am sometimes amazed by the number of places that welcome people and their pets. In other cities you might struggle to find pet friendly activities – here you’re more likely to have a “ruff” time deciding between the available options.
With oodles of pet friendly hotels in Austin, and even more restaurants that welcome pets on the their patios, pet travelers never need to be concerned about food and shelter. And, when you’ve got the basics covered, there’s more time to explore what you might like to do for fun! We hope you enjoy our list of Austin’s top ten dog friendly things to do:
1. Zilker Park – No dog friendly trip to Austin would be complete without a stop in Zilker Park. On the weekends, this 350-acre preserve comes alive with kite flyers, soccer players, pick-up football games, people out for a picnic lunches, and lots and lots of dogs. The park is split by Barton Springs Road – the area to the north side of the road is off-leash, and to the south dogs must be kept on-leash, except in the creek just below the pool, where they are welcome to have a splash.
2. Auditorium Shores – If splashing and swimming is your dog’s favorite thing, head for Auditorium Shores. Dogs here can dive in after balls and practice their belly flops into Ladybird Lake in the shadow of the city’s skyline. This park is currently in transition with a major renewal effort and a new fenced, off-leash area under construction. A portion of the park is still accessible for off-leash play while the project is ongoing, and the new dog park is expected to be completed sometime this summer.
3. Butler Hike & Bike Trail – From anywhere in the city, you can walk toward the Ladybird Lake and find the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike trail. This 10-mile loop encircles Ladybird Lake and offers an enchanting experience of the city, without any of the car traffic. Bikers, walkers, runners, and dogs on leash, all enjoy this tree-lined gem. Some parts of the trail can be a bit crowded, especially on the weekends, but as you get away from downtown, you may find that you have the whole trail to yourself!
4. The State Capitol – Located on the northern edge of downtown, the dome of the Capitol will catch your eye from all around Austin. Completed in 1888, it is widely recognized as one of the nation’s most distinguished state capitols, and the perfect spot to grab a bench for a pet friendly picnic lunch. They also have a self-guided tour that reveals the historical significance of the statues, historic markers, and trees around the Capitol grounds.
5. South Congress – Bustling SoCo is a fun place to head for a little shopping or a bite to eat. The “Keep Austin Weird” mentality seeps through the sidewalk cracks, and boutiques here embrace it better than anywhere else in the city. There are some don’t miss restaurants, as well: Jo’s Coffee if you’re looking for a snack, or Home Slice pizza for something a little more substantial, and Enoteca Vespaio if you’re looking for great Italian food. But, be sure to save room for Amy’s Ice Cream … it’s too good to pass up!
6. The Domain – If South Congress gives you a taste and you’re dying to do some more shopping, head up north to The Domain. This outdoor shopping center is dog friendly and has more than 100 upscale and mainstream stores and restaurants. Many of the shopkeepers welcome dogs in to browse – just be sure to ask first – and most of the restaurants allow pets on the patios. There are also shady benches for people watching, and dog water bowls scattered throughout.
7. Zilker Botanical Garden – For the nature lovers, be sure you don’t miss Zilker Botanical Garden. With six themed gardens covering 31 acres, you can easily wile away an afternoon strolling the paths and trails – and it’s all dog friendly! The flowers and berries produced by the plants and trees also make this an ideal place for bird and butterfly watching, so don’t forget your binoculars.
8. McKinney Falls State Park – This park encompasses more than 700 acres where Onion Creek and Williamson Creek meet, and is just a quick 9-mile drive from the downtown. At one time the property was owned by Thomas F. McKinney, a prominent racehorse breeder, and the ruins of his family home and the horse trainer’s cabin are preserved in the park. You’ll also find two 2.8-mile pet friendly hiking trails where leashed dogs are welcome.
9. Norwood Dog Park – Austin has a bunch of great dog parks, but for pups like Ty (whose recall leaves a bit to be desired), none beat the Norwood Dog Park. Located where Riverside Drive meets I-35, this is a big space that is completely fenced, and has a separate area for small dogs.
10. Rainy Street – Dogs are more than welcome … they’re encouraged to frequent the restaurants and watering holes on Rainy Street. Take a walk down the block and you’re likely to meet as many pets as people! And, one place has even gone so far as to install their own fenced dog park in the beer garden!
We hope that gives you a good starting point if you’re planning a trip to Austin. If you know of any great pet friendly spots that we didn’t include in our top ten, please share them in the comments below!