15 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Virginia

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dog is feeling happy in a dog friendly vacation in Virginia

Located in the northeast US, on the coast of the Atlantic, Virginia is a historic state sometimes called the Mother of Presidents. This is because eight Virginians have been President of the United States. To date, the state has 8.7 million residents and about 1.3 million fur babies, making it one of the most pup popular states in the country. 

The climate in Virginia is humid subtropical, with average lows of 28 degrees F and highs of 89 degrees F. So you and your fur baby can enjoy both winter and summer activities. Here you will find the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, the Atlantic Plain, and the Chesapeake Bay as well as the Cumberland Mountains, the Ohio River, and hundreds of lakes, rivers, and streams. It is the perfect place for mountain climbing, skiing, and snowboarding, as well as swimming, boating, and fishing. 

With so much to do in Virginia, you will not be surprised to know that there are more than 4,500 dog-friendly vacation rentals, over 200 pet-friendly parks, and almost 2,000 restaurants that welcome dogs. There are also 20+ beaches, about 700 trails, and 80 stores that allow pups, too. These are our top 15 vacation destinations for pup parents in Virginia.

Virginia Beach

You can find Virginia Beach in the southeastern corner of the state along the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the most populated city in Virginia, with 460,000 people and about 153,000 dogs, also making it the city with the most fur babies. You will not have trouble finding things to do on a summer vacation with your pooch because the city has several dog-friendly beaches, including Virginia Public Beach, where your pup is always welcome as long as he is on a leash.

The city also has eight off-leash dog parks. One of these, Bayville Farms Dog Park, has three fenced sections for pups to run around without a leash. It has a separate small dog area, lots of seating, water, and waste stations. 

Another fun summer activity you can enjoy with your fur puppy is chartering a boat to go fishing on the bay. Four Winds Chartering welcomes leashed dogs as long as they are well-behaved. Captain Hoggs Charter Service is also a fun way to spend the day with your canine companion.

Shenandoah National Park

In northern Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with access to the Shenandoah River as well as many wilderness areas, parks, lakes, and streams. The park has 200,000 acres of space and welcomes dogs that are on a leash of six feet or less. Just be sure to bring plenty of doggie bags to pick up what he drops. 

Your pooch is allowed to join you on all of the 500+ miles of trails except Fox Hollow, Bearfence Mountain, Dark Hollow Falls, Ridge Access, Old Rag Ridge, Limberlost, and Stony Man. Take Whiteoak Falls or Lands Run Falls trails to see some of the stunning waterfalls. There are also five campgrounds with 626 campsites that are all dog-friendly. Reserve your spot in advance since they fill up fast. Campgrounds are open from March to November.

Bring a Virginia fishing license if you plan to fish. There are thousands of great fishing spots in the park. 


Richmond has been the capital of Virginia since 1742 and has 226,000 residents with approximately 38,000 dogs. It is located in east central Virginia with rolling hills, tidewater areas, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can also find the Chickahominy, Appomattox, and James Rivers here. It also has 45 historic districts featuring many buildings on the historic list, including the Barret House, the White House of the Confederacy, and the Stonewall Jackson School. 

You have your pick of over 100 dog-friendly vacation rentals, including 45 hotels. One of the most prestigious as well as historic is the Jefferson Hotel, which opened in 1895. Up to two dogs are welcome for an extra $50 each per night. It features a pool, bike rentals, a cafe, and valet parking. Just down the street, Barker Field at Byrd Park is a huge, fully fenced, off-leash dog park with water and doggie bags

Edgar Allen Poe fans will love seeing the place where he grew up. There is also a museum, but you will have to find a sitter for your pup to go inside. 


Although it has the name, Chesapeake is not on the Chesapeake Bay but it does have the Elizabeth River running all through it. It has approximately 250,000 people and 40,000 dogs living there, so you will likely see some pups out and about with their pet parents. At the southeastern corner of the state, this is a perfect place for camping with numerous dog-friendly campgrounds. 

At Northwest River Park Campgrounds, they have 66 campsites with showers, hookups, and playgrounds. You can fish, swim, hike, and go boating, as well as play disc golf and geocaching. Chesapeake Campground is also a pup-loving place to stay with 80 campsites, a game room, a pool, a playground, ponies, peacocks, mini-golf, restrooms, and showers.   

Looking for a place to enjoy a brew with other pup parents? Take your canine compadre to Big Ugly Brewing where dogs are welcome indoors and out. They have food trucks so you can both chow down, too.


Just across the Potomac River from Maryland and Washington, D.C., Alexandria is one of the most populated cities in Virginia, with almost 160,000 residents and 26,000 pups. This town has a special love for fur babies with some of the most unique dog-friendly activities so plan a whole weekend with your pooch here. First, check-in at one of the 20+ hotels, including Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, or the Hilton. Then, it is time to take Fido for some fun. 

Frolick Dogs is a dog gym where dogs get to use the treadmills, play on the agility course, and get a bath afterward. Then you can take him to the Olde Towne School for Dogs. They have a training facility, a 3,000-square-foot shopping space, and groomers right on the premises. Your pup is also welcome to join you at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The old munitions plant has all sorts of artwork to enjoy. 

If you are a history buff, don’t miss the dog-friendly DC Military Tours. You and your cuddle buddy can learn all about the historic sites and people. 

George Washington & Jefferson National Forest

Speaking of historical people, the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest is another place that is perfect for camping, with 38 campgrounds in northern Virginia. With more than 1.7 million acres, there is so much to do you will have to book a site for the weekend or the week. There are 36 wilderness areas with several rivers, 2,000 miles of trails, Mount Rogers, Whitetop Mountain, dozens of parks, and even a ghost town.

You can choose from 40 different campgrounds in the forests with more than 500 campsites. Some of these have RV sites with full hookups, some are developed tent sites with showers and restrooms, while others are primitive with minimal amenities, if any. There are also some that you have to hike to so keep that in mind. Also, pack plenty of doggie bags. 

Don’t miss the ghost town of Lignite, Virginia! It used to be a mining town with a school, churches, a store, a post office, and a movie theater. It was abandoned in the 1920s when coal was found in Pennsylvania people still lived there until the 1950s. Now it is completely abandoned. 


In southwestern Virginia, Roanoke runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains and Roanoke River and has just over 100,000 residents. Fur babies are popular here, with about 16,000 pups. Your canine companion and your family will love Roanoke. The Holiday Inn is kid- and dog-friendly, with a pool, restaurant, room service, a gym, and kids’ meals. It is just a few miles from the Mill Mountain Zoo, where they have hundreds of animals, from bears to frogs. 

Also nearby are the Kids Square Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the Roanoke Pinball Museum, and Wasena Park with playgrounds and picnic areas. Or you can go to Thrasher Park, where they have an off-leash dog park because your fur baby wants to have fun, too. Highland Park also has a dog park as well as playgrounds, disc golf, and a skate park. 

Afterward, take your pup and the kids to Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, where they will give your pooch a free sundae with a dog bone on top!


Fairfax was an important city during the Civil War, as well as the Battle of Fairfax Court House in 1861. The city got its name from Thomas Fairfax, Lord of Cameron, who received 5 million acres of land from King Charles in 1719, but is still a small town of just 24,146 people and 4,000 fur babies. 

Although it is one of the smallest cities, it is the home to 10 different festivals, including the Chocolate Lovers Festival in February, making it a wonderful place for a romantic weekend. First, drop off your pup at PetsHotel Fairfax so you can take your sweetheart for a couples massage at The Retreat. You can choose from several kinds of massage and spa treatments. 

Then, take your honey and your fur baby to Cantina D’Italia at Fair Lakes Shopping Center, where they serve veal, seafood, pasta, and even pizza. They will even light you a candle on the patio for a candlelight dinner. 


One of the most populated cities in Virginia, Norfolk boasts a population of 238,000 people and an estimated 40,000 dogs. The city is packed with outdoor fun for summer, including a dog-friendly beach. Ocean View Beach on Chesapeake Bay welcomes dogs anytime from Labor Day to Memorial Day and before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. the rest of the year. Your pooch will have to be on a leash, though. 

If you like art, take your pooch on a NEON District Art Tour. The two-hour walk includes a variety of artwork and narration from Michael, a tour extraordinaire. You and your cuddly canine companion can also enjoy the Norfolk Scavenger Hunt to learn even more about the city.

There are also 20 dog parks where Fido can play off the leash. PETA’s Dog Park has one acre along the water for all pups with a bin full of toys. It is also known as Bea Arthur Dog Park, named after the famous Golden Girl, who was the PETA director.

Cumberland State Forest

In the middle of Virginia, the Cumberland State Forest is a pet-popular place to visit whether you are into hiking, biking, swimming, boating, fishing, or just relaxing. The 16,000-acre forest boasts over 120 miles of waterfront, including 15 miles on the Willis River. There are also multiple lakes, streams, and ponds to enjoy with your fur baby. Just remember to pack lots of doggie bags to pick up after your pup.

Hikers love this forest for its variety of hiking paths, from easy short strolls to challenging hikes. One of the best trails is the Coffey Trail, which is 3.2 miles long and features Arrowhead Lake and Bear Creek. For something more difficult, the Cumberland Multi-Use Trail is 14 miles, running through Bear Creek Lake State Park. High Bridge Trail State Park is also part of the forest and has 31 miles of trails to explore.

If you want to camp, you are in luck because there are 46 different campsites at Bear Creek Lake State Park with showers, restrooms, and a boat launch.


The smallest town on this list, Williamsburg, has just 15,000 residents and approximately 2,500 dogs. One of the best things about small towns is the prices. You can get a room at Red Roof Inn for under $75 a night and no pet fee. What’s more, you can enjoy free fun at Jamestown Beach Event Park along the James River, where your leashed pup can join you in swimming, boating, and fishing. It also has a leash-free zone near the front of the park.

For more free fun, take your pooch to Chickahominy Riverfront Park, where you can enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming on the Chickahominy River. It also has walking trails, a playground for the kids, picnic areas, a concession stand with food, and a splash pad in the summer.

One more fun and free park, Waller Mill Park, has over 2,700 acres of trails, water fun, and even a disc golf course. And the best part, it has a dog park where your pup can play off the leash.

Newport News

One of the least-known large cities in Virginia is Newport News. It has 187,000 residents and 32,000 canine companions. It is located in southeastern Virginia on the peninsula across from Norfolk, with the James River on the west and Chesapeake Bay to the east and south. Nobody knows where the name came from, as it has been called Newport News since 1621. The historic city was part of the Civil War and American Revolutionary War and has several museums and historic sites.

Newport News is a popular city during the winter when they host the Winter Carnival. The annual celebration is held the first weekend in February, and the main attraction is the 4,000-square-foot ice rink. But there are also carnival games, a live DJ, hot chocolate, and crafts as well as lots of carnival food. 

Afterward, take your pooch to Fido Field at Riverview Farm Park. The fully fenced off-leash park has an acre for big dogs and about a quarter of an acre for small dogs with benches and doggie bags. 


Along the Potomac River across from Washington, D.C., Arlington has a population of 238,000 with an estimated 40,000 pups. This is one of the most noteworthy cities on the list as it is home to the Pentagon. It is a great getaway for couples or the whole family with all sorts of historic museums, sites, and tours as well as some awesome parks for a nice walk or sunset boat ride. 

You can also take a stroll through the Arlington National Cemetery, where President John F. Kennedy and his wife are buried. Then, take a trip to Theodore Roosevelt Island, where you can take a guided tour or enjoy some of the trails on your own. Just keep your pup on a leash and bring lots of doggie bags.

After working up an appetite, you can choose from more than 100 dog-friendly restaurants, including Fire Works Pizza, where your cuddly buddy can order off the dog menu. Rocklands Barbecue is another popular pup eatery where dogs are always welcome on the patio.

Holliday Lake State Park

Those who enjoy vacations at the lake will love Holliday Lake State Park in the middle of Virginia. Holliday Lake is 145 acres and is popular with the locals and tourists for its fishing. Some of the fish you can catch include catfish, bass, perch, crappie, and sunfish. You can also go swimming, boating, or pitch a tent at this dog-loving park. Although dogs are not allowed at the swimming beach, there are other swimming areas where he can dive in. 

The park also has six trails, including several that are less than one mile. The longest is almost seven miles and takes you around the lake. If you plan to camp, there are two campgrounds with a total of 35 sites featuring RV sites with utilities, tent sites with showers, and rustic sites with portable toilets.  

While you are there, enjoy a barbecue at one of the picnic areas. One of them is at the swimming beach, and the other is at the edge of the lake by the restrooms. 


You can find the small town of Fredericksburg in northeastern Virginia at the junction of Interstate 95 and Highway 3. With just 28,000 residents, Fredericksburg is one of the smallest cities on the list, but it also has 4,600 dogs. The city was an important place during the Civil War, as well as the Battle of Fredericksburg. Today, it is a fun place to visit with your pooch and your family with a large amusement park called Fun Land. The park has 20 rides, including go-karts, bowling, and laser tag.

After spending the day with the kids at the park, take your fur baby to Duff’s Dog Park so he can run around and play, too. It has a special space for small pups, water fountains, benches, and agility equipment. Then, take everyone for a pizza at Mellow Mushroom. They also have pasta, sandwiches, and salads. 

Then, you can all get something sweet at Sugar Shack, where they have some incredible donuts in 40 different flavors. 

The Final Woof

Virginia has a little bit of everything for everyone. Whether you want to see the Pentagon in Arlington, go camping in Shenandoah National Park, or swim in Virginia Beach, you can find pup-friendly places all over the state. If you plan to come in winter, go to Newport News, where they have the Winter Carnival in February. For a little romance, Fairfax has a spa with couples massages and dog-friendly candlelight dining. George Washington & Jefferson National Forest has the most hiking trails spread over 2,000 miles, and it also has camping. And if you are looking for a family vacation, Fredericksburg has a large amusement park. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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