15 Fun things to do with your dog in Washington DC

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Being such a well-known city, Washington DC is a pawpular place to live or visit. The DC area has about 8,000 dogs, according to a 2015 survey, and there are hundreds of hiking trails, shopping areas, parks, and other attractions to enjoy. Although DC has the lowest percentage of dogs in the country (22%), they sure do have a love for their canine companions. It was the first city to have a social club for dogs, and you can even take him to see the White House. 

Take a tour on a pedicab that was listed as one of the top 10 dog-friendly tours in the US or visit one of the local parks where you can both rent a boat or paddleboard. Explore the wild side on one of the pup-friendly trails or watch your canine companion meet new friends at one of the dog parks. You can even go to the drive-in to watch a movie or see an art show. We listed our favorite 15 fun things to do with your dog in Washington, DC to get you started.  

Ride in style: Nonpartisan Pedicab

Whether you are visiting Washington DC for the first time or even if you have lived here your whole life, you have to experience this tour. The 5-star reviewed Nonpartisan Pedicab is a unique way to see all the most popular attractions and gorgeous surroundings. You and your fur buddy will be seated in style in the back of one of these cool pedicabs with a friendly guide who rides you around and tells you all about each place. This tour was listed in the top 10 dog friendly tours in the country in a USA Today contest.

Although your pooch is not allowed inside any buildings, you will get to stop at many of the sites, including the US Capitol, Smithsonian Museums, and the White House as well as the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, and the National Mall. You and your pup can walk around and take selfies while your guide teaches you about the country’s most important places. And if you really want to go inside someplace, the guide will watch your pup while you do! For free!

Visit the presidents: FDR Memorial

The FDR Memorial is a pooch-friendly place to visit this past president and his dog. Yes, his fur buddy, Fala, was included in this memorial as FDR never went anywhere without him. In fact, they were laid to rest together so they would be forever friends. Fala was a black Scottish Terrier who became the most well-known and well-loved presidential pets of all. He was with President Roosevelt at all his speeches, visits, and even when he traveled. 

The memorial is the second that has been constructed in Washington and since it is outdoors, you get full access to the life-sized statue of both Roosevelt and Fala. The location at West Potomac Park means that you can visit other important memorials as well. Some of these include the President Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Founding Father George Mason Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Korean War Veterans. Take a self-guided audio tour or just explore on your own. But make sure your pup is on a leash. 

Play with other fur babies: Newark Street Dog Park

Dogs love to play, especially with other dogs. Take your fur baby to the Newark Street Dog Park where you can watch him run and romp with other pups for hours. The off-leash play place is in northwestern DC at the southwest corner of Newark Park Playground. Here you will find two separate dog areas with separate entrances, so there are no conflicts for any of the pups or the pooch parents. The only problem is its popularity. 

With such a great park, you can see why it is so pup-ular and since they have a 22 -dog limit, you have to wait if there are already 22 dogs inside. During that time, pup parents are asked to limit their visit to 30 minutes so others can get in and play. Some of the important amenities include dog toys, doggie doo stations, water fountains for you and Fido, shaded benches, and a decomposed granite surface. There is an abundance of tennis balls due to the tennis courts, and they even have pools when it gets hot.  

Stop and smell the roses: US National Arboretum

With almost 450 acres to explore, you and your canine companion can see a vast array of flowers, plants, bushes, and trees throughout the botanical garden. Just keep your pup on a leash, and do not let him get into the gardens. Although they do not allow pets inside the buildings or on the tram, this place is a wonderland of beauty. The rose garden in the National Herb Garden area is exquisite, and with such a variety, you will see blooms almost all year long. 

Other popular attractions here include the Washington Youth Garden, the National Garden of State Trees, the Dwarf and Conifer Collection, and the Friendship Garden. There is also a Flowering Tree Garden, Fern Valley Native Plants, and a collection of Asian plants from China, Korea, and Japan. In the single-genus variety section, see the azaleas, magnolias, holly, and dogwood collections. Don’t miss the National Capital Columns feature with 22 Corinthian columns. 

Go boating: Key Bridge Boathouse

Grab some water and snacks and head to Key Bridge Boathouse, where you can rent a kayak, canoe, rowboat, or pedal boat. Rentals include everything you need, including life jackets for everyone, including your pooch. Then, get out on the Potomac River and explore the water, see the sites from a new perspective, and take some pics. Fido is going to love it! But that’s not all! You can also take a guided tour or lessons. 

The boathouse also offers guided tours, kayak orientation, rowing programs, and even sailing lessons. You can also take a sailboat cruise with a captain so you and your pup can enjoy the view instead of manning the sails. Join in on one of the fun tours like the Sunrise Kayak Monument Tour, Kayak Monument Paddle from Key Bridge, and the Kayak Full Moon Paddle from Key Bridge. Be sure to keep your dog leashed and bring baggies to clean up after him. 

Meet new friends: Bark Social

The first social club for dogs in the world, Bark Social is a new trendy outdoor bar where you can bring your furry family members to enjoy drinks with you. Do you ever feel guilty leaving your pooch at home while you go out and have a beer or cocktail? Well, you don’t have to leave him home if you live in Washington, DC, or Bethesda, Maryland. Bring your fur baby with you so you can both hang out with your friends. 

Co-founders Luke and Jeff opened this pawesome place in 2021, and now there are two locations in Bethesda and Baltimore. The gated dog park serves breakfast and coffee in the morning and beer and wine with lunch in the evening. They also have a dog menu, of course. The mini pup cake is a carrot cake with peanut butter frosting, and they also offer popsicles and puppy ice cream. You do have to be a member or the guest of a member. Check the webpage for details. 

Take a hike: Mount Vernon Trail

All dogs love walks, so why not take him to the Mount Vernon Trail for a nice long one? It is 18 miles long, but you do not have to hike it all. It is one of the most popular trails in the Washington DC area as it takes you and your pup through woodlands, wetlands, parks, and even yacht clubs. The surface is mostly paved with some boardwalks and 38 different bridges to cross, and some steep grades as well. 

The trail goes from Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Roosevelt Island between the George Washington Parkway and the Potomac River. Some of the highlights include Dyke Marsh Preserve, Belle Haven Park, and Ford’s Landing as well as Windmill Hill, Old Town Alexandria Waterfront, Founders Park, and Dangerfield Island. Even better, there are several dog parks to stop by, including Grist Mill in Alexandria and Westgrove in Belleview. Be sure to pack extra water, snacks, and doggie waste bags. 

Go to the islands: Kingman and Heritage Islands

This one park includes two incredible islands which are both dog-friendly and packed with fun things to do for both you and your fur baby. The two islands are surrounded by the Anacostia River and Kingman Lake so that you can enjoy water sports and activities like swimming, fishing, boating, and paddleboarding. The islands are both connected by a trail system that takes you all around both perimeters and back to the mainland. 

Your pooch has to be on a leash here, as there is a lot of wildlife living on the islands. In fact, there are over 100 species of mammals, birds, and other types of wildlife. You can also find several piers and a boardwalk to explore, where you can have a seat and watch the water. While you are there, take a stroll by the Heritage Island Wayside and Anacostia Park. You may find a spot where you and Fido can play. 

Splash and play the day away: Jones Point Park

Located right on the Potomac River, Jones Point Park is a pooch-friendly park with a historic lighthouse just minutes from Washington, DC, in Alexandria, Virginia. The Jones Point lighthouse is the last one found on the river in Virginia. The landing here was one of the largest shipping centers in the city. It was built in 1855 and is located on top of a small one-story house. Unfortunately, there is no access for entry, so you can just get some great selfies out front. 

The park is about 65 acres and boasts a variety of fun activities like basketball, fishing, playgrounds, and a 1.5-mile interpretive trail. You will need to keep your fur buddy on a leash at all times, and please be sure to clean up after him. Conveniently, there is a restroom and water fountains with a dog drinking bowl at the bottom under the bridge. Be sure to bring your own doggie clean-up bags and some extra water, just in case. 

Shop ‘til you drop: Eastern Market

Take your fur baby shopping with you at Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill area near Lincoln Park. The busy flea market has been there since 1873 and features hundreds of vendors indoors and out. The pop-ups are mostly locals offering handmade items like jewelry, house decor, and more. You can find fresh produce, floral decor, clothing, and collectibles as well as antiques, crafts, and other items at over 100 different shops, tents, and stalls. 

The food hall is mostly inside, but you can still get some grub at one of the outdoor spots. In addition to all that, there are usually at least a few food trucks parked on the street around the market, selling everything from tacos to gelato. Farmers from all over the area also come together to show off their delicious fruits and vegetables. You and your pup will surely find something of interest. They are open Saturdays and Sundays all day long. 

Explore Washington DC Art: Torpedo Factory Art Center

Situated along the Potomac riverbank in Alexandria, Virginia, what used to be a torpedo factory is now a place for talented artists showing off their work, and your canine companion is welcome to come along with you. It is the country’s largest collection of working artists under one roof since 1974. In fact, there are more than 70 artists’ studios here with a variety of styles and collections. You can find everything from ceramics to fiber optics and everything in between. 

It started as a munitions plant in 1918 and made torpedoes until 1937. Over the years, the building went through many changes until it opened as an art center in 1974. And Fido is not just welcome inside. He can join you inside as well. Watch the artists at work creating paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and more. They also hold workshops and festivals all year long. Explore all three floors with so many different styles and genres to see but keep your pup on a leash at all times. 

Have a brew: Port City Brewing Company

Take your dog out for a brew or two at Port City Brewing Company, where you are both welcome inside and out. However, you cannot bring him into the beer garden so take note of that. Here you can find all sorts of brews, from local craft IPAs to internationally inspired beers and ciders. It is located in the Port City historic area of Alexandria, Virginia, and has tastings every day. It is a family-friendly place with a casual atmosphere, but Fido has to stay leashed. 

Some of the unique brews you may find in the tasting room are Essential Pale Ale, Hazy IPA, Mexican Dark Lager, German Pilsner, and Port City Pizza Night Lager. From Thursday through Sunday, you will find a food truck or two out front with a vast array of food for you and your pup. Some of the common ones you can find include Phot Wheels, Haute Dogs & Fries, and Rocklands Barbecue. They also provide snacks for you and your fur baby and nonalcoholic beverages for dogs and kids. 

SUP with your pup: Penguin Paddling

Behind Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant in the Historic Occoquan area by Occoquan Harbor, you can find Penguin Paddling on the Occoquan River by Mamie Davis Park. Whether you want to rent a kayak or paddleboard for your own independent expedition or join up with one of the tours, your fur buddy is welcome to join you. The stand-up paddleboard (SUP) is a popular activity and is very easy to do, but kayaks are fun too.

If you have a water dog, he is sure to jump in the water, so be safe and fit him with a doggie life vest and keep his leash attached. Penguin Paddling has plenty of human life jackets but limited vests for canines. They are open until 8 PM daily, and all rentals are the first come, first served basis. The prices are incredibly inexpensive at just about $20 per hour, and tours are nicely priced as well. 

Catch a movie: DC Party Box

Take your fur baby to the movies at DC Party Box. Maybe you can get lucky, and they will be playing Scooby-Doo! The park is family-friendly and shows great movies on the largest LED screen in DC. You and your canine companion can just pull into the drive-in space and listen to the movie on your car radio. No more scratchy speakers that barely work! Bring extra water and snacks for Fido and keep him inside the vehicle or on a leash.

The movie theater is located at the Willko Theatre in the North Bethesda area. DC Party Box also has a concession stand where you can get popcorn, hot dogs, french fries, and tater tots, as well as salty and sweet delights like candy bars and chips. To drink, they offer soft drinks, water, and coffee. You should get there early if you want a good spot, and they only allow 50 cars to the show. 

Gelato for two: Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato

This family-owned gelato shop has award-winning and delicious gelato and sorbet in over 50 flavors. They even have Hungry Henry’s Dog Gelato they made themselves with the help of some canine companion tasters. In this dish, you will not find any lactose or preservatives, and they have several flavors, including peanut butter, banana, pumpkin, and vanilla. And you and your pooch can have a seat on the patio to eat and relax to fuel up for your next adventure. 

If you have never tried Argentine gelato, you have to visit Casa Rosada. It is unlike any other frozen dessert you have ever tasted. Sweet and creamy with a flavor for everyone. They have the usual vanilla and chocolate as well as unique flavors like tango, tiramisu, gingerbread, and apple cinnamon as well as cantaloupe, crema rosa, sweet corn, and elderflower. They even offer five kinds of vegan sorbet, vegan gelato, and four flavors of sugar-free gelato. 

The Final Woof

Whether you are just visiting or live in the Washington DC area, there is plenty to see and do with your canine companion. 

There are over a dozen retail shops that are dog-friendly, like Salt & Sundry, Lulumon, and Warby Parker. You can also take your little buddy to a winery, brewing house, or local dog-friendly bar. 

Some of the attractions not on our list that you can both enjoy are the National Mall, Congressional Cemetery, the Jefferson Memorial, and Dupont Circle

When you work up an appetite, you and your fur baby can dine together at Chef Geoff’s on New Mexico Avenue, Flavio Restaurant on 31st Street, or Hook Hall on Georgia Avenue, to name a few. 

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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