In many respects, Washington, DC is a traveler’s paradise. The city is full of world-class museums, many of which are free to visit. There’s a large park full of notable monuments to explore. And the architecture and history in the city are difficult to fathom. But traveling to Washington, DC with a dog offers lots of possibilities! Traveling can be difficult but it shouldn’t be because your best friend can’t come along. My husband and I recently took a day trip to DC with George, our mini schnauzer. And all the members of the pack had a lot of fun. Here are some ideas for a Washington, DC dog-friendly day trip!
A Washington, DC Dog-Friendly Day Trip Itinerary
For our dog-friendly day trip, we went to the National Arboretum and the National Mall. We also made two stops for food. Once for lunch and another time for tea and pastries.
Basic Tips for a Dog-Friendly Washington, DC Trip
Always bring clean-up bags, water, and a bowl for your furry friend.
DC has a reasonable number of places to sit: benches, low walls and plenty of open space full of green grass. There are plenty of places to take a break so be sure to do so!
Visiting the United States National Arboretum
The first stop on our dog-friendly visit to DC was the National Arboretum. Located northeast of downtown, the National Arboretum is 446 acres of trees, flowers, shrubs, grass, and other plants. The arboretum is organized into more than a dozen collections and gardens such as the Asian Collections, Azalea Collections, and National Herb Garden.
National Capitol Columns
One of the highlights of the National Arboretum isn’t a plant at all. Not far from the Herb Garden on the top of a hill sits the National Capitol Columns.
The 22 Corinthian columns were made using sandstone from Virginia’s Aquia Creek in 1828. The columns were designed for the east portico of the Capitol Building. In 1958 the columns were removed as an addition was being added to the Capitol. The columns went into storage until 1984 when they were relocated to the National Arboretum’s Eclipse Meadow.
Surrounded by flowers and with a simple water feature, the Capitol Columns are a lovely addition and focus of the arboretum.
Visiting the National Arboretum with Dogs
Dogs visiting the arboretum must be on a leash, must stay on paths and cannot relieve themselves on plants.
George loved walking through the gardens. He always likes to smell the different flowers, too.
Tips for Visiting the National Arboretum
We visited shortly after the arboretum’s 8 AM opening on a Friday. The visitors in the arboretum that we saw were mostly locals out for a jog or catching up with friends. Otherwise, it was relatively quiet and we had the collections to ourselves to explore.
Because the Arboretum is so large, driving around between the collections is my recommendation. There are parking lots throughout the park where you and your furry friend can get out on foot (and paw) to explore. Pick the collections that you find especially interesting and focus on those first.
Dog-Friendly Places to Eat in Washington, DC
Washington, DC has a number of dog-friendly restaurants. Because we visited in September, I focused on restaurants that I knew had outdoor seating. We went for easy and oh-so-tasty.
For lunch, we went to Luke’s Lobster. The downtown location has several tables outside that allowed the three of us to refuel and refresh. Although pricey (it is lobster, after all), Luke’s has great lobster rolls with large pieces of chilled lobster in just the right amount of mayo. The restaurant’s also got a delicious and creamy clam chowder that’s full of potatoes and clam that isn’t too chewy.
As an afternoon break, we stopped at Paul, the French bakery that’s made the hop across the Atlantic Ocean. While the bakery cafe does serve lunch, we settled for tea and pastries. I had the earl grey and a strawberry tartlet while my husband had the mint tea and a chocolate tartlet. The tartlets have the best crust that’s full of flavor and almost like a cookie without crossing over into being too sweet. With an outdoor seating area on US Navy Memorial Plaza, Paul is a great place to sit and chat. George was able to hang out under some plants, relax and get a few belly rubs.
Also, not far from the Tidal Basin is the recently revitalized Wharf DC and the historic Maine Avenue Fish Market. The wharf sits along the waterfront with a boardwalk-like walkway that’s extremely dog-friendly with plenty of outdoor seating and spots for a relaxing break.
Visiting the National Mall
The National Mall is perhaps one of DC’s biggest draws. It’s more than 1000 acres of green space just south of the hustle and bustle of downtown and the country’s political epicenter. Add to that the moving, larger than life monuments. It’s really just something you have to experience in person. And the best part is that you can bring your dog.
The National Mall is large, to put it lightly. Likely your dog (or you) will not be able to cover it in its entirety. Focus on an area of interest.
One suggestion would be to focus on the Tidal Basin. Around the perimeter of the Tidal Basin, there are several popular memorials to important and historic American figures: Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The FDR Memorial, in particular, might be of interest as the statue includes Fala, the President’s Scottish Terrier.
Another favorite is, of course, the Lincoln Memorial which overlooks the Reflecting Pool. The Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Memorials aren’t far from there.
Visiting the National Mall with Dogs
Leashed dogs are allowed on the National Mall. They are not, however, allowed within the monuments. But I don’t really think they mind too much.
George seemed thrilled to walk the downtown streets, relax in the grass outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture and let me snap some photos with the Washington Monument in the background.
DC is, of course, well connected and has an Amtrak train station serving the district. However, traveling with a dog means you’ll likely be traveling by car and on foot. Washington is very walkable but it’s a big city with a lot of sprawl.
For our trip, I used SpotHero, it’s a service that allows you to reserve a spot in a parking lot or garage using your smartphone. All you have to do is book and pay using your phone and then show up.
Using SpotHero I was able to scout out a parking garage ahead of time on my desktop computer. I was able to see all the available garages on a map and figure out the best place for us to park. Then, on the day of our trip, I used my smartphone to book the space. SpotHero is super easy to use and reasonably priced. The lot we purchased a spot in had a “full” sign out front so without SpotHero we never would have gotten as close to the area as we wanted to be! The garage was extremely nice and felt very safe.
SpotHero’s also got some tips for parking in Washington, DC that are worth checking out.
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Thank you to SpotHero for hosting me! All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.