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Vacationing With the Pet Set

California has a host of dog-friendly options for travelers with pets.

Spring break is here, soon to be followed by the long Memorial Day weekend, and summer is coming up fast. Are you wondering where to go for a vacation and wishing you could take your best friend—your dog? You are in luck, because California has some of the most dog-friendly vacation spots in the nation. Let’s take a tour of some of your options.

Wine Country

Napa Valley, the Central Coast and Temecula are home to some of California’s best wineries. Better yet, many of them welcome polite four-legged guests on their grounds and sometimes even in their tasting rooms. Last weekend, we visited three Napa wineries that gave a warm welcome to our two Cavaliers and their Sheltie friend, Drew.

At the 42-acre Andretti Winery—yes, that Andretti, for those of you who are race fans—one could easily imagine being in Italy, what with the old-world ochre walls and the stone fountain at the entrance to the tasting room. Harper, Twyla and Drew made friends with other visitors while we and our friend Gina Spadafori tasted the vinous offerings. A cat sometimes roams the courtyard behind the tasting room and drew Harper’s attention, so if you go out to enjoy the sunshine, be sure to keep a firm grasp on the leash. It’s at 4162 Big Ranch Road.

Not far from Andretti at 4242 Big Ranch Road is Monticello, named after Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate, where wine grapes were first grown in the young America. Dogs are welcome here as well, unless other guests have an issue with allergies or fear of dogs. If that’s the case, people with dogs are simply served their flights outside in the courtyard, which wouldn’t be a hardship at all.

Regusci Winery at 5584 Silverado Trail has dogs of its own: a Corgi who is apparently the greeter and Labrador Retrievers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, which weren’t in evidence. Visiting dogs are welcome, though, and our three made themselves at home—in other words, they went around greeting people and getting petted—and then joined us on the terrace while we drank our wine and admired the garden and grounds.

To find vineyards in Napa and other regions where you and your pooch will be welcome, simply do a search for “dog-friendly wineries” including the area you want to visit. You’ll come up with plenty of possibilities.

Beach Bound

Lake Forest resident Alison Taub took her Flat-Coated Retriever Liza to Mendocino. It was the perfect spot for a water-loving dog and her person.

“There are wineries in the area and places for dogs to swim,” Taub says. “We like Cayucos, Cambria and Morro Bay, too.”

Closer to home, beach lovers and their dogs can find plenty of dog-friendly shops, restaurants and beach walks in Laguna Beach. Two of our favorite restaurants on Forest Avenue have outdoor seating where dogs are allowed: Brussels Bistro and, just down the street, Alessa, which serves Italian food. A stay at the pet-welcoming Montage is out of budgetary reach for most, but a cocktail in the lobby bar or a walk along the beach-front grounds can be had by just about anyone. Well-behaved dogs are allowed at the tables just outside the lobby bar, and on our last visit we saw a West Highland White Terrier making the scene.

Just up Pacific Coast Highway, in Huntington Beach, is the Shorebreak Hotel, where surf dogs hang 20. It’s near Huntington’s famous dog beach, located between Seapoint Avenue and 21st Street. Dog Beach caters to pet owners, providing poop bags and places where they can drink water, not to mention fun, fun, fun in the sun. Afterward, take a short drive to Dirty Dog Wash at 504 Main St., Suite C, so you can rinse your pal free of salt water and sand and get him clean enough to go back to the hotel—or home.

Mountain Hounds

If you and your dog prefer pine-scented air and freshwater fun, Big Bear is the place to be. San Diego resident Cathy Remoll Torres and her family, including their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are headed there in a couple of weeks.

“We usually rent privately owned dog-friendly houses or cabins and it works out great,” she says. “There are lots of good ones in Idyllwild, Big Bear and Julian.”

Idyllwild is noted for its dog-friendly hiking trails, says Debbie Best of Huntington Beach, who owns Flat-Coated Retrievers. They include Tahquitz Peak Trail at Forest Route 5S11, a tough six-mile hike for conditioned canines only, and Idyllwild Nature Center at 25225 Highway 243, which has easy to moderately difficult trails. Both places require dogs to be on leash.

City Dogs

An hour and a half drive south will bring you to Hotel Indigo in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. Suitably, it’s just a couple of blocks from Petco Park, where the Padres play. Relax with your dog at the outdoor bar on the ninth floor. Sit in front of one of the firepits with a cocktail, let your dog splash in the fountain, and watch the game from on high. In the morning, you and your dog can share breakfast in the lobby restaurant.

It’s a dog’s life.

Pet of the Week: London calling. This black-and-white domestic shorthair is affectionate and sweet with striking markings that make her a cat to remember. Only 1 year old, she loves to have her ears rubbed and purrs for your attention. London’s ID number is A1163073. You can meet her at Orange County Animal Care, 561 The City Drive South, in Orange. See her photo in the slideshow to the right of this article.

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