STAUNTON — Tourists visiting Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley are asking to bring their pets with them on vacation more than ever before.
“I believe this increase can be attributed to the fact that millions of Americans adopted pets during the pandemic, including myself, not to mention all the time we spent with our pets while working from home and not traveling,” said Sheryl Wagner, director of tourism for VisitStaunton.
Nearly 23 million homes in the US welcomed a pet since the start of the pandemic, accounting for nearly 1 in 5 households, according to the ASPCA.
Now that businesses have reopened and the demand for travel is strong, tourists want to bring their furry companions with them. In a Mars Petcare survey, 65% of pet owners are interested in traveling with their four-legged companions.
Pet-friendly booking is the third most used search filter for Hilton hotels. And dogtrotting.net said pet tourism is 2022’s travel trend.
“Staunton was an early adopter to pet-friendly travel, but we’ve seen a rise in outdoor dining options where pets are welcome since the pandemic,” said Wagner.
Shop & Dine Out in Downtown specifically has really caught on with visitors as a unique tourism experience and it’s likely to be around for quite a while. On weekends, downtown’s main street closes while restaurants create pop-up patios and outdoor seating, an initiative put in place during the pandemic to create a safer environment that has now become a regular part of Staunton’s charm.
Outside businesses along the charming brick laid sidewalks of Beverley Street — Staunton’s Main Street — are water bowls for dogs to stop and get a drink while residents say hello to shopkeepers and neighbors, creating a welcoming environment for visitors on pup-cations.
“Want to spend an evening out having beers with your best fur buddy? Raise a glass because many of Staunton’s breweries are dog friendly,” according to VisitStaunton.com.
Redbeard Brewing and Skipping Rock Beer Co. allow well-behaved dogs on the patios, and Shenandoah Valley Brewing and Queen City Brewing actually welcome dogs inside.
Other unique pet-friendly options in Staunton include Table 44’s Dogio menu, Kline’s Pup Cup ice cream, and The Well-Balanced Paw for holistic treats.
Tourists looking to bring their pups on vacation have become so popular that VisitStaunton created a blog dedicated to helping visitors plan the perfect pup-cation.
It’s ‘Yappy Hour’ at Shenandoah National Park
According to GoPetFriendly.com, 42.9% of pet owners love hiking with their pets and Shenandoah National Park is all for it.
Shenandoah is one of the few national parks that allow pets on trails. There are less than 20 miles of over 500 miles of trails that do not allow pets, said Helen Morton, director of sales and marketing at Delaware North at Shenandoah National Park.
“A lot of our guests travel with the dogs, and we have designated ‘pet friendly’ rooms at each of our properties,” said Morton.
Park amenities offer a Pampered Pooch Package at Skyland and Big Meadows Lodge which includes lodging, the pet fee, a doggie treat, Shenandoah doggie leash and doggie bowl, and bottled water.
And yes, they even offer a Yappy Hour menu at Big Meadows Lodge. Tasty treats include puppy patties, yardbird & rice, field & stream puppy bowl and for dessert, the doggie sundae.
Check out goshenandoah.com/specials/getaways for pup vacation packages and nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/pets.htm to plan your next hiking trip with fido.
Pandemic dogs are adjusting as parents return to the workplace. To alleviate the stress and anxiety of putting your pup in a kennel while on vacation, Staunton’s downtown hotels and inns offer dedicated pet-friendly rooms. Hotel 24 South was a pioneer in dog-friendly accommodations and The Blackburn Inn has opened select rooms for your furry family members.
“We have definitely seen an uptick in guests traveling with their pets,” said Michelle Davis, general manager for Hotel 24 South.
At Hotel 24 South, guests are welcome with an amenity bag featuring dog treats and potty bags.
“Staunton is a very dog friendly town with many restaurants like Byers Street Bistro offering patio seating and services such as water bowls and treats,” said Davis. “After lunch, guests can also check out the Well Balanced Paw, a holistic pet store also in the historic Wharf district.”
When Fido needs some time to burn energy, Davis recommends guests visit Gypsy Hill Dog Park, as this fully fenced park features separate areas for small and large pups, agility equipment and benches.
Now that you’ve learned the Shenandoah Valley is the pet-friendly place to be, here’s how to plan the best pup-cation, ever.
Pet travelers recommend visiting bringfido.com to find the pet-friendly places to stay. To learn more about what to do in the Shenandoah Valley, VistShenandoah.org.
— Monique Calello (she/her) is a reporter with The News Leader in Staunton, Virginia. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @moniquecalello.
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