USA Itinerary: A Dog-Friendly Road Trip

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been sitting at home for the past year trying to scratch your wanderlust itch without being an irresponsible jerk during a global pandemic.

I have booked flights only to cancel them after second thoughts to countries that are accepting American travelers: Egypt, Costa Rica, Brazil, Turkey, even Hawaii. As I was playing ball with my eight-year-old Boston Terrier, Bowie, I thought, why don’t I just look in my own backyard for an adventure, and bring my best little buddy with me? It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I had assumed traveling cross country alone with a dog would impose its challenges. Where would we stay? How dog-friendly are other cities? Is he even allowed in National Parks? Will he be eaten by a coyote or captured by a hawk? I searched online and was unable to find any full cross country detailed itineraries on traveling from the East to West Coast with a pup, so I decided to start driving and create one myself. Below is our journey over the course of five weeks with everything you need to know on how to make your USA road trip pup-friendly!

Taking a stroll at the Williamsburg Waterfront.
Taking a stroll at the Williamsburg Waterfront. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Brooklyn, New York

Williamsburg Hotel

96 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

  • Pet fee: $100 per stay
  • Street Parking
  • Rooftop Bar
  • Restaurant Downstairs
  • Domino Park
  • Luckydog (margaritas)
  • Happy Dogs (grooming)

New York is my home, but what’s wrong with a little staycation every now and then? Bowie and I stayed at The Williamsburg Hotel, and it did not disappoint one bit. There are balconies in each room that offer beautiful views of the East River and the Manhattan skyline. Williamsburg is also one of the most dog-friendly neighborhoods not only in NYC, but arguably in the country. Domino Park has a great dog-run, and if your pup isn’t always down for company, you can just walk along the water up to the Williamsburg waterfront for some killer views of the city. If it’s hot out, grab a margarita on the back patio of Luckydog (and if it’s cold, try one of their Hot Mama drinks.) The Williamsburg bridge has a separate area from car and bike traffic to walk into Manhattan and only takes 20-30 minutes. If your dog needs grooming or doggy daycare, head over to Happy Dogs right off of McCarren Park. The options of what you can do with your pup are endless.

Bowie taking a nap at The Williamsburg Hotel. copy
Bowie taking a nap at The Williamsburg Hotel.

1221 Kentucky Mills Dr, Louisville, KY 40299

  • Pet fee: $30 per stay
  • Free Breakfast
  • Free Parkin
  • Door to Nowhere
  • FDKY BBQ
  • Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Our second stop was Louisville, Kentucky which is a whopping 11 hours from NYC. I am aware of how ambitious this was and realize spending that much time in the car is not ideal for everyone. My reasoning for choosing Louisville as stop #2 is because, growing up in New York, I have already seen most of the other ideal spots along the route. Due to the long drive, I was unable to see much in Louisville the night I got in. Unfortunately, I would not recommend neither this hotel nor this area of Louisville. It is one of the few times on this particular trip I felt unsafe. Not many people wore masks, our bed was not made when we walked into the room, and I overheard a man talking to the front desk about how “The guy from room 102 just pointed a gun in my face.” Understand that this is the American South where gun laws are lax. Bowie and I went up to the room where I ate a dinner of granola that I had packed for the trip.

The next morning was a bit better. It was rainy, so instead of walking, we drove through the downtown area, and stopped to take some pictures near the infamous “Door to Nowhere” which is exactly as it sounds (a random door in the middle of nowhere.) I couldn’t leave without trying some famous Kentucky BBQ, so I grabbed a pulled pork sandwich for curbside pick-up from FDKY BBQ before heading out on our way. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is something I would consider in the future, though I’m not sure how dog-friendly it is.

Happy in the Louisville Hotel after a long car ride!
Happy in the Louisville Hotel after a long car ride! PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

Louisville's Door to Nowhere
Louisville’s Door to Nowhere. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

501 Olive St, St. Louis, MO 63101

  • Saint Louis
  • MO 63101
  • United States of America
  • Pet fee: $25/night (maximum of two pets)
  • Street or Garage Parking
  • Sugarfire Smokehouse
  • The Gate neighborhood
  • Joe’s Kansas City BBQ

St. Louis is a place I’ve always had a desire to visit, so going there with my pup was quite the treat. It’s a short drive from Louisville, and you’ll know you’re getting close when you see the arch appear from the highway! I was incredibly lucky with the weather at 70°F when we arrived. We stayed close to the arch which was a good overall. I was able to find street parking without a problem, but there were also a few garages around if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your car on the street.

Bowie really thrived in St. Louis. He loves walking around the pavement in a city setting, as he is indeed a NYC born-and-raised pup. We ordered takeout from Sugarfire Smokehouse, and the ribs were to-die-for. We walked to the arch where we watched the sunset, and the next day, before heading out, we stopped by a park in The Gate neighborhood. It was more upscale than the bustling downtown area, so that’s something to keep in mind when booking accommodation. I preferred downtown but I was happy to explore other parts of the city before heading off onto our next destination.

(Stop in Kansas City, Missouri)

Despite not being a huge meat-eater, being in the Midwest is almost sinister if you don’t try different styles of BBQ. Kansas City is known to have some of the best BBQ in the nation, though it was not a place I planned to spend much time in, I thought, I could make a little pit-stop (no pun intended) to grab a quick meal.

Now, you may be wondering, are you really going to break up your drive for a sandwich? The answer is yes, yes you are. This is the best sandwich I had on the trip, maybe in my life. The Z-man sandwich from Joe’s Kansas City BBQ is something I would not typically order: brisket, onion rings, BBQ sauce, pickles, and provolone. I have, however, a good friend who is a BBQ-connoisseur. When I reached out to him about where to eat in KC, he did not hesitate to say, “Get the Z-Man Sandwich from Joe’s.” Extra perks: it’s also a gas station, so kill two birds with one stone and fill up while you’re there. You will not regret it.

Sugarfire BBQ, St. Louis, MO.
Sugarfire BBQ, St. Louis, MO. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

St. Louis Arch
St. Louis Arch. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

Z-Man Sandwich from Joe's, Kansas City.
Z-Man Sandwich from Joe’s, Kansas City. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Lindsborg, Kansas

Viking Motel

446 N Harrison St, Lindsborg, KS 67456

  • Pet fee: $25 flat rate
  • Free Parking

A long while back, I was searching for the quirkiest places in the US when I came across a town called: Lindsborg, Kansas, otherwise known as “Little Sweden.” I distinctly remember thinking, “I doubt I’ll ever visit there,” but, low and behold, when you’re in the driver’s seat, you can go wherever the hell you want. So, I decided to spend a night in Little Sweden. The only dog-friendly accommodation was The Viking Motel. This town is hilarious and charming all at once. It literally transports you to Scandinavia. We walked around, took tons of photos in all of its charm, and out of our entire venture, it remains a true hidden gem of our cross country road trip.

Bowie in Lindsborg, Kansas.
Bowie in Lindsborg, Kansas. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

1095 Castle Rock St, Quinter, KS 67752

  • Pet fee: $25/night
  • Free Breakfast
  • Free Parking
  • Castle Rock
  • Monument Rock

Quinter was, what I hoped to be, an exciting stop. We were finally making our way to some national parks, and Quinter is a good stop for Castle Rock and Monument Rock. What I did not know was that you would ideally need an SUV or a truck to drive through the dirt roads leading up to either of these parks. We stopped at Castle Rock, and after twenty minutes of uncomfortable dirt road driving (in a Cadillac, nonetheless,) we finally arrived. Bowie is a total champ in the car and even he was highly over it. The random rock formation in the middle of nowhere was definitely a sight to see; it seemed like it should be in Saudi Arabia, not the US, but depending on your tolerance for motion/car sickness added in with whatever type of vehicle you have, I am not sure it would be worth the trouble for everyone. I personally am happy we decided to visit, and we were the only ones there, so we had the whole place to ourselves. It certainly gives “the middle of nowhere” a new meaning. Knowing that Monument Rock was a similar drive, we decided to only see Castle Rock before heading out. Another perk worth mentioning is Castle Rock Inn & Suites had probably the most comfortable bed for the duration of our trip. It was hard to not book another night just for the sleep!

solo travel dog-friendly itinerary
Bowie at Castle Rock in Quinter, Kansas. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

200 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO 80302

  • Pet fee: $20/night (maximum two pets)
  • Free Breakfast
  • Free Parking
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Boulder Canyon Trail
  • Dushanbe Teahouse
  • t/aco
  • Piece Love and Chocolate

I visited Colorado a few years back and fell in love with just about everything, so stopping in Boulder was a highlight of the road trip. We stayed at Foot of the Mountain Hotel which I cannot recommend enough. We had our own little log cabin at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. My biggest complaint about our visit to Boulder is it was freezing the entire time we were there which made it difficult to do the hikes I was hoping for. We did attempt the Boulder Canyon Trail, but Bowie refused to walk after twenty minutes or so due to the ice. Note that hiking options are nearly endless, but we simply did not go when the weather was ideal. Hikes aside, Boulder is a bustling city with ample dining options. I particularly enjoyed takeout from t/aco where I had some delicious cotija tacos and a happy hour margarita to-go (served in a mason jar!) A close runner-up was the spicy Indonesian peanut noodles with tofu from Dushanbe Teahouse. It was nice to have vegetarian options after all of the BBQ I consumed in the Midwest. An absolute must visit is Piece, Love, and Chocolate. Don’t leave without trying their basil truffle and a signature cup of their European-style sipping chocolate!

Foot of the Mountain Hotel in Boulder, CO
Foot of the Mountain Hotel in Boulder, CO. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI
Enjoying a Beer at our little Log Cabin
Enjoying a Beer at our little Log Cabin. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Moab, Utah

Big Horn Lodge

550 S Main St, Moab, UT 84532

  • Pet fee: $10/night
  • Free Parking
  • Grandstaff Canyon Trail
  • Deadhorse Point State Park
  • Faux Falls
  • Pasta Jay’s

Finally! We made it to Moab! At least, that was the feeling I had once entering Utah. Moab is stunning. There are red rocks everywhere, the downtown area is walkable and lined with restaurants, shops, cafés, and more. The overall vibe is chill. We opted to stay at Big Horn Lodge, but for one of the nights there, we rented a camper van and stayed at a campground. I thought camping was mandatory in Utah, and I’d usually be all for it. But, despite the hot temperatures during the day, the nighttime dropped to below 20 degrees, and I had trouble sleeping, even with a heater. Bowie, however, slept like a champ!

We got a few hikes in which was great for both Bowie and I after so many hours of driving. Our favorites were Grandstaff Canyon Trail and Deadhorse Point State Park. Deadhorse was similar to the Grand Canyon, only without the crowds. There was almost no one else around and it was nice to take in the quietness. We did try to find Faux Falls but to no avail. If you’re looking for a meal in this town, try Pasta Jay’s; I was hesitant to eat Italian food in a random Utah town, but they know what they’re doing, and carbing up is a great way to fuel your body for one of Moab’s many hikes. It is worth noting that neither Arches nor Canyonlands are dog-friendly.

Dead Horse Canyon, Moab, Utah.
Dead Horse Canyon, Moab, Utah. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

Hanging out in our Camper Van in Moab, Utah.
Hanging out in our Camper Van in Moab, Utah. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI
Hiking in Moab, Utah
Hiking in Moab, Utah. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Bryce Canyon City, Utah

Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn

26 South Main St, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764

  • Pet fee: $30/night
  • Free Breakfast
  • Grocery Store on Site
  • Restaurant and Bar on Site
  • Free Parking
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Red Hills Desert Garden
  • In-N-Out Burger

Though the pet fee for this hotel was higher than most others, the room was one of the cheapest, most comfortable, and the largest. The hotel we stayed at was basically Disneyland for Bryce Canyon. There was a restaurant, grocery store, laundromat, gift shop, bar…and most, all onsite. The grocery store remained to be the biggest perk; I could finally restock on some fresh veggies and local delicacies, such as: Prickly Pear Jelly and local honey. The whole town was mock-Western-style, and charming in its own right. We went to Bryce Canyon, which I had read was dog-friendly, but turned out, not so much. Though Bowie was technically allowed to enter, he was not able to go on any of the trails. It is still worth seeing and there are several different lookout points you can head to via vehicle, but don’t expect to get a strenuous workout in if you have a pup with you.

(Stop in St. George, Utah)

St. George is close to Zion National Park, and since I knew Bowie would not be allowed to go (Zion, also, is not dog-friendly,) I thought we could at least stop in the town to say we’ve been. We visited Red Hills Desert Garden which was an easy walk filled with over 5,000 different plants. Each plant has a QR code next to it so you can scan it with your phone to receive more information. It was a lovely way to break up our drive and it was educational as well. As we continued to drive, I saw a sign for In-N-Out Burger. Having lived in Los Angeles, I knew I needed to stop. Bowie needed to have his first In-N-Out experience! St. George would easily be worth spending a night or two in instead of just making it a stopping point.

In-N-Out in St. George, Utah
In-N-Out in St. George, Utah. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

Bryce Canyon, Utah
Bryce Canyon, Utah. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Las Vegas, Nevada

La Quinta by Wyndham

3970 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89169

  • Pet fee: Free
  • Outdoor Pool (Closed due to Covid-19)
  • Free Parking
  • The strip
  • Welcome to Las Vegas sign

When I arrived in Las Vegas, I genuinely had to question my sanity. One: I drove from New York and was nearly almost all the way West, and two: who on earth brings a dog to Vegas? But I had just found out I got into my top choice law school and thought we could use a little celebration, so Vegas it was! I have been to Vegas several times throughout my life, so I felt no desire to stay on the strip, however, if it’s your first visit, staying on the strip is worth the splurge. Most hotels on the strip are dog-friendly but the pet fee can be astronomical ($150/night and upwards.) The La Quinta we stayed at was perfectly fine; comfy beds, cable TV, free coffee, and just a short 15-20 minute walk from the strip. I walked Bowie to the strip, and it was not ideal for a pup (way too many drunk people mixed with 80-degree weather,) so we did not spend more than maybe ten minutes on it, though he did meet some showgirls and get his picture taken with Stardust Scarlets. We also drove to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign where there was about a ten-minute wait to take our proper Vegas photo. I would say Vegas is probably the one place out of all of our stops that I would omit for a dog-friendly road trip. Most restaurants would not even let us sit outside and had strict “no pet” rules, so once again, we lived off of car granola. Either way, I have the comical memory of bringing my dog all the way to Sin City.

Bowie with some Showgirls on the Vegas Strip.
Bowie with some Showgirls on the Vegas Strip. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

Welcome to Las Vegas!
Welcome to Las Vegas! PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Red Roof Inn PLUS

642 E Rte 66, Williams, AZ 86046

  • Pet fee: Free
  • Free Parking
  • Route 66
  • Brewed Awakening coffee
  • The Long Horn Saloon
  • The Grand Canyon

The drive from Las Vegas to Williams, AZ is about three-and-a-half hours and will take you through the Hoover Dam. We tried to stop at the Hoover Dam but after a quick google, realized it was not dog-friendly. We stopped at a lookout point instead. Williams, AZ is off of iconic Route 66, and – like Bryce Canyon City – is a Western-style town with quaint shops, bars, and restaurants. I highly recommend grabbing a coffee at Brewed Awakening, and a bite to eat at the dog-friendly bar/restaurant: The Long Horn Saloon. We spent one night here, then headed to The Grand Canyon the next morning, which was about an hour away and a perfect dog-friendly hike to add to our trip.

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Sedona, Arizona

Sky Ranch Lodge

1105 Airport Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

  • Pet fee: $25/night
  • Outdoor Pool and Hot Tub
  • Outdoor Bar
  • Free Parking
  • Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
  • Petrified Forest

Sedona is the ultimate place to do a proper treat-yo-self. Sky Ranch Lodge had the best amenities out of any place I stayed at, however, if you choose to stay here, be aware that it is somewhat removed from town center. It was not convenient to walk around, a car was necessary. I did not mind it, as it was a little slice of peace and quiet, surrounded by the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. I could have easily spent all of my days lounging by the pool and hot tub, but I would have regretted not hiking at least one of Sedona’s many trails. Bowie and I chose the easy but lengthy Boynton Canyon Trail. We headed into town and checked out Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, a shopping area designed after a traditional Mexican village. You can see sculptures that sell upward of $5,000, buy some souvenirs for friends and family, grab an ice cream cone or espresso. Sedona is a charming town, for a journey as long as a cros country road trip, I think two days here is sufficient.

(Stop in Petrified Forest, Arizona)

Petrified Forest was right off of our eight-hour route to Alamogordo, New Mexico, so I made it a point to stop. This was my favorite hike that Bowie and I tackled throughout the entire road trip. There were hardly any one else out there, instead of hiking upward, we hiked down into the forest. The colors were muted pastels with burgundy undertones, and the sights were nothing short of breathtaking. I don’t think it’s worth spending a night near here, as it seemed pretty isolated, but make sure to include it in your itinerary. It could even easily be a daytrip from Sedona.

Chilling by the Hot Tub in Sedona, AZ
Chilling by the Hot Tub in Sedona, AZ. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

Boynton Canyon Trail in Sedona, AZ
Boynton Canyon Trail in Sedona, AZ. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI
Petrified Forest, Arizona
Petrified Forest, Arizona. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Alamogordo, New Mexico

The Classic Desert Aire Hotel

1021 S White Sands Blvd, Alamogordo, NM 88310

  • Pet Fee: $15/night
  • Free Breakfast
  • Outdoor Pool (Closed due to Covid-19)
  • Coin-Operated Laundry Services on Site
  • Free Parking
  • White Sands National Park
  • Heart of the Desert Pistachios and Wine

Situated roughly 90 miles north of the US/Mexican border, Alamogordo is a Southwestern town where the beautiful White Sands National Park can be found. Expect green chiles in all of your food, cheap but spacious accommodation, and most surprisingly, plenty of wineries and pistachio farms. Bowie and I did, of course, visit White Sands, but it was incredibly windy making it uncomfortable for both of us. I tried to get Bowie to wear my sunglasses to protect his eyes, but to no avail. After our short-lived hike, we went to Heart of the Desert Pistachios and Wine and sat on the patio. I bought some different types of salt, pistachios, spices, wines, beers, and oils to bring home to my family, with a few things for myself as well. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this charming little town.

Heart of the Desert Winery in Alamogordo, NM.
Heart of the Desert Winery in Alamogordo, NM. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI
White Sands, New Mexico.
White Sands, New Mexico. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Ramada Inn

8175 E Skelly Dr, Tulsa, OK 74129

  • Pet fee: Free
  • Free Breakfast
  • Indoor Pool and Hot Tub
  • Free Parking

My biggest road trip lessons were learned on my ride from New Mexico to Oklahoma. I knew the eleven-hour ride was going to be far from enjoyable, but I wanted to make my way back and had no desire to stop anywhere else in between. I made an awesome playlist, admittedly tuned in to three hours of the very problematic/conservative Dr. Laura, and sucked up the long day of driving. There were two ways I could have made it to Tulsa, but I decided to take the quickest way, which cut me through the Northwest corner of Texas. I had watched the weather channel the night prior and saw that Eastern New Mexico, aka: where I would be driving through on this particular route, was at risk for wildfires. I had also heard a storm was cutting through the center of the country. Eager to get out of the state as soon as possible, I left around 8 – 9 a.m. There were signs all over the Western part of the United States that warned people about wildfire dangers, ranging as follows: low, moderate, high, very high, extreme.

Getting our Car Towed in Tulsa, OK
Getting our Car Towed in Tulsa, OK. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

The entire time I had traveled and saw these signs, they were always in “Low.” This day, however, as I was driving out, I saw signs that said “Extreme.” It was terrifying to see and had me put my pedal to the metal. I got out of New Mexico and entered Texas harm-free. But, as I was headed through a town called Amarillo, which was en route, I saw a giant grey cloud ahead of me, nothing like I had never seen before. I realized I was driving directly into a tornado with no other options. Yes, because I did not do my research properly, I was completely unaware that a tornado had hit northwestern Texas. It was terrifying, and I genuinely thought our car would be blown away, as the winds were upward of 80mph. I could not see due to torrential rain for who knows how long. So many things could have gone wrong, and I was lucky to make it out safely with just the story to tell. I never thought I’d be so happy to enter Oklahoma. We had made it out of the bad weather!

I arrived in Tulsa late, and the hotel was unfortunately one of the worst I’ve ever stayed at. No one wore a mask, the pool was full of families, meaning I do not believe social distancing was practiced, and its location in town was questionable. The next morning, I was ready to get out of there, but got a flat tire on the highway. Getting a flat tire would usually be no feat with Triple A, but it was on a Sunday in the Bible Belt, most businesses were closed. Luckily, Latino Tires was open, fixed my tire for $95, and I finally moved on from two very stressful and chaotic days of driving. My biggest bit of advice is: if you want to visit Tulsa, which I do not discourage, don’t go on a Sunday. Nothing, and I mean nothing was open. Hey, it wouldn’t be a real road trip if there weren’t at least a few bumps in the road, right?

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Red Roof Inn

1125 E Grand Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901

  • Free Breakfast (Muffins and coffee)
  • Pet fee: Free
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Free Parking
  • Hot Springs National Park
  • Superior Bathhouse Brewery
  • Maxine’s

Though the days leading up to it were stressful, my arrival in Hot Springs was like a light at the end of the tunnel. This town was a true oasis in the middle of the South, and I felt the good energy and vibes coming my way as soon as I arrived.

Hot Springs is a town literally filled with just that: hot springs! In 1832, U.S. President Andrew Jackson declared Hot Springs as the first federal reservation. The town has natural thermal water, there are several fountains throughout where you and locals can fill up jugs of fresh hot spring water. There are several bathhouses to visit and receive a proper massage, but since I had the little pup with me, I was not able to indulge. Bowie and I, however, walked the trail through Hot Springs National Park and stopped at Superior Bathhouse Brewery, a woman-owned dog-friendly spot with delicious beers on draft. I even ended up singing karaoke at Maxine’s, where Bowie came onstage with ME! This town took me by surprise, and I would recommend visiting to just about everyone.

Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, AR.
Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, AR. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

 

Karaoke in Hot Springs, AR
Karaoke in Hot Springs, AR. PHOTO KAITLYN ROSATI

Nashville, Tennessee

Hayes Street Hotel