Austin is well-known for its dog-friendly environment, and I am often astounded by the amount of establishments that welcome visitors and their dogs. In other cities, it may be difficult to find pet-friendly activities; here, it is more likely that you will have a “rough” time choosing between the available options.
With so many pet-friendly hotels in Austin and so many restaurants that welcome pets on their patios, pet travelers never have to worry about food or shelter. And, once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you’ll have more time to explore your interests! Without further ado, here is our top 10 list of dog-friendly things to do in Austin:
No dog-friendly Austin trip would be fulfilled without a visit to Zilker Park. On weekends, this 350-acre preserve bursts to life with kite flying, soccer games, pick-up football rounds, picnicking, and a plethora of dogs. The park is divided by Barton Springs Road; dogs are allowed off-leash on the north side of the road, but must be kept on-leash on the south side. In the creek down below the pool, where they are welcome to splash.
If your dog enjoys swimming and splashing, take her to Auditorium Shores. Dogs can chase balls and practice belly flops in Ladybird Lake, which is in the shadow of the city skyline. This park is currently undergoing major renovations, including the construction of a new fenced off-leash spot. While the project is ongoing, a portion of the park is still open for off-leash play, and the new dog park is expected to be completed this summer.
Because the trail is shared by runners, walkers, bikers, and off-leash dogs, make sure your dog understands verbal commands. I saw a young dog run in front of a biker and get hit while Harley was playing. The biker fell to the ground, and the terrified dog bolted. Fortunately, the nearest street is across a large field, and the owner was able to locate her dog before the mishap became a tragedy. As it turned out, neither the biker nor the dog were seriously injured, but witnessing it made me nervous.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail
This dog-friendly trail can be reached by walking toward Ladybird Lake from anywhere in the city. This ten-mile loop goes around Ladybird Lake and provides an enchanting view of the city without the hassle of traffic. This tree-lined gem is enjoyed by bikers, runners, walkers, and pets on leashes. Some sections of the trail can be crowded, especially on weekends, but as you get further away from downtown Austin, you may discover that you have the entire trail to yourselves.
The State Capitol
The Capitol dome, located on the northern edge of downtown, will catch your eye from all over Austin. It was completed in 1888 and is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most distinguished state capitols, as well as the ideal location for a pet-friendly picnic lunch. They also offer a self-guided tour of the Capitol grounds, which explains the historical significance of the statues, historic markers, and trees.
Bustling SoCo is a great place to go for some shopping or a bite to eat. The “Keep Austin Weird” mentality permeates the sidewalk cracks, and boutiques here embrace it more than anywhere else in the city. There are also some must-visit restaurants, such as Jo’s Coffee for a snack, Home Slice Pizza for a meal that’s a little more substantial, and Enoteca Vespaio for delicious Italian cusine. But save some time and space for Amy’s Ice Cream; it’s just too delicious to miss out.
If South Congress whets your appetite for more shops, make your way north to The Domain. This huge dog-friendly outdoor mall has over 100 upscale and mainstream stores and restaurants. Many stores welcome dogs to browse – just ask first – and most eateries allow dogs on their outdoor patios. There are also dog water bowls shaded and seating (for people-watching) throughout the mall.
Zilker Botanical Garden
Make a point of visiting Zilker Botanical Garden if you enjoy nature. With six themed gardens spanning 31 acres, you can easily spend the entire afternoon wandering through the paths and trails – all of which are dog friendly! The plants’ and trees’ flowers and berries make this an excellent spot for butterfly and bird watching, so bring those binoculars.
Dog-friendly Zilker in Austin, Texas, is brimming with rare and unusual plants, and the campus features a variety of themed areas that you’ll enjoy exploring with your leashed pet. Streams, waterfalls, and Koi-filled ponds connect theme gardens like the rose, herb, and Japanese gardens.
McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls is a popular swimming hole in the summer, but according to the signs, dogs are not permitted in the water. There are, however, two 2.8-mile-long hiking trails where dogs (on a leash) are allowed. Because recent rain had made the dirt Homestead Trail a little slick, we chose the paved Onion Creek Hike and Bike trail. Make sure you and the dog remain on the trail you choose. I’m passing on that lesson, which I learned the hard way after getting way too close to a prickly cactus while photographing my dog.
This park is located on the confluence of Onion Creek and Williamson Creek and is only a 9-mile drive from downtown. The park contains the ruins of Thomas F. McKinney’s family home and the horse trainer’s house, which were once owned by a prominent racehorse breeder. There are also two 2.8-mile pet-friendly hiking trails open to leashed dogs.
Norwood Dog Park
Austin has a lot of great dog parks, but none beat the Norwood Dog Park for pups like Harley (whose recall is a little shaky). This large space, located where Riverside Drive hits I-35, is completely fenced and has a designated area for small dogs.
Dogs should be more than welcomed, and they are encouraged to visit the restaurants and bars on Rainy Street. Take a stroll down the street and you’ll probably meet as many pets as people! One establishment has even gone so far as to build their own fenced dog area in the beer garden!
If you’re planning a trip to Austin, we hope this gives you a good starting point. Please share any great pet-friendly spots that we didn’t include in our top ten in the comments below!
Great Pet Friendly Hotels, Restaurants in Austin, Texas
Our Austin moms have compiled the best pet-friendly options to make your stay in Austin the best it can be for you and your four-legged friends! From Lake Travis to the Warehouse District, Austin has everything pet-friendly to offer.
Austin, Texas is well-known for being a dog and pet-friendly city. Austin gets a “paws-up” from pet-owners all over the country for everything from new restaurants and bars to a plethora of dog parks. With so many options in Austin, we hope this helps you and your dog in discovering the best of this hip, dog-friendly city.