Visiting Santa Cruz, California with your Dog
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Main view of the boardwalk
Pet Friendly Santa Cruz
*Disclaimer* this is not an ad for any particular hotel, restaurant, tourist stop but rather based on personal experience of pet friendly places in and around Santa Cruz, California
We go by many names these days: empty nesters, semi-retired (aka: unemployed), but the one name we really enjoy being called is "Lou's mom and dad". Lou is our 3 plus year old mixed breed doggy of questionable linage. We do not know when Lou was born, where, to whom or the exact mix of his breed. We rescued Lou three years ago and the only thing we were told by the dog society that gave him to us was, he was found wondering the streets of a seedy part of Los Angeles, California. Tired, worn down and very hungry along with be suspicious of humans. Who could blame him?
Our children are all adults now and in college. We find ourselves doting on our "new edition" to the point that our human children are sort of jealous saying Lou is "spoiled". Well he maybe to some extent.
Because Lou was a rescue, he comes with some issues as most rescue dogs do. He has very high anxiety when traveling in a car. Even though in the three years he has been with us, each car trip has turned out to be a pleasant journey to a nice place with grass and trees. Lou will cry, whine and shiver. It makes us wonder if Lou was dropped off in the middle of busy Los Angeles by his former owner.
Lou is equally leery of people. This makes it hard for us to leave him at home with a dog sitter. In the past, our other dog Sammy (may he rest in peace) stayed with Lou and Lou had less anxiety with a sitter or with one of our children staying with him. Sadly, Sammy passed away last year and there is no way to leave Lou home alone with even a child of ours.
Wanting to take a trip to see our daughter, we started considering ways to travel. We first thought of renting an RV but the price was more than if we booked a room at the Ritz, when you considered the daily rental fees, mileage charges and gas. Plus we would be without transportation once we parked the RV at the RV park. We started searching pet friendly hotels and found a bounty of good accommodations.
One great source was Pet Friendly Hotel Search http://www.petswelcome.com/. Priceline.com allows you to check off "hotel Amenities" which has a "pets allowed" box.
Our daughter goes to school in Northern California and we started searching cities nearby that would have a pet friendly attitude. We found Santa Cruz to offer many pet friendly hotels, restaurants, retail stores and even libraries.
The best site we found to located pet friendly establishments was bringfido.com. We found restaurants where we could sit on the patio, heated in the winter, with our dog and enjoy a nice dinner. The downtown section of Santa Cruz offers lots of shops that allow you to shop and bring your dog inside. We perused the Book Shop Santa Cruz along with Lou. The staff was very friendly and when we asked "Is it okay to bring our dog inside" the staff said "Of course".
We had delicious Mexican food at El Jardin in Santa Cruz where the servers were more than accommodating and attentive to us and our Lou. In fact the patio has a section for "dogs only" which has benches and water bowls. There are other restaurants in Santa Cruz that allow you to bring fido, the Seabright Brewery, Harbor Cafe and Cafe Limelight to name a few.
We stayed in a Days Inn hotel in Santa Cruz that offered a room with a sliding door out to a grassy pet area, free breakfast and an over-sized room. It also had a microwave and a refrigerator. There are other independent hotels for weekly rent that have full kitchens and access to the beach. We had a chance to check out those places and may try them in the future. The main reason we stayed at Days Inn was because if its proximity to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. We spent mornings walking down to the boardwalk (about 5 blocks away). Lou enjoyed the sounds and smells. We enjoyed the carnival atmosphere. There are lots of deliciously bad for your food stands where you can grab an ice cream cone and sit on one of the many benches to people watch.
Santa Cruz has dog friendly beaches and our Lou loved them. We are not sure he has ever seen the ocean. It was somewhat stressful for him. The most stressful part was the number of very friendly dogs who just wanted to give him a sniff and say "hello", Lou is not used to seeing so many dogs in one place.
After a few days and after many walks on the beach and around town, Lou would be exhausted at night and we found he would be okay if left in the room alone, while mom and dad grabbed dinner without him. Many hotels offer "Do Not Disturb-pet inside" door hangers for your room to alert cleaning staff not to enter.
We found nearby Davenport and the cliffs there to be another dog friendly beach that is virtually deserted during week days. We spent an entire afternoon there combing the beach for sea glass and driftwood. A lovely seaside cafe allow us to take Lou onto the patio as we ate delicious clam chowder, fish and chips and calamari.
On a side trip, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is only a short 45 minute drive down the coast. We did not bring Lou but did see a couple of dogs inside the museum. We advise you to call ahead to be sure dogs are allowed.
We found the following to be beneficial when traveling with your dog (or any pet):
- Bring a couple of your pet's favorite toys.
- Bring their doggy bed, blanket or whatever they like to sleep on when at home.
- We found a dog harness with a seat belt attachment that was wonderful in keeping our dog from flying off the back seat. Our dog, because of his rescue issues, will not stay in a carrier.
- Do not stress over any time clock. Be prepared to make frequent stops to let fido out of the car for short walks.
- Don't impose your dog on others. As with children there are some places a dog is not allowed and you should not impose your dog on to other customers.
- Bring food and treats.
- Try to socialize your dog as much as possible weeks before any trip to get him accustom to strangers. As you can imagine if you are out and about strangers will want to pet your doggy.
One thing you must realize: traveling with a dog is a lot like traveling with children. You have to be flexible and you must be a good dog parent. Granted, taking your dog with you on your trip is not for everyone. In fact we are sure some people will read this hub and think we are totally crazy. We agree. We are crazy about our dog. He is part of our family.
Lou did so well on our trip to Santa Cruz that we continued on our travels up the coast to Portland, Oregon where another daughter lives. We found Portland to be just as dog crazy as us and very friendly, but we will save that for another hub.