by Jason Heidemann
It’s difficult not to like San Francisco. While the city might be enveloped in giant cotton-ball patches of fog most of the year, underneath it all is a compact and cosmopolitan place that has always marched to its own beat. This mini-metropolis is definitely “off-leash” in terms of its politics and lifestyle, so it comes as no surprise to find that it’s likewise an easygoing place for pets. Dogs and their people can run wild at the beach, shop together downtown, or hold one another tightly on a cable car as it makes yet another rickety ascent up an impossibly steep hill. This is just that kind of town.
The innovative Kimpton brand practically invented the concept of pet-friendly hotels. It rolls out the welcome mats to pets of all shapes and sizes without a fee or deposit, a weight limit, or restriction on the number of animals brought. It asks only that you notify the hotel ahead of time. Pet perks include nightly treats at turndown or sessions with a pet masseuse, and the best part of it is the company’s based in San Francisco.
Our favorites include:
• Hotel Palomar, 12 Fourth St,
(866) 373-4941; www.HotelPalomar.com
• Argonaut Hotel, 495 Jefferson St,
(866) 415-0704; www.ArgonautHotel.com
4336 20th St
(415) 431-9907, www.CasaFrancisquita.com
Folks looking for more of a home-away-from-home kind of stay can head to this charming rental located between Noe Valley and the Castro near the geographical heart of the city. The “casa” is actually the lower of two flats and can accommodate up to two people. Well-behaved dogs are welcome for an additional charge of just $10 and are encouraged to roam the beautifully landscaped garden in back.
Bordered by Fulton, Hayes, Steiner, & Scott Streets in the Western Addition
For the quintessential snapshot of San Francisco, shutterbugs look no further than Alamo Square. It is here where the entire skyline provides a backdrop to the city’s row of famous Victorians, “the painted ladies” that sit in the foreground of a million tourist photos. As a bonus, one side of the park is an off-leash area. Go dog wild!
Great Highway between Fulton St & Sloat Blvd
Windswept Ocean Beach is a dog’s paradise. This enormous stretch of sand and surf hugs the foggy western side of the city and the entire area is off-leash with the single caveat that on busy weekends, guardians may have to leash their pups until they can take them to less crowded parts of the beach. Bring a jacket because, aside from those occasionally sunny afternoons, it can get mighty chilly out here.
Golden Gate Dog Run
38th Ave and Fulton St in Golden Gate Park
This off-leash area is one of four in Golden Gate Park, but this location is our favorite. We arrived here bright and early on a sparkly winter morning and were surprised to find several dozen dogs already at play. By mid-afternoon, that number is said to reach into the hundreds. The expansive fenced-in area includes plenty of space for dogs to run around while the sun crackles through the eucalyptus trees.
On Lincoln Blvd in the Presidio
Postcard-perfect Baker Beach is a magnet for city-weary urbanites. When the sun manages to push through the ubiquitous fog, singles and families alike flock here in droves to work on their tans in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and the gorgeous Marin Headlands. Dogs are allowed off-leash at the north end of the beach. But beware, while your dog is frolicking around au naturel, so are other people. The north end is a famous nude beach.
Bowwow Meow & Co.
2150 Polk St
(415) 440-2845, www.BowwowMeow.net
Don’t let appearances fool you. While Bowwow Meow may not have the über-chic appearance of some of its competitors, it nearly blows away other pet-supply stores with its wealth of products, both hip and practical, and a savvy sales staff to match. Shelves are lined with all-natural pet food brands while a wealth of fresh dog treats are on hand courtesy of Los Angeles-based dog barkeries Preppy Puppy and Cool Dog. There are tons of fun canine and feline toys and how-to books available, plus it hosts in-house lectures from dog trainers and cat behaviorists.
Bella and Daisy’s
1750 Union St
(415) 440-7007, www.BellaAndDaisys.com
If Paris Hilton lived in the Bay Area, we have a feeling she’d be stopping here often. Doggie birthday cakes made to order? It’s got them. Cashmere couture by Woof Wear N.Y.C.? Check. Homeopathic bath and aromatherapy products? You don’t even have to ask. It has a kitty korner as well, but the best part has to be the Friday-evening wine and cheese Yappy hours, when proud parents can bring in their dogs for a playtime meet-and-greet.
Union Square is to San Francisco what Fifth Avenue is to New York or the Magnificent Mile is to Chicago, and the best part of it is many of the retail biggies are dogfriendly. Well-behaved, leashed canines are welcome inside major department stores like Macy’s (170 O’Farrell St), Neiman Marcus (150 Stockton St), Saks Fifth Avenue (384 Post St), and locally based retailer Williams-Sonoma (340 Post St).
SF Hound Lounge
2825 Mariposa St
(415) 255-1170, www.SFHoundLouge.com
This spiffy playtime camp is near sunny Potrero Hill, a short cab ride away from downtown. Dogs can while away the afternoon goofing around in the tunnel, on the slide, with hanging tires, or playing with an assortment of toys. As a huge plus, most of the staff members have either volunteered or worked with the San Francisco SPCA.
Wags Pet Wash and Boutique
1840 Polk St
(415) 409-2472, www.SFWags.com
This cozy Russian Hill groomer offers an intimate space where dogs can roam around while waiting to get scrubbed down. Pups are washed up in tiled baths while protected by shower curtains with goofy prints. The boutique portion of the store includes hhip shampoos and moisturizing treatments for your four-legged friend from brands like Cloud Star and Shea Pet.
Fog City Doggie Daycare
1488 Lombard St
(415) 409-DOGS, www.FogCityDogs.com
A painted background of the Golden Gate Bridge is meant to give guardians the impression that their dogs are relaxing right in the heart of the city. The good news is that their pets really are. Visitors sticking close to downtown’s beaten path will find this conveniently located daycare right up their alley. It offers filtered water, grooming, daily walks to Fort Mason, pickup/drop-off, and more.
3108 16th St, (415) 252-7373
This wildly popular restaurant and cafe is a real charmer specializing in authentic Breton crepes, out-of-this-world coffee drinks, and a variety of salads that are big enough to share. Guardians lucky enough to grab a table outside can make room for canine friends. Its location in the multicultural Mission District makes it a peoplewatcher’s dream.
Peet’s Coffee and Tea
Very few places outside of California have been lucky enough to snag a Peet’s, but those that have know that this is one outstanding place to sip java. You can find them practically everywhere in San Francisco and you can park your pooch at the ones with outdoor patios. We recommend hanging out at the yuppie-centric Marina location [2156 Chestnut Ave, (415) 931-8302] where dogs have virtually replaced humans as the new children.