Southern California becomes more and more pet friendly as the years go by. From parks allowing pups to restaurants opening their patios to furry patrons, you can now bring your entire family with you to more places than ever. However, once you’ve exhausted the popular attractions, what else can you do with your fourlegged best friend? This is when you need the locals to help you out. If you’re tired of the same old places and looking for more unique experiences, here is our list of 10 hidden gems for pet lovers in Southern California!
Fiesta Island, San Diego
As a photographer, I often found myself at Fiesta Island while visiting San Diego. This local hangout is one of the best dog parks around, and so few people seem to know about it! Located in Mission Bay, Fiesta Island is a large peninsular park that is absolute doggy paradise. Dogs are permitted off-leash to romp and play, and there are spacious designated spots for picnics and fire pits. A fun outing on a good weather day, Fiesta Island is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. You may even run into me, taking some puppy photographs there!
Fiesta Island is open every day from early morning to late evening at 1590 East Mission Bay Drive, San Diego, CA 92109. Get more information at sandiego.gov.
Coastal Cone Parlor, Ventura
Who doesn’t love ice cream, right? If you find yourself traveling through Ventura County with your dog, you must stop by Coastal Cone Parlor. This fun spot is located right by the pier, where pets are invited inside the “pawlor” to lounge while you cool off with a frozen treat. No more needing to leave your poor dog tied up outside while you go in for goodies. And with a plethora of flavors and options to choose from, their creamy delights are sure to satisfy any ice cream lover’s sweet tooth.
Coastal Cone Parlor is open 8 am to 10 pm every day at 1583 Spinnaker Dr 104, Ventura, CA 93001.
The Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a favorite travel destination for many reasons, from its beautiful beaches to its lovely downtown. I find myself traveling there with my pup often, because so many of the local restaurants and beaches are pet friendly. One of my favorite secret spots is the Douglas Family Preserve. This incredible park encompasses an off-leash dog park, hiking trails, and picnic areas, all in close proximity to Arroyo Burro Beach. Dogs are welcome to run free in designated zones, and it’s a great place to work out your athletic dog’s boundless energy.
Entry to the park is from the east at Borton Drive, Mesa School Lane, Medcliff Drive, and at the Oak Grove Trail at the intersection of Las Positas Road and the southern side of Cliff Drive. According to the official website, dogs must stay on leash while entering the park and until the off-leash areas signs are encountered within the park. There are more than three miles of park trails for long, leisurely walks or a hard-core workout run with your dog. Find out more at santabarbaraca.gov.
Once you’re finished frolicking in nature, relax at The Brewhouse at 229 W Montecito Street, which offers delicious fare for both you and your dog. Pups can enjoy steak bites, a frozen marrow bone, chicken strips, and more. Visit sbbrewhouse.com for the complete menu.
The Dog Café, Los Angeles
“The Dog Cafe’s mission is to revolutionize dog adoption by reinventing the way people connect with rescues needing homes,” declares the front page of the Dog Cafe website. Much like Crumbs & Whiskers on page 114, the Dog Cafe is a way to get your pet fix if you don’t have one of your own (or you just need a day out with some puppies)! The first of its kind in America, guests pay $15 for an hour of fun with dogs rescued from LA shelters. The money goes back into caring for our furry friends who live onsite for as long as it takes to find them homes. These dogs come and go as they please, allowing everyone to see their charming personalities (away from the stress and fear of an animal shelter). Many successful adoptions have happened here, as has a great deal of human decompression from the everyday stresses of life!
Stop by the Dog Cafe at 240 North Virgil Avenue, Units 12 & 12B, Los Angeles, CA 90004. Reservations are recommended, as guests are introduced to the doggy environment in small groups. Walk-ins may be accommodated during slower times.
Palm Springs Air Museum
Would you ever expect you could bring your dog with you to a museum? Well, you can! The Palm Springs Air Museum is open to two-legged and four-legged aviation enthusiasts alike. With aircraft from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, most of the museum’s aircraft are in flyable condition. There is plenty to see, both inside and out, especially if you’d like to book the “ride of a lifetime” in one of the museum’s four warbirds. Palm Springs Air Museum displays a whopping 59 flyable and static planes inside four climate-controlled hangers. It’s a great escape when the Palm Springs weather is less than cooperative. Friendly, leashed pets are welcome to explore the planes with you.
Visit the museum every day 10 am to 5 pm, at 745 North Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262. For more information, visit palmspringsairmuseum.org.
Street Food Cinema, Los Angeles
Seeing a movie is one of the most popular human pastimes. For a couple of hours, you can escape reality, get lost in a deep story or live vicariously through the characters. Usually, of course, this indulgence is for humans only, as pets are not welcome inside movie theaters for obvious reasons. Well, I’m excited to tell you about Street Food Cinema, which is putting a new spin on a night at the movies. Taking place in a picnic-style, bring-the-whole-family outdoor gathering, this movie experience is a throwback to the beloved drive-in movie, and it’s 100% pet friendly.
Street Food Cinema offers at least one outdoor movie showing each weekend throughout the summer months in different cities around Los Angeles. They cover a variety of genres, so you’ll find there’s something for everyone. Bring your blankets, chairs, even your own food and drink—whatever you need to enjoy yourself. Food trucks are onsite to grab a hot bite and a cold drink, and various attractions (such as live bands) add to the festivities of these summertime events.
Find the local Street Food Cinema near you at streetfoodcinema.com.
Hollywood Hills Park, Los Angeles
The Hollywood sign is one of Los Angeles’s biggest and best-known attractions— it’s a must-see for people visiting the city for the first time. Most tourists tend to go up Beachwood Drive to get a good look at the sign. But locals know the secret of an even better spot with the best view around … Hollywood Hills Park. Tucked away in a neighborhood of winding roads, Hollywood Hills Park features an astonishingly close view of the legendary Hollywood sign.
But what really attracts locals to this park is its beautiful grassy field, surrounded by mature trees and dog-friendly nature. Well behaved, social dogs are welcome (and encouraged) to romp and play at Hollywood Hills park. There is also a fairly easy hiking trail surrounding the park that will bring you even closer to the sign itself—a great Instagram selfie moment for you and your pup!
Visit Hollywood Hills Park at 3160 Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068. Parking can be a bit limited from the surrounding residents at peak hours, so get there early. For full information, visit laparks.org.
Arts District Dog Park, Los Angeles
The Arts District Los Angeles is one of the most colorful and eye-catching spots in the city. Named after its large accumulation of murals and local street art, the Arts District is home to a variety of art galleries, unique eateries, and bars. What many don’t know is that a local dog park in the heart of the Arts District is just as interesting to look at as the murals on the streets. The park is vibrant, with an array of dog-inspired artwork all around. But the feature of the park that attracts many locals is its separate areas for small or timid dogs. The large dogs can romp in their own sprawling area, without disturbing their smaller cousins.
This non-profit dog park is located at 1004 E 4th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, right around the corner from the famous Urth Caffe. Find out more about the Arts District Los Angeles at artsdistrictla.org.
Crumbs & Whiskers, Los Angeles
Like the Dog Café at Crumbs & Whiskers, if you don’t have a furry companion of your own, you can get your fluffy fix while supporting a great cause. A trend growing in popularity, it’s a unique establishment in which you can come play with cats as you enjoy a cup of coffee or tea inside a café environment. Crumbs & Whiskers’ founder Kanchan Singh quit her 9 to 5 corporate job to create Crumbs & Whiskers, as a way to intertwine conscious business, animal welfare, and design.
All the cats housed in this cat café are shelter cats looking for forever homes! Enjoy a latte with a friend while petting sweet felines, or even enjoy some Cat Yoga every Sunday morning at 9:30 am.
You’ll find Crumbs & Whiskers at 7924 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Visits must be pre-booked via the website. Pricing is $22 on weekdays and $25 on weekends, which gets you 75 minutes of cuddly feline playtime!
Park Bench Café, Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach plays host to many spectacular pet events, from dog surfing to pet fairs. However, since 1988, one favorite spot for locals with pets has been Park Bench Café, a restaurant offering quirky and unique food for dogs and people, too! The specialized Canine Cuisine menu features such intriguing dishes as Hound Dog Heaven and Bow Wow Wow Chicken. You’ll find the café in one of the most scenic spots in Huntington, among the picturesque landscape of Huntington Beach Central Park.
You’re invited to visit Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 am to 2:00 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday, the café stays open until 3:00 pm. Find this gem at 17732 Goldenwest St, Huntington Beach, CA 92647.
So, if you’re looking for a more unique experience with your furry comrade, visit one of these hidden gems like the locals do. And then, spread the word!