Cities are full of life and hustle and bustle, and their grand-scale museums and historical sites are definitely worth seeing. But nothing compares to the intimate and personal way history can be experienced in small towns. As an added bonus, historical small towns are typically warm, welcoming, family friendly, and . . . pet friendly! If you love history, small-town charm, and taking road trips with your four-legged kid, we’ve got a great list of pet-friendly places that will help you connect with the past.
1. Wake Forest, NC
A charming yet cosmopolitan town just north of Raleigh, Wake Forest unofficially dates all the way back to 1832. Like most Southern small towns, Wake Forest’s history is deeply agricultural. But it really began life as a college town, and its history has been entwined with education ever since.
Today, downtown Wake Forest is a picturesque collection of restaurants and unique businesses. It’s also very pet friendly! Lots of great venues welcome pets, including the Wake Forest Coffee Company, the Norse Brewing Company, and Art Walk Wake Forest.
Our favorite pet-friendly spot in Wake Forest is The Cotton Company. Once a bustling cotton warehouse, this historic building has been converted into an eclectic retail and social gathering space with over 50 vendors, including craftsmen, artisans, and artists of all kinds. One of The Cotton Company’s most celebrated vendors, Dick Larsen, is a classical-style dog portrait artist who receives commissions from around the world. Another sells charming and unique doggie outfits for canine customers. Needless to say, pets are not just welcomed but loved at this particular venue.
Bob Johnson and his wife Elizabeth have owned the building for over two decades, proudly carrying on Wake Forest’s tradition of historical preservation and education. In fact, their motto is “Yesterday’s Architecture, Today’s Artisans.”
“We wanted to revitalize a piece of history and create a retail incubator.” Bob notes. “We don’t just give our vendors a booth - we educate them on how to run a successful business so they can grow and thrive. It’s our way of giving back to the community we love.”
According to Bob, that community includes pets. “We love animals, and we want people to feel comfy bringing pets to The Cotton Company.”
2. St. Augustine, FL
Founded by Spain all the way back in 1565, St. Augustine is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in continental North America. A pawn between England and Spain and their wars, the town found itself frequently under attack - the English even burned it to the ground during a particularly vicious raid.
However, St. Augustine lives on and thrives! Today it’s a quirky, laid-back seaside tourist favorite. History buffs love visiting the buildings that have stood the test of time, like the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (a 17th-century Spanish fort, and the town’s main attraction), the country’s oldest schoolhouse (which is pet-friendly!), and the 18th-century shops that still sit on uneven cobblestone.
St. Augustine is a lot of fun to tour with a furkid. Dogs are not allowed inside the fort itself, but they can visit the surrounding grounds, which feature beautiful seaside surroundings and charming walking trails. In addition, you can take your pup on a ghost walk, a boat ride, or a historical scavenger hunt!
Our pick for St. Augustine’s best pet-friendly attraction is the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. This park features beautiful Old Florida scenery, preserved historical buildings, and a chance to drink from a real spring affectionately known as the “fountain of youth”--the magic fountain Ponce de Leon was looking for when he stumbled onto St. Augustine’s shores in 1513. The entire park is very pet friendly, welcoming furry visitors just about everywhere.
Best of all, when you're planning a visit, there are a lot of pet-friendly hotels in the “old city”!
3. Eureka Springs, AR
Eureka Springs is a small town nestled in the Ozark Mountains, with a history that’s as gritty as it is noble. Visitors are treated to sights of Victorian mansions, bath houses, houses of ill-repute, a Civil War hospital, and the site where Marshall Tilghman captured the last member of the infamous Dalton gang. The town was once famed for its healing spring waters, and some of the original springs have been preserved as attractions.
Eureka Springs welcomes four-legged sightseers. Love the outdoors? Try hiking, fishing, canoeing, or paddleboarding. Or head to a pet-friendly attraction! Take a narrated historical train tour of the town with the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway, or enjoy a unique outdoor shopping trip in a Victorian-style setting at Pine Mountain Village.
Our favorite attraction is Christ of the Ozarks, a seven-story statue of Jesus Christ that overlooks Eureka Springs and stands as a beacon of hope. The surrounding grounds are pet friendly, so feel free to come admire the amazing structure with your furry sidekick.
If you’d love to see Eureka Springs with your pet, then you'll have no problem finding comfortable pet-friendly lodging.
4. Healdsburg, CA
Located about sixty-five miles from San Francisco, Healdsburg was solely inhabited by the Pomo Indians until the mid-eighteen hundreds, when the Russians built a fort on the coast, and the Mexican government awarded a 48,800-acre land grant to sea captain Henry Fitch, who turned the area into a giant cattle ranch.
A few years later, failed gold rush miner and Ohio native Harmon Heald settled in the area, established a post office, and then a town. The town quickly grew in size, especially when the railroad lines were finally established.
Today Healdsburg is a delightful mixture of American small-town charm, Old-World artistry, and Sonoma wine country magic. Bring your pup; there are plenty of great places to visit together. Try a really cool dog-friendly restaurant, like Coyote Sonoma, Brava, and the Parish Cafe, or head out on a dog-friendly Russian River adventure. Or, visit our pick for pet-friendly fun: Saini Vineyards. It boasts beautiful Alexander Valley scenery, and it’s steeped in history as well. This fourth-generation family vineyard was established over 100 years ago by Italian immigrants who brought their Old World farming skills to a new land. Leashed pets are welcome in all outdoor areas in the vineyard.
When you plan to spend some time with your pooch wandering the charmed streets of Healdsburg, then finding pet-friendly hotels will be a snap!
5. Granbury, TX
A mixture of legends, tall tales, and real historical events make Granbury, TX a town worth visiting for anyone who loves history, or just a good story. After all, this is the spot where you can find Jesse James’s grave, the final resting place of Davy Crockett’s wife Elizabeth, and the purported hiding place of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
This town is as fun as it is quaint. It’s also pet friendly, with plenty of really cool, unique local restaurants that welcome doggie diners, and several attractions that allow furry visitors, including Dinosaur World, the Bluff Dale Vineyards, and our favorite, the Brazos Drive-In Theater.
Family-owned and operated since 1952, this vintage theater is a little piece of the past preserved for today’s moviegoers. Take your kids, your pooch, and whoever else you can fit in your ride, and be sure to hit the concession stand for snacks while you’re there.
When visiting Granbury with your furry sidekick and you're staying long enough to check out all the historic sites, their choices of pet-friendly accommodations are plentiful!
It’s no surprise that historical small towns often welcome pets. Small towns, history enthusiasts, and animal lovers all share common values of community, preservation, and a celebration of the ties that bind us. Bob Johnson, owner of The Cotton Company in Wake Forest, sums it up perfectly:
“Having pets around as a business is friendly. It’s welcoming. But it’s not just about that. I’ve trained many dogs, and socialization is so important. When dogs are exposed to people who talk to them, interact with them, and pet them, they learn to value human interaction and form bonds with people. It’s good for them. It’s good for the people. And it’s good for the community.”