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Best Places To Visit With Your Dog In San Francisco

After Los Angeles, the next stop on my vacation, with my pet canine – my adorable french bulldog, was San Francisco. Both these cities are in California and are an easy six to seven hours driving distance from each other. However, I found the most efficient and surprisingly pet-friendly way to travel to San Francisco from Los Angeles was by air. A simple one hour and thirty-five-minute flight and we had left San Francisco and arrived in Los Angeles which was the next leg of our adventure pet vacation.

After landing and checking into our pet-friendly hotel, now that we were in San Francisco what should we do first from our list of places to visit for me and my french bulldog  I thought?

San Francisco offers many pet-friendly activities including…

  • Pet-friendly shops
  • Malls
  • Beaches
  • Hikes and walking trails

It also has dog parks and has several pet-friendly restaurants and breweries.

Even though I had come on vacation armed with a long list of places in San Francisco to visit with my french bulldog, there were three things that were simply outstanding. These made our trip to San Francisco something special and all of these uniquely belong to San Francisco. The first was the bay cruise with my french bulldog, the second was a lazy frolicking day at the beach and last but not the least was an amazing meal in a super pet-friendly restaurant. I think each of these were for my french bulldog and me ‘a pet and parent heaven’ in San Francisco. These will be our most cherished memories of our San Francisco trip and the photos will definitely be center stage in our vacation scrapbook.

One of the first things I look about in a new city is modes of transportation that are pet-friendly. Traveling about the city of San Francisco with your dog is quite easy with the options of walking, driving about in your own rented car or private car service or taking the MUNI (subject to their pet animal restrictions and no animals without certificates during peak hours) whenever possible. Since I didn’t really see my little french bulldog walking all about I opted for the MUNI although Uber’s are also an option to travel from point to point with your pet. The MUNI is San Francisco’s metro rail and includes the historic San Francisco streetcars. To travel with your pet on the MUNI be prepared to have your pet on a leash always, with a muzzle or have your pet dog in a carrier. Usually, small dogs like my french bulldog are no problem though I would have preferred walking if my frenchie could have handled it since the MUNI rules did require a muzzle on my frenchie. It makes me sad how sometimes public transport can be very pet unfriendly though not in every case. It would be great if a section of the MUNI transport vehicles /trains could be marked out in non-peak hours for pet parents to travel with their pets? In any case, carrier MUNI was our most used mode of transport.

From all the things we did in San Francisco I have to say the bay cruise we took together with the Blue & Gold fleet bay cruises at the Embarcadero, Beach Street, San Francisco was our favorite. In fact, as an enthusiastic dog parent, I am glad to say me and my french bulldog took a bay cruise not once but twice during our San Francisco visit just because we enjoyed it so much. Of course, I had an animal life vest for my frenchie.

Cruising with your Frenchie

A cruise with your pet you are thinking? In a nice boat with a snack bar and indoors outdoors seating !! Well, most of the Bay & Gold fleet does just that, they conduct a one hour cruise to a ninety-minute cruise of the San Francisco Bay Area. Depending on which of the bay cruises you choose, you and your french bulldog on a leash or in your lap are taken through beautiful scenic views of San Francisco from over the water, including the pier 39 sea lions,  both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline. In fact, one of them even visits Angel Island and the Alcatraz prison, and the best part is taking your pet dog along on a leash.

A beautiful view of San Francisco with your pet on the Bay & Gold bay cruise ferry or on the more relaxed Sausalito and Tiburon ferries is a great way to spend the morning. We loved it. Of course, it goes without saying that pet parents are wholly responsible for their pets. With your French bulldog, this should not be a problem at all given the friendly temperament of this pedigreed breed of canines. These were the best photos we took during the trip including some fantastic selfies of me and my pet French bulldog with the gorgeous San Francisco Bay skyline in the background. Keep in mind however that not all the ferries allow pets. Ferries such as the Vallejo Baylink ferry or Alameda  Oakland ferry do not, as a rule, allow pets except in the case of special assistance animals or animal in handheld carriers.

Of course, the next thing we did is we walked across the 1/7th mile long Golden Gate Bridge, that’s a must for any tourist, human and pet alike who visit San Francisco. Most of the walking and carrying was done by me but, all in all, my French bulldog walked more than half the way.

Another activity which we didn’t get around to trying though it was on our list was a visit with your pet to Yosemite National Park or to see the giant sequoia trees with a pet-friendly tour company like the Extranomical Tours.

There are several pet-friendly malls and shopping places in San Francisco like at the Union Square where most shops allow your pet dogs inside even Bloomingdales. Los Angeles’ dog-friendly malls with their water stations, however, spoiled us for choice here so we didn’t venture too far with this activity.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco is a treasure trove of areas to visit with your pet. The national park service that looks after these designated areas in San Francisco offers information and rules about hikes and walking trails for you and your pet. However, since my French bulldog was not really much of a walker I didn’t actually try doing any of the trails except a simple and easy walking trail at Lands End. Hiking was not really an option as I really didn’t see my French bulldog walking too many miles and I also didn’t see myself carrying him for many miles either.

How could a visit to San Francisco be complete without a visit to the beach. San Francisco has many beaches several of which are dog-friendly like…

  • Baker Beach
  • Ocean Beach
  • Huntington Beach
  • Fort Funston Doggy Beach

Our favorites were Ocean Beach and Fort Funston doggy beach. Ocean Beach is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Areas. Ocean Beach is an approximately three and a half mile long coastal stretch of sandy breezy heaven with salty sea air, sand and gentle waves. We chose it over Baker Beach for two reasons the north side of Baker Beach is clothing optional which means it has several nude sunbathers and it’s a crowded doggy Beach. The first situation made me a little uncomfortable and the second one didn’t match my Frenchie’s comfort level. With a small dog like the French bulldog, I didn’t really want my pet’s first experience of the ocean and sandy beach to be scarred by a scary bigger canine or any not so friendly skirmishes with a bigger dog. Since my French bulldog is averagely enthusiastic about water I also wanted to introduce him to gentle lapping ocean waves and sandy beach areas. I know once he warms up he would find his never-failing enthusiasm to explore a bit. From stairwell 1 to stairwell 21 Ocean Beach is either off leash ( voice controlled or managed ) or on leash at the pet owners choice. After stairwell 21 it is an only on leash beach. There are many dogs with their owners here and their pet parents pick up after them. So Ocean Beach was just perfect and we spent a relaxed calm day at the beach with each other. In fact, we liked it so much our next visit to San Francisco we are thinking to rent a pet-friendly house by Ocean Beach instead of a pet-friendly hotel.

While visiting the beach in San Francisco with your dog do keep in mind that many of the beaches that come within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area follow a strict dog policy.

You will find the detailed rules about their managed pet policy, doggy do’s and dont’s, and the segregation of the areas of the beach where dogs are allowed with pet parents on leash or off leash, on their website. Please be sure to follow these. You may also see commercial dog walkers on some of these beaches who need a license from the respective authority to commercially walk dogs on some of these beaches.

There are of course also many dog parks in San Francisco including the…

  • Golden Gate Park
  • Crissy Fields
  • Washington Park
  • Huntington Park

amongst others which are worth a visit.

Restaurants and Breweries

The French bistro Zazie is one of the best dog-friendly restaurants in San Francisco. With delectable French food favorites like brandy and chicken liver pate on levian, slow braised coq au vin, Boeuf Bourguignon and a nice wine list that includes noteworthy wines this French bistro is the best place for its food and it’s amazing respectful treatment of people and their pets. Looking for a wonderful comfortable delicious French meal and a cozy spot underneath your table for your dog (blankets and baskets are welcome) Zazie is the place. No better way to bond with your pet while on vacation than this. Your dog is welcome here in the patio of Zazie any day of the week. In fact, this restaurant actually offers a discount on their selective wine list if you have your pet pooch accompany you on certain days of the week. Zazie is one of the few restaurants with a truly compassionate dog’s are allowed policy, with this warm generous attitude percolating through all the staff at the restaurant.

The Golden Gate Park and Beach Chalet Brewery, Squat & Gobble Cafe and crepery at Portal Avenue, the Little Skillet at Ritch Street, the Three Babes Bakeshop pies at the ferry building, Caliphonia at 11th Avenue for Vietnamese in a pet-friendly restaurant are a few options amongst many others.

These are just a few of the places from my list that we visited during our trip and there is still so much more to be discovered in this dog-friendly city. All in all, San Francisco was a wonderful vacation spot for me and my french bulldog and we will be sure to return.