Traveling with pets isn't easy. Sure, there are some benefits you don't get when traveling with children—you don't have to buy your travel companion a seat on an airplane, and 21-and-up rules don't apply. That being said, it's going to require a little more homework to figure out where that precious Boston terrier or handsome Italian greyhound are welcome to join you.
However, out-of-town chums planning a trip to San Diego are likely to discover they can bring their beloved pets just about anywhere. Well, maybe not anywhere—it's doubtful upscale Bertrand at Mr. A's will give a free pass to paws on the table. But chances are your compatriots with canines aren't necessarily in the market for a white-tablecloth, fancy-pants experience. But casual, outdoor, beer-and-a-bone fun? There are more than enough options.
If summer vacation plans do involve a visit from friends with pets, you'll want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. (I'm assuming we're talking about dogs. Cats don't take direction well. Goldfish aren't good on the road. And even if you've got a well-trained Bengal tiger, check first with the airline.) Summer's not much fun if you're cooped up indoors, anyhow, so I'll go ahead and throw you a few bones.
If you've got people flying into San Diego, there's a good chance they're going to want to spend some quality time on the beach—swimming, surfing, or simply meeting their Instagram sunset quota. But their furry friends? They're going to want some activity that's a little more stimulating than tapping on a screen. One option is to take them on a SUP Pups stand-up paddleboard tour. The SUP Connection (2592 Laning Road, Point Loma) gives hour-long tours, and they're open to both two- and four-legged paddlers. The pups get to socialize and go for a ride around the harbor, hang 20 on the nose, and even see some dolphins while they're at it.
San Diego has more than its share of dog-friendly bars and breweries, so Fido's got options when it comes to refilling the water bowl (Note: don't give your pets beer, please). But for a refreshing treat that'll satisfy both canines and their caretaker companions, take a cruise up the coast to La Jolla Brewing Company (7536 Fay St.), which provides a little extra hospitality for everyone. It features a special dog menu, so your furry wingman can dine on some chicken pops or an oatmeal bowl (with peanut butter), while you and your guests sip on a Sunny Jim's IPA.
If I've learned anything from cartoons—and I'll freely admit to learning too many life lessons from cartoons—it's that a sure-fire way to distract a dog is to give him a link sausage. Then again, it's also a pretty solid way to keep a human occupied for a little while, too. So if you're looking for some good eats for both you and your friends' pup, Sausage & Meat (4130 Park Blvd.) in University Heights has just the protein boost you're looking for after an invigorating game of Frisbee. Chow on one of more than a dozen different types of sausage, meaty sandwiches or a braised pork belly plate, and your dog gets to nosh on his own link. Oh, and Rover's eats are on the house. Sure beats ordering off the kids' menu.
OK, so you've taken your comrades—both quadruped and upright-walker—to the harbor for some recreation, munched on some meat and even had a wee nip at a brewery. So what's next? Balboa Park, naturally—no visit to San Diego is really complete without at least one trip, whether it's with pets or without. And though you might not be able to bring your dog in for a matinee at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, he's more than welcome at Nate's Point Dog Park (Balboa Drive) which occupies more than two acres, just south of Laurel on the park's west end. Dogs can go off leash, run wild, meet some new friends, play a game of catch or just get some fresh air. Plus, you and your visiting friends could probably use some exercise after the hot beef injection.
After an afternoon in the park, there's no better way to close out the evening than to camp out a little longer and have some dinner in an outdoor environment like Panama 66 (1450 El Prado) in Balboa Park. It's right next to the San Diego Museum of Art's sculpture garden. You know where this is going: Yes, your pets are welcome! Well, maybe not your alligator (keep that one on a leash), but your dog is absolutely fine to join you while you sip on a cocktail and dine on a damn fine burger and Tiger Fries, or a Blind Lady Caesar salad. There's usually some live music on the weekend to serenade you and your pup, and before you head back home to retire for the evening, have one last chase in the garden to make sure everyone's had enough stimulation for the weekend.