My little girl is 12 years old now. Like her mother, she is curious, loves the outdoors and likes to watch people. Unlike most tweens, however, my mere existence doesn’t mortify her. Instead, she loves being seen with me, is very polite to strangers and will even do public displays of affection. My little girl is a dog named Mystic. And we do pretty much everything together - from waterside walkies, car rides, vacations, boat rides and occasional 7-11 runs.

More than 50% of pet owners travel with their pets each year. In fact, traveling with doggos is so important to pet owners that 37% of parents have actually skipped vacation to stay at home with their pets. I am one of them. So if you are like me, it’s imperative to know you’re visiting a place that is no-hassle when it comes to your pets.

With dog parks aplenty, great pet adventures and lots of new things to sniff, Fairfax County is one of those pet-friendly destinations. (Information here is based on your pet being leashed, well-behaved and safe for others to be around.)


Stay in luxury together.

Pet Friendly in Fairfax CountyImage courtesy Westin Hotels

With more than 60 pet-friendly hotels, not to mention great camping sites, Fairfax County welcomes your doggos in style. Here are a few of our fanciest recommendations from around the county:


Explore nature together.

Dog in front of Great Falls Park waterfallImage courtesy @rosie.the.cavy

It’s no surprise that Fairfax County’s parks are all pet friendly. With so much green space to explore, I asked Mystic for her recommendations…from a dog’s point of view. Here is what she said:

  • Great Falls Park. This massive waterfall, flanked by a sheer rock gorge, is like a big water bowl that is always filled. There are challenging trails that wind around boulders and easy trails with no elevation change. Mystic recommends the rocky trails because there are so many places to sniff! (But please, no swimming or wading!)
  • Burke Lake Park. This five-mile loop is perfect for energetic pooches like Mystic. While there is no swimming, there are ducks and geese and squirrels and pretty lakefront views. Mystic also likes that much of the hike is in the shade. And she thinks squirrels are sketchy.
  • Bull Run Regional Park. Mystic loves to go on the Bluebell Trail in mid-April when the wildflowers are in bloom. This easy 1.5-mile loop winds through the forest alongside a shallow creek, making it perfect year-round. If that’s not enough, there are 1,500 other acres to explore here.
  • Dyke Marsh. This is a favorite of Mystic’s because it follows alongside the placid waters of the Potomac River and leads to a deck in the middle of the water where there are smells you don’t smell at home.


Dine in style together.

Lazy DogImage courtesy @saviorthegsd_andfriends

Your dog won’t admit it, but they really like showing off their parents to other dogs. They like other dogs to see you are walking them, playing with them and even dining with them. A benefit of recent times, there is more patio dining than ever in Fairfax County and many patios allow leashed pets. We have a great article on this topic. Here are some highlights:

  • Café Montmartre is a unique French-Viet bistro in Reston with perfect Lake Anne views to explore with your pooch.
  • The Old Brogue Irish pub in Great Falls is the perfect spot to refresh after a long hike in Great Falls Park.
  • Oh George! Tables and Taphouse in Fairfax is a popular hangout near George Mason University.
  • The Greene Turtle sports bar in Alexandria has good pub eats and a pet-friendly patio.
  • Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar in Fairfax and Chantilly have comfort food for you and a special rice bowl menu for your dog.


Grab a drink together.

Dogs at Caboose CommonsImage courtesy

Outside of our parks, our breweries and wineries are some of the most pet-friendly places in Fairfax County. Many breweries have restaurants, so pets are limited to outside areas. But almost all have outdoor areas that are dog friendly. Some, like Ono Brewing, have regular dog patrons like the beloved Hippo. Others, like Fair Winds, will allow dogs inside the taphouse for all-weather fun. Call before you go to ensure patios are open and ready for your pet. And pets must be leashed, safe and well behaved. Here are some great choices to start with:

  • Juicy Brewing Co. in Herndon welcomes your leashed pet, cat, dog or otherwise. You may even catch a glimpse of supermodel Tyra (not that one) who is a regular patron. As the county’s newest brewery, be sure to show them your love.
  • Mustang Sally also welcomes leashed pets of every ilk and their craft beers are especially popular.
  • Caboose Commons and Caboose Tavern both welcome leashed pets of any (safe) kind and they even leave out bowls for the dogs.
  • Woodlawn Press Winery is a veteran-owned micro-winery near Mount Vernon, Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighey historic sites. They welcome dogs inside their tasting room and there are grassy areas outside for when your dog needs to excuse himself.
  • Paradise Springs Winery is purported to be the pet friendliest winery on the planet. In the past, they have welcomed birds, rabbits, cats and even a horse. (Notice preferred for any non-traditional pets.)


Go on an adventure together.

Dogs at Water Mine - Waterpark - Summer - Lake FairfaxImage courtesy @elliev_pup

Of course, one of the thrills of traveling together is being able to share new things. Here are some of the surprising things you can do in Fairfax County with your pets:

  • The Perch. Have you ever taken your dog to a park 11 stories in the sky? If not, now you can. There is a dog park, Biergarten, mini golf and more soaring above the streets of Tysons.  
  • George Washington’s Mount Vernon. While your pup can’t go inside the estate or museum, they can wander the grounds, watch the blacksmith at work, cruise by the farm animals and dip their toes in the Potomac River. Did you know George Washington was a huge dog lover?
  • Woodlawn Historic Site. You can’t tour the two historic homes on this site with your pet, but you can avail yourself of its 126 acres of green fields, stunning views and solitude.
  • Reston Art Walk. Throughout Reston and Reston Town Center, you’ll find more than 50 outdoor works of art. Take your pup to the Town Center to see art, people watch and enjoy a meal or head to Lake Anne Plaza for more art and a beer at Lake Anne Brew House.
  • Patriot Pawsabilities. Missing your cat? This cat lounge in Fairfax offers cat yoga and other cat events, not to mention serving as a place for students and veterans to destress around adoptable cats.
  • Pet events. Each September, the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole waterpark hosts Dog Daze, a dogs-only swim event! Call the park for this year’s date. Other waterparks occasionally open to dogs, too, towards the end of the season. In Reston, you’ll find Dog Paddle events as summer nears its end. Reston Town Center also puts on a Dogfest each September. And Spring brings the Super Pet Expo to Chantilly.
  • General events. Fall is festival season and many of those festivals happen outdoors. Plus the county hosts outdoor music events most seasons. Do double-check with the venue before you go to be sure you’re not disappointed.


Spend some time apart.

Hiking - Dogs - Nature - Parks

Eventually, you’re going to want to go someplace dogs can’t go. For that, there are petsitters like those at Rover. Dog walkers like Becky’s Pet Care and Fetch! And daycare places like Affectionate Pet Care or Playful Pack where they are used to caring for out-of-town guests.


Traveling with pets is a great adventure! They are always game for whatever I want to do. It just wouldn’t be the same without them. So take Mystic’s advice: “Put on the leash, lady, and take me on an adventure!” Have fun exploring Mystic’s stomping grounds in Fairfax County!


What other pet friendly adventures have you encountered in #FXVA? Share with us in the comments below or join the convo on social using @VisitFairfax.