Fun US Events and Festivals that are Dog-Friendly
Dexter the Dog is a well-behaved, well-traveled dog who loves a good adventure. Dexter and I have been to our share of dog events, and we always have a great time. But, what we really enjoy are “people” events and festivals that welcome Dexter with open arms. These events offer a unique experience that Dexter truly seems to appreciate. Here are a few ideas when planning your next dog-friendly road trip.
Annual Great Fruitcake Toss, Manitou Springs, Colorado– This one-of-a-kind event, where enthusiasts traveled from all over to compete for trophies and bragging rights, has been a community highlight for more than 22 years. The great fruitcake toss is the event of the winter season as the hapless dessert is launched into space with a variety of mechanical and pneumatic devices. Competitions have included the Hand Toss, Kid’s Toss, Launch, Pneumatic Gun or Canon, Team Catch or Accuracy division. The cost of competing is simply a non-perishable food item, to be donated to the Westside Cares food bank.
Wintersköl™, Aspen, Colorado- Winterfest in downtown Aspen including the popular canine fashion show, performance from the US Air Force Academy Drum & Bugle Corps & the El Jebel Shriner Pipe Band; and the grand finale with the Torchlight Descent down Aspen Mountain directly followed by the Fireworks Extravaganza above Aspen Mountain. Wintersculpt is where people team up to create ice sculptures for a prize where the sculptures live in downtown until they melt.
Cripple Creek, Colorado Ice Festival, Cripple Creek, Colorado-The Cripple Creek Ice Festival is a spectacular event. Come watch ice sculptors carve ice into beautiful works of art that will amaze you. The artistic theme of the Ice Festival changes every year. Themes have included Story Time, Under the Sea, a Military Salute Carved in Ice, a Rocky Mountain Wonderland, a Medieval theme and Mythological Wonderland. Several sculptures are made just for kids, with a fun ice slide, an ice maze, and carnival-type games that are all made of ice. Street vendors have just the perfect thing to bring home as a memento of your visit here, and an ice bar with a liquor luge ensures you always have a refreshing beverage to enjoy.
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, Woodburn, Oregon- The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival is one of Oregon’s most popular festivals and is completely dog-friendly. Visitors can stroll 40 acres of stunning tulips arranged in different color patterns each year, purchase fresh cut flowers, and enjoy wine tasting – plus carnival-style rides and play areas for kids.
Main Street Festival, Franklin, Tennessee – The annual celebration of spring in Franklin, Tennessee is one of the largest street festivals in the southeast with a fun-filled weekend of music, arts, foods, and activities from the young and old. Multiple stages of live music around Franklin’s iconic Main Street are highlighted by the annual Battle of the Bands that is presented by the Dark Horse Institute, which is part of the legendary Dark Horse Recording where the biggest names in music record. Food vendors display their spring time creations while the craft beer tent provides a great way to beat the heat. Kids activities fill the weekend and four-legged guests are welcome throughout the festival.
Artsfest on Walnut Street Festival, Springfield, Missouri- Downtown Springfield springs to life with the annual Artsfest on Walnut Street festival. Along with nearly 150 juried artists, Artsfest includes dozens of live performances, a kids hands-on area and food vendors. The largest fine arts festival in Southwest Missouri, patrons – and their canine pals – return year after year to enjoy one of the first outdoor festivals of the spring.
H&8th Night Market Event, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma- H&8th became the largest monthly food truck festival in the US with more than 40 food trucks and 40,000 people. The festival did exactly what the creators wanted it to do – it brought people into a district in Oklahoma City that was run down – now it’s one of our most vibrant districts throughout the city as businesses flocked to Midtown as well as housing a much more. The event now is yearly—as it got so big that volunteers couldn’t keep up. The festival includes food trucks, live music, short order poems for sale, an industry flea and much more. It is family friendly and pet friendly.
Helen to Atlantic Balloon Race, Helen, Georgia- The South’s oldest balloon event and the United States’ only long distance hot air balloon race. Weather permitting, the event begins with a mass ascension of around 20 bright and colorful hot air balloons, in North Georgia’s Alpine Village – Helen, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta.
Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, Butler/Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania- The event is comprised of on and off-road activities, history, vendor areas and other Jeep related social events and challenges. Jeeps and dogs, go hand in hand. The festival grounds are dog friendly (well-behaved on leash of course) and many attendees take their dogs with them on the off-road trails, throughout the vendor area, or to our Jeep Invasion downtown as well.
Overton Park’s Levitt Shell, Memphis, Tennessee- A free concert series in the summer and fall seasons. Hundreds of families (and their pets) come together to enjoy a variety of artists from across the country. Attendees can also pack a picnic or grab a bite from some of the best food trucks in the city.” Summer-Fall
SandSations, Long Beach, Washington- A sand-sculpting extravaganza, takes place in mid-July in downtown Long Beach, Washington, and on its adjacent portion of beach near the high-tide line. Following four days of demonstrations, displays and lessons by master sand sculptors in the colorful downtown, the festival moves to the beach where teams (including families and family dogs, too) transform piles of sand into fantastic and fanciful creations for both recognition and prizes. Free to the public, spectators and their furry friends walk the beach watching the teams race the clock and the turning tide to create massive works of sand. Spectators often continue their walk on a quieter section of the 28-mile long public beach and then return to see the final sculptures and the incoming tide restore the beach to a blank canvas.
Bethel Art Fair, Bethel, Maine- 50+ artists and artisans come together on Bethel’s town common to show their work and celebrate a vibrant arts scene in Western Maine. Starting Friday night, over a dozen locations around town will feature art openings, film, gallery open houses, youth art shows, and hands-on create-your-own-art activities for all ages. Fireworks round out the schedule on Saturday night. (No fireworks in Bethel on July 4th.)
Molly Ockett Day, Bethel, Maine- Bethel’s biggest and most beloved summer event. Molly Ockett Day is Bethel’s summer homecoming festival. Join in on the fun with a parade, road races for all ages, craft and food vendors on the town common, live music, kids’ activities, fireworks, and open houses all over town. It was named for a Native American woman who lived and traveled all over western Maine in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Molly Ockett Day is always a day to remember!
Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, Springfield, Missouri- Your pooch will find plenty of tires to sniff at the annual Birthplace of Route 66 Festival featuring a car show, motorcycle events, concerts, vendors, food and more. Be sure to bring a bowl for water because this festival takes place the first weekend in August, the hottest time of year.
The Washington State International Kite Festival, Long Beach, Washington- The kite festival is among the top summer events on the West Coast. Family and family-dog friendly, the festival takes place on a 1/2-mile swath of beach parallel to the dunes boardwalk in Long Beach, on the southwestern-most corner of the Evergreen State. Picture perfect and activity packed, this popular event offers kite flying lessons and workshops as well as inspiration by internationally renowned flyers, mass ascensions, lighted night flies and more. Admission is free for spectators with nominal entry fees for competitions, workshops and lessons. Plan extra time to explore more of the 28-mile long public beach, the 8.5-mile Discovery Trail, state parks and cheerful beachside communities.
The Highland Jazz and Blues Festival, Shreveport, Louisiana- A free, day-long music festival celebrating two of Louisiana’s most popular genres of music, is held each September in Shreveport, Louisiana’s Columbia Park. The event not only welcomes dogs, but celebrates them – offering free grooming stations, cool-off tents, water stations, treats, and more courtesy of event sponsors. The festival typically draws approximately 10,000 music fans who enjoy two stages of live music, artist and vendor booths, and a wide variety of food and beverage vendors.
Downtown Beats & Eats, Wilson, North Carolina- Downtown Beats & Eats is a fall concert series, every other Saturday September to October. Two regional bands will perform each date. There will be food trucks along with craft beer and wine for purchase. It’s home grown music, food trucks and specialty beverages. The series will be at the newly opened Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. The Whirligig Park is home to the North Carolina state folk art and Wilson, NC is home to the largest number of Vollis’ whirligigs. September-October
Wagon Days Ketchum, Idaho- This annual celebration celebrates the town of Ketchum in the time before railroads and automobiles. Along the charming Main Street is the largest parade in the country without motorized vehicles. The event features Basque dancers, marching bands and western cowboys travel by horse, mule or foot – anything goes as long as there is no motor.
NEOCycle, Cleveland, Ohio- The nation’s largest urban cycling festival welcomes dogs. The festival includes multiple cycling events, ranging from amateur to competitive, and four-legged friends are welcomed all around The Hub, the festival’s outdoor headquarters that features concert performances, food trucks, giant board games and more. Plus, Ultimate Air Dogs, a premier dog dock jumping competition, are part of the weekend’s festivities. Dogs that are above average swimmers may even participate in the jumps, if interested.
Oktoberfest, Ketchum, Idaho- Local favorite brewer, Sawtooth Brewery, will feature a 400 square-foot Beer Garden Tent with six German Lagers making the Wood River Valley’s largest Oktoberfest. There will be games such as stein-hosting competitions, live music, food trucks and a brewers dinner. Best of all, the only admission charge is to buy or bring a Sawtooth Brewery Pint Glass or Oktoberfest Stein.
Bethel Harvestfest and Chowdah Cookoff, Bethel, Maine- Celebrate the harvest and the beginning of fall foliage season with arts, crafts, music, a farmers’ market, apple pie contest, and the so fun chowder cookoff on the town common of Bethel, Maine’s most beautiful mountain village. Don’t miss the Chowdah Cookoff – at noon, hundreds of hungry tasters line up as many of your favorite restaurants vie for Peoples’ or Judges’ Choice!
Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta, Damariscotta, Maine- This is a uniquely spirited event that provides education to young and old. The Pumpkinboat Regatta, featuring numerous 400-700 pound, hollowed-out pumpkins with motors attached or paddled, piloted by volunteer captains, racing one another in the Damariscotta Harbor.
Harvest Festival, Cle Elum, Washington- Harvest Festival – where guests, residents, and fur-babies can enjoy two weekends of live music, hay mazes, a pumpkin patch, beer garden, food trucks, wine tastings, dinner tastings, wagon rides, and more.
Pumpkinfest, Franklin, Tennessee- This fall themed festival stretches along Franklin’s historic Main Street. The largest fall festival in Middle Tennessee, Pumpkinfest has become an annual tradition for 35 years where there is no shortage of fun, entertainment, and pumpkin-inspired food…no wait! Make that pumpkin-inspired everything for adults, kids, and even four-legged fans of fall too! Live music fills the air the entire day, as local artists and makers showcase their fall designs, along with events throughout the day like kids costume contests, extreme pumpkin carving demonstrations, and delivery of Franklin’s Great Pumpkin from it’s Canadian sister city of Carleton Place.
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, Hailey, Idaho- This unique festival was started in1996 in response to the rapid loss of farms and ranches and the rapid growth in the Wood River Valley. The Festival preserves the stories and colorful history of sheep ranchers and herders, celebrates the rich cultures of the past and present and entertains and educates children, adults and families about the production of local food and fiber that sustain local economies and generations of hard-working families. Trailing of the Sheep has been named in the Top Ten Fall Festivals in the World, Top 200 Best U.S. Festivals and the Top 100 Festivals in North America.
Sand, Water & RV Expo, Lake Havasu City, Arizona- The Annual Sand, Water, & RV Expo in Lake Havasu City, Arizona dogs on leashes are always welcome. This is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts of off-roading, RVing and boating. The Sand-Water-RV Expo captures the spirit and passion of these complementary outdoor recreation activities, providing motivated consumers the opportunity to browse, compare, and shop for the latest and greatest in off-road vehicles, trucks, sand rails, ATVs, UTVs, 4x4s,buggies, golf carts, motorcycles, electric vehicles, mobility scooters, RVs, toy haulers, travel trailers, fifth wheels, power boats, pontoons, personal watercraft, kayaks, paddle boards, bicycles, camping/hunting equipment and all related accessory recreational products and services.
Thanksgiving the America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration, Plymouth, Massachusetts- The highlight of the event is the parade through Plymouth. The weekend of festivities has become a beloved holiday occasion as well as an important link to our nation’s history and heritage. The celebration of Thanksgiving becomes history-brought-to-life as Pilgrims, Native Americans, Soldiers, Patriots, and Pioneers proudly climb out of the history books and onto the streets of Plymouth.
Lost Pines Christmas, Bastrop, Texas- There are plenty of dog-friendly outdoor activities to enjoy during the festival like downtown Lighting Party, Christmas parade, movie in the park and more. Many locals bring their pets to join the celebrations every year. November-December
Christmas on the Cumberland, Clarksville, Tennessee- Clarksville’s Christmas on the Cumberland is sure to create lasting memories for the entire family this holiday season. This .7-mile stretch of the Cumberland RiverWalk is captivating with over one million lights.
Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, Lookout Mountain, Georgia- Rock City has delighted guests for over two decades as this award-winning holiday tradition returns with over a million LED lights and unmatched holiday memory-making. Beginning mid-November, the gardens’ daytime splendor transforms into a winter wonderland displaying more than 30 holiday scenes nightly through December. Experience the magic of four uniquely themed realms of wonder: The Magic Forest, Arctic Kingdom, North Pole Village, and Yule Town. Start at the heart by taking a stroll along the North Pole Highway and choose which realm to start your journey. Wander to Yule Town and begin your holiday adventure with a former Enchanted Garden of Lights traditional start, or visit Santa in the North Pole Village first — the adventure is yours to create. November-December
Dickens Christmas, Skaneateles, New York- Every Saturday and Sunday from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, Skaneateles transports visitors to 1842, as Charles Dickens is gathering research for his soon-to-be-written classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Dog owners can stroll the streets of the lake town with their canine friends as they meet Dickens, Queen Victoria, Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Fagin, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Together they can enjoy The World’s Smallest Christmas Parade, Christmas carol sing-alongs (with awards for the most spirited!), street performances of “A Christmas Carol,” and more! November-December
Dickens of a Christmas, Franklin, Tennessee- This annual Dickens of a Christmas, which is a recreation of the Charles Dickens era using historic downtown Franklin’s Victorian architecture as the backdrop, has been a mainstay for over 35 years. Some 200 musicians, dancers, and characters fill the streets, including several from Charles Dickens’s stories. Visitors to the two-day festival can expect to see and interact with the nefarious Fagin from Oliver Twist; Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit with his parents from A Christmas Carol; and of course, a Victorian Father and Mother Christmas with treats for children. They will also find live music, carolers lining the streets, and holiday-inspired food & drink along with the classic lighting of the downtown Franklin Christmas tree.
First Night Portsmouth, Portsmouth New Hampshire- First Night was created by a group of civic-minded artists in Boston as a meaningful alternative to traditional New Year’s Eve revelry. Each year thereafter, other communities began to ask the founding members of First Night Boston for assistance starting their own similar celebration on New Year’s Eve. First Night festivals celebrate creativity, imagination, and participation, and emphasize family programming that honors a no-alcohol policy. The festival showcases high-quality programs that highlight a spectrum of performing and visual arts activities and events, inside and out. Portsmouth, New Hampshire became a First Night® community in 1986 and celebrates First Night® with music, dance, fireworks and ice sculpture.
Do you travel with your dog? Tell me in the comments.
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