Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dog-Friendly Weekend in Santa Barbara

Photo by Michael Spiegel,
My mother-in-law sent me a birthday check to put toward an iPad or Kindle or anything else I might like to buy. I decided the best gift to myself was a Labor Day weekend away with my husband Matt and our miracle Sadie dog.

Camping would have been our solution in the old days (i.e., before Sadie's near-fatal double-rattlesnake encounter). Although Sadie has been trained in rattlesnake aversion, I face the prospect of even the shortest nature hike with trepidation. (I need to rebuild my confidence as well after all we suffered that fateful Memorial Day 2011).

And so I chose a beachy, rather than wilderness weekend. True, Sadie was bitten first at the water's edge, but that was in a remote canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains and not the action-packed Labor Day-weekend-crowded urban retreat we found in Santa Barbara.

The best part? Dog-friendly lodging, dining and fun!

Pet-Friendly B&B: The Old Yacht Club Inn

Just steps from the beach and a bike ride from State Street, this California Mission Craftsman built (circa 1912) was indeed once the yacht club. Pets are verboten in the main house, but welcome in the adjacent Hitchcock House. We stayed in the cute Gallaher Room, tastefully appointed with antique furnishings and photographs, an Oriental carpet (which Sadie couldn't stop sniffing) and a patio right outside the door. This would have been convenient for those 2 a.m., "Wake up, alphas! I gotta go potty!" barks from most dogs. Sadie, however, insisted on a lengthy jaunt around the block and/or beach.

Dog-Friendly Breakfast: The Old Yacht Club Inn serves up complementary full gourmet breakfast with an ever-changing menu that reads like a Julia Child show transcript except you might find jalapeno in your ham and cheese souffle or avocado in your omelet. Just be sure to let the staff know you are dining outside on the patio; remember: pets aren't allowed in the main house. Also worth noting: The inn will cater to personal diet needs if you ask in advance. For example, I'm a vegetarian; I got oatmeal in place of ham and cheese souffle.

Pup-Friendly Pub: Yes, SB's Brewhouse does serve beer. An impressive cast of lagers, pilsners, ales, IPAs and wheats are handcrafted onsite. Sample a pint or two as you sup up local oysters, jerk chicken or a mint-lamb burger.

But the real reason to hit this hip Montecito Street gastropub? The "Brew-Dog Menu," of course! Your pooch has her pick from tri-tip bites (which Sadie devoured) and chicken strips to gravy and dog biscuits and frozen marrow served with a bottomless dog bowl of water. Just what you'd expect from a place that serves its own Buster Brown Ale.

Off-Leash Beach: Arroyo Burro Beach, more commonly known as "Hendry's Beach" or "the dog beach," is not to be missed, so keep your eyes peeled for it as you cruise down Cliff Drive. A lifeguard's chair separates the off-leash from leashed, but there's plenty of room for Rover to roam. Watch out for large waves and occasional fights over dog toys. Don't forget to pack a bottle of water.

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