Horsin’ Around: 7 Places to Celebrate Derby Week With Your Dog

Posted by Lauren Barker

In the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, which this year falls on May 1, the city of Louisville prepares for the big day with a grand celebration of events. But you don’t have to be in Derby City to have all the fun. This Derby Week, put on your fancy hats, top off your mint julep, and celebrate the Run for the Roses at one of these dog-friendly equine attractions around the country.

Lexington, KY

“Where’s the Finnegan sculpture?” Photo by @fluffybuttfinnegan

Aficionados of all things equestrian are certain to enjoy a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park, featured in the latest edition of our book, Ruff Guide to the United States. Although the facility’s museum is not pet friendly, dogs of any size are welcome at nearly all outdoor areas of the park. You can bring Fido along for a tour of the barns, rings, courses, and memorials sprinkled across the vast 1,032-acre campus. Don’t miss the Memorial Walk of Champions and the famous Man o’ War statue. You can also trot over to the stables to observe the guest horses residing at the park during the summer. Doggos may join you for a meal at one of the on-site restaurant’s outdoor patios. Small pups that can be carried or wheeled in a stroller can even do a bit of browsing in the gift shop.

Located just 10 minutes from the Kentucky Horse Park, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Lexington UK Coldstream is a stylish property in the heart of Bluegrass Country. Spacious suites offer many of the comforts of home, and your pup will love that the hotel is next door to the off-leash Coldstream Dog Park. Made-to-order breakfast is served each morning, and a complimentary reception takes place in the evenings in the hotel atrium. Up to two dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $100 per stay.

Solvang, CA

“The hardest workers in Solvang.” Photo by @solvangusa

Relax with your pup on a ride through the Danish capital of America with Solvang Trolley & Carriage Ride. Two powerful Belgian Draft horses pull a replica of an 1800’s Danish streetcar known as The Holen, or “The Hen” in Danish. As you travel through the historic downtown area, tour guides tell the history of Solvang, pointing out architectural details and explaining the significance and origins of many sites and buildings. They’ll also share folk stories and cultural notes from Denmark, and provide information on other activities in the city. After your tour, stop by the dog-friendly tasting room at Carivintas Winery, where your canine companion can relax on a pet bed and munch on treats while you sample delicious wines featuring rescue dogs on the bottles.

Book your stay at Royal Copenhagen Inn, located in the heart of Solvang and within walking distance to most attractions including Solvang Trolley and Carriage Ride. This pet-friendly hotel is designed in the traditional style of Denmark villages and is surrounded by shops and restaurants. Two pets of any size are accepted for an additional fee of $20 per pet, per night.

Red Feather Lakes, CO

“Giddyup!” Photo by Kris Hanke

Dudes, dudettes and dogs can saddle up for a trip to the Red Feather Lakes and the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. This northern Colorado dude ranch offers a variety of activities, including rifle shooting, archery, roping lessons, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, and horseshoe tournaments. Explore the trails by horseback as Fido comes along for the ride. The ranch caters to a limited number of visitors each week, so all organized activities can be tailored for beginners or those with more advanced experience. Nightly offerings such as square dancing, cowboy poetry, and evening campfires are designed for the whole family to enjoy. Relax after a full day of fun with a soak in the hot tub, a massage, or a good book by the warm fire. Listen to cowboy stories on the expansive front porch in the company of your new friends. Well-socialized dogs can enjoy all of the ranch activities with their humans.

Settle in for the night in a cozy lodge or spacious cabin at the Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. Rooms feature comfortable beds, private baths, outdoor entrances, refrigerators, and daily housekeeping. Cookies, lemonade, and coffee are available any time, and three hearty western meals are served daily. The dinner bell is rung before all meals, so you can enjoy your vacation without a watch. Dogs of any size are welcome at the ranch for no additional fee.

Chincoteague Island, VA

It isn’t every day you get to see wild ponies. Photo by @assateagueexplorer

You and your best friend can discover hidden Assateague on a Pony Express Nature Cruise with Assateague Explorer. Departing from the Assateague Nature Centre on Chincoteague Island, Captain Mark will welcome you aboard the Misty and take you on a two-hour boat tour, offering a glimpse of Virginia’s wild pony population along the way. You’ll also have the chance to see dolphins, bald eagles, and other wildlife. Want to really immerse yourself in this wonderful ecosystem? Bring your pup’s life jacket and opt for the three-hour guided kayak tour to get eye to eye with even more of the animals inhabiting these beautiful islands. Tours depart several times a day, but advance reservations are recommended.

You and your four-legged friend can look forward to incredible waterfront vistas and spectacular sunsets during your stay at Snug Harbor Marina on Chincoteague Island. Relax in the beach chairs outside your cottage, plan a family cookout, or take Fido for a stroll down to the beachfront Tiki Bar. You can even rent a skiff or pontoon boat to explore more of the island together. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $40 per pet, per night.

Mackinac Island, MI

“I feel like I’m being watched.” Photo by @theheartofapuppyraiser

While there are many cities where you can hop on a horse-drawn carriage, Mackinac Island is one of the few places in the U.S. where it’s among the only modes of transportation. Travel to the island by ferry and take a ride with Fido on Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, the world’s oldest horse and buggy service in operation since 1869. Your tour will take you around the island, stopping at scenic points along the way like Arch Rock and Fort Mackinac Avenue of Flags. You’ll be able to hop off at each location to snap photos and take in the beautiful scenery. If you just need to get from one place to another, you can also request a horse-drawn taxi cab. After your tour, grab lunch or dinner on the patio of the Carriage House and enjoy the views of Lake Huron.

Bask in Old World hospitality at the pet-friendly Mission Point Resort, surrounded by the shores of Lake Huron and fragrant, flowering lilacs. You might even meet the resident dog, Nick. The resort opens for the season on April 30, and dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $100 per stay.

Bird in Hand, PA

“I’m just glad I don’t have to walk.” Photo by Traci Williams

Learn about Amish and Mennonite cultures as you and Fido are carried in an authentic Amish buggy on a private tour with Abe’s Buggy Rides. Your driver will provide historical facts and stories about the area during your horse-drawn carriage ride along country roads. Choose a 20-minute tour for a quick jaunt through the Lancaster County countryside. A leisurely hour-long ride will give you time to see many Amish homes, businesses and attractions, and includes a stop at a Mennonite craft store and bake shop. Custom tours are available, and leashed dogs are welcome on all trips. While in the area, swing by The Amish Farm and House for a pet-friendly guided tour of a historic Amish home and 15-acre working farm.

After witnessing the simplicity of Amish life, you and Fido can enjoy the comforts of the La Quinta Inn & Suites in neighboring Ronks. Relax in rooms equipped with modern amenities including Wi-Fi, a fitness center, and heated pool. Two dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $20 per night.

Jasper, GA

Everyone wants to be a cattle dog. Photo by Seventy-Four Ranch

Give your pup an authentic dude ranch experience at Seventy-Four Ranch in Jasper. A working cattle farm and cozy bed and breakfast nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Seventy-Four Ranch provides an escape from daily life just an hour from Atlanta and Chattanooga. Their popular guided trail rides offer a taste of the cowboy life as you ride across thousands of acres of fields and creeks. This isn’t your typical nose-to-tail trail ride. Your guide will set a course based on your experience and then let you ride to your heart’s content. If Fido is comfortable around cattle, he can come along, too. The staff can create many adventures for you. They’ll even set up breakfast on the lawn so your furry friend won’t miss out.

The Butler-Cape house at Seventy-Four Ranch allows pets in each of its four guest rooms, but, for a more rustic ranch experience, skip the main house in favor of the property’s Saddle House. Originally designed as a cowboy bunkhouse, this room offers four full-size double bunk beds (which can sleep up to eight). The room shares a bathroom with the Porch Cabin, and both rooms may be reserved together for a family-friendly accommodation. Dogs of any size are welcome for no additional fee.

Ready for a Road Trip?

Photo by Linda Segerfeldt

The editors at BringFido have dedicated themselves to digging up the best dog-friendly things to do across the country. And we've assembled it all in our new book, Ruff Guide to the United States.

Now in its second edition, the book features over 365 of the best places to stay and play with your dog in all 50 states. Pre-order your copy today and save 50% off the retail price when you use the discount code HORSE.

How are you celebrating Derby Week with your dog? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by Leah Senona.