Dog-Friendly DC: Visiting Washington, D.C. with a Dog

A visit to Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, can be fun for the whole family, including for dog owners. Naturally, the highlight for your dog is sure to be their extra long dog walk around the National Mall, taking in the many famous buildings and memorials. Here’s everything you need to know about a visit to dog-friendly DC.

Dog Friendly DC

Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in D.C.

While visiting the Washington DC area with your dog, don’t miss exploring some of the capital’s famous sights together.

#1 Walk Along the National Mall

A highlight of any visit to Washington, D.C. with your dog is the chance to walk along the National Mall. This is a huge area, far larger than you expect. (It’s over 2 miles from the Capitol Building to Lincoln Memorial!) It makes for a great all day or part day dog walk.

Visiting dog-friendly DC, walking a dog along the National Mall
Walking with our dog on the National Mall

Don’t forget that dogs need to be on a leash when walking on the National Mall, which is just as well if your dog likes to try and chase squirrels like mine. Dogs are also restricted from entering the area immediately around some of the memorials – check the signs.

Restrictions near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Restrictions near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Dogs are also not allowed into the sculpture garden at the National Gallery, plus not surprisingly they are not permitted inside the many buildings lining the Mall (including famous museums such as the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art). I recommend finding a dog sitting so that you can do some museum hopping.

While walking along the National Mall with your dog, don’t miss ticking off these highlights, starting from the eastern end:

Capitol Building: Walk around the periphery of this imposing building, home to the US Senate and House of Representatives, appreciating its classical architecture.

The imposing Capitol Building
The imposing Capitol Building

Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building: Admire the gorgeous exterior of the 19th-century Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, plus the nearby Smithsonian Castle, now the information center of the Mall.

Washington Monument: It’s hard to miss the towering Washington Monument while walking along the Mall. If you’re interested in ascending the landmark, leaving someone behind on dog-minding duties, swing by early to snap up one of the free tickets to its observation deck.

White House: Detour to the north of the Washington Monument to view the White House from each side, trying to glimpse the current president. We preferred the closer views of the White House from the far northern side, on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

View of the White House from the far northern side
View of the White House from the far northern side

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: Spend a moment of silence at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Just note that dogs cannot enter the immediate area around the memorial.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial: From one dog to another, meet FDR’s famous dog at this monument.

Lincoln Memorial: Finally, walk along the Reflecting Pool to the imposing Lincoln Memorial. Just note that dogs must be carried on the steps and are not allowed inside the memorial.

#2 Visit the National Arboretum

For another dog-friendly sightseeing option in Washington, D.C., head to the US National Arboretum in the northeast of the city.

The National Arboretum is daily, except on Christmas Day, and has free entry. There’s nearly always something colourful to see, from blooming azaleas to the Fall leaves. The old columns of the capitol are also an interesting sight.

Note that dogs are required to be leashed at all times, and should be kept out of garden beds. Dogs are also not allowed in the Administration Building or the Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

#3 Walk Along the Mount Vernon Trail

The 18-mile long Mount Vernon Trail runs along the far side of the Potomac River in Virginia, starting close to Arlington Cemetery and running to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate through the George Washington Memorial Parkway. A paved multi-use trail, it’s perfect for a long walk with your pup.

There’s multiple carpark located along the trail, plus it’s also accessible from multiple metro stations at the northern end. Note that dogs need to stay on a leash on the trail.

#4 Visit Mt Vernon with Your Dog

The southern end of the Mount Vernon Trail ends at Mount Vernon Estate, the historic home of George Washington. Dogs are welcome to join you in visiting many areas of the Mount Vernon Estate, as long as they stay on a leash.

To access the historic area, dogs are permitted to walk through the lobby of the Orientation Center, but they are not allowed inside most buildings, including the Mansion. For further details, see the dog visitation policy.

Are Dogs Allowed on Public Transport in D.C.?

Small pets in a carrier are allowed to join you on public transport in Washington, D.C. Pets are allowed on both Metrorail and Metrobus, with the strict rule that they’re in a secure container from which they cannot escape.

Signs at Metrorail station in DC
The sign at a Metrorail station that confused me

We did get a surprise when entering a Metrorail station for the first time, to see a sign above us stipulating “No animals”. While waiting for our train, I quickly checked the rules again online to assure myself our dog in his carrier was allowed. I guess the sign just referred to unrestrained animals.

We found the metro system clean and reliable, and used it multiple times to travel around the city.

If you’re considering taking the train to Union Station in Washington, D.C. (we found the trains connecting New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. more convenient and cheaper than flying), keep in mind that small dogs in carriers are allowed on Amtrak trains.

Dining Out in Washington, D.C. with a Dog

Since 2017, dogs have been officially permitted at outdoor restaurant patios in D.C., after an outcry when authorities started to enforce the previous rule against them. There’s plenty of restaurants scattered around that will allow your dog to join you at their dog-friendy patios, as long as they’re well-behaved, of course.

During our visit to D.C. in late October, the weather was not on our side for outdoor dining, so we don’t have any dog-friendly restaurant recommendations based on our experience.

Another handy option in D.C. are the many food trucks scattered around the city. We spotted many pulled up on the National Mall near the Washington Monument – perfect for when you’re taking a stroll around the Mall with your pup.

Dog-friendly Washington DC
The hard to miss Washington Monument is a handy spot for food trucks

Keep an eye out for the regular Yappy Hour events across the city, including at the dog-friendly metrobar, where leashed dogs are welcome in outdoor spaces and water bowls are provided. I’ve also heard great reports about the Dacha Beer Garden, which is both a family- and dog-friendly beer garden.

Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Washington, D.C.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive commission if you make a purchase using the links.

There’s a wide range of dog-friendly hotels available to stay at in Washington, D.C., including some very stylish pet-friendly options, perfect for a capital time in the capital along with your pup.

Pets stay for free at the grand Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC, with no pet restrictions in place – just fill out a pet form during registration. This pet-friendly hotel is walking distance to the Mall and the front desk staff can organise pet sitting, dog walking and pet spa services for you.

Alternatively, stay in the West End adjacent to Georgetown at the Fairmont Washington DC. Pets also stay for no additional fee at this property, with no size restrictions. Food and water bowls are provided, along with an off-leash area. Georgie, the canine ambassador, loves to welcome everyone, and it’s just a short walk to the Francis Field Dog Park.

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About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

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1 thought on “Dog-Friendly DC: Visiting Washington, D.C. with a Dog”

  1. Great information! Getting ready to take our two chiweenies over the 4th and wondered what we can do with them. I appreciate all the information you provided.


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