All Articles The obsessive dog-lover's must-do dream trips

The obsessive dog-lover's must-do dream trips

From canine surf competitions in California to dog-sledding in the Canadian wilderness.

Lavanya Sunkara
By Lavanya Sunkara10 May 2024 5 minutes read
Dog-sledding in Canada
Dog sledding in Canada
Image: Stephen Lux/Getty Images

Swifties, marathoners, and eclipse-chasers have one thing in common: They go wherever their passions take them. Dog enthusiasts like me are no different: We dream about trips that allow us to be around, well, dogs—and dogs we don’t even know, at that.

A decade ago, I learned about the Potcake Place K9 Rescue in Turks and Caicos, an organization that helps rescue puppies get adopted. Last year, I finally made it to Providenciales and spent the morning cuddling with a puppy on a picture-perfect white-sand beach: truly a travel all-timer.

Whether you’re looking to mingle in a pug paradise or be wowed by dog Olympians, there are tons of dog-related events, vacations, and festivals around the world. Below you'll find seven we love.

Potcake Place K9 Rescue, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

When to go: Year-round

What to know: There's no shelter on the islands of Turks and Caicos, and strays face many threats on the streets. Ever since it opened in 2005, this rescue, in the Grace Bay area of Providenciales, has been helping abandoned and neglected puppies get adopted by vacationers.

Even if you aren't ready to adopt, you can still participate in the org's Doggie Day Out, which allows puppies to exercise and interact with people as they wait to find their forever homes. Volunteers get a beach bag filled with treats and essentials—everything they'll need for a morning of walking and playing.

Tip: You have to be at least 18 to volunteer for the program, which runs 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily (except Sundays). It's a popular activity, so expect long lines and arrive early during high season.

Westminster Dog Show, Queens, New York

Buddy Holly, the 2023 winner of Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club, with handler Janice Hays
Buddy Holly, the winner of Best in Show at the 2023 Westminster Dog Show
Image: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

When to go: Annually in early May

What to know: After nearly a century and a half, the Westminster Dog Show is the country's second-oldest continuous sporting event after the Kentucky Derby.

Hosted in the USTA National Tennis Center in Queens, N.Y., the prestigious three-day affair costs around $100 a ticket—a sizable outlay that gives dog-lovers the chance to learn about their favorite animals in a world-famous setting. The show attracts more than 200 breeds and around 3,000 dogs overall, all vying for the coveted “Best in Show” title. Also lots of fun: the agility and obedience competitions, plus, of course, the handlers' famous sartorial flair.

Tip: Nearby hotels (like the Aloft New York Laguardia Airport) sell out well in advance; book a year—yes, a year—in advance. Or stay elsewhere in the city and take the subway to the event (the 7 train will practically bring you right there).

Wapusk Adventures Dog Sledding, Churchill, Canada

When to go: In winter

What to know: At this Indigenous-owned, award-winning dog-sledding company in northern Manitoba, you’ll play with and get to know a crew of friendly dogs before taking a sled ride through a winter-wonderland setting that feels like it was lifted straight out of a fairytale. Before you embark on your adventure, you'll learn about the region's vital connection to sled dogs from the operator's Métis founder Dave Daley, who hails from a multi-generational Churchillian family.

Tip: Churchill—the polar bear capital of the world and the ancestral lands of the Métis, Inuit, Dene, and Swampy Cree peoples—is also one of the best places in North America to see the northern lights. Wapusk also offers two-hour evening tours to see the magical light show.

The World Dog Surfing Championships, Bay Area, California

Yellow Labrador Retriever surfing in California
A dog surfing in California
Image: KKStock/Getty Images

When to go: Annually in August

What to know: You’ve surely seen videos on social media of dogs hanging 10, but you can see some seriously talented pups shredding waves with and without their humans at the annual World Dog Surfing Championships. Held on Linda Mar Beach, about 20 minutes from downtown San Francisco, it attracts all the paddling pros, from pit bulls to pugs in the competitive dog surfing world (yes, such a thing exists!). Among the previous winners are an Australian Kelpie, Abbie Girl; a Spaniel named Sampson; and Cherie, a French bulldog.

Tip: Watching from the beach is free, as is entry into the dog costume contest; the frisbee and fetch competitions have an $15 admission fee, and there's a "yappy hour" to cap the day. For easy access to the all-day event, stay at the pet-friendly Fairfield by Marriott San Fran-Pacifico nearby.

Frankenmuth Dog Bowl, Frankenmuth, Michigan

When to go: Memorial Day Weekend

What to know: Puppy Bowl lovers looking for a canine-themed summer kickoff should check out the Frankenmuth Dog Bowl, the ultimate dog Olympics held about 90 minutes north of Detroit.

Here you'll find wiener dog races, dock jumping, disc-catching competitions, border collie sheep herding, silly pet tricks, and more. All dogs—yes, even your own—are welcome to participate, though some events require early registration (which you can generally do onsite).

There’s also a pet parade, a canine cruise on the town’s Bavarian Belle River Boat, and a Dog Breeds of the World show, along with spectacular twice-daily hot-air-balloon displays.

Tip: Nearby, the dog-friendly Frankenmuth Jellystone Park Camp-Resort has cabins and cottages and can also accommodate RVs. The campground fills up quickly—plan at least a year in advance. Or consider the pet-friendly Drury Inn & Suites Frankenmuth, which is walkable from the dog festivities.

Woofstock!, Toronto

Woman walking dog on sunny day
Image: RyanJLane/Getty Images

When to go: Annually in June

What to know: The largest dog festival in North America, Woofstock! draws some 200,000 people and their pups to the shores of Lake Ontario for what some would argue is the best kind of party, ever: a party celebrating dogs. During the two-day affair, canines can show off their talents and compete in contests; their humans, meanwhile, can check out hundreds of vendors peddling toys, doggie clothing, treats, and other pet-friendly necessities. A Rescue Village, lined with booths for local rescues and shelters, allows partygoers to adopt pets. Entry is free for dogs and children under 10.

Tip: Toronto’s TTC mass transit is dog-friendly on weekends and during off-peak hours on weekdays. And if you stay beyond the festival, check out our two-day Toronto itinerary for making the most of the city—and know that most of the city's beaches are dog-friendly, too.

Bluegrass Pugfest, Louisville, Kentucky

When to go: Annually in late May or early June

What to know: Set in the Kentucky Exposition Center—and boasting a level of air-conditioning and creature comforts only an expo center can provide—Bluegrass Pugfest features some 50,000 square feet of auctions, rescue booths, vendors, and pug competitions. That means: pug custard eating, pug costumes, pug races, and more pug-themed things. Avoid long lines by buying pre-sale tickets—wristbands will mailed about two weeks before the event.

Tip: This pug extravaganza is next to Louisville’s airport, and there are plenty of dog-friendly hotels around (the Home2Suites by Hilton Louisville Airport Expo Center even offers a reduced pet fee for the festival). There are also tons of dog-friendly spots across Louisville, from breweries like Great Flood Brewing to green spaces like The Parklands of Floyds Fork.

Lavanya Sunkara
Lavanya Sunkara is a New York-based freelance writer and content creator with a focus on travel, pets, conservation, and sustainability. She's written hundreds of articles that have garnered millions of views in top print and online publications. She was 2022 recipient of the SATW Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism.