When it comes to urban people-and-dog-watching, it’s hard to beat Santana Row, San Jose's wildly successful, Mediterranean-style shopping and entertainment district. Plop down at any of 25 dog-friendly sidewalk cafes (patio heaters run full blast in winter) and watch the parade.
One of our favorite spots to grab a bite is Consuelo Mexican Bistro, where the Mexico City-style cuisine is a world removed from the usual Tex-Mex (be sure to try the rich, slighty tangy pozole verde), El Jardin, in a garden setting, is another Mexican-flavored, canine-friendly eatery and a great pick if you enjoy sipping margaritas to the accompaniment of entertainment along the lines of salsa lessons and karaoke. Another fave is Pasta Pomodoro, where the salamone cannelloni—grilled salmon over cannelloni beans—comes highly recommended.
While at the Row, look for "paws welcome here” stickers in dozens of dog-friendly shop windows. And don't forget to download the free Santana Row iPhone app to learn about deals like Rainy Day Rewards, good through March for 31 for discounts sprinkled all over the Row in drippy weather.
The days between now and March 4 are part of the third annual Beer Week in Sacramento, a time for showcasing specialty suds at dozens of pubs, restaurants and microbreweries.
Our newest dog-friendly find is Track 7, a microbrewery that opened recently in an obscure warehouse district near Sacramento City College, about a mile south of downtown. The tap room, with its roll-up door, picnic-table seating and parking-lot views, is bare-bones basic, but the place has been packed since Day 1 and its hearty brews are getting rave reviews. Well behaved dogs are welcome at the tables and at the bar, where no one will complain if you slip Squiggly a pretzel or two. No other food is served here, but a food truck pulls up on Saturday nights and the scene gets, shall we say, animated.
Two other Sac microbreweries with dog-friendly patio tables are River City Brewing Company in downtown’s Westfield Plaza mall and Capitol Garage in Midtown near the state capitol. Both serve food as well as libations and will be celebrating Beer Week with discounted drinks, food-pairing events and special deals.
Each March, North Lake Tahoe throws a 10-day, family-friendly party called SnowFest. It's the favorite winter whing-ding of the year for many locals, and chock-full of howlin’ good times for visitors who just can’t stand to leave their four-pawed friends at home.
Fido is welcome to attend the opening-day ceremonies, fireworks show and plaza party at Squaw Valley on March 2. Restaurants will be buzzing, with some, including Mamasake and Fireside Pizza, welcoming canine patrons on their patios. On March 4, follow the barking to Tahoe City Golf Course, where dogs of many makes and models will compete in pulling weighted sleds on a 75-foot snow track.
On March 11, a Donner Party-themed race is sure to elicit lots of laughs as dogs race against the clock while pulling sleds dressed up like covered wagons. If your pooch isn’t trained to pull, consider participating in a March 10 “dress up your dog” contest and parade in Kings Beach, which will be swarming all day with canine activity.
You’ll find many dog-friendly Tahoe lodging and dining suggestions at DogTrekker.com.