If every dog had a surfboard, they’d all be hanging 20 in the Surf City Surf Dog contest set this year for Sept. 25-27 on Huntington Beach’s famous Dog Beach, where four-legged family members are allowed to run free all day, every day, chasing balls, sticks and each other into the surf.
The contest, also featuring a canine fashion show and other crowd-pleasing, dog-centric events, is an annual highlight, drawing thousands of two- and four-legged spectators. Anytime is a good time to visit Dog Beach and soak up the sun-and-sand culture of “Surf City USA,” as Huntington Beach affectionately is known. This quintessential Orange County beach town, just 35 miles south of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast Highway, is flip-flop casual when it comes to four-legged visitors. Besides the Surf Dog competition, it also hosts SoCal Corgi Nation Beach Days four times a year (next one’s on July 25) and Wiener Dog Nationals Dachshund Races in the fall. And that’s not to mention various dog-friendly concerts and other events staged throughout the year.
But don’t wait for a special event to put sandals and paws to the sandy path. On Monday nights, after you shake the sand out of your shoes, bring your four-legged sidekick to Doggie Date Night at Fred’s Mexican Café, where Fido eats free when Mom orders an entrée. The Park Bench Café also offers canine cuisine, along with good people food and dog-friendly seating at picnic tables on the grass at Huntington Central Park, where amenities include an off-leash dog play area. Another visitor favorite is the “Wiener Dog Store” (officially Paws at the Coffee Mill at Old World Village), a small-dog boutique where smile-producing races for dachshunds and other short breeds are staged monthly (weekly in fall).
For stretching your legs in the salt-tinged air, Surf City offers up lots of options. Hike alongside Huntington State Beach (sorry, no dogs allowed near the water) on a paved, 4-mile, multiuse trail extending to Long Beach in the north and Balboa Pier in Newport Beach to the south. Or, follow the Santa Ana River Trail, a relatively flat and nicely paved path that you’ll share with cyclists for as far as 24 miles into the Chino Hills.
When it’s time to put head to dog bed, you won’t find a warmer welcome than at the Shorebreak Hotel
, part of the famously dog-friendly Kimpton
chain. The Hyatt Regency
and Waterfront Beach Resort
are other great choices in the luxury category.