A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

She calls it the “sprint of joy.” From any seat at Skiptown’s bar, Meggie Williams says, you’ll undoubtedly get to watch the full-glee, mouth-open, mad dash that almost every dog

Madison County Championship Rodeo

She calls it the “sprint of joy.” From any seat at Skiptown’s bar, Meggie Williams says, you’ll undoubtedly get to watch the full-glee, mouth-open, mad dash that almost every dog

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

She calls it the “sprint of joy.” From any seat at Skiptown’s bar, Meggie Williams says, you’ll undoubtedly get to watch the full-glee, mouth-open, mad dash that almost every dog

Fetching Dog-Friendly Fun in the Queen City

She calls it the “sprint of joy.” From any seat at Skiptown’s bar, Meggie Williams says, you’ll undoubtedly get to watch the full-glee, mouth-open, mad dash that almost every dog takes when he or she is led through the double gate and can finally rocket off the leash.

“We designed our whole facility to cater to the well-being, enjoyment, and fun of dogs — and it’s also really fun for their people too,” explains Williams, who launched her business in Charlotte’s youthful South End neighborhood in 2020 and already has expansions to three major cities in the works. “Ultimately we are making it easier, and even more fun, for pets and their people to live their best lives.”

Skiptown’s whole facility was designed to cater to the well-being, enjoyment, and fun of dogs and their people. photograph by Jamey Price

And in Charlotte they do. This city isn’t just dog-friendly; it’s dog-fanatic — and fall is a particularly perfect time to frolic. From hiking trails and scenic parks to breweries and dog bars, read on to discover a few of our favorite Queen City places where furry friends get the royal treatment.



WALK

For those traveling to or from Skiptown, Williams, who has two golden-doodles, recommends the Rail Trail. This public walkway — named for its adjacency to the Blue Line light rail — wraps nearly four miles around the center of Charlotte, linking some of its most vibrant neighborhoods with breweries, restaurants, galleries, public art, and other businesses.

The Rail Trail wraps nearly four miles around the center of Charlotte, linking some of its most vibrant neighborhoods with breweries, restaurants, galleries, public art, and other businesses. photograph by Justin Gollmer

Slurp up some Canine Crunch at Two Scoops Creamery, or pick up a dog-friendly custard at Shake Shack. Another popular pedestrian route is the Uptown Skyline Trail, where you can walk along the Irwin Creek and Stewart Creek greenways from Panthers Stadium, taking in iconic Queen City sites along the way.

For a more forested hike, bring your leash and check out the 25-mile views and brilliantly changing leaves at Crowders Mountain State Park, where 11 trails cater to a variety of skill levels, or McDowell Nature Preserve & Center, where seven miles of trails give nature enthusiasts and their pups gorgeous looks at Lake Wylie and a Piedmont prairie restoration area.

 

SIT

When you work up a thirst, Charlotte’s ever-growing brewery scene is no doubt the place to see and be seen — and many welcome four-legged friends for the fun. Grab a pint and indulge in the outdoor amenities; you’ll find picnic tables, heated patios, enclosed dog parks, and cozy fall-friendly firepits at sites like Blue Blaze Brewing, Lenny Boy Brewing Co., Triple C Brewing Co., Sycamore Brewing, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, GoodRoad CiderWorks, and Catawba Brewing Co., among others.

Many of Charlotte’s breweries, like Triple C Brewing Co., welcome four-legged friends for the fun. photograph by Joey Seawell and Jon Black

For more dog-centric hangouts with room to romp and plenty of taps, long-standing Lucky Dog Bark & Brew (with locations in Charlotte, Steele Creek, and Cornelius) and The Dog Bar in NoDa pride themselves on being clean, friendly, safe, and fun.

Once your whistle is wet, settle in for a meal at Mac’s Speed Shop, Seoul Food Meat Co., Pinky’s Westside Grill, or FlowerChild, where not only is the food delicious, but the outdoor seating caters well to fur babies.

At JackBeagle’s, named after the owner’s rescue pup, grab local beer and bites, and don’t miss snapping a selfie with the mural outside. Once they’ve waited their turn, doggies deserve a snack stop at the Canine Café bakery, which has been bringing treats, chews, dog cakes, and more to Charlotte for upwards of two decades.

You can make a purchase from Pet Wants: The Urban Feed Store, located in South End and Optimist Hall, and know you’re feeding Fido fresh fare. Or track down the perky banana-yellow Yappy Hour Bakery, the city’s first dog-treat truck.

 

PLAY

Despite the cooler temperatures that Carolina fall brings, you can still make a splash at the area’s first swim club for dogs. Aquapups Charlotte is an in-ground, year-round, and veterinarian-owned opportunity to practice those doggie paddles. For a focused, small-group fitness session for you — and a lesson in listening for your pup — book a 45-minute bootcamp through Fit With Fido.

Choose your own adventure at the vast U.S. National Whitewater Center, where hiking is an especially popular pet activity. Want to kick it up a notch? Try bringing your buddy aboard a flatwater kayak or stand-up paddleboard. “Playing outside is even more engaging when your four-legged friends can participate,” says the center’s marketing coordinator, Taylor Longwell. “Leashed dogs are welcome in all outdoor spaces at the Whitewater Center, including the 50-mile trail network and on the Catawba River.”

Leashed dogs are welcome in all outdoor spaces at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. photograph by Cody Hughes

Of course, sometimes simple, off-leash fun is the ticket, too — especially when your dog needs to run off some zoomies. Frazier Park, just off the Skyline Trail, and William R. Davie District Park, which is south of the city, are both popular parks that boast separate fenced spaces for pint-sized pups to play.

Feeling festive? Just north of Charlotte, autumn brings the Rural Hill Sheepdog Trials and Dog Festival to the suburb of Huntersville. Taking place November 13 and 14 this year, this annual celebration features the National Border Collie Sheepherding Championships, dog sport demonstrations, North Carolina beer and wine, living history demonstrations in the Rural Hill 1700s-era cabin, and many pet-themed vendors.

Worth returning to town in the summertime, the city’s Minor League home team, the Charlotte Knights, hosts a super popular Bark in the Park, where canines get to enjoy dog-themed giveaways, in-game promotions, and an impressive pet parade.

 

STAY

When night falls, The Ivey’s Hotel welcomes waggers under 20 pounds. Located in a converted 1920s department store, the boutique hotel features chic Parisian design with an ideal blend of comfort. Or check in to the luxurious and pet-friendly Grand Bohemian or Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in the heart of Uptown.

The Kimpton — which has no size or weight limit as long as your pooch “fits in the elevator” — will bring pet beds to your room upon request, and offers a list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, groomers, and pet boutiques. In fact, many national hotel brands now allow dog guests, including quite a few Center City sites, ensuring “ruffing it” in Charlotte is nothing but a pleasure.

This story was published on Oct 29, 2021

Lauren Eberle

Raised in Winston-Salem, Lauren Eberle now enjoys writing, editing, and storytelling from her home in Cornelius.