It doesn’t sound possible.
Similar to so many people, we’ve been holed up in our home since early March avoiding any potential exposure to COVID-19 or the coronavirus. But work fatigue was setting in quickly with nearly a year passing since our last vacation. We decided to look for a dog-friendly and remote vacation spot away from the crowds.
We chose Bryson City, North Carolina! This was a new spot for me as usually when I think of North Carolina mountain getaways, I think Gatlinburg or Great Smoky National Park. Picture those areas minus the crowds and dogs welcome everywhere. I’ll break down where we stayed, dined, drank, and ventured with our doggos. Keep in mind my Ivy Jane is about to have surgery in a few days for a torn cranial cruciate ligament (similar to an ACL in human terms) so we skipped the hiking trails.
Where to Stay:
We picked the cutest Airbnb perfect for a couple (plus two puppers) and maximum capacity of four people. Helen’s Hideaway offered a king bed and sofa bed. It was only a couple minutes from a cute coffee shop called Cardinal Coffee, and about 10 minutes from Bryson City and 10 minutes from Nantahala Outdoor Center and white water rafting. We were huge fans of the wrap-around front porch, fire pit, and hot tub. The cabin was so cozy, private, and tucked at the back end of a gravel drive. Dogs were welcome but needed to be pre-approved by the host. We signed a pet agreement and paid an extra $75. Get up to $50 off your first Airbnb stay when you use this link. Then check out the cabin we booked here.
Places to Eat:
Everywhere you went in Bryson City promoted wearing masks, social distancing, and hand washing. We felt extremely comfortable dining outside in the following locations:
Breakfast Spot: Just down the street from the Airbnb, Cardinal Coffee was the cutest spot with the most delicious blueberry bagel and mocha latte I’ve ever tasted. We took the dogs and sat outside on their picnic tables.
Lunch Spot: Big Wesser Riverside Pub and Grill located at the Nantahala Outdoor Center was so tasty, dog-friendly, and a gorgeous spot to dine.
Lunch Spot: In Bryson City, the High Test Deli is a pick up only spot. You can call ahead to order or place your order at the window. On the window is a map of all the public picnic spots or you can eat across the street at Mountain Layers Brewing.
Dinner Spot: About a 45-minute drive toward the world-famous Tail of the Dragon is the gorgeous Historic Tapoco Lodge. This was a delicious dinner and dog-friendly outside.
Places to Drink:
Nantahala Brewing: Dog-friendly on its patio.
Mountain Layers Brewing: Dog-friendly on the back patio.
Bryson City Outdoors Taproom: Dog-friendly both inside and outside. They do have two large dogs of their own at this location but they put them away when we arrived. They sell dog toys and hiking gear inside as well plus much more human .
Things to Do:
Nantahala Outdoor Center: Campus-wide masks were required inside and outside. This was a gorgeous spot to watch kayakers tackle the river but also so fun to let your dogs play in the water. They have calm areas of the river to let them get in without having to worry about a high current. Dogs are welcome in the shops and outside on the dining area patios.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest: A great hiking spot not far from Bryson City and dogs are welcome here!
Fontana Dam: This is the tallest dam east of the Rockies and offers gorgeous views. Dogs are welcome in the marina — rent a pontoon boat, kayak, canoe, and more and take your pup out on the water.
Looking for a quick weekend trip?
On our way back, we spent the night in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and discovered some wonderful dog friendly spots.
Where to Stay:
This tiny home cabin was a quick drive from downtown Chattanooga. It was dog-friendly with a pre-approval from the host and a $25 extra pet fee. Get up to $50 off your first Airbnb stay when you use this link. Then check out the cabin we booked here.
Places to Eat and Drink:
Chattanooga Brewing: This brewery offered an off-leash dog biergarten with plenty of shade, water bowls, good brews, and good food. If off leash isn’t your style, the patio is also dog-friendly. We loved this spot a ton! We would love to go back again.
Odd Story Brewing: Eat and drink on the sidewalk with your pupper. The brewery offers cute windows and plants galore!
Naked River Brewing: Just around the block from Chattanooga Brewing, this brewery allows you to enter with your dog through the inside and then drink on the shaded patio with your pup. They provide buckets of water and ice on hot days.