PETS ARE FAMILY, TOO! We truly believe that pets are family, too! Thankfully there are many pet-friendly events in our area. Below we list some of those, plus additional resources for pet owners. This is not a full guide, by any means, nor does it cover the many great fundraising and pet adoption events that local rescues conduct. Rather, in keeping with our theme, we list fun things your family can do WITH your dog (and sometimes cat!). The first part is about annual pet-focused or pet-friendly events. The second list is These lists are specific to pet events; some general community festivals are pet-friendly, too, but always check first!
Pet-friendly Annual Festivals and Special Events
Fun Dog Show (Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade): Dog show before the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town Alexandria with fun contests. Dogs then lead the parade!
Super Pet Expo: Huge 3-day annual event at the Dulles Expo Center features animal acts and agility demos, family friendly activities, and more than 150 exhibitors and rescue groups.
Pet Fiesta: Annual festival at the Reston Town Center in May with a Tails on Trails dog walk, pet adoption, pet contests and fashion show, and 80+ exhibitors.
Wags ‘N’ Whiskers: Springtime community event in Shirlington (in nearby Arlington) with pet contests, demos, exhibits, pet photos, children’s activities, live music, and more.
Springfield Days Pet Fest: Part of the annual Springfield Days festival, with a Paws on Parade, vendors, demos, rescue groups, pet photos, live entertainment, kids’ activities, and a blessing of the pets.
Caring Hands Animal Hospital Open House: Fun open house at various Caring Hands locations with activities for pets (photos, games, etc.) and kids (teddy bear surgery), plus raffles, pet pictures, and more, to benefit local animal organizations.
End-of-summer Dog Swims: Each year, several municipal and community swimming pools host “dog swims” after the pools have closed for the season to the public; many of these are charity events.
National Capital Cat Show: Up to 450 cats will compete in Championship, Premiership, Kittens, and Household Pet classes in this annual event at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly each September.
Barktoberfest: Annual fall pet celebration in Loudoun County to benefit Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA).
FPOW Paws for a Cause: Each October, Fairfax Pets on Wheels, a volunteer group that visits seniors with therapy pets, hosts a fun fundraising walk in the City of Fairfax for people and their pets.
Blessing of the Animals: Every year, several area churches offer a special “Blessing of the Animals” (usually coinciding with the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi) for dogs, cats, and other small pets.
Pet-friendly Halloween events: Halloween activities in Fairfax include a few fun events that are pet-friendly, such as a a “boneyard hunt” and pet parades. Fairfax Family Fun puts together a huge Halloween list each year!
Pet Holiday/Santa Photos: Several malls and local organizations offer Santa or holiday pet photos for pets.
Ongoing Pet-friendly Activities
Fairfax County Canine Cruises: As part of its “Bark in the Park” offerings, Lake Accotink park in Springfield offers offers cruises for canines and humans around the lake on select dates.
Potomac Riverboat Canine Cruises This private company also offers short dog-friendly cruises from Old Town Alexandria.
Paradise Springs Winery:Several wineries in Virginia, including Paradise Springs in Clifton, welcome families with dogs. (Note: dogs must stay leashed and are not allowed inside buildings or on the back patio of the main production building.)
Doggie Happy Hour: A popular destination for dog lovers is the Hotel Monaco in Old Town Alexandria for the “Doggie Yappy Hour.” On Tuesdays and Thursdays April through October,, canine friends get complimentary doggie treats and fresh water.
Fairfax County Dog Parks: The county offers canines who enjoy a good run or a friendly romp eight off-leash parks, fenced areas where unleashed dogs can have free play.
Arlington County Dog Parks: Arlington County offers eithg “community canine areas” open from sunrise until one half hour after sunset; most are fenced in (two are not).
City of Alexandria Dog Parks: Alexandria maintains its reputation as a very dog-friendly city with 18 dog exercise areas and fenced dog parks.
Pet Lover’s Companion: Comprehensive directory listing pet adoptions, special events, rescue groups, pet sitters, veterinarians, specialty animal hospitals, pet-friendly apartments, news, and other resources; guides available for Northern Virginia, Maryland, and DC
NOVA Dog Magazine: Events and resources for dog owners in Northern Virginia
Virginia Wine Dogs Blog: Reviews of dog-friendly wineries close to Fairfax
StayWithPets.com: Directory of pet-friendly housing and lodging
PetsWelcome: Directory of pet-friendly hotels in Fairfax and more
BringFido.com: Directory of pet-friendly hotels in Fairfax and more