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Dog jaunt: Visiting Colonial Williamsburg with a dog

I hadn’t visited Colonial Williamsburg since I worked there for a summer in college, so when I returned last fall to drop my niece off at school, I feared the magic might have worn off. How wrong I was! We had a great time, even in the heat and humidity, and I long to go back. [Please note that we did, in December 2012; here’s the post about our winter Williamsburg week with Chloe.]

Photo by Tony Alter

Photo by Tony Alter

Two of Colonial Williamsburg’s hotels accept dogs as guests: at one end of the price scale is the Williamsburg Inn, and at the other is the Cascades Motel. The Williamsburg Inn is a grande dame of a hotel, with high-end restaurants, a lovely pool and beautiful grounds. The Cascades Motel has a funky 50’s motor-lodge charm of its own, and guests have access to the Woodlands Hotel pool and continental breakfast. (I don’t have a link to give you for the Cascades Motel because, strangely, there isn’t one.) To make a reservation in either of the pet-friendly Williamsburg hotels, call the Reservation line at 1-800-447-8679.

The Williamsburg Inn accepts dogs up to 60 lbs. for a $50 per day fee, and requires a $500 refundable deposit. If you leave your dog in your room while you step out, she must be in a crate and she must not bark. You must give the hotel a phone number where you can be reached, in case an issue arises with your dog while you’re gone. The Cascades Motel, by contrast, has no weight limit requirement and requires no deposit. Your dog must be in a crate, however, while you’re out of the room.

Both hotels are on the edge of the historic district. You can walk into the colonial village if you want, or take a quick shuttle ride. Leashed dogs are allowed on the Colonial Williamsburg shuttles (the driver of a crowded bus may ask a large dog to wait for a bus with more room).

There are some advantages to staying in a Colonial Williamsburg hotel, including walking access and a discount on your admission ticket, but the Visitor Center has ample parking and you could instead stay at a nearby hotel and drive to the historic area for the day. Local hotels that accept dogs include (in descending order of popularity in TripAdvisor ratings): Residence Inn By Marriott Williamsburg (757-941-2000), Crowne Plaza Williamsburg at Fort Magruder (757-220-2250), Days Inn Colonial Downtown (757-229-5060), Patrick Henry Inn (757-229-9540), and Clarion Hotel Historic District (757-229-4100). The La Quinta Williamsburg (757-253-1663) also accepts dogs, but doesn’t seem to have a popularity rating; the TripAdvisor reviews to date for the La Quinta Williamsburg, however, are darned positive.

Dogs are allowed in the historic area (though not inside any of the buildings), but they must be leashed. It’s not clear whether dogs are officially allowed on the outdoor tours that are offered (the tour of the gardens behind many of the houses and shops is not to be missed, by the way). I suggest putting your dog in a discreet carrier for those.

Keep in mind that Williamsburg’s heat and humidity can be brutal, and be sure to carry a bottle of water and a travel bowl (or a Gulpy) to keep your dog hydrated. Give her some of the ice from your drink. And consider putting her in a jacket designed to keep her from overheating (e.g., the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest, or the ChillyBuddy Canine Cooling Jacket).

You may eat with your dog at the outdoor seating areas of the King’s Arms, Chowning’s and Christina Campbell’s Taverns, according to the Dining Reservations representative I spoke with.  (Mention that you will be accompanied by your dog when you make your lunch or dinner reservations, and ask for an outdoor table.) [8/12/14 Alas! Per Michelle’s comment, below, that policy has since changed, and your pet dog is no longer welcome in those outdoor dining areas.] We ate last fall at Christina Campbell’s and were very impressed; the so-so Williamsburg food of my youth is a thing of the past, at least at that tavern. The King’s Arms also gets good reviews. To make dining reservations, call the same number: 1-800-447-8679.

As an alternative, I like getting sandwiches and picnic fixings from The Cheese Shop (on DoG Street, in Merchant’s Square) and finding a shady spot to sit and munch (though you may not share my enthusiasm for the graveyard of Bruton Parish Church as a picnic spot).

The Cheese Shop
410 W. Duke of Gloucester Street
Williamsburg, VA
T: 757-220-0298
Open Mon. to Sat. 10 am to 8 pm, Sun. 11 am to 6 pm


  • Michelle

    Thank you so much for providing all of this information. It is really helpful. I just wanted to mention that as of our visit in early August 2014, dogs are not allowed in the outdoor dining areas at the taverns mentioned above in the blog. We found this out firsthand when we tried to visit. The policy must have changed since the publishing of this article. I just wanted to let folks know this in advance. We were able to eat with our furry friends at Aromas and the Dog Tavern in Merchant’s Square. Just thought I’d share these developments in case people are planning a trip soon. Thanks again!

  • Cindy Carnes

    Thanks so much for the information. I am planning a trip in July 2015 and am having trouble with the thoughts of leaving my 12 week old puppy behind for a week while I am gone on vacation. Can any one suggest an affordable doggie daycare there in the colonial area? I don’t want to have to drive all the way to Virginia Beach for an affordable but reliable safe sitter.

  • Jane Feathers

    As of 3/2016 Patrick Henry Inn is no longer dog friendly, and threatens a 300 dollar penalty for bringing a dog. We did book a reservation at the LaQuinta which looks great and as a bonus charges NO extra fee for pets. Thanks for your help.

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