Ever since we moved to a city one year ago, my dog, Zoe, and I have taken full advantage of living close to everything and anything we might need. We are walking distance from the grocery store, two blocks away from our local dog park and just a few minutes away from friends, restaurants and nightlife.
City life has much to offer, but the lack of open space can feel claustrophobic at times, and the never-ending list of to-dos can be overwhelming. So, when it comes time to recharge, I return to my roots—away from the city and toward nature—to reset and reconnect.
Having grown up in a road-tripping, boat-hauling, tent-camping family, the great outdoors always feels like home to me. This summer, Zoe and I, along with my sister, Dominika, took a break from the city life and went on a girls’ weekend trip to a dog-friendly cabin outside of Washington, D.C., courtesy of Getaway.
In addition to the D.C. area, Getaway offers dog-friendly cabins within driving distance of New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and Portland. Coming soon, Getaway will also offer cabins near Los Angeles and Dallas. If you’re looking to get away with your pet, this escape from Washington, D.C. in Stanardsville, Virginia, just might be the much-needed and well-deserved R&R that you and your pooch need.
Day 1: Dog-Friendly Cabin Getaway from Washington, D.C.
Leaving Wi-Fi behind for two days and heading for the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Dominika, Zoe and I were ready to unwind, kick back and escape from the constantly buzzing phones and noise of city living.
As we crossed from I-66 West and onto US-29 South into northern Virginia, the vibrant greenery never left our side. Zoe snoozed in Dominika’s lap for most of the drive and wasn’t the least-bit concerned by the ups and downs of the terrain. The rolling hills led us through Stanardsville until we reached our dog-friendly cabin with Getaway.
The automated check-in process was simple and convenient. Two hours before check-in, our cabin name and entrance code arrived via text message and email, which I provided when booking the retreat.
Once we arrived at the D.C. outpost, which is just two hours outside of the city, Zoe regained her excitement and was ready to start exploring. She led us to the front porch of our pet-friendly cabin, anxiously happy-dancing while waiting for us to swing open the front door.
The first thing we noticed when we entered was the enormous bay window that took up an entire side of the cabin. The sun reflecting off of the bright green leaves outside filled the room, and Zoe began her nose-led expedition of the roughly 140- to 200-square-foot rental.
The minimalist accommodations included a small kitchenette stocked with all the cooking essentials; a small pantry of snacks for purchase; potable running water; a private bathroom with shampoo, conditioner and fluffy towels; a queen bed; air conditioning and a heater.
Once we settled in and dropped off our overnight bags, we decided to make our way to some of the local recommendations from Getaway’s blog, The Journal.
Breakfast and Local Stanardsville
Day 1 started with us heading to Jack’s Shop Kitchen for breakfast takeout. I ordered the Belgian waffle with a side of hash browns, and Dominika chose the breakfast croissant with a side of fresh fruit salad. We ate on the cute little storefront bench with Zoe at our side and took a look at some of the outdoor-displayed antiques the restaurant had for sale.
I rarely choose waffles, but it was worth taking a chance on this one! Topped with whipped cream, berries and a banana “brulee,” this waffle was probably the best one that I’ve experienced to date. Zoe enjoyed a bite of fresh fruit while basking in the summertime sun.
Once our meals were finished, we headed toward downtown Stanardsville. I definitely suggest strolling along the streets for a taste of small town USA. We even stumbled across an 1840s inn and restaurant on Main Street.
After a quick walk around town, we loaded up the car for our next stop, Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah Park: Hiking Hightop Mountain
Even though our drive to Shenandoah only took about 15 minutes, Zoe still managed to get a quick nap during the short commute.
Arriving at the park, you’ll see an entrance booth where a national park ranger provides maps of the trails and collects the $30 single-vehicle entry fee, which covers unlimited entry for one car for the week. This also is where we learned which trails were and were not dog friendly. Lucky for us, Hightop Mountain—the highest peak of Shenandoah’s South District—welcomes leashed dogs!
The trailhead to Hightop Mountain was about a five-minute drive from the park’s Swift Run Gap entrance (one of four park entrances). We quickly reached the parking area for our trail of choice and packed our bags with water, Zoe’s Petmate travel bowl and some sunscreen.
Though not too steep, the hike up to Hightop Mountain was no easy feat, especially for Zoe’s short legs. With many stops and water breaks along the way, we made it halfway up the 5.6-mile hike before stopping at a clearing.
The stunning view overlooking the valley was the perfect opportunity to take in the moment and rest up. But with storm clouds approaching, the early summer sun beating down on us and a pooped little pooch on our hands, we decided to forego the rest of the hike and make our way back down.
The decline was not sneaker friendly and proved to be more challenging than we expected, especially for a flat-faced pup. The portion we completed took just under two hours and was plenty to get our fill.
For those looking to tackle the peak, I certainly recommend bringing more water than you expect for yourself and your dog, hiking boots and a rain coat or poncho (just in case). From what we could tell, the view at the top will be spectacular and absolutely worth the trek if you and your canine companion are prepared and well equipped.
Exploring Dog-Friendly Charlottesville, Virginia
Exhausted from the heat and exploring, we returned to the car tired and hungry. With some time to spare before sundown, we decided to head south to Charlottesville, Virginia—only about 45 minutes away and home to the University of Virginia.
We made it into town and found a row of restaurants and bars sprawled with outdoor seating. We chose a local café, Corner Juice, that offered fresh sandwiches, smoothies and juices. We ordered the California sandwich and a make-your-own sub with a smoothie and two cold-pressed juices. The outdoor, dog-friendly patio was a great place to rest, refuel and people watch while Zoe enjoyed the kibble dinner we packed for her.
After the three of us finished our meals, we walked down University Avenue toward the 200-year-old university, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson. The Rotunda and lawn made for a picturesque stop on our short walk before we hopped into the car and made our way back toward Shenandoah with windows rolled down and music way up.
At this point in our trip, Zoe was tired and sleepy from the day’s events and was happy to take a nap on our 45-minute drive. Her grunts and snores were the perfect accompaniment to our summertime playlist while we sang along.
Skyline Drive at Sunset
Though the back and forth commute to and from the park dragged out a bit, we absolutely intended to take advantage of the park re-entry and cruise down Skyline Drive before sunset.
Located in Shenandoah National Park, the iconic Skyline Drive spans over 100 miles and is filled with scenic stops overlooking the many valleys. At around 8 p.m., we pulled off to one of the overlooks, parked the car and enjoyed a front-row seat to the sunset.
Watching the sun descend into the evening sky while country music played from the car, with my sister and four-legged sidekick by my side, was hands down my favorite part of one of my all-time favorite trips. Once the sun set and the dark encroached, we left the park behind and returned to our dog-friendly cabin in Stanardsville to shower and rest before the start of Day 2.
Day 2: Dog-Friendly Cabin Getaway from Washington, D.C.
We woke up on our second and, sadly, final day of our girls’ weekend getaway feeling relaxed and refreshed after the previous day’s adventures. Still stunned by the beautiful views outside of Getaway’s signature cabin window, the only thing we wished for was to stay on for another day.
We took the unique opportunity on this last day of our trip for some self-care. Dominika and I spoiled ourselves with face masks, temporary tattoos and nail painting while Zoe got her own unique spa treatment. We used Pet Head’s oatmeal paw butter to give her a “paw-dicure” and help soften her trail-hardened paw pads.
While lounging around and taking our time getting ready, we decided to journal and reflect on our vacation. Before we knew it, it was 11 a.m., time for checkout. The checkout process was just as simple as arrival had been. We washed our dishes, tidied up, turned off the lights and plugged our access code in one final time.
While it was time to leave our Getaway cabin behind, our final day was far from over! We had two stops before heading home.
Only 10 minutes away from our cabin was Early Mountain Vineyard. We ventured out for some light snacks and a glass of wine to see what the buzz was all about around the Virginia wine trail.
This beautiful venue is located right on the foothills of the mountains and has a dog-friendly back patio that overlooks the vines. We ordered a butternut squash salad and the roasted garlic hummus, and I tried a glass of the Early Mountain Rose 2017. I cannot speak highly enough of the hummus and wine; the next time I find myself back in Virginia, I will be back for this pairing.
Dogs are allowed in the outdoor areas at Early Mountain Vineyard with “Dog Friendly Areas” clearly marked with signs. However, they are not allowed in the award-winning tasting room or bathrooms.
Zoe enjoyed the vineyard in her own way with an entire (dog toy) bottle of “Muttscato” from P.L.A.Y. pet company! We sat back and enjoyed the company and the little time we had left on our girls’ weekend.
On the way back toward D.C., we reached our last stop: Moo Thru. With three locations in Virginia, Moo Thru is known for “real ice cream from real dairy farmers.” They offer ice cream, shakes and malts, sundaes and milk made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
We visited their Remington location and got vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet and a banana with rainbow sprinkles. The summer heat quickly melted our cones outside this roadside barn shop, but not before Dominika, I and Zoe got to enjoy a tasting! Our snouts and hands were covered in melted ice cream, and we had to rinse off in the restrooms, but this frozen treat was the perfect way to end a weekend away.
More quickly than we would have liked, our girls’ weekend getaway came to an end. What we took home with us were the laughs, the stories and the important reminders to recharge ourselves through time together, self-care and new experiences.
My Tips for Other Travelers, Two- and Four-Legged
Overall, I am grateful for the experiences we gained and I will treasure the memories we made. However, I would change a few things around for next time.
If I could re-plan our weekend getaway or make suggestions, I would have slept in longer on Day 1 and enjoyed Jack’s for brunch instead of an early breakfast. Getaway’s cabins are about enjoying a slower pace, and I would have taken further advantage of it!
After brunch, I suggest heading straight to Charlottesville and exploring more of what the historic town and campus have to offer. For a self-guided tour, I recommend wandering back toward University Avenue for an early dinner and then heading to Skyline Drive around golden hour using Shenandoah’s southern-most Rockfish Gap entrance.
Though we didn’t get to see most of the Drive, I would have loved to experience and cover more of it. The winding road could then be covered from the south side, overlook by overlook, before choosing a spot on the side of the road to park for sunset, and eventually departing through Swift Run Gap to head back to your Getaway cabin.
While Hightop Mountain was an incredible hike, foregoing it would have allowed Zoe to relax more and left extra time for exploring elsewhere and enjoying similar views across the Drive.
Virginia is absolutely for lovers—those who love the outdoors and dogs. And Getaway’s pet-friendly cabin was the perfect way to soak in the experience!
Read about our other Getaway adventures:
Originally from Chicago, Nicole Janiga attended Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and received her Bachelor of Science in 2018 before making the big move down from the Windy City to the Sunshine State. She frequently enjoys going back to the Midwest to visit friends and family—and to cheer on the Hoosiers! In her free time, Nicole can be found traveling with her Pug @zoetheloaf (currently at 15 states, and counting) or riding her horse around Southwest Ranches.