Pet-friendly Theme Parks

Amusement park in your family’s travel plans? The best spots for Fido

By Sandy Robins

updated 9:51 a.m. PT, Wed., April 30, 2008


The countdown to summer has begun and travel industry insiders predict that more pets than ever will be vacationing with their families this year. If one of America’s favorite theme parks is on your list, be sure to confirm in advance that they have kennels to facilitate your pets while you are enjoying the park attractions.

Florida’s best

Walt Disney World in Florida is a popular destination for both tourists from other states, as well as local day-trippers, says Kristin Krumpe, VP marketing for Best Friends Pet Care, the organization that runs the kennels at this popular theme park.

“Many visitors prefer to check their pets into the centers because it gives them peace of mind knowing they are close by and they can look in on them at any time. For day-trippers, the consensus is that it’s better to let their dog enjoy the ride there and back with the family and be close by, rather than being left at home alone,” says Krumpe.

Because so many visitors to Walt Disney World bring their pets, there are five kennel locations situated at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, The Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Fort Wilderness for $15 a pet. Cats and dogs are welcome, as well as “pocket pets” such as hamsters and gerbils.

You’ll need to make food arrangements for your pet at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the Animal Kingdom facilities, which also offer extra walks and cuddles — and even an ice cream break for an additional charge. The staff will also take care of any medications for a $2 fee. All the pet care facilities offer sleepover arrangements too.

“A day at a theme park is usually a long one because the parks stay open until midnight in the summer months, and we find that guests like to come back and check on their pets during that time and feed them a meal or some snacks,” says Krumpe.

Currently on Walt Disney World’s drawing board is a unique luxury pet “resort” to be built next year. This one-of-a-kind facility will cater to park and resort guests, as well as Walt Disney World employees, providing a full range of pet hospitality services, including dog and cat boarding, day care and grooming services, and doggy day camp.

Pet guests will be able to enjoy such amenities as luxury suites with television and raised bedding, activities such as nature walks and playgroups, and pampering services ranging from ice cream treats to bedtime stories.

“This will be premier vacation destination for pets,” said Dennis Dolan, President and CEO of Best Friends Pet Care. “This facility will be designed to fit into the Walt Disney World vacation experience and will be unlike anything else in the industry.”

Other popular Florida theme parks with pet amenities

Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., and the adjacent roller coaster park also have pet care facilities. The pet care area is located on the first level of the parking structure that caters to both parks. The day care fee in this air-conditioned area is $10 a pet. While there is someone on duty to supervise, guests are required to take care of their pet’s personal needs.

At Sea World in Orlando, Fla., pets have both inside and outside access. Once again, although there is an attendant on duty, pet parents have to take charge of their pet’s food and exercise requirements. The charge is $8 a day per pet.

The Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., offers a free outdoor, heavily shaded area.

The pet care facility at the Kennedy Space Center is also free. It’s indoors and kept cool with overhead fans. There is no personal supervision at the space center and both theme parks request that pet owners bring their own bedding, food and water with them.

California dreaming

California’s most popular theme park destinations are also very pet-friendly. The Disneyland Kennel, located at the side entrance of Disneyland also serves the California Adventure Park. The $20 a day fee includes a meal and dogs are allowed to ride the Disneyland trams from the parking structures in order to get there.

Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles offers complimentary pet care in an air-conditioned area. Pet parents are escorted to the area by a member of staff for security reasons but there is no attendant on duty. It’s on a first come basis and you need to check in at the will call window early to ensure a place for your pet.

Sea World in San Diego also a pet care facility and charges $8 a day. Once again, it’s a self-service set-up requiring pet owners to provide all food and bedding and to ensure that their pets have regularly potty breaks.

Interestingly, although Knott’s Berry Farm in Anaheim is home to Snoopy and the gang, the theme park does not cater for pets. However, a “sister” park, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio  does have basic pet facilities and charges pet guests $15 a day. The park is about to open a new Snoopy area on May 10, and Uno, the Beagle that won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show this year, will be guest of honor at the event.

Go Dolly!

One of the most pet-friendly theme parks in America is Dollywood, the Great Smoky Mountain theme park owned by legendary singer Dolly Parton in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There are 12 standard climate controlled kennel runs at $12 a day and there are four special rustic doggy cabins that rent at $30 a day. Reservations are recommended in peak season times.

Six Flags

While there are numerous Six Flags fun parks situated across America, only four are currently pet-friendly. They are:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Valencia, Calif., Guest Relations (661) 255-4103
The facilities here also serve the Hurricane Harbor water park. Guest Relations (661) 255-4142

Six Flags Over Georgia Atlanta, Ga., Guest Relations (770) 739-3400 x3298

Six Flags St. Louis  Eureka, Mo., Guest Relations (636) 938-4800 x397

Six Flags Great America Gurnee, Ill., Guest Relations (847) 249-1776 x4625

Tracey Thompson of, suggests checking with any theme park prior to arriving, because policies do change — and it could affect your travel plans. “The next best thing is doggie daycare in the vicinity of the park, and these days there’s no shortage of excellent facilities.”

A quick run down of other popular theme parks with pet care facilities:

Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario, Canada, offers pet’s an air-conditioned oasis at $6 a day. Pet parents should bring all food, toys and bedding; (905) 832-7000.

Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina charges $10 a day; (704) 588-2600.

Gilroy Gardens has only three kennels, free on a first come, first serve basis; (408) 840-7100.

King’s Dominion in Doswell, Va., home to the longest roller coaster ride in the world that thrills riders at 65 mph, has an air-conditioned facility with an attendant on duty. The charge is $5 a day; (804) 876-5000

King’s Island at-Kings Mill, Ohio charges $15 a day. Owners should to check in on occasion for walks and potty breaks; (513) 754-5800.

Checklist for pet travelers

Travel with your pet’s up-to date-vaccination documentation because most places will request it before allowing pets to stay at the facility.

Further ensure that your pet is wearing proper identification and that the collar is secure.

Be sure to leave all your relevant information including hotel details and cell-phone number with the attendant in charge.

Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.


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