By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Q. We'd like to spend a week in the Smokies or someplace south of Washington. We'd like activities and historical or scenic attractions, plus we have a large dog.
J. M. Robbins, Great Falls
A. In the Great Smoky Mountains, hikers, elk and bears can roam free, but not so much Fido. "It's not the most dog-friendly region," says Len Kain, co-founder of DogFriendly.com, an online pet travel resource, "because the Great Smoky National Park has only a few trails you can bring your dog on." But don't start dialing the kennel just yet.
The national park does allow dogs in campgrounds, picnic areas and along roads, including scenic overlooks -- but pooches must be on leashes no longer than six feet. Dogs are also permitted on the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. For people with pets, the park also recommends Mount Rogers and the Pisgah forest, among other national areas, and Kain suggests Shenandoah National Park, where dogs can trot along all but 20 miles of trails (out of a total 500 miles), and Grandfather Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
For more urban attractions, the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., offers visitors' dogs Doggywood, an indoor dog-care facility (reserve at 865-428-9826, http://www.dollywood.com/plan-your-visit/faqs/#Pets ; $12-$30). Less than 100 miles east, Asheville, N.C., is a cultural center with gallery-lined streets, a dog park and a DIY dogwash, the Soapy Dog. The town also has many lodgings that welcome dogs, such as Suzanne's Farm and Gardens B&B (828-670-5248, http://www.suzannesfarm.com/ ; from $75), where pets stay for free, and the Crowne Plaza Resort (828-254-3211, http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/ ; $20 per day for pets, from $130 for people).
Closer to the Smokies, the Holiday Inn Sunpree Resort in Gatlinburg (800-465-4329, http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/ ; $15 one-time pet fee, rooms from $69) has three pools. For other lodging options, check Dogfriendly.com ( http://www.dogfriendly.com/ ), Travelpets.com ( http://www.travelpets.com/ ) and Petswelcome.com ( http://www.petswelcome.com/ ). Additionally, some properties have on-site pet care, or find a pet sitter in your destination at http://www.petsit.com/ .
My family is planning a trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic in mid-April. Does our stay coincide with the Dominican baseball season?
Barry Leopold, Falls Church
The Dominican Republic, where baseball players grow on palm trees, has two seasons: the Summer League, which runs from late April to September, and the Winter League, which goes from October to January and culminates with the multi-nation Caribbean World Series in February.
The Summer League is "rookie ball," says Rich Johnson, president of Dominican Baseball Tours (347-273-1991, http://www.dominican-baseball-tours.com/ ). "It's pretty good baseball, but it's not AAA Major League Baseball." The free games, featuring 17- to 20-year-old upstarts, are held in baseball academies around the country; the closest field to Punta Cana is in La Romana, an hour's drive west.
The Winter League, meanwhile, is major league ball. In fact, many players from U.S. teams, such as the Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz and Baltimore Oriole's Juan Tejada, return home to play ball during the colder months. The six teams compete in five stadiums, including La Romana, Santiago and Santo Domingo. Tickets cost $7 to $12 (even for primo seats on the field), and concessionaires sell everything from fried chicken and plantains to mix-your-own rum and Coke.
Your hotel should have a schedule for both leagues. Or, if you prefer an organized tour, Johnson offers single- and multi-day trips. A day outing, for example, takes fans through the "backstory of Dominican baseball" in the countryside. The $100 fee includes a game ticket and baseballs to hand out to budding Babe Ruths; transportation is extra.
Are there any ballroom-dancing events we could see while traveling from L.A. to San Francisco?
J. Kowal, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Competitive ballroom dancers cut a rug nearly every weekend throughout the year, but you need to be in the right ballroom at the right time. The Embassy Ball DanceSport Championships, the discipline's biggest event, will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 3 in Irvine, Calif., and will feature dancers from 50 countries. And this spring (March 31-April 2), American couples will twirl off in the San Francisco Open DanceSport, which includes "Dancing With the Stars"-esque pro-amateur teams. The National Dance Council of America ( http://www.ndca.org/ ) has a date base of upcoming events around the country. The nonprofit USA Dance also has links to its local chapters and their programs. For example, the Northern California group has a calendar busy with competitions, socal dances and lessons. For more info: 800-447-9047, http://www.usadance.org./
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@ washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.