Rusty’s rating: 11 on a scale of 1 to 10
Walk down Center Street in Folly Beach and you’ll find an eclectic collection of beach-y restaurants, bars and coffee shops. All of them have tables on or near the sidewalk, and all of them were happy to see Rusty. I don’t mean “yes, your dog can come in with you.” I mean, “Can I pet your dog?” happy to see him. I mean, Rusty got a bowl of water before I got a beer, and that’s no small feat.
Folly is small and decidedly down-to-earth, while just a short (15-minute-ish) ride outside one of America’s hottest, foodie-est travel destinations right now, Charleston.
Perhaps because Folly has a reputation for being dog friendly, no one is really surprised to see you with your dog. They’re helpful in lots of little ways: If dogs are only welcome on the patio, they’ll run out and greet you at the sidewalk and steer you the right way.
Heck, the town’s best breakfast place is called Lost Dog Cafe. The wooden fence has dog bones carved into it.
There’s one beachfront hotel, the Tides. Every room has a beach balcony, and dogs are welcome (for an $85-per-visit fee) in each one. The pet fee sounds steep, but I can imagine how hard they work to keep rooms there clean, given that the beach is also very dog friendly. So I don’t spite them the fee. Dogs aren’t allowed near the pool, but they are allowed just about anywhere else.
Rusty and I spent several afternoons recently having coffee at Dolce Banana Cafe, sipping on the sidewalk and being visited by dozens of locals and tourists who stopped to have a pet. As you’d expect, restaurants only allow dogs in certain areas – like patios – but it was never a problem finding a spot.
The real fun is at night, when we found plenty of bars that were more than happy to pour drinks for Rusty and me. As an unexpected bonus, Folly is not only dog-friendly, but very musician friendly. Most bars have some kind of live music several nights each week. How musical is this place? The small grocery store in town sells guitar strings and drumsticks for those music gig emergencies I know all too well.
Rusty and I started at The Crab Shack, where he got very, very friendly with some musicians there for open mic night. Later, we found Chico Feo, just a few blocks off the main drag. It looks like someone’s house with a big back deck and a few picnic tables spread out on the yard. Well, that’s basically what it is. Hanging lights make it festive, but otherwise, it’s kind of up to the dogs to make it fun. We spent several nights there and met nothing but hospitable dog friends. No live band on the outside stage this week, but locals do brag out the tunes they hear from the place.
Folly Beach isn’t hard to get to. It’s a 10-12 hour drive from plenty of big eastern cities. We met lots of folks from Ohio and Chicago, there on spring break. When the high summer season hits, I’d imagine things get more complicated. The short drive from Charleston can take an hour, as there’s only one road to Folly. And dogs can only be on the beach early morning or late night, as is common. But if you can manage to make a trip down here during the off-season, Rusty and I heartily and barkily recommend it.
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