We love this annual weekend of fun that takes place in the New Forest. The festival is as much fun for the dogs as it is for their owners with a vast array of experiences and activities on offer.
Our Explorers Emma and Pepperoni (@londondaxie) attended last year and we’ve invited them to share their experience. This guide is perfect for any first time goers experiencing the festival for the first time. Over to you Emma and Pepperoni!
Last year we headed to the New Forest for our summer staycation and our very first trip to Dogstival. We had a tail of a time and we’re excited to share our experience with you. Find out what we got up to and our top tips on planning your Dogstival experience.
Dogstival at a Glance
If a dog could have the best day of its life, what would it do? The answer is a day out at Dogstival. The fun-filled weekend takes place Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June in the gorgeous surroundings of Burley Park in the New Forest.
You’ll get to hang out (in a socially distanced way) with lots of other like-minded dog owners and their pawsome pups. There is so much to do, whether you want retail therapy (for humans or dogs), delicious local food and drink, live music or advice from experts, you’ll be spoilt for choice at Dogstival!
Entry To Dogstival
Prices start at £8 for children or £13.90 for adults for the day, or you can do what we did last year and make a whole weekend of it for £12 for children or £23.50 for adults. Tickets can be purchased on the gate or online. We bought ours online and were able to show them on our smart-phones on arrival.
Planning Your Trip
We definitely recommend making use of Dog Furiendly and the Dogstival website to help you plan your trip, there’s lots of great info about where to stay, eat and what activities you can get up to during your trip to the New Forest. We found them really useful when planning our trip! After doing our research we wish we had booked a longer trip as we found there are many dog friendly places to visit and it was a shame we wouldn’t have time to do them all during our stay.
How To Get There
To get to Dogstival, we recommend using a car – it’s the easiest way to explore the New Forest. Parking at Dogstival is £3 all day and paid in cash on arrival. There are also lots of well sign-posted car parks for popular walking routes throughout the New Forest.
For us, it was a 2-3 hour drive from London to get there. If your pup has never made such a long car journey before I definitely advise doing some practice trips and building up the time around your local area first. This wasn’t Pepperoni’s first long trip in the car and she’s used to making regular trips.
We made sure we took a break about half-way so we could all stretch our legs and have a food and toilet stop. We took in turn to go inside the service station as unfortunately most won’t allow your four-legged friend inside, but thankfully they had some picnic benches outside so we could eat our food before returning back to the car to continue our journey. Pepperoni slept most of the way in her Solvit car seat.
Where To Stay
We stayed at the High Corner Inn in Ringwood, a fantastic base for visiting Dogstival. It is in the heart of the New Forest, and much to our delight we were treated to our first sighting of the infamous New Forest ponies as we pulled into the car park on arrival.
The team there were so welcoming and dog friendly, not even seeming to mind when Pepperoni was excited and barky. After we signed the track and trace log-book we were shown to our room, one of seven double ensuite rooms available. It was a very good size, with plenty of space for us to set up Pepperoni’s crate and get her settled. There was also much needed tea and coffee facilities in the room which was ideal after a long drive.
Breakfast was served in the pub. Due to COVID-restrictions we had to complete a breakfast form and hand it in the night-before. We had a choice of continental or cooked breakfast. It was very tasty and set us up well for a busy day at Dogstival. There was pretty much a dog at every table during breakfast, proof of how dog friendly it is, we even bumped into some of our fellow guests later at the event!
The room was equipped with TV and Wi-Fi which was great for us to use to chill and unwind after a very busy day whilst relaxing on the very comfy bed.
You can also find plenty of other great dog friendly accommodations by searching the Dog Furiendly website and check out their write up of the Best Dog Friendly Hotels in the New Forest.
Where To Eat Near Dogstival
Dogstival had loads of great food and drink stalls for both humans and pooches to enjoy! We were spoilt for choice when it came to having lunch and snacks on both days. For dinner we decided to visit various dog friendly restaurants in the local area:
- High Corner Inn, Ringwood – great selection of pub classics with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
- Queens Head, Burley – a generous Sunday Roast, only 2 minute drive from Dogstival.
- On our final day we had lunch at Café Aroma, Ringwood – delicious milkshakes and all-day café dining.
You can also find lots of other delicious dog friendly places to eat by searching the Dog Furiendly website.
Things To Do Near Dogstival
Well of course we were there to go to Dogstival! But we also managed to squeeze in some gorgeous walks during our weekend trip:
- Linwood – a circular walk from the High Corner Inn
- Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary – one of the best places to see deer in the Forest with a purpose built viewing platform overlooking a large meadow.
- Blackwater Arboretum – a lush woodland walk passing through the Arboretum which houses a nationally important collection of trees from around the world.
Packing Tips For Dogstival
For the dog:
- Food and bowls. Check if your accommodation provides dog bowls for you!
- Water bottle and bowl. There are plenty of water stations at Dogstival but if your dog isn’t a fan of sharing they may want their own bowl, also useful for when out and about elsewhere
- Treats but don’t worry if you don’t bring enough you can buy lots at Dogstival!
- Dog bed/crate (if accommodation doesn’t offer) and blanket that smells like home, whatever your pup likes to chill in after a busy day
- Dog bag/ mat for eating out. Pepperoni is used to settling in her dog bag when we eat out, so we make sure we take this with us. Whatever helps your dog settle
- Towel. Especially handy if they decide to try dock diving or you take a trip to the beach/muddy forest
- Poo bags. Don’t forget to scoop! With lots of dogs there can be a lot of poop, there are plenty of bins on site to bin it but make sure you have bags with you
- Favourite toy. This again is something that can help them feel at home
- Grooming brush. Just in case you want to spruce them up before entering the fun dog show
- Your favourite lead/harness/ collar set (you’ll be snapping so many photos you’ll want your pup to look their best! Also don’t forget a spare – just in case!)
- Dog first aid kit. Whilst Dogstival will have vets on hand, it’s good to have with you in case something was to happen at your hotel or out on a walk – make sure you also look up a number for a local vet for this reason!
For the humans:
- Comfy shoes. Whether you’re wandering around the stalls, chasing your dog around the agility arena or exploring one of the many walks in the forest you’ll be on your feet a lot!
- Dog parent outfit. Okay so you’re at a festival of dogs, full of like-minded dog lovers. Now is the time to rock that top showcasing your favourite breed or perhaps a fun dog-related slogan
- Jumper – yup even though it’s summer, the event is fully outdoors so incase the weather turns it’s wise to have an extra layer to put on.
- Wet weather gear or Suncream and sunglasses. It is the British summer after all, check the weather forecast before you go and make sure you pack accordingly
- Portable phone charger. Advanced warning, you’ll be taking lots of photos and videos – no one wants their battery to die when it’s barely lunchtime!
- Water bottle. As mentioned above there are plenty of water stations, but not just for the dogs!
- A good size bag. Be it a rucksack or your trusty dog-walking bag filled with your essentials, you may wish to bring along a foldable reusable shopping bag incase you decide to splurge 😉
- Money! While there are lots of free things to do once you’re inside, if you want to do some shopping or buy yourself some tasty local snacks you’ll need money. Most stalls accepted card payments last year, but a few were cash only so it’s worth having some as back up so you don’t miss out as there isn’t a cash machine on site. Also it’s worth having exact change for the car park to avoid queues forming when you arrive, you’ll need £3.
Top tips for a great weekend!
- Especially important with COVID-restrictions, research and book in advance for dog friendly places to eat after an exciting day at Dogstival!
- Don’t be afraid to go old school. Be warned that phone signal on site is limited so prepare printed directions to your onward destinations if needed.
- There are lots of fun photo opportunities – dress to impress (both humans and pups!), bring your smiles, treats to get your dog’s attention and enough camera battery!
- Enter the competitions at the shopping stalls where there are lots of awesome prizes on offer.
- Lead the way – dogs will have to be on lead at Dogstival unless they are doing a have-a-go activity. All interactions with other dogs will be on lead too. Pick your best one to show off on camera and we recommend a short leash as opposed to extendable leads. Longer leashes can easily get into a tangle when there’s lots of excited dogs around.
- Go at your dog’s pace. You’ll meet lots of new friends which is great for socialisation. However, your pooch may find this quite intense after several months of lockdown. Thankfully there are lots of chill-out zones around the event if you need to take a breather and relax. All interactions on lead (extendable leads not the best here)
- Follow the New Forest Dog Walking code when out on your walks
Sample itinerary (AKA our trip in 2020):
Friday 4th September:
Travelled down to the New Forest. Checked into the hotel and unpacked. Headed out for a walk from our hotel (Linwood). Had dinner at the High Corner Inn.
Saturday 5th September: Dogstival Day 1. Arrived 10am (doors opened 9:30am). Met Dog Furiendly. Entered Miss Dogstival at the Fun Dog show. Tried agility (a funny but disastrous attempt), and flyball (which Pepperoni loved!). Did lots of shopping for both Pepperoni and ourselves. Lunch was hog roast from one of the food vans, with an alcoholic slush for the humans and finished with a local Purbeck ice cream. Dinner at Friday’s Bar & Tapas.
Sunday 6th September: Pepperoni had her sausage and mash pupcake (that we bought on Day 1) for breakfast. Morning walk (Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary). Dogstival Day 2. Had Chulli’s pizza for lunch – including a doggy pizza for Pepperoni, with drinks from the Bootlegger Bus and dessert from Amore cheesecakes. Had a go at the scent work challenge and another turn at flyball. Watched the dog display team. Dinner at Queen’s Head.
Monday 7th September: Packed up and checked out from High Corner Inn. Lunch at Café Aroma with a stroll around Ringwood town centre. Final walk, with ice cream, at Blackwater Arboretum. Travelled home.
Book Your Tickets
Tickets for this tail-wagging event are moving fast, with many dog owners ready to let their fur down after a year of lockdown. To book your tickets visit dogstival.com or to find out more, head over to their social media channels @dogstival.