It’s a scientific fact: dogs love lakes. They love walking the surrounding trails, perhaps while barking at cyclists who get too close, and they love galloping into the cool (hopefully duck-free) shallows on a warm spring day. (All based on the data set of my dog.) Given that the one thing everyone knows about Minnesota is that it has no fewer than 10,000 lakes—as stated right there on the license plate—just about anywhere in the state would seem to be a fine place for dog recreation.
Minneapolis, however, may very well have more non-lake attractions to offer dogs and their owners than anywhere else in the state—along with some spectacular offerings in the lake department as well.
Minneapolis’s unique character comes from its contrasts—nature and culture, urban and rural, modern and old-fashioned, all blended in a tantalizing municipal bouillabaisse. Along with its twin city, St. Paul, Minneapolis is a quality-of-life haven for outdoorsy types, hipsters, tech workers and hockey moms and dads. Fortunately, that variety and abundance is also reflected in the area’s broad appeal as a dog-friendly destination. One could easily spend years living in the Twin Cities without exhausting, or perhaps even uncovering, every available option for canine contentment.
Here are just some of the many places, events, activities, and other such info that every dog-owning Minneapolis resident or visitor should know about.
Where to bring your dog for a fabulous (leashed) walk
There are dozens of dog-friendly hiking spots in Minneapolis, but two local favorites are the 2.8-mile Lake Harriet Loop, which is paved, and the 4-mile Pike Island Loop at Fort Snelling, which is not.
Como Regional Park in St. Paul is a sprawling public space, with plenty of picnic pavilions, where you can catch an outdoor concert in the summer and explore some trails afterward.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, located right beside Walker Art Center, has enormous, eye-popping structures to gawk at. Just don’t let your dog try to cross the famous spoonbridge to eat the cherry on top of it. If the garden’s 11 acres can’t keep your pooch occupied for long, though, worry not: Loring Park’s Off-Leash Dog Park is right nearby. Speaking of leashlessness…
Where to let your dog off the leash
Battle Creek Dog Park in St. Paul has miles of woodsy trails to explore, several ponds in which to take a dip—including one behind a fence—grassy hills to lounge upon, and two playgrounds for socializing with the rogues’ gallery of mutts always on hand.
Known as the River Dog Park, Minnehaha has a vast forest for dogs to run through, varied terrain to keep things novel, and a long, sandy beach along the Mississippi River. Before your visit just be sure to check if the occasional high-river warning is in effect.
While if you ask any Minneapolis dog-owner for their favorite dog park, they’ll likely tell you Battle Creek or Minnehaha, there are are two other top-notch off-leash destinations: Meeker Island Dog Park in St. Paul, which also stretches along the river; and the off-leash dog play area at Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove.
Where to take your dog—and/or yourself—for a swim
Hidden Beach should pique your interest with its name alone, bringing to mind the image of a tropical speakeasy. Located in tony Kenwood, the former nude beach has become more of an open secret in recent years. Although many lakes in the Twin Cities have beach areas, this one just might have the cleanest water around.
Wheel Fun rentals at Lake Bde Maka Ska in Uptown has stand-up paddle boards and canoes on hand, perfect for taking your dog out into the lake to soak up some sun.
The Dog Tank is an indoor pool space, where you can sign up your pup for lessons in the increasingly popular sport of dock-diving, or just practice the dog paddle.
Where to bring your dog while you eat or drink
The Lakes & Legends Taproom is located in the Loring Park neighborhood and has a regular schedule of dog-centric meetups and dog-rescue events.
Unleashed: Hounds and Hops is a year-round Neverland for dogs and their owners. When it’s nice outside, dogs can romp and play in the garden area out back, while their guardians chase cheese curds with an IPA. In the winter, everyone can do the same thing inside, with the bonus of an agility course within the indoor park. Although it’s the only place in town that brings together the dog park and pub experiences for now, a new park and pub operation, Brewpark Plymouth, is scheduled to open in summer 2022.
All five Craft & Crew restaurants throughout the Twin Cities—including The Block in St. Louis Park, and The Howe, conveniently located near Minnehaha Dog Park—feature a special dog menu, with entrees like Turkey Muttloaf. The restaurants also have heated Pawtio areas and offer amenities like yoga mats, water bowls, and Peanut Butter ‘Nilla Woofers.
Most breweries in the area are dog-friendly, but Sisyphus Brewing also goes the extra mile, offering water bowls and treats—with the added bonus of regularly raising money for local rescue operation No Dog Left Behind.
Fletcher’s Ice Cream is not only dog-friendly; it also offers doggy ice cream with a treat on top.
Where to bring your dog during the legendary Minnesota winter
When winter arrives each year, many of the city’s hiking areas and lakes turn into ideal spots for skijoring, the official term for dog- (or horse-) powered cross-country skiing. One of the best of these areas is Theodore Wirth Park, whose many groomed skijoring trails are as gorgeous as they are invigorating.
If your dog is no mere beginner at winter activities, consider joining Twin Cities Dog-Powered Sports Club, for all manner of group sporting events.
On a gloomy winter’s day, Scheels in Eden Prairie offers a welcome respite. Dogs are welcome within the massive indoor sporting goods and entertainment megaplex, which features a ferris wheel, props for photos, food, and other diverting ways to spend an afternoon outside of the house with your furriest friend.
Where to take your dog for a special event
- WoofStock is an annual event in Linden Hills each fall, where animal nonprofits share their stories. Festivities include an unmissable doggy fashion show.
- Take your pup to the ballgame, to see the St. Paul Saints play, during the three annual Dog Days at CHS field.
- See the crowning of the Canine King and Queen at Doggie Depot during the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which also features giveaways, a marketplace, and Doga (dog yoga.)
- You don’t need a prize-winning dog to enjoy the Land O’ Lakes Kennel Club Show each January.
- The Klondike Dog Derby is a long-standing annual tradition, with vendors spread throughout its 40 miles.
- Twin Cities Dog-Powered Sports group also holds regular races/events at Lake Elmo park reserve (great hiking trails, too! It’s not an official off-leash park but a great spot).
Minneapolis dog services
- With any luck, you’ll never need to go there, but it’s helpful to know that the Animal Emergency & Referral Center is open 24 hours a day.
- For a weekend away, or day care during office hours, try City Paws Pet Club, which features doggy cams that let you check in on the action at any time.
- The Canine Coach is among the most highly recommended facilities in the Twin Cities for training your dog, featuring a variety of group classes and at-home visits.
- Vanity Fur Mobile Pet Spa offers a deep menu of quality grooming options, while Bubbly Paws and Ollu Dog Wash are especially recommended for reactive dogs.
- Copilot Dog Outfitters has a highly Instagrammable collection for the fashion-forward Fido, though if you want to leave picture-taking to the professionals, pro dog photographer Sarah Beth has got you covered.