Your Guide to Pet-Friendly Travel in Minnesota

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

Sunset with dog at Bean & Bear_Alyssa Hei
Photo by Alyssa Hei

When it comes to pleasing furry, four-legged travelers, few destinations rank as highly as Grand Marais and its surrounding North Shore towns, with their cobblestone beaches, Lake Superior to wade into, hiking paths and waterfalls to explore, cafes with dog-friendly patios, and many welcoming resorts.

“There’s a difference between places that accept dogs and places that welcome dogs,” says Kelly Lessard, who writes travel features from the perspective of her dog, Kramer, at Minnesota-based SidewalkDog.com. “Grand Marais is probably at the top of my list as a dog destination.”

North Shore accommodations, such as Lutsen Resort’s Sea Villas, East Bay Suites and Bluefin Bay, offer condos, cabins and other pet-friendly units that mean travelers with pets don’t have to rough it to bring their whole family on vacation.

Travelers can search specifically for pet-friendly lodging on the Places to Stay page, which lists more than 850 places statewide that allow pets in rooms. You don’t have to stay in remote towns, either: More than 100 hotels within 25 miles of St. Paul welcome pets. Best Western, La Quinta, Westin, many AmericInns and Hiltons, and extended-stay hotels rank among the pet-friendly options in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the state.

For day trips near the Twin Cities or quick getaways, Lessard also ranks Stillwater, Red Wing and Excelsior as pet-friendly places rich in waterfront trails, inviting downtowns and outdoor dining.

Dog on patio_Sidewalk Dog KME Photography_square
Photo courtesy of KME Photography / Sidewalk Dog Media

The Twin Cities have earned national kudos for their quantity and quality of parks, trails and greenways, and areas such as St. Paul’s Grand Avenue and Minneapolis’s Longfellow and Nokomis neighborhoods offer unique boutiques and cafes that put out water bowls and welcome pets for outdoor dining May through October.

Many restaurants open their patios to guests with dogs, but Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room in Minneapolis goes above and beyond for folks who want drink beer and dine with their dogs, offering a dedicated menu that features bones, meatloaf, an egg-and-rice bowl, and ice cream for dessert.

Ali Jarvis, founder and CEO of SidewalkDog.com, says the Twin Cities have more than 200 dog-friendly restaurants, along with breweries, vineyards and coffeehouses, and the website can also help travelers find dog parks, hiking trails and places to go for day trips and vacations.

“Minnesota’s consistently on the top 10 list of pet-friendly places in the country,” she says.

Check exploreminnesota.com/petfriendly for lodging and campgrounds open to pets, along with other resources.

10 Pet Travel Tips

  • Always verify a reservation with a pet and ask about all the rules long before check-in. Some places have restrictions based on breed and weight, and pet fees can vary.

  • Only travel with well-trained pets. If you have a dog that barks every time a door opens or a critter is spotted outside, a boarding facility or pet-sitter would be a better option.

  • Take a folding kennel or traveling crate to keep your pet contained. Some property owners may allow a quiet and crated pet to be left in a unit unattended during the day.

  • Keep your pet’s license and ID information on his or her collar at all times in case your pet bolts and gets lost. Keep a leash on at all times.

  • Use caution in the outdoors. Even dogs that are good swimmers may find that unfamiliar river currents are stronger than expected or may lose their footing on steep trails. Keep a pet first aid kit in your vehicle.

  • Make sure pets are vaccinated for Lyme disease, heartworm and other illnesses that can be spread through ticks and mosquitoes that thrive in the forest.

  • Pack essentials, including a pet bed or blanket, a brush for pets who may pick up burrs in the tall grass, a bucket and grubby towel for washing and drying sandy or muddy feet, and water and food dishes.

  • Pack enough food for the whole vacation. Introducing your pet to an unfamiliar brand—and risking digestive upset—isn’t worth it. Take a stash of small treats to reward your pet for good behavior.

  • Check outdoors stores for products such as soft-sided, easy-to-pack water bowls or bottles, backpacks for dogs and toys like tennis ball launchers to make the trip more fun.

  • Clean up after your pet and take plenty of poop bags.