Winter Fun for Minnesota Dogs (and Their Humans)

By Sidewalk Dog

Husky standing on snow in front of a lake
Photo by Alovier Asero

Minnesota travelers and their canine companions enjoy four furbulous seasons, but few people are aware of just how many activities you and your BFF can appreciate together in winter. While some days may be better spent curled up by the fire with a good book, the majority of Minnesota’s winter is full of outdoor fun and adventure.

We shoveled up heaps of pup-loving suggestions in all corners of our snowy state. Planning to make a weekend out of it? We’ve got the sniff on hotels that welcome your pooch, too.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Dog Day Getaway
Dog Day Getaway in Apple Valley

When it comes to winter, the Twin Cities area is a woof-worthy wonderland. On milder days, outdoor hiking trails and dogs parks are a hit, and a pawful of them even have heated shelters and night lights. Or seek out cozier playtime indoors, like at Stone Mountain Pet Lodge in Blaine, which transforms from a doggy daycare and boarding biz into an indoor dog park some weekends (check website for schedule). On the opposite side of town, Dog Day Getaway in Apple Valley regularly offers off-leash indoor playgroups for small dogs and puppies on Sundays.

If your pup prefers life on the leash, plenty of local shops welcome pets inside with open paws: think book stores, boutiques and bike shops. In particular, we love St. Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood for its variety of dog-friendly stops like Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books, Laurel Street Flowers and Grand Performance bicycle shop. And thanks to a recent policy change in Minneapolis, dogs are now welcome inside select brewery taprooms like 56 Brewing, Inbound BrewCo, Lakes & Legends and Sisyphus Brewing, too!

Finally, if you’re in the mood for spectacular spectating, don’t miss the competitive skijoring race at the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis (it’s like cross-country skiing, but with a pup-powered speed boost).

Find pet-friendly lodging in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

PARK RAPIDS

Skijoring at the Loppet Festival in Minneapolis
Skijoring, photo by Katrina St. Claire

Speaking of which, you and Ivan Doggo can try skijoring for yourself on the new skijoring trails at Itasca State Park. Strap on your cross-country skis, hook your pup to a joring harness and work together to traverse Itasca’s seven miles of packed trails, groomed especially for skijoring. This sport is good fun for healthy hounds over 30 pounds, and can be done with anywhere from one to three canine athletes per human. Check out our beginner’s guide, and get ready to ski-jor heart out.

Find pet-friendly lodging near Park Rapids.

BRAINERD LAKES AREA

Prefer to get around on your own two (err, six) feet? Leash your pup and head to Brainerd’s Northland Arboretum for a winter hike. Trails are open year-round, and they even offer dog-friendly snowshoeing lessons (leashed dogs welcome)!

Although your own dogs aren’t permitted to stay at Cragun’s Resort, this Brainerd mainstay offers dogsled rides for just $10—no need to BYOD. They’ve got a trained musher and an uber-cute dogsledding team at the ready.

Find pet-friendly lodging in the Brainerd Lakes area.

MANKATO

A dog goes swimming at The Paw
Pearl goes swimming at The Paw, photo by Instagram user pearltheblueheeler

For a winter must-do that’s warm and low impact, we found a hidden gem in Mankato: a dog-friendly indoor swimming pool at The Paw. Swimming is a terrific, joint-friendly way to get your dog some exercise year-round. The Paw keeps its doggy-paddle-approved pool at a comfy 85 degrees, and its range of depths (10 inches to 4.5 feet) means it’s perfect for beginners and seasoned swimmers alike. Life jackets are available, too. The Paw offers group swims for party animals as well as private time for dogs who prefer exclusivity. Occasionally, The Paw even holds swimming lessons and dock-diving instructions (including an advanced class for especially fur-ce competitors).

Find pet-friendly lodging in Mankato.

DULUTH

A dog-centric winter in Minnesota wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Duluth for the Beargrease. Take in the sights and sniffs of this annual sled-dog marathon as you watch some of the world’s best mushers compete across 400 miles of rugged tundra. Many spots along the trail are accessible to the public, and some checkpoint areas include opportunities for winter camping as you enjoy the thrill of spectating.

While you’re in the area, warm up in some of Duluth’s pups-welcome retail establishments like Fitger's shopping mall (the shops are dog-friendly indoors; the restaurants are not), Duluth Pack Store, Two & Co and Zenith Bookstore.

Find pet-friendly lodging in Duluth.

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Sidewalk Dog is the #1 resource for Minnesota dog owners, bringing you everything you need to enjoy life with your pup: dog-friendly patios, off-leash parks, events and so much more. Learn more at SidewalkDog.com.