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Your Guide to Dog-Friendly Travel in Minnesota

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In Minnesota, you can have a dog- and dock-friendly vacation / Jillian DeChaine Photography
Pet-Friendly Travel // Article

Your Guide to Dog-Friendly Travel in Minnesota

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

When it comes to pleasing furry, four-legged travelers, Minnesota is pawsitively full of treats for your pup. Here are a few of the best dog-friendly places to vacation in Minnesota.

Man and dog at Gooseberry Falls State Park

Bring your pup on the dog-friendly hiking trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore / Micah Kvidt

Grand Marais & The North Shore

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.

Woman and dog kayaking on the Chain of Lakes

Doing a "doggy paddle" on the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis / Paul Vincent

The Twin Cities

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. For visitors on the south side of Minneapolis, check out Stanley's sibling restaurant, The Howe, where a massive, tented and heated patio encourages dog-friendly dining all year round. 

In downtown Minneapolis, you can visit Unleashed: Hounds and Hops, the state's first combination bar-and-indoor-dog-park. The massive, converted warehouse is separated into two sections—dog park and bar—with a glass partition between the two so you can watch the action while enjoying a drink. 

For day trips near the Twin Cities or quick getaways, StillwaterRed Wing and Excelsior are excellent, dog-friendly towns rich in waterfront trails, inviting downtowns and outdoor dining

A family with their dog relax at the Lora Hotel in Stillwater

The boutique Lora hotel in Stillwater retains features from site's former brewery / Paul Vincent

Find Dog-Friendly Lodging

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.

dog jumping into ottertail lake at sunset

Dog jumping off a dock into Ottertail Lake at sunset / Allie Hoeft

10 Tips for Traveling With Your Dog

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

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

Lisa Meyers McClintick

Lisa Meyers McClintick is a prolific travel writer for outlets including USA Today, Midwest Living, the Star Tribune and her website lisamcclintick.com. A mom of three, she especially enjoys family travel, hands-on learning vacations, local food and farms, living history and outdoor adventures.