Connecting with nature just steps from the center of a busy urban downtown might sound like a fantasy … until you visit Minneapolis, Minnesota!

Woman with two dogs on a path in Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis combines all the opportunities of a major metropolis with a deep connection to nature. Set on the banks of the Mississippi River, the city invites you to experience the best of both worlds. And where nature is celebrated, pets are usually welcome! We’re excited to take share some of our favorite places in dog friendly Minneapolis.

Two dogs sitting in a wooded park in Minneapolis, Minnesota

History of the Dog Friendly Minneapolis Park System

The city of Minneapolis was incorporated in 1856, and grew quickly. Fortunately, an influential group of citizens recognized the need to protect and promote their city’s best interests.

They decided that Minneapolis needed parks – but the city council wasn’t in favor of the initiative. These dedicated folks were undeterred and went straight to the Minnesota state legislature to put the idea to a ballot!

In April 1883, the voters in Minneapolis approved the Parks Act, and we’re still enjoying the benefits today. The city’s parks are one of the things that makes Minneapolis dog friendly.

Two dogs posing by the wodden entrace sign for Lake Harrient Parkway, a park and trail system in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Recognized as one of the country’s best, the Minneapolis Park System has grown to encompass an amazing 6,817 acres. These public lands include local and regional parks, playgrounds, golf courses, gardens, biking and walking paths, nature sanctuaries, lakes, and a 55-mile parkway system. And most of these wonderful places are pet friendly!

Here to explore the Mighty Mississippi? You’ll be glad to know that almost all the lake shores, stream banks, and banks of the Mississippi River within Minneapolis are protected by the park system. This preserves the city’s waterfront for public enjoyment.

One of our favorite places to explore was the trail system around the Chain of Lakes, west of downtown.

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes

Chain of Lakes - Minneapolis, MN

The Chain of Lakes includes Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet. All of these lakes are ringed by hiking and biking trails.

The interconnected trails provide twelve miles of spectacular views, quiet overlooks, and a woodsy ambiance in the middle of a major metropolitan area.

Two dogs sitting in front of a lake with sailboats in the water in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Two dogs sitting at a picnic table in a forested park in Minneapolis, Minnesota

No matter when you hit the trails, you’ll find a lot of Minnesotans out enjoying the beautiful weather. From kayakers to rollerbladers, to runners, and dog walkers, the locals know how to thoroughly enjoy the outdoors.

All the trails at the Chain of Lakes are pet friendly. And in many places the pedestrian trail and the bike trail are separate – so you don’t have to worry about your dog dashing out in front of a cyclist whizzing up from behind you.

A paved walking and biking path in a wooded park in Minneapolis, Minnesota

In addition to the beautiful natural scenery, the residential neighborhoods around the lakes provide great house-gawking opportunities! There are old homes, new homes, huge homes, and homes with perfectly manicured lawns and gardens in every shape and style you can imagine. And there are HUNDREDS of them!

The homes overlooking the lakes are the most stunning. But even a few blocks off the lakes you’ll find gorgeous houses. We loved strolling up and down the shady residential streets admiring all the amazing abodes.

House on Chain of Lakes - Minneapolis, MN
House on Chain of Lakes - Minneapolis, MN

Dog Friendly Fun At The Dog Park

The city also recognizes that pups sometimes need their freedom. They’ve installed a big, off-leash dog park just across the street from the trail at Lake of the Isles.

For $5 per dog and proof of rabies vaccination, you can get your pooch a day pass. The pass can be purchased online and covers all seven Minneapolis off-leash dog parks.

Lake of the Isles Dog Park - Minneapolis, MN

When you get your fill of lake views and house peering, head away from the lakes to the Uptown, Lyn-Lake, or Linden Hills neighborhoods. There you’ll find shopping boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants with pet friendly patios.

There is so much to do in this corner of Minneapolis! You could easily spend a week and not be bored.

Sniffing Around Downtown Dog Friendly Minneapolis

Ready to head into downtown Minneapolis? Be sure to stop by the Walker Art Gallery.

Inside this gallery isn’t dog friendly, but the outdoor Sculpture Garden is! This is where you’ll find the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, a large spoon with a cherry on the end in a small pond.

Be sure to explore all the sculptures and unique gardens here, many of which change seasonally.

Two dogs posing in front of a large sculpture of a spoon and cherry in the Sculpture Garden in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Two dogs posing under a metal trellis in the Sculpture Garden in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota

From the art gallery, you can drive to a more central area of the city to explore. Or, if you’re up for a longer walk, take the pedestrian bridge over the interstate and make your way to downtown via Loring Park.

Downtown Minneapolis is pleasant to walk through. And exploring on foot allows you to admire the streetscapes and architecture.

A large sculpture of a blue colored rooster in the outdoor Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dog Friendly Hiking Around Town

Walking north through downtown and beyond will eventually bring you to the Mississippi River. This is a great place to walk your dog!

Though it’s a difficult metric to measure, Minneapolis consistently ranks as one of the fittest cities in America. And it is easy to see why; the paths along the river are great for dog walkers and runners alike.

Stone Arch Bridge - Minneapolis, MN

To cross the Mississippi on foot, you can use the Stone Arch Bridge. Once across, if your tastes in architecture run a little more abstract, make your way to the University of Minnesota campus to see the Frank Gehry designed Weisman Art Museum. The campus also is a nice place to stroll with your pets.

Appreciating the Mighty Mississippi River

Minneapolis and St. Paul – collectively known as the Twin Cities – are divided by the Mississippi River. And both cities make magnificent use of her shores.

The stretch of river passing through this metropolis is part of the 72-mile-long Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The Park’s headquarters are on Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul and, while it’s not dog friendly, it’s a great place to visit. Take turns enjoying the informative movie, then grab a map and hit the trails – they’re all dog friendly!

View of Saint Paul and the Mississippi River from the paths along the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Minnesota

At one time, St. Paul was the northernmost navigable point on the 2,300-mile Mississippi. The river flows from northern Minnesota’s Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, hundreds of tributaries from 31 states, spanning from the Rockies to the Appalachian Mountains, feed the river.

READ MORE ⇒ Minnesota’s Pet Friendly Itasca State Park

As European settlers moved into the area, the Mississippi became a major transportation corridor. In 1858 more than 1,000 steamboats docked at St. Paul, and that heritage is still celebrated today by the many paddle wheelers moored here.

Minneapolis harnessed the river’s power to run gristmills and sawmills. It held the crown as the nation’s flour milling capital from 1880 to 1930. The massive grain storage facilities located along the shores stand as testaments to that era.

While the mills fell into disuse decades ago, in 2001 the excavation of Mill Ruins Park was completed. It is now a popular site and part of a great, trending neighborhood. Other old mills along the river live on as condos.

Two dogs and their owner walking down the paved walking path along the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Minnesota

Exploring The Mississippi River With Dogs

The Sam Morgan trail, which you can pick up at the park’s headquarters will take you from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis, but it would be quite a hike!

In many places, the trails are beautifully decorated with hanging flower baskets and lovely landscaping. It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy the outdoors amidst the hustle and bustle of an urban area.

View of Minneapolis and Saint Paul from the walking path along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota

If your pup is ready for some more off-leash time, head south from the park headquarters to the High Bridge Dog Park, located under (you guessed it!) the High Bridge. There’s a huge parking area and plenty of room for dogs to run. They even have separate areas for large and small dogs!

High Bridge Off-Leash Dog Park in Dog Friendly Minneapolis, MN

Being along the Mississippi is mesmerizing. If you’re as captivated as we are, make plans to explore more destinations along the river. It would be easy to keep busy for weeks! Hiking, biking, boating, camping, birding, and scenic drives all await you.

READ MORE ⇒ Great River Road – From Minneapolis to New Orleans

Exploring More of Minnesota

Minneapolis has plenty of dog friendly activities, but it can also be a great jumping-off point to visit some of Minnesota’s many dog friendly natural wonders. Here are just a few:

  1. Split Rock Lighthouse
  2. The North Shore
  3. Itasca State Park
A brown dog walking along a wooded trail covered in fall leaves in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Whether as a base camp to see the many natural wonders of the North Star State, or as a destination in its own right, Minnesota’s largest city is definitely worth a visit.

Have you visited the Twin Cities with your pet? Tell us in the comments about your favorite places!

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