We Twin Citians are fortunate to have countless lakes, a mighty river, green spaces galore and plenty of natural escapes right within our city limits. It is for these reasons that the metro area is regularly identified as one of the best metropolitan areas for active and outdoorsy people, of which we are in abundance. But what about our four-legged canine companions? To be sure, the Twin Cities are a paradise of sorts for man and woman’s best friends, too. Around these parts, there’s no better time of year to get out and enjoy the great outdoors with your dog. With temperatures that will neither make Fido wilt nor shiver, we took Welly, our 4-year-old Vizsla, on the hunt for some of the best outdoor activities you can enjoy with your dog before the mercury drops and the snow flies.

[1] Wander the Dog Commons at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Having just opened in June, the Dog Commons in Chaska is still a relatively unknown gem to many dog owners in the area. Part of the arboretum’s nature-based therapy, these on-leash trails were developed to provide people and their pooches a natural escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

We wandered the trails one sunny Saturday afternoon and basked in the beauty of 65 acres of old fields, native woods and wetlands. With a 3.1-mile loop and another less than a mile, you can mix and match your walk depending on how long you want to be out. Welly happily led the way during our stroll through the Dog Commons with plenty of butterflies to chase and smells to inspect along the trail.

A water fountain for dogs and people is situated at the trailhead, along with waste bags and receptacles along the trail. Memberships are required, so be sure to stop at the gatehouse on your way in or go to arboretum.umn.edu to buy.

[2] Swim at the Minnehaha dog park

Talk about a doggy dream. The Minnehaha Off-Leash Dog Park located on the south side of Minnehaha Park offers more than 6 acres of room to run, swim and socialize. Perfect for hot days, Fido can take a dip in the river to cool off while you meander along the shaded beach. What’s more, there are always other four-legged friends to splash around with.

Welly is always raring to go when it comes to naturally wooded areas like Minnehaha Park. Not only is she greeted with new sights and scents, she loves exploring the soft-surface trails and underbrush. Having other dogs to partake in the adventure seems to only compound her joy.

You can buy a daily or annual pass to Minneapolis dog parks by visiting minneapolisparks.org.

[3] Hike at Fort Snelling State Park

Right next door to the Minnehaha Off-Leash Dog Park are miles of dog-friendly on-leash trails within Fort Snelling State Park. Whether you prefer to stick to the quiet, wooded paths or head up to wander around the outskirts of the historic, old fort, there’s plenty to see and investigate here.

One of our favorite trails is around Pike Island, which is situated at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Welly loves the 1-, 2- and 3-mile loops on the island, whether it means bounding down the trail in hot pursuit of a squirrel or watching us skip rocks on the river’s edge.

For more information, visit mndnr.gov/stateparks.

[4] Shop at a farmers market

While you can’t take your pooch into restaurants or grocery stores, many of the local farmers markets welcome dogs. The Minneapolis Farmers Market downtown, Linden Hills, Northeast, and Mill City are just a few of our dog-friendly favorites.

The Linden Hills Farmers Market is the perfect spot to hit up with your dog after a Sunday morning run or walk around Lake Harriet. We humans always treat ourselves to coffee and food truck fare, while Welly gets plenty of belly rubs from eager, dog-loving kids. They also have water bowls on site and dog treats for sale, so she doesn’t miss out on the post-run refueling.

To find dog-friendly markets around town, check out the dog-lovers’ resource Sidewalk Dog (sidewalkdog.com).

[5] Run the River, parkway or lakes

There is something about running on waterfront city property that attracts local harriers in droves. The Mississippi River, Minnehaha Parkway, and Chain of Lakes are great for jogging with your pup thanks to the pedestrian-only paths and occasional water stops.

While Welly isn’t picky when it comes to getting out for a run, we do a lot of training at Lake Harriet. When we’re looking for a change of pace, we head over to the Mississippi River near the Stone Arch Bridge. Both offer the motivation of great scenery and other two and four-legged runners to keep us moving. On particularly hot days, we often retreat to jogging the well-shaded segment of the Minnehaha Parkway between Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis.

[6] Grab a beer

There’s nothing better than sipping a cold brew on a patio with your best friend on a summer afternoon. Fortunately, most of the local breweries have dog-friendly patios for just that activity.

One recent Saturday afternoon we stopped at the Fulton Brewery taproom downtown for drinks and fish and chips from The Anchor’s food truck. Welly basked in the shade under the picnic table and a friendly barkeeper even came out with a cold bowl of water just for her.

To find dog-friendly brewery patios around town, check out the listings at sidewalkdog.com.


Mackenzie Lobby Havey is a freelance writer. She lives in Minneapolis.