Fall, furbulous fall. The sights, sounds, and scents make this season a stand-out for doggies and their two-legged assistants alike. And this is especially true in Minnesota, where summers can be too steamy for some and winters too frigid for others. (Again, talking both canines and humans here.) Autumn temps set the tone for dog-friendly outings galore, so we came up with a fall bucket list just for humans and hounds of the North.
We ranked this list by dog size and coat length — in other words, we start with activities to enjoy before it gets too nippy for small and/or short-haired pups. ‘Cause when has mid-December in Minnie ever felt autumnish? But we digress…
1. GO CAMPING (or GLAMPING)
Hiking, scouting, staking your claim. (Tent spot or trees, only the marking style differs). Char-grilled dinners, bonfires, starry nights. (Romantic howling while moon-gazing optional.) Holding it (you), gotta go (them), cozy pack-style slumber (all). What’s not to love? Whether you hit a well-known state park (following all rules, of course) or veer off the beaten path, heed nature’s siren call and immerse already!
Looking for a good spot? For the chi-chi glampers out there, we found luxury (tented) accommodations on a private island (Ely) or lovely cottages in the Solana State Forest (McGrath). If you’re down with the ground, see our list of dog-friendly MN state park campgrounds.
2. VISIT THE RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL
We tell ye the truth: Dogs are absolutely welcome at the epic sensory overload known as the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee! (But as with jousting and dragon-slaying, there are rules and petiquette to follow. So do, or the fun will be over quickly.)
But don’t delay — Ren Fest only goes through September 30! We say what better way to fete fall than with bawdy medieval entertainment and ginormous turkey drumsticks? Period dress is entirely optional, but if your dog don’s the garb, we wanna see (#sidewalkdog). And if Juggler drops something, help your pup resist the urge to lunge for the fetch.
3. PARK YOURSELVES ON A PATIO
A friendly patio filled with happy-to-be-socializing people and their happy-to-be-included pups. Hmmm. Now who among us enjoys that sort of thing? We hardy Minnesotans will brave these ever-chillier evenings as long as we have appropriate attire, beverages, and portable heat sources to keep us toasty! However, in our northern clime, even those days are numbered and when the snow flies, those that still find this activity fun and relaxing are, well, a different breed altogether.
Nonetheless, we’ve got a full fall to enjoy, so grab your dog and go eat, drink, and be merry — together! Just be sure to grab a jacket (and maybe one for your dog, too) and call ahead to see if the heat sources are blazing. Tip: Most Blue Plate restaurants, including The Freehouse in Minneapolis and 3 Squares in Maple Grove, have patio heaters. And if you didn’t make it to Psycho Suzi’s in Northeast Minneapolis this summer, for dog’s sake, go!
4. LET ‘EM GET WET
This is the land of 10,000 lakes, after all — not to mention rivers, streams, ponds, and even slimy swamps. The weather and water are still warm enough for a full-on swim, a romp through the shallows, or a diving-for-rocks session. (We don’t understand this strange game either.) Play fetch and let ’em roll in the sand on the riverfront beach at Minnehaha Off-Leash Dog Recreation Area in Minneapolis or let ’em splash in the ponds at Battle Creek Regional Dog Park in Maplewood. Of course, if you or someone you know is lucky enough to live on a lake somewhere, you’ve already experienced the benefits (bone-tired post-swim) and hazards (dead-fish perfume).
And as for the non-swimmers, living in Minnesota means plenty of other water-related recreation options as well. For the fearless and free-spirited, a boat ride can be the exhilarating full-body version of head-out-the-car-window. For others, the wide world of water is most enjoyed while cuddled in a towel or blanket on a human lap (talkin’ to you, Maggie Moo). Ultra-athletic doggies may also dig a ride on a paddleboard, canoe, or kayak, though it’d probably have to be a double.
And then there’s Duma, the waterskiing dog.
5. EXPLORE THE DOG PARKS
If “d-o-g p-a-r-k” is in your pup’s vocab, when you say it, you gotta deliver. And if you’re a newbie or infrequent visitor of designated off-leash areas, we’ll admit to a bit of favoritism. Although sliding in at #5, this item is really at the top of our list. When it comes to nature and smells and such, novelty is good for (most) dogs. And the whole leash thing? Well let’s just say we can buy cute, functional, or special-purpose versions, but dogs merely tolerate them. There’s no love involved, except for the suggested promise of activity.
Check out our guide to Twin Cities dog parks and treat your pup to a ti-tail-ating investigation of a new one. And definitely revisit an old fave. Big or small, we love ’em all, especially the alpha: Minnehaha Off-Leash Dog Park. As we mentioned above, this is one of the few public areas where dogs are welcome to swim and dig up sand to their heart’s content. But we must also point out that this doggie nirvana also consists of over six heavenly acres of trails, hills, and gloriously undefined areas to explore. We know they couldn’t possibly love you more than they already do, but still. Go, go often. Because fall trips are the best.
6. HIT THE TRAILS
Walking, hiking… Technically they’re both good for both of you. Here’s our take: Depending on you and your dog, walking can be either an enjoyable activity or simply a daily necessity, whatever the elements entail. (Dark? Yep. Drizzly? Sure, for some. Snowy? Bring it on.) Luckily there’s a variation known as hiking, which is really just a long walk in the wilderness. But the key is you both want to go, and no matter how difficult the terrain, it’s somehow both an adventure and a relaxed endeavor.
The cool thing about Minnesota is we have an incredible state parks and trails system, with wilderness galore. Dogs must be leashed, but they can roam with you everywhere except public buildings. Close to the cities, we love the Luce Line Trail (Plymouth to Cosmos) and William O’Brien State Park (along the St. Croix River). Wanna really get away from it all? Head up to the North Shore for several breathtaking hiking options, including Grand Portage trail. Or pick any section of the 300+ mile (!) Superior Hiking Trail.
7. PICK AN APPLE ORCHARD
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from you over the years, it’s that you like visiting apple orchards with your pups. And whether you pick them straight from the trees, buy them by the bagful, or just go for the apple-y ambiance, we give this must-do fall excursion an A+. Plus, depending on the place, you might find pumpkins and gourds, local honey and jams, hay rides and corn mazes, and more.
With so many dog-friendly apple orchards to choose from, the requirements ruffly boil down to these: 1) pick a nice day, 2) pick up the poo, and 3) pick the right leash — a 6-footer at most — no retractable leashes! (This is also proper petiquette for pooches on patios and really anywhere you go where there’s a fair amount of people and other dogs.)
8. GET INTO THE HOWL-OWEEN SPIRIT
Trying to convince your partner to be the Ken to your Barbie or the bacon to your egg might take a bit of doing. Popping your pup in a hotdog costume that feels like a cozy sweater but looks sweetly ridiculous? Definitely doable. (Ignore his feigned embarrassment. He’ll be fine when you share how many likes he got on Instagram.) And as fun as it is to dress ’em up to make the trick-or-treaters giggle and squeal, you can actually get a doggie date or two out of the upcoming hair-raising holiday.
From dog-centric costume contests to bobbing for hot dogs (of course!), you’ll find a pawful of dog-friendly Halloween events that’ll offer you and your pooch the perfect excuse to don the disguise of your twisted dreams (like Bent Brewstillery’s 2nd Annual Howl-O-Ween). Last-minuters, have no fear! Check out our easy DIY costume options, or simply grab an appropriately-sized tee, and attach a decorated box (popcorn, candy, dog treats, etc.), a jockey-style action figure or stuffed animal, or leaves (camo), cotton or ping pong balls (snow or bubbles), or almost anything else that’s lightweight — and safe to sample if it falls to the floor!
(When you go, be sure to take and share pictures, tagging with #SidewalkDog)
9. STAY IN AND SNUGGLE UP
Admit it: As the weather cools and the days grow shorter, the appeal of a warm and cozy snuggle can top cravings for carb-y comfort food. Thus we wrap up our Fall Bucket List with an item that’s enjoyable for all and easy to do, day or night, fall and beyond.
While it’s true that some dogs prefer you not invade their space, for many, getting up close and paw-sonel with the people they love actually boosts their levels of oxytocin, the LOVE hormone. It’s true — the affection we insist exists in every eye-gazing, tail-thumping, butt-wiggling encounter is scientifically-confirmed lovin’.
If that doesn’t put you in the mood to spoon, this adorable gallery will. Now get your snuggle on!
Next up: Share all of your pup’s adventures with #SidewalkDog for the chance to be featured. Then head to our Dog-Friendly Twin Cities online community for super local, pooch-centric chat with the some of the best people we know – dog people.
And since you clearly love being out and about with your doggo, you NEED our Dog-Friendly Passes! These puppies score ya FREE beer or wine on local patios and inside taprooms. Get your paws on ‘em today. (They make grrr-eat gifts, too!)