Photo: North Shore SUP. This article originally appeared on Explore Minnesota.
We love the classic pup-friendly activities like hikes and patios as much as the next human, but Minnesota offers a surprising number of less traditional adventures for dog lovers, too. To keep you and Fido on your toes, we sniffed out five activities that go beyond the typical fare.
As you embrace these adventures, keep in mind three essential rules: Only partake in activities suited to your dog’s temperament; keep them leashed at all times; and follow common sense clean-up practices. These protocols are especially important for these less “typically” dog-friendly activities, where it’s more likely that one bad pupperino could spoil the fun for everyone.
LEARN TO DOGGY PADDLE…BOARD
You’ve probably heard of the doggy paddle, but have you heard of the doggy paddleboard? Stand-up paddleboarding has exploded in popularity, and it’s a trend that many water-loving pups can enjoy too. By welcoming your furry BFF to hop on board with you, the folks at North Shore SUP give new meaning to the phrase “doggy paddle.” (You’ll want to pack a life vest for your pup!) They’re conveniently located directly on the water, and you can strong-arm your way from their HQ to several popular Minnesota destinations such as Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Tettegouche State Park.
North Shore SUP welcomes you and your pooch every day of the summer, and their board rentals are a bargain at only $40 per day. If you want to benefit from their expertise before going solo, they also offer classes and guided tours.
ENJOY A HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE RIDE
Thirty miles south of Rochester you’ll find a hidden gem: horse-drawn carriage rides tailored for you by DoubleTree Carriage Company. In warm-weather months, they’ll pack you a picnic and give you a ride through wooded trails. When the snow falls, they offer moonlit sleigh rides, complete with a warm campfire, s’mores and hot cocoa awaiting when your ride comes to an end. Norman Rockwell’s got nothing on you, dog lovers.
Doggy companions are welcome to join you on a ride as long as they have a horse-friendly temperament – barking at equine friends is frowned upon, and it’s no fun for anyone if your dog is scared. (While you’re there, ask the folks at DoubleTree to show you their custom handcrafted leather dog collars; they’re stunning.) Carriage rides are offered year-round by appointment.
GET SWOLE TOGETHER WITH CROSSFIT
Everyone knows that four-legged friends make excellent running and hiking buddies, but when you’re ready to take your workout to the next level, you don’t necessarily need to leave Buffy behind. For example, dogs are embraced as part of the CrossFit community at Top Gun CrossFit in Minneapolis. Your buddy is welcome to (quietly) woof their encouragement every step of the way – just leash ‘em to a kettle bell during your workout. Humans of all skill levels are encouraged to enroll in a class, and for more experienced lifters in need of a gym, drop-ins get their first visit for free (additional drop-ins are just $10).
Top Gun also regularly raises funds for pet-related nonprofits like Safe Hands Rescue and Paws and Stripes. Don’t miss their DOG WOD (“workout of the day”) fundraisers, which happen annually in September.
PARK WITH YOUR PUP AT A DRIVE-IN MOVIE
Let nostalgia overtake you at the Long Drive-In, whose 1950s feel transports you to a time when Rin Tin Tin and Lassie were the on-screen canine king and queen. Today, modern movies play on their modern projector, but snuggling up with your pooch on a picnic blanket or truck bed to catch a flick together remains a classic activity.
The social vibe usually begins hours before the two-movie show, giving leashed pups plenty of time to make friends and beg for Long Drive-In’s famous buttered popcorn. It’s a doable drive from both Alexandria and the Brainerd Lakes area, and its other-era pricing (just $6 per adult; human kids are $3 or free depending on age) makes it one cheap date for you and your Chihuahua.
BRING YOUR BESTIE BICYCLING
For those who long to see Minnesota on two wheels, opportunities abound (Minnesota is nationally ranked as a bike-loving state, after all). And just because paws can’t pedal doesn’t mean your dog can’t come along. From bikejoring alongside you to kickin’ it in a basket or trailer, there’s an option for every canine athletic ability.
Your dog will love coasting through the shaded bike route at our oldest state park, Itasca. It features six miles of paved biking trails, with the option to add 10 more on the equally scenic, low-traffic Wilderness Loop. After biking your way through the park, treat your doggo to a dip in the Mississippi headwaters. (Itasca is an outstanding spot to take in fall colors when the time comes, too.)