Dog Friendly Things to do in Minneapolis: Almost Empty Nesters at Parents Weekend

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There are so many things to do in Minneapolis you will have to come back!
What are your favorite things to do in Minneapolis? Credit: Judy Antell / SheBuysTravel with Pets
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Do you like to stay on campus during college parents weekend or explore the local area? This SheBuysTravel has been finding so many things to do in Minneapolis that she wouldn’t mind if her daughter stayed in the Twin Cities (or “The Cities” as the locals call it). However you refer to them, Minneapolis and its neighbor, Saint Paul are great for family vacations. And you can bring the family dog!

Do you see things to do in Minneapolis? Try hiking!
Hiking in dog friendly Nerstrand State Park. Credit: Judy Antell

The writer was hosted on this trip. All opinions are her own.

In the four years I’ve been visiting, I’ve found no shortage of free things to do in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Soon, my youngest daughter will graduate from Carleton College, and we finally won’t have to pay college tuition! We also won’t have as many reasons to make the trip to Minnesota. We have been considering bringing our dog to graduation – those boarding fees add up! So on our latest trip, we decided to to explore dog friendly hotels in Minneapolis, along with dog friendly attractions.

Hiking near Minneapolis: dog and family friendly things to do in Minneapolis

In Minneapolis, Minnehaha Park has miles of trails. The park has dramatic falls and gorgeous scenery. Dogs are welcome, on leash. [There is an off leash dog park, where you have to have a permit. Don’t risk a ticket]

We drove about 45 minutes to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. We might have been the only family hiking without a dog. In addition to hiking, there’s a large playground. This is the place to see changing leaves in fall. In winter, you can snowmobile. Spring brings wildflowers. All year, hike to the Hidden Falls. You can borrow a handheld Geocaching unit, for free.

And since hardy Minnesotans don’t let frigid temps deter outdoor activities, bring those Siberian Huskies and Labrador Retrievers to romp during the winter. Humans can defrost in the warming house.

Do you bring the family dog on trips? Kimpton is a dog freindly hotel in Minneapolis
The Kimpton Grand Hotel makes its priorities clear; a bowl of dog treats and a water bowl outside the human watering hole. Credit: Judy Antell

More dog and family friendly things to do in Minneapolis

Try apple picking at Applewood Orchard. This orchard, about a 30 minute drive from Minneapolis, has special apple varieties developed by the University of Minnesota. Trees are small, so little kids can easily pick them, and there are pickers for the higher fruit. Dogs can walk in the orchards with you while you pick. There is also a seasonal corn maze. Don’t forget cash to pay for the apples.

Mill Ruins Park is a great place to walk a dog in Minneapolis. The park, part archaeological dig, is near Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. The ruins of the city’s oldest flour mills are here.

Family friendly things to do in Minneapolis - and near a dog friendly hotel in Minneapolis
One of the cool things to do in Minneapolis: explore the Mill City Museum. Credit: Judy Antell

The wonderful Mill City Museum, a National Historic Landmark, is not dog friendly. If you aren’t traveling with a dog, or can leave him in the hotel, carve out time to come here. You take a grain elevator and learn about Minneapolis’ history as the “Flour Capital of the World.” You get great views of the falls and the ruins from the top. Sadly, the dramatic glass elevator was out of service when we visited – but that just means we have to return.

A baking lab offers samples of baked goods, using different kinds of flour. As a home baker, I geeked out on the exhibits about different kinds of flour. Young kids can play in the water lab and learn how the falls powered the mills.

Where to eat with your dog

Breweries are great places to take a dog. We took a free brewery tour at Surly Brewing Co., which included samples of three beers. Dogs and kids under age 21 can’t come on the tour. But Surly has a large beer garden, with heat lamps, and dogs are welcomed. There are pizzas, lots of meat and some tasty vegetarian items.

Looking for dog friendly restaurants in Minneapolis? Head to a brewery
Who let the dogs in? Several breweries in Minneapolis allow pups. Credit: Melissa Lage, Meet Minneapolis

But it can get pretty chilly out there in Minnesota. Have I mentioned the April and October snowstorms? Several breweries allow dogs in their taprooms. Lakes and Legends Brewing Co. is one. Food trucks line up outside and you can bring the food in. You can also order food to the taproom. Modist Brewing also allows dogs in its taproom and has a rotating list of food trucks.

In Northfield, MN, near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Imminent Brewery also allows dogs in the taproom. A food truck outside provides meals.

Saint Paul has a gluten free, dog friendly brewery. Burning Brothers Brewing makes all of its beers gluten free. And food trucks on site must have gluten free menus. We often bring our dog’s dinner with us, so she can eat while we eat. She happens to thrive on a grain-free diet. But I wouldn’t chance contaminating the gluten free brewery by introducing dog food that could have gluten.

My ‘Go To’ Dog Friendly Hotel: Kimpton

Looking for things to do in Minneapolis? The Kimpton Grand is a convenient home base and a dog friendly hotel in Minneapolis
People – and dogs – hang out in the Kimpton lobby, where there is free coffee in the morning, and free wine & snacks in the evening. Credit: Judy Antell

The Kimpton Hotel chain offers deluxe dog friendly hotels. This is especially true in Minneapolis. At the top of the list of dog friendly hotels in Minneapolis, the Kimpton Grand Hotel is also great for families. The hotel, in a 1912 building, has a huge private health club that guests can use for free.  There is a gorgeous pool, a spa, squash courts and a spin studio. There is no extra charge for dogs. Or kids, for that matter.

Looking for dog friendly hotels in Minneapolis? The Kimpton Gradn is a great choice.
The Kimpton Grand Hotel is one of the dog friendly hotels in Minneapolis. Credit: Kimpton Hotel

The Kimpton Grand Hotel connects to the skyway system so you can travel around downtown without freezing. When we were in Minnesota in early October, it was snowing. Nothing stuck but it was quite cold. And last April, it snowed six inches while we were there.

You can exercise your dog  – or your kids – indoors in the climate controlled skyways, with just a quick nip outside for her to do her business. Hopefully your kids do their business indoors.

If only we could fly more easily to Minnesota with our dog for graduation, we would have our pick of things to do in Minneapolis!

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