Dog Friendly Adventures around Chicago

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Happy Dog Day to Essie, the sweetest pup around!

Did you know that today, August 26, is National Dog Day?

As a proud dog parent to my seven-year-old rescue mutt, Essie, I’m always looking for fun things for us to do together. We’re quite the team and life is just more fun (and eventful!) when she’s around. I find having a dog in the city is a great way to meet people, get outside and try new things!

Chicago is often hailed as one of the best dog-friendly cities in the US and I’d have to agree! It isn’t uncommon to see dogs tagging along all year round, but it’s especially the case in the summer when the whole city gets outside to enjoy the warmer months. In honor of World Dog Day I’m sharing some of my favorite dog friendly activities in and around the city.

Essie enjoying a morning swim at Montrose Dog Beach.
Essie enjoys a morning swim at Montrose Dog Beach.
  • Play along the lake! Anyone who knows me knows that Lake Michigan is what I love most about this city and, lucky me, Essie agrees! Chicago has miles upon miles of gorgeous shoreline with several beaches and parks spotting the lakeshore. Essie and I love Montrose Dog Beach at the north end of Montrose Beach (Montrose and Simmonds.) Turns out we’re not the only ones, this place can get packed on the weekends with hundreds of happy dogs running, playing, swimming and being all out adorable. At nearly 4 acres, Montrose Dog Beach is the largest off leash park in the city. According to the Chicago Park District, there are officially 21 off leash parks and beaches within the city so check for one in your neighborhood and BYO tennis ball!

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    Essie, the hometown tourist, aboard Mercury Cruise’s Canine Cruise!
  • On a boat! If beaches aren’t your thing but you still want to enjoy the lake with your pup then you should check out one of the dog friendly river and
    Hometown tourists!
    Hometown tourists on the Canine Cruise!

    lake cruises. Essie and I recently partook in Mercury Cruises’ Canine Cruise and had an absolute blast! I love seeing Chicago from the water and was excited to have Essie along for this adventure. After a quick river cruise we headed out to the lake where we headed north a bit and then back town toward Museum Campus. The entire tour was 90 minutes long and I felt like we were able to see a lot (despite the fog) in that amount of time. There were about 20 dogs onboard with designated bathroom areas and available water bowls. While I think she was waiting for the swimming portion of the ride, Essie seemed to really enjoy the experience – sniffing the lake air, taking it all in and even resting her head on my lap when we went through the locks. Like other cruises int he city, there is a tour guide on a microphone pointing out landmarks and buildings but this tour is especially catered to dog owners, highlighting the dog friendly sites of Chicago. The Canine Cruise takes place on Sundays in the summer, $31 for adults, $8 for dogs. Be sure to check out this adorable video to get a better idea of the experience.

    Essie pretends to Maddie from Maddie on Things at Matthiessen State Park.
    Essie pretends she’s Maddie from Maddie on Things at Matthiessen State Park.
  • Take a hike! While it’s fun to stroll along the miles and miles of lakefront with your dog, I sometimes like to get out of the city and hit the trail with
    Essie's ready to hit the trail!
    Essie’s ready to hit the trail!

    Essie. We’ve gone on several day hikes on dog-friendly trails within an hour or two if the city including Starved Rock, Swallow Cliff and Matthiessen State Park. Illinois is full of State Parks, check out the DNR website to find one that looks fun. Essie and I really loved our visit to Matthiessen State Park last month because there was a little bit of everything; waterfalls, canyons and a nice little swimming hole. Technically dogs are supposed to be on leash at these parks but if no one is around and/or you trust your dog to stay with you then unclip at your own risk. Be sure to bring lots of water, a bowl for your dog to use, sunscreen and bug spray. Also, be sure that your dog is using a flea and tick preventative and do a thorough tick check (on you and your pup) at the end of the trail. I also recommend taking a photo of the trail map at the trailhead so that you have it with you in case you get lost (though most of the trails are very well marked.)

    Enjoying a breakfast out in my neighborhood with Essie.
    Enjoying a working breakfast out in my neighborhood with Essie.
  • Eat out! It seems like every restaurant in Chicago incorporates an outdoor space during the summer months and no one is happier about this than dog owners! Some have designated “dog friendly” areas while others allow you to keep your dog by your table but on the other side of a divider. Then there are others that offer an entire dog friendly patio or designated dog friendly days and events. The list of dog friendly restaurants is far too long to list, I recommend checking out Bring Fido to search for a restaurant.

Dogs are special animals. Years and years ago our hunter/gatherer ancestors and wolves somehow began to work together, live together and depend on one another. In honor of World Dog Day get out and have fun with your four legged friend and, if you don’t have a dog, I invite you to consider adopting one from a shelter. There are hundreds of thousands of homeless dogs in shelters all over the country and, speaking from experience, rescued dogs are simply the best.

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

Josh Billings

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