Winter in Minnesota is Surprisingly Dog Friendly

Looking for a winter getaway with your dog?  How about visiting the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota?

Uh, Minnesota… in WINTER?

It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.  Minnesotans are an active bunch, and one of the ways they get through the long winters is to simply get out and enjoy the season.  This applies to Minnesota dogs, too.

So what’s in store for a winter excursion to the Twin Cities?  There are numerous winter festivals that get you and your dog right in the thick of winter activities.  The oldest and largest is the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, which takes place throughout the capital city.  This year, it takes place from January 26 – February 5, 2012.  There are snow and ice sculpture contests, parades, music, dog-sled races, skating and hockey.

Many Winter Carnival events take place in downtown Saint Paul, which is a surprisingly dog friendly city.  Mears Park in Lowertown, a full city block bounded by Sibley and Wacouta and East Fifth and Sixth Streets, is an urban dog friendly oasis.  Mears Park has turned into a popular haven for downtown residents with dogs.  The park is criss-crossed with walking paths, a man-made stream, and colorful flower beds maintained by volunteer gardeners.  In winter, the trees are illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights.  The park’s walkways are lined with benches, providing convenient seating to people- or dog-watch.

A short drive (about 10 minutes) west is one of the Twin Cities’ liveliest retail areas – Grand Avenue in Saint Paul.  Over roughly twenty blocks from Dale Street on the east to Fairview Avenue on the west, you and your pup can stroll leisurely among all manner of unique shops, restaurants and services lining this thoroughfare.  This isn’t the mall, with the same-old, same-old.  Instead, you’ll find mostly home-grown businesses, with just a smattering of national chains.  On Grand Avenue, you’ll find everything from fine American crafts (The Grand Hand Gallery) to children’s books (The Red Balloon Bookstore) to kitchen ware (Cooks of Crocus Hill). There’s even doggy day care at Dog Days.  Many stores will welcome well-behaved leashed dogs – just ask.

On the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities, there’s an amazing 50-mile long network of trails called the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway.  Parts of this trail network will take you and your canine companion through wildflower gardens, urban parks, along the mighty Mississippi River, and historic neighborhoods ringing the city’s chain of lakes.  You can enter and exit the trail system easily, so don’t be daunted by its length!

Along the way, you might encounter not only cross-country skiers, but skijor-ers.  Skijoring is sort of a cross between cross-country skiing and dog sledding.  The humans are on skis and use poles.  They are also partially pulled by dogs, connected by harness to the person.  What a great way for you and your dog to get out and enjoy winter!

In planning your trip to the Twin Cities in winter, be sure to first search out a comfortable dog friendly accommodation for you and your dog.  This metropolitan area offers a terrific variety of dog friendly lodgings, from luxe hotels to charming B&Bs.  To simplify your hotel search, use a booking engine like that provided by DogWonderful that automatically filters for pet friendly hotels.

Now grab your hat and gloves, maybe even get your dog a spiffy winter coat, and head to Minnesota for a dog friendly winter getaway!

Teresa Matsui Sanders is a travel industry veteran and creator of DogWonderful, a website specializing in dog friendly hotels and travel. Mostly she specializes in obeying her dogs.

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