15 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Illinois

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dog is having fun in a dog friendly vacation in Illinois

Illinois is one of the midwestern states along the Great Lakes, the Mississippi, Wabash, and Ohio Rivers and is surrounded by Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kentucky.  It is the home to the world’s largest bottle of ketchup at 170 feet and the world’s largest bakery with over 1.8 million square feet. However, it is also home to 13 million residents and 2 million dogs, making it one of the most populated states in the United States.

With one national forest, two national historic sites, three national wildlife refuges, 69 state parks, and six state forests as well as hundreds of city, county, and community parks, there is always something going on in Illinois. It has cold winters and hot summers with mild periods in between so you can enjoy both summer and winter sports from swimming to skiing. 

You will also find lots of campgrounds, recreation areas, gardens, and lakes in Illinois. Whether you are planning a summer vacation, winter getaway, romantic tryst, or a family trip, there is something for all pup parents in Illinois. Here are our top 15 choices for the best dog-friendly vacation destinations in Illinois. 


Located on the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago is the largest city in the state and has more than 2.7 million humans with about 450,000 fur babies. With so many dogs in town, there is no shortage of dog parks including one of the best, Jackson Bark Park just 10 minutes from downtown. It has some awesome agility equipment like ramps, tunnels, and weave poles as well as pools during the summer. 

Speaking of summer, the Montrose Dog Beach was the first official off-leash dog beach in Chicago and is still the best, according to locals. Just northeast of Wrigley Field on Lake Michigan, the beach offers a huge sandy area with lots of room to run around and play. 

You can also have fun doing something outside the parks. Take your best buddy on a cruise of Lake Michigan on Mercury’s Canine Cruise. You can see the highlights such as Trump Tower, Soldier Field, and Navy Pier while you learn all about their history. 

Granite City 

For a summer vacation with your pooch, why not take him to Granite City? It is one of the largest in the Southern Illinois and Metro East area with more than 27,000 residents. It was named by brothers Will and Fred Niedringhaus who started the major steel-making company for graniteware kitchen utensils. The city also has 13 dog-friendly parks where you and Fido can play. Wilson Park is a pup popular place with 74 acres including gardens, pools, picnic areas, and ball fields. 

One of the largest and most visited parks in Granite City is Horseshoe Lake State Park, where they have a beach that your dog will love. The park has almost 3,000 acres on Horseshoe Lake, which is popular for its fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, and camping. However, if you plan to camp, get there bright and early because there are only 26 spots and no reservations. 

If you still want to camp but did not get there in time, there is a KOA Journey Campground nearby that has over 60 campsites. 

Shawnee National Forest

Located in southwestern Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest covers nearly 290,000 acres, including nine different counties and over a dozen cities. It is separated into seven wilderness areas as well as three natural vegetation areas and the Pounds Hollow Recreation Area. The woods are dense in many areas with rugged wilderness and hiking trails you can enjoy with your leashed fur buddy. There are over 24 trails with more than 30 miles of hiking. 

The Rim Rock Trail is about 2.5 miles of easy walking with hardwood trees and Ox-lot Cave. You can also see a stone wall built by prehistoric Indians. The Little Grand Canyon Trail is three miles with interpretive signage and a stunning view of the canyon. For a long hike to Kinkaid Lake, the Kincaid Lake System has two choices. The Kincaid Lake Trail is 15.7 miles and the Buttermilk Hill Trail is 7.8 miles. 

For those who want to camp, there are nine different campgrounds with more than 100 campsites. Some of them are reservable and all of them have fire rings and picnic tables. 


Running along both sides of the Fox River with a bunch of parks, gardens, and even a zoo, Aurora is a fun place to bring the kids and your fur baby for a weekend trip. First, after checking in at your hotel, take Fido and the kids to Phillips Park. The kids can play on the playground equipment while your pup enjoys the three-acre fenced dog park. In fact, there is even some play equipment for the pooches. 

Then, take your pup to PetsHotel at Aurora Petsmart, where he can chill out while you and the kids visit the animals at the Phillips Park Zoo. With a long list of birds, mammals, and reptiles, there is something new to see every time you go from alpacas to zebras. Afterward, pick up your pup and you can all go shopping at Chicago Premium Outlets. They have over 140 stores and many of them are dog-friendly. 

Finally, take Fido to the other dog park in town at Stuart Sports Complex. It has 15 acres with a special space for small dogs. It is right next to Jericho Lake and the playground, too.


If you are on a tight budget or just like saving money, Joliet has six dog-friendly hotels with rooms under $100. What’s more, Comfort Inn and MainStay Suites both have indoor pools and free breakfast. Joliet is a big city with over 150,000 people and an estimated 25,000 dogs so you will probably see some of them out and about, especially at the dog parks. One such park, Hammel Woods, has several acres of space with a small dog area, shelters, and seating for pup parents. 

Your cuddle buddy is also welcome at Dellwood Park. It has more than 150 acres with a disc golf course, playgrounds, picnic areas, and trails. The huge recreation area was built in 1905 and has been a popular spot ever since then. Just keep your pup on a leash and bring doggie bags to pick up after him. 

Also, take the time to visit the historic Iron Works Park. See the ruins of a past era that may not be around much longer. 

Giant City State Park 

Time for a camping trip with your fur baby? Pack up the RV or grab your camping gear and head to Makanda in southern Illinois. With 4,000 dog-friendly acres, including a lodge and visitor center, several trails, and an awesome campground, you will have plenty to do while you are there. The Giant City Nature Trail is the most popular to see the Giant City Streets bluffs made of sandstone that gave the park its name. 

There are 85 campsites with electricity, water, restrooms with showers, picnic tables, and fire rings for all. There is also an equestrian campground in the southwestern corner of the park if you have a horse with you. Another primitive campground is at the south end of the park with 14 sites. 

While you are in the area, take your fur buddy with you to Feather Hills Vineyard and Winery. You can enjoy sampling the local wines while your pooch enjoys some treats and a bowl of water. 

Lincoln Park 

Located in northern Chicago, Lincoln Park is a community with a lot to offer couples with dogs. First, you can get a cozy room with your honey at Ray’s Bucktown Bed & Breakfast. The ivy-covered home has hardwood floors, an herb garden, laundry service, and breakfast. Some rooms also have a terrace and spa bath! Just make sure you mention Fido when you book your room. Then, you and your two best friends can go hang out by the lake at Lincoln Park. 

Afterward, take them on a Seadog Cruise by Hornblower. This unique speedboat ride is dog-friendly for leashed dogs, and you can enjoy it any time of the year. If you are there in the summertime, you can all go swimming together at Belmont Harbor where they have a dog beach.

Also nearby, Wiggly Field Dog Park at Noethling Park. The name is a play on words because of its location near Wrigley Field Baseball Stadium. It is a pretty big park compared to most of the city dog parks and it has a separate section for little dogs, seating for pet parents, water fountains, and waste stations. 

Six Flags Great America

Gurnee, Illinois is just a small town on the map with 30,000 residents but it is home to a huge theme park that everyone has heard of to take the family. Six Flags Great America has over 300 acres of space with 50 amusement park rides, including 15 roller coasters and three water rides. But first, drop off your pooch at Best Friends Pet Hotel so he can play, too, because Six Flags does not allow dogs.  

Six Flags also has several entertainment venues with live entertainment, including music, magic, and meeting some of the park mascots. The newest ride, The Sky Striker, takes you up over 170 feet in the air, swinging around at about 75 miles per hour on a pendulum with 130-degree swings. It is not for the young kids! Some of the kiddie rides include the Krazy Kars, Little Dipper, and Red Baron. 

After picking up your pup, take him to Independence Grove Dog Park so he can run out those zoomies off the leash. It even has a lake.


As the capital of Illinois, you know there are going to be lots of historic sites including the State Capitol Building. However, most of the buildings are not dog-friendly so you will just have to get some selfies outside. However, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site allows you to take your leashed pup around the grounds where Abraham Lincoln lived until 1861. The other thing the city is known for is Springfield Lake. 

The lake has eight different public parks, all dog friendly, with more than 30 picnic areas, several playgrounds, and lots of different sports courts. Center Park has 31 acres and includes the zoo, boat launches, ball fields, and several fishing and picnic areas with restrooms and playgrounds. Bridgeview Park has 20 acres with a boat dock, playground, and picnic areas. Springfield is the perfect place for a lake vacation.

But Fido says the most important part is Stuart Park Dog Park where he can lose the leash and romp around leashless. There is a small dog area, shaded seating, waste stations, and water fountains. 


Another place for couples with dogs, Rockford is home to several casinos where you and your honey can try your luck while your pooch is at the dog sitters. Airport Pet Lodge has extra large rooms with raised beds, toys, and treats as well as a trip to the dog park. While he is there, try the slots at Slots of Fun on Charles Road in southeastern Rockford. It was the city’s first slot club. 

Up the street in northeastern Rockford on 2nd Street, you can find three casinos in one area including Mabel’s Jackpot, Frankie’s Slots, and the Lucky Cafe. None of them are like the huge riverboat casinos you see in other areas but they are nice local places where the people are friendly. 

Don’t forget about Fido! You can go back and pick him up and take him to the Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden, with several miles of trails showing off the native flora. Then, take him to one of the nearby Canine Corners Dog Parks. There are several in the area including one at Searles Park with four acres of space. 


On the western side of Peoria Lake, Peoria is another great place for a lake vacation with your cuddly canine companion. Before heading off to the lake, take your fur buddy to Bradley Dog Park to get rid of some of that excess energy he probably has from traveling. It has five acres with two sections for large and little pooches, lots of shade for summer and sun for winter, water fountains, waste stations, and tons of room to roam. 

Peoria Lake is a part of the Illinois River where the locals go to swim, fish, and go boating. During the summer, you may find a crowd but you can always head downriver by Pekin Lake to find some peace and quiet. Nearby, you can leash up your pup for a walk along the Rock Island Trail. It goes for more than 38 miles so put on your walking shoes!

Afterward, your dog can join you at JK Williams Tasting Room, where you can sample the whiskey or enjoy some cocktails. 

Chain O’Lakes State Park 

In the small town of Spring Grove, with just 5,400 residents, there is a lovely park called Chain O’ Lakes State Park. It gets its name from having the largest amount of natural lakes in the state, including Redhead, Catherine, Petite, Channel, Pistakee, Fox, and Bluff Lakes, as well as Nippersink, Marie, and Grass Lakes and the largest, 44-acre Turner Lake. This is where you will find almost 500 miles of shoreline for hiking, fishing, and even swimming. 

There are four trail systems in Chain O’ Lakes State Park. The main one, Nature’s Way, is 2.2 miles and starts at the Oak Grove Picnic Area. The Equestrian Trail can also be hiked on foot but it has almost eight miles of loops. The shortest is the quarter-mile Pike Marsh North Picnic Area Trail. The last one, The Biking and Hiking Trail, has six miles and starts at the picnic area by the park office. 

Don’t miss Richardson Adventure Farm where your pooch can get up close and personal with some other wildlife including pigs, goats, and sheep. 

East Dundee

Another place to bring the kids this summer is Santa’s Village Amusement and Water Park, located in Spring Grove, which is in northeastern Illinois. The population is just over 3,000 people and about 500 fur babies, but you will not see any of the pups in the park. Dogs are not allowed so you will have to leave Fido with a sitter. Central Bark Doggie Daycare is one of the best and has the four needs covered: love, play, learn, and rest. 

This is not a park as huge as Six Flags but it does have more than 20 rides, including two roller coasters and 11 water rides. It also has entertainment, a zoo, games, shopping, and dining. Some of the rides include the bumper cars, tilt-a-whirl, and Ferris wheel as well as an exotic animal show where you can feed the deer. 

Nearby, you can take your pup to Batavia Bark Park, where he has three acres of off-leash space in which to play. There is a small beach area, too where your cuddly buddy can swim off the leash. 


Whether you are married, getting married, or just on vacation with your sweetheart, Labrador Lakehouse Inn & Wedding Venue is a dog-friendly bed and breakfast that will make all of you feel right at home. The stunning Victorian home in the countryside allows two dogs for no extra fee, but they must be leashed when out in the common areas of the house. You can choose from The Executive Suite, a two-bedroom suite, the King’s Turret Suite, or one of the other cute suite rooms. 

Then, take your two best friends to Lake Murphysboro State Park, where you can have a romantic picnic by the water. There is also a three-mile trail you can all enjoy. Running through the southern and eastern sides of the city, the Big Muddy River has many opportunities for you to all enjoy the waterfront. 

Finally, take your fur baby to Riverside Dog Park, which has a separate small dog section, waste stations with baggies, water fountains, shaded seating, and well-groomed grass. 

Chestnut Mountain 

Galena is the place to be during the winter if you like to ski. The Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena is pet-friendly and has two restaurants, a golf course, a bar, an indoor pool, and a hot tub. The lodge has 119 rooms, and the mountain has 19 ski runs with four beginner, 11 intermediate, and three advanced. The 19th run is for snowboarding only. Although your pup cannot ski with you, he can stay at the lodge or with a doggie daycare. 

If you need lessons, they have those too, whether you want to learn to ski or snowboard. With 20,000 square feet, the ski center also has an equipment rental shop, apparel shop, and a children’s area. The base elevation is 600 feet, while the top elevation is 1,020 feet, with a vertical drop of 420 feet. 

For something different, take your pup to Poopsie’s. The dog-friendly shop has a variety of interesting gifts, books, crafts, and souvenirs. 

The Final Woof

Dogs are popular in Illinois, and more than 160 dog parks are designated for off-leash fun for our fur babies. They even have seven dog beaches and almost 300 hiking trails. You will have no problem finding a place to stay with your pup either because there are almost 3,000 vacation properties, including 750+ hotels, motels, resorts, and 65 campgrounds. For those on a budget, Joliet has six dog-friendly hotels with rooms under $100. For a family trip, check out Six Flags Great America in Gurnee or Santa’s Village Amusement Park and Water Park in East Dundee. For some romance, Murphysboro has a stunning Victorian Inn with incredible scenery, and Lincoln Park has a cozy place called Ray’s Bucktown Bed & Breakfast. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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