15 Fun things to do with your dog in Chicago

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Dog walking by Chicago river. Photo by Erik Cooper. Flicker user: 60199688@N08

Chicago, Illinois, is the number one city in the United States for dog lovers, according to a study done by Protect My Paws, with the largest pup-ulation of canines in any city in the country. For every 100 people, there are over 22 dogs. 

That means with a human population of 2.7 million people, there are just over 604 thousand dogs in the windy city of Chicago. That is probably why there are so many fun things to do here with your fur baby. So we decided to do some research and make a list of 15 fun things to do with your dog in Chicago.

You will not have any trouble finding something to do with your best friend in Chicago. There are hundreds of parks, beaches, and trails as well as tours, shopping, and dining spots in the windy city. During the summer, spring, winter, or fall, you can find an activity that you will both remember forever. 

Go on a cruise: Mercury’s Canine Cruise

As long as you have a leash and a dog, you can take a canine cruise on Mercury’s Canine Cruise. The pup-friendly tour is the perfect way to sit back and relax while you learn about the rich history of Chicago. See a variety of attractions from Lake Michigan, such as Navy Pier, Soldier Field, the NBC Tower, Trump Tower, and over a dozen more. The narrated tour lasts about three to four hours and offers safe seating, snacks, beverages, and treats for your fur baby.

They even provide water bowls and a “restroom” for your pooch lined with newspapers. The iconic bridges and Chicago skyline are perfect backdrops for some gorgeous and memorable selfies for you and your pup to share on your social media sites. Mercury has been taking people and their pups on water cruises for more than 85 years and has a perfect safety record. You can catch the boat on East Wacker Drive on the Chicago Riverwalk. 

Take a walk: Chicago Riverwalk

Speaking of the Chicago Riverwalk, once you get done with your cruise, go ahead and meander along the waterfront because it is also a pup-friendly place. The 1.25-mile walk runs from Lake Street to Lake Michigan, and it is all paved for easy walking. Your dog will love seeing the boats and birds around the southern bank of the Chicago River, and you will love all of the eateries, shops, and other great attractions.

Many of the establishments along the walk allow you to bring your fur buddy inside with you, but it is best to ask first. Some of the ones that are known to allow dogs include Cyrano’s Bistro and Wine Bar, which is a French bistro by the Riverwalk Gateway. The Gateway is a tunnel decorated with 12 panels and is the largest public work of art in the city. There is also a fabulous floating garden, the River Theater, and the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza. 

Get in shape: Jackson Bark

Are you thinking of entering your pooch in an agility course anytime soon? Or maybe you just want to let him work out some of that excess energy he always seems to have too much of. Jackson Bark is an awesome dog park with an agility course located in Jackson Park, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. The park itself has over 540 acres along Lake Michigan and is also dog friendly. 

Jackson Bark is made from a group of four old tennis courts and is the largest fenced dog park in Chicago. Some of the agility equipment include tunnels, ramps, a pole jump course, a balance board, and a tire jump. Besides all that, this fantastic place has a bunch of toys, a doggy pool in the summer, a Pup Pub drinking area, and plenty of space to run off the leash. After, you and your pup can relax at Bobolink Meadow on the shores of the East Lagoon. 

Hit the beach: Montrose Dog Beach

Beginning in 2000 by a group of pup parents enjoying the beach, The Montrose Dog Beach became an actual “dog beach.” Even though people had been bringing their dogs here for years, it was important to make it legal so it could have a name and a purpose. In fact, it was the first official leash-free beach in Chicago and is located in the northwestern section of Montrose Beach by the old boat launch. 

It is open from 6 AM to 11 PM and is completely free of charge, but your fur baby has to be vaccinated and wear a collar with his tags. Although the park has a beach that offers waste bags, it is a good idea to bring your own just in case. In addition, there are other dog parks nearby, including Puptown, and plenty of water to splash around in. Be sure to bring some extra drinking water for your pooch. But do not bring food because it is not allowed on the beach.

Explore the pier: Navy Pier

Often called Chicago’s Lakefront Playground, Navy Pier has about 50 acres of attractions, parks, eateries, retail shops, and exhibition spaces to enjoy. Most of them allow you to bring your fur buddy. Actually, all of the outdoor areas is dog-friendly, but your pup must remain on a leash, and he needs to behave. The pier boasts more than 35 restaurants, cafes, bars, and pubs, with at least seven of them that allow dogs. 

Besides that, you can find 20 shops, a huge Ferris Wheel, the Carousel, and several other thrill rides. But you have to check for permission to bring your pooch. The East End Plaza is a fantastic place to get some amazing views of the city so bring your camera. Be sure to take a stroll around to see the awesome art installations. You can even enjoy a pup-friendly tour so you can learn all about the area. 

Drink a brew or two: Midwest Coast Brewing Company

You can grab a brew with your pup inside or outside the Midwest Coast Brewing Company just east of Garfield Park. You can take a beer tasting flight and try five different brews, including special flavors like Pear Down with pear and passionfruit, the Noted Intellectual with chocolate stout, and Pismo Beach, which has earthy citrus and pine flavor. They also serve non-alcoholic drinks like sparkling water, soft drinks, and coffee. 

You and Fido can enjoy some tasty snacks too. They have Jalapeno Chomps, Cheez-Itz, Voodoo Kettle Chips, and Firestick Pretzels with white cheddar, as well as biscuits and treats for your furry family members. If you have worked up a larger appetite, you will often find food trucks and pop-ups to get a burger, taco, or something else delicious. Midwest Coast also hosts events all year long like the Cornhole Tournament, live music concerts, and Family Day Workshops. 

Shop and dine: Apple Michigan Avenue

Apple Michigan Avenue loves dogs as much as they love humans (maybe even more)! So why not take your pup shopping at the most popular tech stores in the world? This Apple Store is located on the Chicago River between the NBC Tower and Pioneer Court Plaza. See the newest high-tech items like electronic devices, musical software and programs, and of course, the iPhones and iPads in all varieties. 

They even have a Genius Bar so you can speak to a tech expert if you need help or have any questions. If your phone is on the fritz or your Apple watch is not working, talk to one of the geniuses for some advice. You will find the store on the first floor in Tribune Tower. The Neo-Gothic skyscraper is nothing to scoff at either. The stunning architecture is so detailed and intricate. It makes the perfect backdrop for some selfies for you and Fifi. 

Take a break: Epic Yoga Flow

SUP with your PUP yoga classes are held on Lake Michigan, and they invite all sizes and breeds of dogs to come along. However, there is a total weight limit of 287 pounds, including you and your pooch. Your dog has to be on a leash while you are on land and during instructions. These hour-long stand-up paddleboard lessons are a fun way to bond with your fur buddy, and you do not need any experience.

The SUP with your PUP classes are private and can include one or two pet parents with their pups. You can find this fun activity in Highland Park at the North Shore Yacht Club right next to Central Park. Your dog will need to wear a canine life vest, and they are not supplied, so be sure to bring your own. Yoga and SUP instructor Mary Lou Cerami is a certified yoga instructor and offers both public and private SUP yoga classes from sunup to sundown. 

Play at the park: Lakeshore East Park

This 4.6-acre park between the Riverwalk and Maggie Daley Park is a great place to take your pooch for a play date. Lakeshore East Park is one of the most popular parks in the city with families and dog lovers because it has plenty of grassy areas, playgrounds, and several trails to explore. A fun little off-leash dog park can also be found in the park. 

Just a block from the Chicago River to the north and Michigan Lake to the south and east, you will be surrounded by water as well as botanic gardens, and the park even has a water feature of its own in the summertime. To let your fur baby run around off the leash for a bit with some other pups, there is a dog park in the southwestern corner of Lakeshore East Park. It may be small, but you will love watching your buddy run wild.  

Look for ghosts: Windy City Ghosts

Grab your dog and his leash and head to the Tin Man statue at Oz Park, where you will meet up with your ghostly tour guide and a bunch of fellow ghost hunters. Just after sunset, you and Fido can take the standard one-hour tour where you will visit eight haunted locations covering a mile in the Lincoln Park area. The sordid history includes gangsters, satanic rituals, murder, cult followings, asylums, and haunted bars. 

If you want more ghost stories, take the extended tour. It covers 1.5 miles and takes about 90 minutes. You will visit 12 total haunted sites, including several taverns and bars, an ancient graveyard, and the headquarters of a famous cult named the Order of the Golden Dawn. You will also see the old Hobbs Institute for the Insane, which is now the Alphawood Foundation building. Your pup is welcome as long as he is on a leash. 

Go hunting: The Chi-Town Showdown Scavenger Hunt

If you never played Scavenger Hunt when you were a kid, you really missed a lot of fun! But in Chicago, you and your fur buddy can join a group of others for the Chi-Town Showdown Scavenger Hunt. Begin your hunt at a secret destination where you will meet your team and instructor. Get your directions and head out to find hidden treasures and perform silly and fun stunts, solving clues and doing challenges along the way. 

The hunt is done by car, but you can order a carless version if you like. You will be inside and outside, finding the spots you are assigned and sending photos back to your host to show your progress. Interact with locals to solve the clues and find hidden gems while you explore. Your pup will love this adventure, but he has to be on a leash. The hunt usually takes about two hours and can accommodate up to 30 people and pups.

Go camping: Camp Dogwood

Unlike sending your human children to camp, this dog camp is for you as well as your fur baby to enjoy. The camp operates all year long with a different camp experience each season, from winter to summer. According to Animal Planet, Camp Dogwood is the world’s best dog destination. If they approve, you know your dog will too. You and your pupster will spend a whole weekend enjoying activities and bonding with memories that last a lifetime.

The owners are dedicated to teaching pet parents how to bond with their pups and showing them how to enhance the relationship for both parties. During summer, you can do group swims, hiking in the woods, and campfires. Winter includes activities like treat-making, yoga, and paw print plaster classes. Spring and fall also have their unique adventures. With classes teaching you how to train your pup for agility jumps and building confidence in the shy pooch, you will enjoy the weekend as much as he does. 

Learn about the city: Magnificent Mile Walking Tour

Hosted by Airbnb hostess Rachel, this walking tour is perfect for your next walk with your pup in Chicago. Just be sure to tell her you are bringing your pooch to make sure nobody in the tour group is allergic or afraid of dogs. This fun and informative tour lasts between two and three hours and covers about a mile, starting and ending on Michigan Avenue. Rachel will give you all the interesting details about the hot spots as well as the hidden treasures of the city. 

You will stroll over the Chicago River on DuSable Bridge and see the historic Fort Dearborn. Then, enjoy some delicious chocolate at Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop in Ghirardelli Square. Along the way, do some window shopping at stores like Pandora Jewelry, MAC Cosmetics, Sephora, Levi’s, Burberry, and Cartier. You will even get to visit The Bean at Millennium Park and see the largest tiffany dome in the world at the Chicago Cultural Center. 

Get back to nature: Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens

With 85 stunning acres to explore and enjoy, Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens is a fun dog-friendly place to visit. Just be sure to keep your pup on a leash no longer than 10 feet long and clean up after him while you are there. Located in Palos Heights, about 23 miles to the southwest of downtown Chicago, the park also has a 10-acre lake where you can rent a canoe and go fishing. 

If you would rather stay on dry ground, there is plenty to see and do with your fur buddy on land too. Several trails run throughout the park. Try the Children’s Forest trail, where you can see the flora and fauna in the peacefulness of the woods. Then, take a walk to the waterfalls by the Buzz n Bloom Prairie for some incredible photo ops. Be sure to visit the Butterfly Garden, Turtle Bay, and the Canal Lookout too. 

Enjoy the art: Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

In northern Chicago, indulge yourself and Fido in some culture at the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. The main trail is the 6.5-mile Skokie Sculpture Loop which is considered to be moderately challenging. For most, it takes about two hours to complete, but that does not include any stops to see the dozens of sculptures up close. There are 60 sculptures n all, done by international as well as local artists. 

Section I has 26 sculptures between Main Street and Dempster. Section II between Oakton and Main Streets features 23 sculptures. Section III has three sculptures between Howard and Oakton Streets. And Section IV is between Touhy and Howard Streets with 17 sculptures. Open all year and free to the public, this sensational park is a peaceful place to spend an afternoon. Almost all of the trails in the park are dog-friendly, and the whole sculpture trail is too. Just make sure you pack extra water, dog waste bags, and treats. 

The Final Woof

This list is short compared to the many dog-friendly activities available in Chicago. Whether you are visiting from out of town or have been living in Chicago for years, there is always something new to find where you can play, shop, eat, swim, or hike. 

Whether you have a tiny toy poodle or a giant Great Dane, a shy dog, or a social butterfly, there is something for every pooch to enjoy.

You can take a walk along the river, spend a few hours on Lake Michigan, dine out at one of the shops along the boardwalk, or go shopping at Nordstrom or Navy Pier. 

Visit Puptown at Margate Park, get centered at Epic Yoga Flow, or take your pooch on a bike ride at Village Cycle Center. Try one of the ghost tours for a scary night or learn how to photograph the city at one of the photography tours. There is plenty of fun things to do with your dog in Chicago. 

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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