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Minneapolis-St. Paul off-leash dog parks: Look for ones that don’t require a permit

Minneapolis has five off-leash dog parks, but you can only use them if your dog has a special permit. Permits last for a year and cost $35 for the first dog and $25 for each additional dog; if you live outside Minneapolis (say, for example, in St. Paul), permits cost $60 for the first dog and $30 for each additional dog. Tourists can either run the risk of incurring a fine or seek alternatives.

One alternative is St. Paul’s off-leash dog park, a fully-enclosed 4.5 acre area in Arlington Park (located at the corner of Arlington and Arkwright). It wouldn’t be a choice I’d make, because it doesn’t have a designated small-dog area, but there are plenty of people who love it. Since we rent a car when we visit the Twin Cities, my choice would be (and will be, the next time we go) the Alimagnet Dog Park in Burnsville, MN (about 15 miles south of Minneapolis). It has a small-dog area and although permits are encouraged (the fees support the park), they’re not required.

Here’s a useful resource: A group of dog owners has put together a list of Twin Cities-area dog parks, with notes about whether permits are required or not. They provide links to the parks’ sites, and it’s a good idea to look at the links because they provide more detail than the owners’ summaries (the Alimagnet summary, for example, says that permits are required, but I suspect that’s because the owners’ summary form has a yes/no check box next to “permits required”).

I like going to off-leash dog parks (with small-dog areas) with Chloe because she really loves a Chuckit! session — she hardly ever gets the chance to run flat-out, otherwise. If you and your dog have different preferences, there are a world of alternatives to Twin Cities dog parks. A great place to start is the NPS site for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. MNRRA is a huge swath of parkland along the Mississippi, offering a range of outdoor experiences. On the civilized end, Chloe and I accompanied my brother and sister-in-law (plus an antique Shih Tzu and a brainless Springer Spaniel) on a walk along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi in the Highland Park area of St. Paul. We shared the path with joggers and bikers, and had great views of the river.

Photo by Matt Pettengill

If you’re looking for very civilized, take a walking tour of St. Paul’s Summit Avenue, lined with some of the most glorious old homes you’ll ever see (including the one in this picture), or take an F. Scott Fitzgerald walking tour of St. Paul, where the author was born and spent part of his youth. The next time we visit the Twin Cities, I’ll be taking Chloe on the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail (though she won’t be able to visit the inside of the fascinating Mill City Museum). I know I’m only scraping the surface of dog-friendly tours and trails in the Twin Cities — if you have a favorite that I haven’t mentioned, please let me know about it!


  • Rod@GoPetFriendly

    Great dog park info. We ran into a similar park-permit-required situation this week in Louisville. I’ll be posting some similar details in an upcoming blog post at GoPetFriendly.

    But let me guess something … the permit parks were great, right?! And I understand the need to pay for the maintenance of these parks. But do you think these permit-required parks take away (even a little bit) from the pet friendliness of the city??

  • Well, it was a let-down to get all fired up about the Minnehaha off-leash dog park and then realize that I couldn’t take Chloe there. I too understand the plan — you want your park to be used by healthy dogs, and by owners who have an investment in keeping the park clean and well-maintained — but it puts visiting dogs in a bind. I wish there was some way of getting a day permit to a city’s dog parks, or maybe a pet passport allowing your dog to use permit parks across the nation!

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