Tracking Down Dog Fun

In Illinois & Indiana
By Julia Lane, November 2009, Updated June 2021

Midwestern folks are often friendly (even in the big cities!) and love to talk about dogs. Don’t hesitate to ask people where they like to take their pups. With their help, you’ll discover new places to visit and make new friends on the way.

In Chicago. Start your day with a walk through Grant Park, located downtown and nicknamed Chicago’s “Front Lawn” for its lovely lakeside view. If it’s hot and humid, circle around famous Buckingham Fountain and enjoy its cool, refreshing mist.

For off-leash fun, head to Grant Park’s Bark Park. The 18,000-square-foot area is fully fenced and runs alongside Lake Michigan for more fantastic views; you must purchase a $5 permit and show proof of vaccinations in order to use this public dog park.

After all that running around, you’ll both want to cool off. Follow the Lakefront Trail, which offers 18 miles of paved pathways along the lake, to the Montrose Harbor Dog Beach. There your dog can frolic on the sand or splash in the fresh water off leash while you dip your feet. (This area also requires a $5 permit and proof of vaccinations in advance.)


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Next up, take your dog through the Riverwalk Gateway, a walking history museum and public art gallery. A lighted tunnel features narration on Chicago’s history and scenic panels of the city and Chicago River. If you need a snack, grab a seat at nearby Crane’s, a French bistro where dogs may sit at outdoor tables and have a much-need drink of water.

Want to explore the city even farther, but too tired to walk? Both Antique Coach & Carriage Company and Step in Time Carriages offer a variety of dog-friendly tours, including Lincoln Park, the Loop and the “Miracle Mile.”

If you’re visiting on a rainy day, take your pup to Chicago’s Of Mutts and Men, an indoor, off-leash dog park that boasts room to run and socialize, plus pool tables, chess boards, TV and free coffee for the people. Day pass is $3/dog.

In Batavia, Ill. Prefer some room to roam? Head to the 6,800-acre campus of particle physics laboratory FermiLab, located 45 miles from Chicago in the western suburb of Batavia, Ill. Your dog can romp across 35 unfenced acres of restored prairie, then cool off in the ponds. Shade trees and restrooms are available if you plan to stay awhile.

In Porter, Ind. For the pup who loves car rides, take a short day trip around the southern tip of Lake Michigan to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Leashed dogs are welcome to explore the sandy dunes and nature center and hike the trails. The campground even offers a special dog-walk area.

Julia Lane owns Spot On K9 Sports, a training facility in the Chicago area, and offers online dog-sport coaching. She is the author of several travel books, and her byline has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets & Writers and elsewhere.