Illinois Dog-Friendly Travel Guide

illinois dog-friendly travel guide - bichon frise looking out car window

Traveling is a lot of fun, but your trip can be tinged with sadness if your best friend can’t come with you. Instead of leaving your dog at home the next time you travel to Illinois, plan a trip you both can enjoy by using this Illinois dog-friendly travel guide and bring them along!

20 Dog-Friendly Activities in Illinois

Lackadaisical travel isn’t always an option when you have a dog along for the ride because you can’t guarantee that everywhere you go will be pet-friendly. Add these dog-friendly activities in Illinois to your trip itinerary to travel with purpose and with confidence that your furry friend will be welcome.

1. Hawk Hollow Preserve

The Hawk Hollow Preserve is located in Bartlett and offers plenty of opportunities to explore with your dog. There are 34 acres of off-leash area throughout the preserves. You do need a permit for your dog to be off-leash in this area.

Your dog must stay leashed in all other areas. In addition to all of the off-leash space, there is also a 3-mile multipurpose trail and it connects to other trails in both the Mallard Lake and the West Branch forest preserves.

2. Geneva Commons

Should your travels bring you to Geneva, the Geneva Commons is a shopping area that should definitely make your list. There are plenty of pet-friendly stores and restaurants for you and your dog to enjoy.

There is even a designer “pawtique” just for dogs called Wet Nose. Whether browsing, shopping, or just grabbing a quick bite to eat, this place is a great stop for you and your pup during your travels.

3. Seadog Cruises Chicago

Right along Navy Pier in Chicago is Seadog Cruises. Your dog is welcome to join you aboard the speedboat for a tour of the Windy City. Several tours are available, from a short, fast 30-minute tour to a longer, more leisurely 75-minute tour.

This speedboat tops 45 mph on the open water and will thrill you with 360-degree spins, so make sure your dog is up for the exciting trip before you hop on board. Whichever tour you decide to enjoy, you and your dog will be able to enjoy it together!

4. Jackson Bark

Also located in Chicago is Jackson Bark. This dog park is located within Jackson Park. It’s a short distance south of the Museum of Science and Industry and it has an agility course.

Clean, large, and with plenty of obstacles to explore, your dog will have a blast playing and making new friends in this amusement park for dogs. They even have special events throughout the year.

5. Montrose Dog Beach

If your pup loves playing in the sand and ocean water, the Montrose Dog Beach is a must in Chicago. It’s a fenced-off beach area where your dog can run and play off-leash.

Free dog waste bags and a dog wash area are available. The beach itself is free, but DFA access tags are required for all dogs, which cost $5 each.

6. Shawnee National Forest

Should your travels take you into Southern Illinois, take a break to relax and enjoy the Shawnee National Forest. This forest covers over 270,000 acres across 10 counties.

This area is home to the 90-foot Pomona Natural Bridge, the remains of a Native American village at Milestone Bluff, and several hundreds of miles of hiking trails consisting of trails at every difficulty level. Your dog has to be leashed at all times, but they are welcome to join you as you explore.

7. Mercury’s Canine Cruises

Another dog-friendly cruise option in Chicago is Mercury’s Canine Cruises. This boat tour will take you through Chicago’s waterways while you enjoy narration about the history, architecture, and highlights you see along the way. And, your dog is welcome to join you.

Dogs are welcome on this boat tour provided they are leashed, handle the boat well, and get along with other dogs and people. Your dog can sit on your lap, on the deck, or in a seat. Water bowls are provided and there is plenty of outdoor seating where you and your dog can safely enjoy the breeze and the tour on the water.

8. Shoreline Sightseeing

Shoreline Sightseeing is also located in Chicago and they offer two dog-friendly cruise options. You can opt for an architecture cruise along the Chicago River or a classic lake cruise, which points out historical lakefront attractions on Lake Michigan.

Provided your dog is well-behaved and leashed, they can join you for either of these options. There are chairs ad bench seating available for you both, or they can sit on your lap or on the deck. Dogs are not permitted on special event cruises or on the fireworks cruises.

9. Allerton Park & Retreat Center

If you want to spend some time with your dog enjoying nature, consider spending some time exploring the Allerton Park & Retreat Center in Monticello. This attraction features over 1,500 acres of gardens, meadows, woodlands, farmsteads, and more with hiking trails and sculptures throughout.

There is also a Georgian mansion on the grounds that is over 100 years old. Your dog is welcome to join you as you explore as long as they are leashed and on a leash no longer than six feet, under your control at all times, and you clean up after them.

10. Wag ‘N Paddle

You’ll have to plan ahead for this stop, but Wag ‘n Paddle in Naperville is a stop that is all about your dog. Wag ‘N Paddle is an indoor, climate-controlled, and 9,000-square-foot park and heated swimming pool; all designed specifically for dogs.

In addition to the park and the pool, there are also daycare services, swimming lessons, and training classes offered. There are even swimming classes for senior dogs so they can get some canine hydrotherapy benefits. Membership options and day passes are available, but you cannot just drop by unannounced before you are a member.

If you are visiting from out of town and want to stop by, you will need to schedule an appointment for a temperament evaluation, which can be done the same day you want to go. You will also need to create an account and provide proof of up-to-date vaccinations to make the appointment and then purchase whatever single or multi-use pass you want.

11. Starved Rock State Park

If you enjoy spending time in nature and your travels bring you near Oglesby, take a break at Starved Rock State Park. As long as your dog is leashed and you clean up after them, they can join you as you enjoy amazing views and explore hiking trails that go past waterfalls and wind through canyons. You will also want to bring plenty of your own water as the park recommends that you and your pup do not drink from any of the natural water sources.

12. Yorktown Center

If you love shopping and your travels bring you to Lombard, check out Yorktown Center. This dog-friendly shopping center features a ton of shopping and dining experiences where your dog is welcome to join you.

The restaurants within the center have dog-friendly patios where your dog can join you while you eat outside. If you happen to be there on a third Thursday of the month, make sure you check out the Yappy Hour event that goes from 5-7 p.m.

13. Naperville Riverwalk

The Naperville Riverwalk is a staple of Naperville. There are 1.75 miles of pathways to explore that will bring you past outdoor sculptures and artwork, memorials, fountains, bridges, and more. There are also meeting places, event areas, and recreational facilities throughout the riverwalk.

Your dog is welcome to join you as you explore provided they are leashed and you clean up after them. Water spigots are available along the pathways so you and your dog can stay hydrated. There is also plenty of shade. Plus, the Riverwalk Cafe is nearby in case you need a break for some food.

14. Rim Rock National Recreation Trail

If you enjoy hiking with your dog, take some time to explore the Rim Rock National Recreation Trail if you will travel near Junction. The trail winds through massive rock formations around the rim of a rock escarpment, which is a unique hiking experience.

Provided your dog is leashed and you clean up after them, they are welcome to join you as you explore. This popular hiking trail is more on the moderate side, but well worth it if you and your dog don’t mind rocks, natural steps and hills, and narrow passages. Also, make sure you keep an eye out for snakes!

15. Chicago Riverwalk

If you’re in Chicago and want to get a walk in while enjoying the waterfront views, the Chicago Riverwalk is a great option. Described as a pedestrian waterfront hike, this paved walk spans from downtown Lake Street all the way to Lake Shore Drive.

While enjoying the waterfront views and breeze, you’ll also pass by several shops, an art gallery, a museum, and several restaurants. It depends on the restaurant, but several of the restaurants along the riverwalk have outdoor tables with dog-friendly seating.

16. Lincoln Home National Historic Site

If you enjoy history and your travels bring you to Springfield, consider spending some time at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Although your dog cannot come into the buildings, they are allowed to join you in the Lincoln Neighborhood provided they are leashed. You and your dog can walk around the four blocks that surround the preserved area and the home Abraham Lincoln lived in from 1844 to 1861.

Even though you can’t go into the buildings with your canine companion, there is still plenty to see and historical signs along the way to read. Just make sure you bring your own waste bags to clean after your pooch. Although there are plenty of trash receptacles along the route, the site does not have plastic bags on hand.

17. The Promenade Bolingbrook

If you want to enjoy some shopping and you’re in Bolingbrook, The Promenade Bolingbrook is a great stop. This shopping center is dog-friendly and features a variety of stores. There are 26 stores that are pet-friendly!

There are Doggy Potty Stations throughout the shopping center to make cleanup easy and convenient. You can also check the schedule and see if one of the regular Pet Parades is happening.

18. West Street Sculpture Park

If your travels bring you near Galena and it’s a nice day, consider taking a break at the West Street Sculpture Park. This park features two acres full of John Matinson’s welded sculptures and plenty of trails to help you explore them. Plus, your dog is welcome to join you. There are also maps available that you can use for a self-guided tour!

19. Ferne Clyffe State Park

Should your travels bring you near Goreville and you want to stretch your legs in nature, spend some time exploring Ferne Clyffe State Park. This is a natural space in Goreville that features 18 trails.

Different trails wind through wooded areas and open areas and around ponds and streams. You’ll see unique plant communities and geological features, like rock formations, waterfalls, vistas, and more. Your leashed dog is welcome to join you provided they are well-behaved and you clean up after them.

20. Super Museum & Gift Store

If you are a fan of Superman and you will be near Metropolis, the Super Museum & Gift Store is a must-see. This museum features over 70,000 items from Jim Hambrick. This Superman enthusiast and collector has one of the greatest and largest Superman memorabilia collections in the world.

The museum features items that span comics, TV, and movies and is organized in sections around specific portrayals and eras. Your leashed, well-behaved dog is welcome to join you; they just need to meet a staff member for a quick approval before they are allowed to explore the museum with you.

8 Dog-Friendly Hotels in Illinois

Traveling and exploring attractions can be exhausting. You’ll want to make sure you have a great place lined up where you and your pup can rest, relax, and re-energize. One of these dog-friendly hotels in Illinois could be just the place you need:

1. Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace Hotel

If you’re planning to spend the night in Chicago, the Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace Hotel is a dog-friendly option. It’s located in the Lakeview East neighborhood of Chicago. It offers plenty of green space around the hotel and a doggie beach a few blocks away.

They allow two dogs up to 80 pounds and there is a pet fee, which is a refundable deposit. They are willing to consider other pets, but you’ll need prior hotel approval.

2. Fairfield Inn & Suites Effingham

Should you end up in Effingham for the night, the Fairfield Inn & Suites is a good option. It’s located 30 minutes from Eastern Illinois University and it’s dog-friendly.

Two pets of any size are allowed and will cost an additional $10 per stay as a pet fee. If you need to bring more pets, you’ll need hotel approval beforehand.

3. Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins

Located in Elizabethtown, Illinois, within the Shawnee National Forest, are Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins. These cabins have full kitchens and are the perfect solution for a dog-friendly stay.

Two pets of any size are permitted in the cabins with no pet fee. Just clean up after yourself and your pets and there isn’t an issue. There are plenty of front porches or screened-in porches for a lazy pooch to relax on and plenty of outdoor activities for a more active dog.

4. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago

If you will need to stay overnight in Chicago, consider reserving a room at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago. This dog-friendly hotel allows up to two dogs of any size to join you for your stay. There is no additional pet fee and you can leave your dog unattended in your room as long as they are well-behaved!

Dog-friendly rooms are on the lower floors. Although there isn’t a grassy relief area on site, the Riverwalk is just two blocks away. When you check in, beds, treats, and bowls are available at the front desk.

5. Hotel EMC2

Another dog-friendly option in Chicago is the Hotel EMC2. This hotel is part of the Autograph Collection and up to two dogs of any size are welcome to join you for your stay. There is no additional pet fee!

Provided you sign a waiver and your dog is well-behaved when you are not around, you can leave them unattended in your room. There are beds, bowls, and treats available at the front desk when you check in. There is not a grassy relief area on site, but there is a dog park three blocks away.

6. The Allegro Royal Sonesta Hotel Chicago Loop

If you’ll be staying overnight around the Chicago Loop, consider booking a room at the Allegro Royal Sonesta Hotel Chicago Loop. This dog-friendly hotel allows up to two dogs of any size to join you for your stay. There is an additional pet fee, which is $75 per stay.

This hotel also has a PAWS program, which stands for Pets Are Welcome At Sonesta. As part of the program, you can pick up treats, waterproof mats, beds, and bowls at check-in. There is not a grassy relief area on site, but there is one near the Riverwalk about four blocks away. If it’s nice outside, you can grab a meal with your pooch on the outdoor patio of the attached 312 Chicago restaurant.

7. Graduate Evanston

Should your plans require an overnight stay in Evanston, Graduate Evanston could be a good option for you. This hotel is dog-friendly and allows dogs of any size to join you for your stay. There is an additional pet fee, which is $35 per night. There is not a grassy relief area on site, but a lakeside walking path is only a few blocks away.

8. Hampton Inn Ottawa Starved Rock

If you’ll need to stay overnight in Ottawa, the Hampton Inn Ottawa Starved Rock could be a great option. This dog-friendly hotel allows up to two dogs of any size to join you for your stay. There is an additional pet fee, which is $50 for 1-4 night stays and $75 for stays longer than 4 nights.

In addition to free parking, free daily hot breakfast, and plenty of other hotel amenities, there is also a convenient grassy relief area on-site. Plus, the hotel is only 15 miles from Starved Rock State Park and less than 10 minutes from Washington Square Park.

9 Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Illinois

It’s easy to work up an appetite while traveling. Convenience stores and fast food gets old fast. Besides, why pass up the chance to get a taste of the local flavor? With these dog-friendly restaurants in Illinois, your pup can join you when you stop for a bite to eat:

1. Route 34 Drive-In Theater

This stop is both a dog-friendly attraction and a restaurant. Located in Earlville, Illinois, the Route 34 Drive-In Theater welcomes you and your dog with open arms. The surface is grass instead of paved, which means it’s safe for your pup’s paws during the summer heat.

The theater also features a full snack bar and grill, so you can grab a bite to eat while you and your dog enjoy a movie. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of cash on hand as they don’t take plastic for payment.

2. O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe

When you need something to eat in Chicago, O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe is a great dog-friendly option. Your pup is welcome to join you outside at the front sidewalk tables.

O’Brien’s offers continental cuisine with an Old Town, historic feel. With plenty of options and variety on the menu, there is truly something for everyone.

3. Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery

Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery is located in Springfield. In addition to a variety of news and microbrews, this stop offers a full and varied menu of American favorites and other dishes. Between Cobb salad, bangers and mash, lamb burgers, scotch eggs, and more, there are plenty of options to choose from.

The outdoor beer garden is covered and features plenty of comfortable outdoor seating. Plus, your dog is welcome to join you as long as they are well-behaved. A water dish if often provided and you can even order some dog biscuits for your pup to enjoy.

4. Happy Dog Barkery

This stop is all about your dog. If your travels bring you to Downers Grove, make sure you stop by the Happy Dog Barkery. This canine bakery makes their own natural treats for pets, including made-to-order dog birthday cakes. They even make their own doggie stews that can supplement your dog’s daily food and provide extra nutrients.

The liver cake is a local favorite, so make sure your dog gets a sample! In addition to their own recipes of cakes, treats, cookie boxes, and more, you can also resupply if you need to as they carry several popular natural brands of chews and dog foods.

5. DAWG PARK Gourmet Grill

Located in Glenview, the DAWG PARK Gourmet Grill is a restaurant for both you and your dog. Not only is this restaurant dog-friendly, but it is also dog-themed and has a mean with plenty of options for everyone. As long as your dog is well-behaved, they are welcome to join you at outside tables and at inside tables.

The menu features American fast-food fused with Asiatic style and is served in stainless steel bowls. Between Barking Burgers, Bow Wow Bowls, salads, sandwiches, gourmet Dawgs, plenty of appetizers, and more, there are plenty of options for everyone on this menu.

Make sure you leave some room for the dessert menu or one of the Instagram-worthy milkshakes. Although there isn’t a specific menu for dogs, there are options to order plain hot dogs, burgers, and other options that make a nice treat for your dog.

6. Vickie’s Place

If your travels bring you to McHenry around a meal, consider taking a break by the water at one of the outdoor tables at Vickie’s Place. This waterfront bar and eatery offers various menu options.

They even have a Pooch Porch menu for dogs eating with their owners at the dog-friendly tables on the outdoor patio right along the water. Local favorites for humans include super loaded cheese fries, fish tacos, the garlic parmesan chicken flatbread, the taco salad, the Caribbean steak sandwich, homemade pizzas, and more.

7. Big Star

If you love tacos and are in Chicago, try to fit in a stop at Big Star. This restaurant serves fancy tacos and is known for its great tacos and margaritas. The restaurant has a walk-up window for easy ordering and plenty of outdoor tables on the patio where your dog is welcome to join you.

Water is available and you can even put in an order for some plain meat tacos for your pup! Just make sure your dog is leashed and gets along well with other dogs as there will almost always be other people with their dogs there.

8. Miss Kitty’s The Grape Escape

Miss Kitty’s The Grape Escape is located in Galena and is dog-friendly. This restaurant has a large outdoor patio where dogs are welcome. Your pup is also welcome to join you inside! Water and treats are readily available.

This stop is more well-known for its martinis, wine bar, spirits, and beer, but it does offer a limited food menu. Although the menu is smaller, there are still several options for appetizers, sandwiches, wraps, and more.

9. 312 Chicago

The 312 Chicago is located in the Chicago Loop and is the Italian restaurant attached to the Allegro Royal Sonesta Hotel. Provided the weather is nice in the summer months, the outdoor patio is open and offers dog-friendly seating. If you happen to be there on a weekend, there is a special Wagging Weekends puppy menu featuring options just for dogs.

Plan a Dog-Friendly Trip With Dog-Friendly Travel Guides

Although this Illinois dog-friendly travel guide is a good start, it doesn’t cover everything. If you find something else you want to do, just make sure it’s dog-friendly or you have a care plan in place for your dog before it makes it onto your trip plan.

No matter where your travels bring you, knowing that wherever you go will welcome you and your dog with open arms takes a lot of stress out of traveling. If you’re headed somewhere else in the U.S., check out the other state dog-friendly travel guides. Here’s to safe travels and wagging tails no matter where your adventures take you!