Ruby’s a Chicago dog and loves being out and about with us. But she startles easily and sometimes this makes her a bit reactive. We have worked hard to build her confidence by including her in adventures but always in a way that’s comfortable and not too overwhelming. This usually means going places in off hours and avoiding high traffic times with lots of dogs, people, bikes, cars, etc. We are introverts so this strategy works for us as well!
Chicago has some fun dog friendly options and over the coming months, we are going to share some of our favorites. Hopefully, they will be interesting and useful to both residents as well as those traveling to Chicago with their dogs. If you don’t live in Chicago (or plan on visiting) and just want to enjoy cute photos of Ruby, that’s fine, too!
Exploring Chicago’s Museum Campus with your Dog
First up, Museum Campus, a 57-acre park in the south loop that surrounds three of the city’s museums: the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum. The campus borders Lake Michigan to the east, Grant Park to the north, and Northerly Island to the south, offering spectacular views of the Chicago skyline and lakefront, lots of green space, paved walking and bike trails, a public beach as well as food and drink options. It is also close to public transportation, offers metered street parking and several parking lots, public bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi. Obviously, the museums are not dog friendly, but they are all amazing and definitely worth a trip.
The map shows our route, which took us about an hour (Ruby is not super speedy). You can click on the markers for more information on locations mentioned in this post.
If you are visiting Chicago and staying downtown, you can walk through Grant Park to Museum Campus. If you are driving, there is limited street meter parking along East Solidarity Drive and paid lots near the Adler Planetarium and the North Garage just south of the Field Museum.
In hopes of avoiding the crowds, we arrived mid-morning. We have visited the Field Museum and Adler Planetarium many times, but this was our first time exploring Museum Campus with our dog. We ran into a few summer camp groups, but otherwise it was a great time for a low stress walk. If your dog doesn’t do well with kids, you might want to avoid the central area between the Shedd and the Field Museum. Ruby is a smaller dog and easy to pick up and remove from situations that freak her out. Chicago is a big city with lots of noise, people, cars, etc. – please use caution when visiting new places with your dog and always be considerate and aware of their comfort level, temperament, tolerance, triggers, etc.
We started by heading east along the Lakefront towards the Adler Planetarium Skyline Walk (1). The path is paved and has two levels; no inclines but some steep steps. The lower (water) level is slippery and should only be attempted if you are wearing shoes with good traction, especially on windy days. The loop around the Planetarium boosts some spectacular views in all directions and is usually not as crowded. While we were walking we met another dog named Ruby who also fancied herself a Chicago spokesdog!
Make your way around the Adler (5) by following the shoreline. Once on the south side (2), head right towards the 12th Street Beach (3). There you will find bathrooms, first aid, and refreshments. Dogs are not allowed on the beach, but they can enjoy the views from the walkway above. At the far end of the 12th Street Beach is Northerly Island, a 91-acre peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Northerly Island is a lovely natural area that features strolling paths, play areas, a field house, and a concert venue. It’s also a nesting point for migratory birds so dogs aren’t allowed.
At the 12th Street Beach, you will also find Del Campo’s Tacos (4), which offers tasty treats (including vegetarian options), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, live music a few nights a week, and a cute dog friendly patio. Dogs must be leashed and are not allowed on the tables (the owner told us they have actually had issues with dogs on tables). It’s perfect place for a lunch break or night cap with your dog!
After grabbing a snack, retrace your steps back around the planetarium and follow the path back to the Shedd (7). At this point, you can either take the lower, less congested path or switch to the Lakefront Trail (6), a narrow, two lane path popular with bikers and joggers. Both paths wrap around the back of the Shedd and along the lake. The advantage of the Lakefront Trail is that you will pass a small picnic area (9) and garden (8) with native plants and lots of butterflies. If your dog is anxious, I would stick with the lower path.
As a side note, the Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile stretch that extends north to Peterson and south to 71st Street. So, if you and your dog are super athletic, you can keep going! Ruby is many things but athletic is not one of them!
Once around the bend, you will have even more choices. You can head up to the Museum Cafe (14), between the Shedd (7) and Field Museum(12) for snacks, ice cream, trinkets, bathrooms and people watching. There’s also free Wifi courtesy of the Chicago Park District. Another option is to keep walking straight and follow the signs to dog friendly Grant Park (11) where you will find lots of green space and shade.
If you are feeling adventurous, you could also treat your dog to a ride on the water taxi (10) to Navy Pier! Dogs are free and welcome as long as they are well behaved and on a leash. Water taxis are a fun way to experience Chicago from a new perspective and are available at select locations on the lake and the Chicago River. Or follow the map and do all three options!
We are in the process of putting together a weekly calendar of dog friendly events in Chicago and ways to support local shelters and rescues. Have dog friendly suggestions, please let us know! Follow us on Instagram for more photos from dog friendly Chicago adventures and and of course, lots of Ruby cuteness.