I’m lucky to have a life filled with kids and critters that know how to have fun. After touring the best playgrounds with my daughter Elena, Salty Dog (my Golden Retriever) said it was her turn and so we headed out to round up the best dog-friendly places around. Hard work, I know!

Wilson Park - 625 NE Riverside Dr. in St. Cloud

Two weeks ago, I said Wilson Dog Park was the best dog park in town and I am sticking by that claim. Not only is it the best dog park, it’s the best place to take your dog. It’s so large, so scenic and so much fun!

The park is fenced on three sides and on the fourth the Mississippi River keeps dogs contained and cool. I mean c’mon, your own private beach? Wilson Park dogs are so lucky! And they know it – in the water, out of the water, back in after a tennis ball, back out and round and round in circles chasing their new friends.

Wilson Park is fun for dog owners too. I’ve met all kinds of really great people in the park; am I biased or are dog-people really the best people?  Fisher-people cast their lines from the shore of the river and lots of families take advantage of the great playground, the vast space, picnic tables and grills to gather together.

Whitney Park - Forest Dr. in St. Cloud

Now here is a friendly dog park! The people and dogs who visit this dog park know each other and if they don’t know you it’s only because it’s your first time there. I’ve always really liked this park because in addition to the fenced “off leash pet exercise area”, there’s what the City of St. Cloud calls a “natural” area along the Sauk River.

You cross this cute bridge over the Sauk River and find a fabulous area where your dog can swim and you can walk the shaded trails. Don’t tell anyone but in the fall you can also find tons of wild grapes hanging from the trees and they make a delicious jelly!

Now, here’s what I just learned about this park – it has a whole group of ambitious fans that call themselves Friends of Whitney Dog Park and they think the park can be even better. They are raising money to make improvements through events and donations. They’ve got a website and a facebook page and did I mention that they are friendly?

Sand Prairie – U.S. Highway 10 in St. Cloud

Just look at all this wide open space. More than 600 acres and Salty Dog has a paw print on each one of them. Sand Prairie is a Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area but, unlike most WMAs, it’s closed to hunting so don’t worry that you and your dog will have to duck for cover.

There are miles of trail across prairie, through woods, over wetlands and an observation deck an easy three-quarters of a mile walk from the parking lot provides a scenic rest stop for us walkers with only two legs.

To really experience the full thrill of Sand Prairie, make sure to visit from mid to late summer when the entire prairie is lit up with a dazzling array of native flowers. I mean, really…AMAZING! Sand Pines is also a fantastic place for wild life; bird enthusiasts will find themselves very busy, we’ve seen snakes and an alarming number of those prairie natives – the wood tick.

Oak Savanna Park Trails - 10775 27th Ave. SE in Becker

Becker?! Well, this is where Salty Dog and I live and this is one of the greatest parks we’ve walked so come out and visit us! The Oak Savanna Park Trails are just a portion of land that you and your dog can enjoy starting at the Sherburne History Center.

The History Center’s Legacy Trail (very informative if you’re a history buff) connects to the Oak Savanna which, in turn, connects to the Becker City Park. The Oak Savanna is a nature preserve (I love the signs that say ‘protected forever’) and the hiking trails are also equestrian trails. The Becker City Park grooms their trails in the winter for cross-country skiing, they have a stellar Frisbee-golf course and a top-notch playground in the park proper.

Sorry, I got off track…I guess I have more people and critters to keep happy than just my dog. Ask Salty Dog though – even if you’re doing other things - Oak Savanna will make your dog very happy.

The Ice Cream Parlor - Anywhere they serve ice cream

So, you’ve tromped all over central Minnesota. You’ve seen the sights, made some friends and put those sassy squirrels in their place.

Now, you are ready for a treat. Seriously, take your dog for ice cream. It’s awesome when you can make more than one of your charges happy with the same activity and ice cream makes everyone happy…especially you (OK…me).

These are the places Salty Dog and I have a lot of fun but we're always up for more fun. Tell us, where do you take your dog?