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Pick Your Own Escape: Northfield Minnesota

Northfield Minnesota is a city with a serious identity crisis.  On one hand, Northfield is a sleepy, quiet little town located on the banks of the Cannon River about 45 minutes south of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Northfield Minnesota Sign

What is not always apparent on the surface is Northfield’s alter ago as a hip, trendy college town filled with great restaurants, a great main street filled with enticing shopping opportunities and lots going on.

Northfield is a diverse city with a great vibe, making it a satisfying day trip or a great base for a weekend exploring southern Minnesota.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

Outdoorsey/Nature Lover/Granola Eating Hippie:

Ok, that is a pretty big stereotype.  Sorry…just trying to get across the idea that Northfield has some great natural spaces to escape to.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Hidden Falls: Hidden Falls is located in Nerstrand State Park, a 10 minute drive outside of Northfield.  The falls  are reached by treading down some really lovely hiking trails.  For nature nerds, the park boasts the only dwarf trout lilies in existence (a rare wildflower) and a stunning old growth forest.  It has a great picnic and kids play area.
  • Carleton College Cowling Arboretum:  A natural retreat right next to downtown Northfield, the Carleton Arboretum (the Arb, for short) provides 880 acres of habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities year round.  The 15 miles of trails have been commended as some of the most beautiful running/walking trails in the country, and they are groomed for cross country skiing in the winter.
  • Eat lunch at Sitting by the Cannon River:  The cannon river offers beautiful opportunities to take a nature break right in the center of Northfield.  Why not pick up a healthy lunch from the deli at Just Foods Coop nearby and eat on one of the many benches by the riverside.  Ducks and other wildlife are frequently seen here, and the waterfall is a picturesque photo opportunity.

Northfield Cannon River

History Lover:

  • Northfield Historical Society: A visit to the Northfield Historical Society should be the first stop on a history tour around Northfield.  They can enlighten you about the unique story of a certain band of outlaws that used to roam these parts, as well as other facts of historical significance.
  • Outlaw Trail Tour:  Stop by the Northfield CVB for a brochure outlining a self guided tour called the Outlaw Trail Tour.  This self guided tour will provide further insight into the above mentioned gang of thugs and into the general history of the Northfield area.
  • Stay At the Archer House:  A visit to Northfield for a history over would not be complete without a stay at the historic Archer House.  In a grand building built in 1877, the Archer House sits stately in elegant on one end of Division Street in Northfield.
  • Dine at one of the great restaurants located in the historic buildings along Division Street.  My suggestions?  For an extensive menu of home cooked favorites in a warm and cozy atmosphere, check out The Tavern of Northfield.  Looking to experience an authentic piece of Brittish history?  Then head for The Contented Cow, a British pub on Northfield.  Both restaurants offer patio seating with a view of the cannon river in the summer and live music on various nights.

Northfield Archer House


  • Shopping on Division Street:  Northfield Minnesota is a shopping destination!  Divison Street is Northfield’s main shopping drag, and it is filled with one of a kind stores that you can’t find anywhere else.  From unique clothing stores to antique stores that you will want to rummage in for hours to gift stores with individualized gifts for everyone on your list!

Northfield Division 1 Street

Artsy and Creative:

  • Spend a Saturday visiting the Riverwalk Market Fair:  Held every Saturday from June 2 – October 27 (they also have selected winter dates for an indoor market), the Riverwalk Market Fair features local artists, eclectic vendors and artisan foods for your perusal.
  • Shop for unique, handmade gift items:  Visit the Eclectic Goat in Northfield for “Hip Handmade Goods”.  Pick up a gift for that hard to shop for friend…or heck…why not pick up a nice gift for yourself, too!
  • Enjoy some theater, music or dance:  Check out the Northfield Arts Guild for the scoop on what is going on in Northfield!
  • Visit Unique, local art museums and galleries:  Northfield has a number of wonderful spots to see art:

Perlman Teaching Museum: Carleton College
Flaten Museum: St. Olaf College
Northfield Arts Guild Gallery: Located in the Northfield Arts Guild

Gardens Galore:

Northfield Japanese Garden

  • Get your garden fix at a family owned garden store:  Ecogardens is located on Division Street in Northfield.  It is a family owned garden store that focuses on organic/eco friendly garden products and practices.
  • Apples, pies, cinnamon doughnuts, and roses oh my!:  A stop at Fireside Orchard, located just outside of Northfield on Highway 19, is a treat for the senses.  When you walk inside the store, the tangy aroma of fresh apples mingles with the irresistible scent of cinnamon and caramel and tickles your nose.  Buy some apple cinnamon doughnuts (made fresh onsite!) and some fresh apple cider and walk outside through a garden filled with sweet scented roses to sit on a gazebo overlooking a lovely pond.  Don’t forget to pick up a bag of apples (or two!) on your way out…the seconds are a great value for cooking!
  • Homegrown Goodness:  Northfield has an active local food community.    The Northfield Farmers Market takes place May through October in Riverside Park on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.   Need more local food action?  The Just Foods Coop is a super place, and it is just down the street.

Northfield Just Food





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