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10 Things to Do in Northfield, MN

Canoeing, shopping, craft coffees are among the many things to do in Northfield.

By Kevin Litwin on April 28, 2016

Northfield MN
Northfield / Courtesy of Paul Carnahan under a CC 4.0 license.

There is plenty – yes, plenty – to do throughout the entire year in Northfield, including the following entertaining options:

Navigate the Cannon

Rough it a bit in the Cannon River Wilderness Area, which features a canoe launch to the Cannon River, four primitive campsites and five miles of hiking and horseback trails. Also on site is a long wood-beam footbridge spanning the river that provides great views of abundant wildlife and fish.

Shop Fresh

Do yourself a favor (and flavor) by attending the Riverwalk Market Fair on Saturday mornings from early June to mid October. The open-market hotspot is situated at Bridge Square along the Cannon River in the downtown district, with local produce, artisan crafts and live music among the attractions.

Live It Up

Get away for a night or two and relax at the historic Archer House River Inn, which has 36 individually decorated rooms along with shops and restaurants under the same roof. Also in Northfield is Magic Door B&B, an 1899 Victorian home with a Summer Suite outfitted with a whirlpool room.

Crave Craft Coffees

Satisfy your caffeine fix at one of many coffee shops that call Northfield home, including Caribou Coffee that offers bagels, scones and egg-white wraps. Other local java joints include Bittersweet Café, Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse, HideAway Coffeehouse & Wine Bar, and James Gang Coffeehouse.

Witness the Reenactment

Watch out for bullets (kidding) along Division Street in September when witnessing the goings-on associated with The Defeat of Jesse James Days. The annual outdoor festival occurs the weekend after Labor Day, with townspeople reenacting an 1876 bank robbery that took place at the still-standing First National Bank of Northfield building.

Smother Nature

Utilize the 20 miles of trails, fields, gardens and niche areas at Cowling Arboretum, known locally as “The Arb” and located at Carleton College. The 900-acre eye-pleasing attraction is open to the entire community, and spotting wildlife creatures is a common occurrence.

Grab Your Helmet

Billed as the best bike park in Minnesota, Highland Mountain Bike Park sets the gold standard for anyone who likes the excitement of mountain biking. Several trails range from easy to intermediate to expert, and the park has an experienced staff to assist bikers of all ages and skill levels.

Feel Contented

Try the bubble and squeak (the what?) and other British pub grub favorites at The Contented Cow on the east bank of the Cannon River. Besides out-of-the-ordinary food choices, the Northfield tavern with a British accent has big screen TVs, 13 beers on tap and schedules live acoustic bands every weekend.

Visit St. Olaf

Spend some time at St. Olaf College, where a typical day could include attending free community events like a nationally recognized art exhibit, student choir recital, a world issues dialog, jazz concert, public scavenger hunt, theatrical production and a women’s softball game.

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