Plan Your Day Trip to Northfield, Minnesota
Northfield, Minnesota is the perfect place for your next day trip. It’s a quaint town located about 40 miles south of the Twin Cities. Around 1914, Northfield declared its official town slogan “Cows, Colleges and Contentment.” In 2014, Northfield ranked number two for the best small town in the country.
This charming river town has beautiful parks, great restaurants with outdoor patios, farmer’s markets, and a handful of very trendy shops. I spent three years living just outside downtown Northfield, and I absolutely love this town. Looking to learn more about Northfield’s history? Visit the Northfield Historical Society and learn more about the town’s unique history and the James-Younger gang bank raid that happened in 1876.
Exploring Northfield’s Best Spots
I’ve been to Northfield many times and even lived there for three years. Recently, I took my friend, Natalie, from Nattie Up North, who had never been! Check out this awesome video she created documenting our day exploring. We hiked through Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, checked out the shops along Division Street, visited a farmer’s market, and had lunch at one of my favorite breweries in town.
1. Walk Around the College Campuses
Spend time walking around the campuses of Northfield’s two colleges, Carleton College or St. Olaf College. Both colleges have beautiful buildings, old trees and colorful gardens. Carleton College also has a massive arboretum open to the public for walking or biking.
2. Spend Time Shopping on Division Street
The main street that cuts through town is called Division Street and it runs parallel to the Cannon River. In the summers there are farmer’s markets set up in the town square selling baked goods and coffee, along with handmade crafts and home goods.
You can also spend a good chunk of time looking around the gift shops on Division Street. One of my favorites is the Rare Pair, which sells high-quality wool sweaters, shoes, and jewelry. There is also an antique shop, a yarn store, an independently owned bookstore called Content, and many other great shops.
3. Visit Northfield Olive Oils & Vinegar
I love spending time in olive oil shops. They smell amazing and sometimes you can sample the olive oils too! This shop is right in the town square and has a wide variety of vinegar and oil options with unique flavors like Key Lime, Oregano, Thai Lemongrass, and Elderflower White Balsalmic Vinegar. You can purchase large bottles or tiny ones to gift to friends.
4. Enjoy the Huge Selection of Restaurants
Northfield has a large selection of food options. There’s the Contented Cow with a great outdoor patio facing the Cannon River. They often have live music too. Chapati is an Indian restaurant with very cool decor and big portions.
We also love going to Fielder’s, which is classic American food, burgers, sandwiches, and salads. They have a huge menu so there is a great variety to meet everyone’s preferences.
Reunion is a newer upscale restaurant on Division Street. The prices are a bit more than the surrounding restaurants, but it’s nice to have a fancy option in town. We also love Froggy’s, which has a large outdoor seating area right on the river.
5. Check Out Northfield’s Two Breweries
Northfield has two breweries on opposite ends of town. We love visiting Imminent Brewery for a laid-back vibe. They always have great food trucks and recently started serving food in-house. This is our go-to spot, and I love getting a flight to try their ever-changing beer list, like a seasonal blueberry beer!
We also love going to Tanzenwald Brewing Company, which is near St. Olaf College. There is a small, intimate indoor space, and two outdoor patios, one in front and one in back. They have great beer and incredible burgers, tacos, and sandwiches! My husband said his burger was one of the best he’s ever had.
6. Visit a Berry Farm and Practice Yoga
One of my favorite places in Northfield is the Heartwork Yoga studio. They often partner with other local businesses for events, like the time they hosted a free yoga class at family-owned Little Hill Berry Farm. The farm is large and the berries are so sweet! Filling your pail with fresh berries is definitely a fun activity to do with friends and children.
7. Have a Picnic at a Pizza Barn
Picnics in general are a fun way to be outside, but why not do it at a pizza farm! When we went to the Red Barn Farm in Northfield, we brought our own chairs, blanket, wine, and dessert. The pizzas are prepared in a wood-fired oven and served piping hot! There are also horses and chickens, and visitors are encouraged to walk around and enjoy the property.
8. Take a Hike at a State Park
The Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is about one hour from Minneapolis and a short drive from downtown Northfield. This is a state park so there is a state park entrance fee of $7/day or $35/year. Once inside the park, you’ll encounter a waterfall after just a few minutes.
After enjoying the view of the waterfall, I suggest you continue on the dirt path that winds around this heavily wooded peaceful, quiet trail. I find that the waterfall tends to be a crowded area, but once you move beyond it people spread out, so it’s easy to lose the crowd and spend time alone with nature.
Enjoy This Quaint River Town
Northfield is one of my favorite places in Minnesota. Every time I visit I’m reminded of how adorable this quaint river town is and there always seems to be something fun to do! You can easily pack a lot of fun into a day trip. And if you have time, spend a weekend. It’s a really lovely town. If you want to learn more about how to spend the perfect day outdoors in Northfield, check out my podcast episode on Locals Know Best where I speak all about the town!