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12 Best Things To Do in Northfield, Minnesota

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As one year comes to a close and the next one follows hot on its heels, it’s no surprise we might feel that little itch of wanderlust. And since there’s no time like the present, more than a few will put traveling on their list of New Year’s resolutions. 

So, for those who don’t want to spend too much money in Las Vegas or experience the nightmare of booking a hotel on short notice in any city larger than Boston, Northfield, Minnesota, might be the place to crash our bodies.

One of CountryLiving.com’s “50 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America,” Northfield is a decently sized town of about twenty thousand that straddles the line between the Dakota and Rice counties in southern Minnesota. It is about 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Founded in 1856, this college town doesn’t lack things to do or places to see. There’s a plethora of history museums and art galleries to wander, several esteemed colleges, historic sites and top attractions out the wazoo, parks, and hiking trails, and great food and dinner options in the historic downtown district.

Now let’s get to our list of fun things the Northfield area has going for it that could reel just about anyone in for a visit. Whether it’s the holiday season or summer, plenty in this little town keeps you or the entire family occupied!

Things To Do in Northfield

1. The Flaten Art Museum

Girl In The Flaten Art Museum
Image from St. Olaf Art Facebook Page

Address: 1520 St Olaf Dr, Northfield, MN 55057, United States

The Flaten Art Museum is a unique little offshoot of the St. Olaf College Center for Art and Dance. The building was used as a library, a naval pre-flight school in WWII, and a rehearsal hall for a choir until it finally settled into being used as an art gallery in 1976. 

When you think of an art museum tied to a liberal arts college, it’s understandable that you might think it’s all about incomprehensible or jarring postmodern art crafted by teens or early twenties types who think they’ve figured it all out. Flaten, however, takes a different approach.

Their mission statement is about exploring values and vocation with down-to-earth exhibits and understandable goals. Whether you’re a fine arts connoisseur or a relative newbie, you’ll likely find something worth talking about for years to come at the Flaten Art Museum.

See Related: Things to Do in Minneapolis

2. The Perlman Teaching Museum

People at The Perlman Teaching Museum
Image from Perlman Teaching Museum Facebook Page

Address: 320 3rd St E, Northfield, MN 55057, United States

Located at the Weitz Center for Creativity on the Carleton College campus, the Perlman Teaching Museum is a much more conventional take on an art museum that focuses on preserving unique and exciting art from around the world. 

You might enjoy their collection of Inuit art prints or their Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo and Meiji periods. Or perhaps you’ll be more enthralled by their wide variety of European art, which dates back to the 14th Century. 

Whether you want photography, modern art, a collection of handmade historical pieces, prints by Australian Aboriginal contemporary artists, or even art from the students themselves, Perlman probably has your art fix covered and then some. 

3. The Cannon River Winery

Address: 421 Mill St W, Cannon Falls, MN 55009, United States

Tucked away in Minnesota’s Sogn River Valley, the Cannon River Winery’s picturesque vineyard has over 9,000 vines across its 40 acres. No trip through the area is complete without having at least looked at it, so why not see the rest while you’re there?

Scheduling a wine tasting, taking in the sights of the old winery building, or going on a tour—all that is possible and more at the Cannon River Winery. They even have an event calendar you can check out if you want something more specific. 

If you want to leave southern Minnesota with a taste of something you’ll never forget, go ahead and call this old Winery. 

4. Northfield Farmer’s Market

Northfield Farmers Market In Fall
Image from Northfield Farmers Market Facebook Page

Address: Riverside Lion’s Park, 419 8th St W, Northfield, MN 55057, United States

If it’s the right time of year and the weather allows, why not walk around the local farmer’s market? Everyone loves fresh produce, and the locals have plenty of it. The market is open from May through October, every Tuesday and Friday, and every third Friday year-round.

Rediscover the magic of seeing real produce grown by hand and given to you by the people who grew it. Look through the stalls and enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes of things the whole family can enjoy together. And don’t worry about it being too hard to find either. 

There’s no need to book in advance, no waiting list, and no cancellation fees if you can’t make it. As far as stress-free places to visit go, a farmer’s market is the most down-to-earth.

5. A Japanese Garden

Flowers Blooming In A Tree On Carleton College
Image from Carleton College Facebook Page

Address: Northfield, MN 55057, United States

Did you know that Northfield has a Japanese garden? Hidden away behind Watson Hall of Carleton College, this garden was designed by Dr. David Slawson, who studied for two years in Kyoto to get all the details just right.

Called “The Garden of Quiet Listening,” every last piece used in decorating this garden has a rich and storied history. Every stone has a purpose in being there, and every tree is carefully trimmed so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

So go ahead and pay this unique glimpse of another culture a visit. It’s relaxing, charming, and even a good backdrop if you want to take a few pictures to commemorate your trip. 

6. The Riverwalk Market Fair

The Riverwalk Market Fair
Image from Riverwalk Market Fair Facebook Page

There’s nothing quite like an old-fashioned riverwalk, and the one on the Cannon River is no exception. Every Saturday from the middle of May to late October, this riverwalk, in particular, comes to life with a beautiful market fair and hosts a great selection of vendors. 

Do you like watercolors? There’s a vendor for that. Pottery? They’ve got that too. Wood carving, photography, clothes, accessories, stained glass, cupcakes, even artisanal ghost pepper sauce– there’s a little bit of everything for those willing to look, and looking is half the fun!

Even if you don’t find anything, a riverwalk market like this is worth visiting for the experience alone. If the weather holds and you’re feeling up for it, then there’s no reason not to visit it if you can. Plus, it’s free!

7. Antique Shops of Northfield

Items At The Antique Shops Of Northfield
Image from Antiques of Northfield Facebook Page

Antique shopping, or “antiquing,” as the pros call it, is a great standby for many a lazy weekend. Very little compares to the experience of finding that perfect shop, that one piece to complete a collection, or spotting something from your childhood on display.

Old towns, in particular, are great places to find some truly unique items, and Northfield is no exception. There are antique shops, vintage shops, consignment stores, and more. Lovers of everything from vintage merchandise to silly hats will love what this town has to offer.

For some, it’ll be a fresh new experience, and they may find themselves so in love that it becomes the start of a new habit – or the continuation of an old one for seasoned shoppers.

No matter where you fall on that spectrum, make sure to wear comfortable shoes – if you get sucked in, you’re going to be on your feet for a while.

See Related: Cheapest Shopping Destination in the World

8. The Northfield Arts Guild Gallery

Address: 304 Division St S, Northfield, MN 55057, United States

The arts are taken very seriously in Northfield. This college town considers theater, music, and visual art highly. If you’re going to take a tour of the various galleries and displays on offer, the galleries maintained by the Northfield Arts Guild are some of the best.

Maybe you want to see the main gallery on the first floor of the Guild in downtown Northfield. Or maybe you’re in the mood to browse one of the satellite exhibition galleries and get away from the larger crowds the main building will surely have. 

There’s a lot to see, and the exhibits are constantly changing. If you don’t like the selection on one trip, come back a few months later and you’re sure to see something new. Come feast your eyes on the kind of art that artists enjoy.

9. The Kelsey and Haugen Theaters

The St. Olaf Theater Department
Image from St. Olaf College Facebook Page

Address: Speech-Theater Building, Northfield, MN 55057, United States

The St. Olaf Theater Department puts on a wide variety of productions yearly. With five mainstage productions plus a one-act play festival every year, the fresh talent at the college almost always has something new and exciting to share.

Now, this is no run-of-the-mill amateur production. The students at St. Olaf take their work very seriously, and it shows. The sets and costuming alone are fantastic, and they keep a carefully curated script library that you’re more than welcome to peruse at your leisure. 

Remember that tickets are paid for in cash at the box office, and you’re well on your way to seeing one of these productions in action. Smaller plays like these are always a delight, and with the passion on display, you’re bound to have a great time.

10. The Northfield Arts Guild Theater

Northfield Arts Guild Theater Participants
Image from Northfield Arts Guild Facebook Page

Address: 411 3rd St W, Northfield, MN 55057, United States

For those of you who want a more relaxed theater experience than what the college has to offer, the Arts Guild has you covered. Drawing from open-call auditions, actors consist of both Northfield residents and ones from the surrounding area, ranging from newbies to veterans.

Accessibility concerns? No problem! The Northfield Arts Guild takes pride in the work it does to keep things open and available to everyone, from ASL interpreters to its ADA-compliant auditorium. 

The Arts Guild puts on four mainstage productions every season, so be sure to check out what’s on offer beforehand. Grab a ticket for a popcorn musical or sit down with a travel-sized pack of tissues for a drama. Whatever tickles your fancy, you can probably find something to see here.

11. The Loon Liquor Company

Vodkas and Gins at The Loon Liquor Company
Image from Loon Liquor Co. Facebook Page

Address: 1325 Armstrong Rd #165, Northfield, MN 55057, United States

Craft beers are an art form all their own, and many would agree there’s a lot to be said for a company that prides itself on environmental sustainability as well as making a quality product. So, for those who would like to show their support while enjoying a good beer, the Loon Liquor Co. cocktail room may be the place to visit.

Using only locally sourced fresh ingredients, the people at Loon Liquors will happily throw something together for their walk-in customers, along with smoked meats from the barbecue next door. More hands-on types can even take a cocktail kit home for themselves.

Seasonal nonalcoholic in-house sodas, t-shirts, flasks, and 375ml bottles of all their spirits are also available. So, if you like beer, come on down to Loon Liquors.

See Related: Best Breweries in Rochester

12. Northfield Music Venues

Crowd in a Live Music Performance

Do you like live music? Do you enjoy freeform jam sessions at rowdy venues packed with college students? Then, Northfield may be just the right destination for you. This town’s music scene is thriving, with at least one or two events to visit almost every night.

The local indie music selection is an eclectic mix of Irish, bluegrass, Nordic, jazz, piano ballads, and more. And with indoor and outdoor concerts, this town’s event calendar is robust enough to leave anyone spoiled for choice.

So go ahead and round out your adventures with a visit to a live show, complete with locally brewed beer and homegrown music. There’s no better way to unwind after a long and exciting day exploring the rest of the town’s offerings.

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