Things To Do in Minnesota: Northfield

Berit Thorkelson
| February 23, 2024 | 4 Minute Read
Waterfall with trees in background Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

There’s no shortage of fun spring things to do in Northfield. Home to Carleton and St. Olaf; it’s Minnesota’s quintessential college town.


Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

There are not one but two glistening waterfalls within the remnant of the Big Woods near Northfield. Hidden Falls (above) at the 3,000-acre state park rewards hikers after a gentle half-mile downhill slope. Keep an eye out for the delicate pinkish spring blooms of the endangered dwarf trout lily here—one of the only places in the world where it still grows. Another small, pretty waterfall awaits three miles away in 60-acre Caron Park.

Re-enactors ride horses down the streets of Northfield with spectators on right The Defeat of Jesse James Days

Historical Bank Robbery

Back in 1876, Northfield citizens famously prevented the notorious James-Younger Gang from robbing the downtown bank. The story is preserved by the Northfield Historical Society through the actual bank site, eye-witness accounts and various artifacts, including a saddle. Come again in September for a robbery re-enactment (above) during the annual Defeat of Jesse James Days.

Riverwalk Market Fair

Good news: The Saturday Riverwalk Market Fair kicks off its 2024 season on May 18. Explore the local vendors set up in historic downtown along the Cannon River from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through mid-October. Expect field-fresh produce, fine arts and crafts, ready-to-eat artisan foods, live music and events for all ages.


Patrons walk into a large red barn. Hilary Kay Photography

Red Barn Farm

You can’t beat the ambiance at this pizza place (above): Ten acres of southern Minnesota farmland where toppings are grown on-site and chickens peck about the dining area. The farm’s open for pizza on Wednesdays and select Sundays starting in mid-May, and reservations are required. Bring your own drinks and a blanket or dining surface.

Coffee Shop Culture

As you’d expect from any respectable college town, Northfield has more than its fair share of coffee shops. Two standouts to try: Goodbye Blue Monday, an eclectic community hub for three decades running, and Little Joy, a more recent favorite with a small patio, lots of happy plants, and a chill, modern vibe.

Outdoor deck with multiple tables and chairs Marriott

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, Northfield

The AAA Three Diamond Fairfield on the edge of downtown takes full advantage of its Cannon River placement, and it offers views from certain rooms, as well as from the indoor pool and the lounge with a spacious deck (above). Choose from rooms or suites with comfortable sitting areas. Additional perks include free breakfast and underground heated parking.

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