35 Fun Things to Do in Northfield, Minnesota

Hiking to the falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is one of the best things to do in Northfield with kids

There are a ton of amazing things to do in Northfield, Minnesota. Being a college town, it offers everything from an active visual arts and music scene to great restaruants, bars, and breweries.

We are avid paddlers, so we love that the city of Northfield sits on the banks of the Cannon River and offers opportunities to explore the river via the numerous hiking and biking trails and via canoe or kayak.

So book a couple of nights at a local hotel or Airbnb and enjoy a much deserved escape! Its only a half hour from the Twin Cities.

Things to Do in Northfield – Food and Drink

Things to do in Northfield - Tasting at Tanzenwald Brewing
Image: Tanzenwald Brewing

One of our favorite things to do when visiting family in Northfield is to check out their growing food and beer scene. It feels like there is always something new to try and the restaurants and bars all seem to have a unique college-town flair.

You can check out recent restaurant reviews on Restaurantji.com

Visit a Brewery

There are three amazing breweries in Northfield: Tanzenwald Brewing, Imminent Brewing, and CHAPEL Brewing Company. Each provide a unique take on craft beer, and each are worth a visit.

Tanzenwald serves food on site and Imminent always has food trucks outside.

Read More: 14 Best Breweries in Northfield MN – The Definitive Guide

Try a Home-grown Cidery Experience

Northfield is home to Keepsake Cidery & Events, a hometown cidery. The best part is not only do they ferment the cider on-site, they also grow their own apples. You can enjoy a drink right on the banks of the Cannon River

Read More: 14 Best Breweries in Northfield MN – The Definitive Guide

Have a Tasting at Loon Liquors Distillery

Rounding out our favorite alcohol-based adventures is Loon Liquors Distillery. They specialize in made-from-scratch organic liquors and have a fun tasting room.

Read More: 14 Best Breweries in Northfield MN – The Definitive Guide

Try a Fun New Restaurant (Contented Cow)

Northfield is home to a number of unique eateries. Some of our favorites are:

There are also a couple of great pizza spots and Tanzenwald Brewing has a superb menu.

Visit Blast Ice Cream Shop

The Blast Ice Cream Shop is a seasonal ice cream shop located in the historic downtown Northfield on the beautiful Cannon River. They serve hundreds (yes hundreds) of ice cream treats to satisfy the entire family.

Be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for details on flavors and hours of operation.

Enjoy a Unique Breakfast or Coffee Shop

We love the small coffee shops and breakfast spots in Northfield. Tandem Bagels serves up the best bagels in the area and Brick Oven Bakery is the best hidden gem.

Other favorites include:

Things to Do in Northfield – Fun on the Farm

Things to do in Northfield, MN - Feeding Goats on a farm

Lets face it. We all need to spend more time outside.

Our favorite things to do in Northfield with kids revolve around agriculture. There are numerous family farms outside of town that offer the chance to pet animals, pick your own produce, and enjoy a day in the sun.

Harvest Apples at Fireside Orchard and Gardens

Fireside Orchard has been raising delicious apples for over 50 years. They grow 27 varieties of apples and specialize in tree-ripened produce.

They are not all apples, though! Come and check out their antique tractor collection, have a picnic by the Koi pond in their gardens, and shop away at their on-site store. We highly recommend their cold-pressed cider!

Red Barn Farm

Red Barn Farm is a unique wedding venue just outside of Northfield, MN. But that’s not why it’s on our list. Pizza night is the real reason!

The farm grows its own ingredients and hosts pizza nights occasionally throughout the warmer months. You can enjoy fresh pizza, tour their 10 acre farm, and listen to live music. It is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.

Shephard’s Way Farms

Shephard’s Way Farm in Northfield, MN has been making cheese from sheep milk for over 25 years. You can visit tour the farm and buy their delicious cheese.

They even provide a cheese CSA for those cheese lovers out there! They raise around 225 sheep, a couple of pigs, chickens, and ducks on the farm.

Go Berry Picking!

Northfield is home to excellent farms offering you-pick berry experiences. Lorence’s Berry Farm, Silkey Gardens, and Little Hill Berry Farm are all located just outside of Northfield and off a fun on-the-farm berry picking experience.

Be forewarned, most only accept cash or check.

Windy Willow Farm Adventure

Windy Willow Farm is the perfect place to take young kids. They offer an educational experience that hopes to bridge the gap between urban and rural lifestyles.

They offer playgrounds, tractor rides, opportunities to see and pet farm animals, and even a pedal cart track. Bring the kids and make a day out of it!

Things to Do in Northfield – Historic and Educational

Exploring First National Bank and historic Downtown Northfield, MN
Image: Northfield Historic Society

May are not aware, but Northfield was the beginning of the end for the James-Younger Gang. Take some time and explore the rich history and historic buildings in Northfield.

One of our favorite things to do in Northfield is to visit Cowling Arboretum. We love walking through and espeically like a stop at the Garden of Quiet Listening.

Northfield Historical Society Museum and Historic Bank Site

The Northfield Historical Society Museum is housed in the legendary bank known for its 1876 Jesse James shootout. It features local history exhibits & artifacts. It is not well known, but it was this particular bank robbery that ended Jesse James’ career as a successful bank robber.

If you are looking for a real adventure, then check out Defeat of Jesse James Days in early September. It is full of fun, food, and historical reenactments.

Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College Campus

The Cowling Arboretum is used as an outdoor classroom for multiple Carleton College courses and is also open to the public every day from 5AM to 10PM. The “Arb” as it is called consists of 800 acres of land and countless plant and animal species.

Stroll through the Garden of Quiet Listening

The Garden of Quiet Listening is a Japanese garden on Carleton College’s campus. If you’ve ever been to Japan, or strolled through a proper Japanese garden, then you’ll know that there is nothing more tranquil and peaceful.

We’d recommend a stroll after a long day exploring everything else that Northfield has to offer.

Follow the Outlaw Trail

Are you a real history buff? Or just fascinated by the wild west? Then turn your Northfield visit into your own reenactment of Jesse James’ failed robbery attempt at First National Bank of Northfield and escape through rural Minnesota.

Three of the stops are near Northfield: First National Bank, Archibald Mill, and Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

Norwegian-American Historical Association

The Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) was founded in 1925 at St. Olaf College. In addition to its research and preservation efforts, NAHA also hosts numerous events throughout the year.

Attend an Event at Northfield Arts Guild

The Northfield Arts Guild is where artists rejoice. They host galleries, music, theater, and more. We often host family events here, including a baby shower for our soon-to-be nephew!

Keep an eye on their event calendar. They host many kid-friendly events in addition to their normal adult-focused ones.

Visit Goodsell Observatory

Goodsell Observatory is located on the campus of Carleton College in Northfield, MN. The building was built in 1885 and houses three historic telescopes. It is also equipped with modern telescopes that are used for classes and open houses.

The Observatory hosts open houses most Fridays at 3:30PM for a physics speaker series and 9:00PM for a general open house.

Self-guided tour at Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau

NorthfieldHistorical is a collaboration between St. Olaf College, Carleton College, and the Northfield Historical Society. They created multiple itineraries to help visitors find hidden gems in Northfield, all of which are available on their Android and iOS apps.

The Downtown Walking Tour is a fun way to experience everything historic downtown Northfield has to offer.

Things to Do in Northfield – Outdoor Adventures

Things to do with kids in Northfield, MN - Hiking to the falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Frozen waterfalls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Northfield is a great stop if you are an outdoor lover. From hiking and biking to canoeing and kayaking, Northfield has it all.

Playing at the waterfalls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is one of our favorite things to do in Northfield with kids.

Hike to Caron Falls

Caron Park is a 60 acre park located 3 miles from Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. The park has 1.5 miles of trails, with the highlight being Caron Falls.

Hiking to the falls is one of our favorite things to do with kids in Northfield. The hike is easy, approachable, and the river is fun for kids to play in.

Explore the Canon River Wilderness Area

The Cannon River Wilderness Area is a 850 acre piece of protected land that contains the Cannon River and true Big Woods forest cover.

There are bathrooms, five miles of hiking and horseback trails, primitive campsites, and a canoe launch into the Cannon River.

Paddle the Cannon River State Water Trail

We are paddlers and love to explore new rivers. The Cannon River State Water Trail runs from Tetonka Lake to the Mississippi River. The water level is usually enough for canoeing and there are few rapids on the trail. There are dams thought that will need to be portaged.

If you are a paddler, this is a great river trail to follow!

Explore Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is one of our favorite State Parks. It is close to the Cities and has great hiking, camping, and a fun waterfall that kids can play in.

This part of the state originally was covered with old growth oak forests. Those forest have all but been turned into farmland apart from protected areas like Big Woods State Park.

Enjoy the shade of these majestic trees on a hot summer day!

Read More: 20 Breathtaking State Parks Near Rochester, MN

Walk around the Cannon River

The Cannon River runs right through Northfield and buts up to its historic downtown. It is surrounded by walking paths, restaurants, and bars. You are almost certain to find fishermen on either side of the cannon river dam.

Sechler Park is also close by, which has ball fields, playgrounds, restrooms, and drinking water.

Things to Do in Northfield – Shopping

Best things to do in Northfield with kids - Picking out books at Content Bookstore
Image: Content Bookstore

Who doesn’t love a little shopping? Downtown Northfield has a ton of unique shops, art galleries, and boutiques. Content Bookstore is by far our favorite shop to take our kids in Northfield.

Browse the Shelves at Content Bookstore

We love a good independent bookstor. There is just something about the endless rows of adventures yet to be read that really speaks to us. Content Bookstore has a large selection of books from all genres.

It also has a section called Kids’Content, which has a substantial inventory of toys, games, and kids’ books. It is one of the best things to do in Northfield with kids.

Riverwalk Market Fair

Riverwalk Market Fair is an art and farmer’s market held along the Cannon River in downtown Northfield, MN. It happens every Saturday from May 18th through October 28th from 9AM to 1PM.

It is a wonderful time to check out local artisans and locally grown produce, some of which comes from the farms mentioned above!

Small Art Galleries

Northfield is a college town with a burgeoning arts scene. Popular galleries include:

Shop the Unique Boutiques in Downtown Northfield

Northfield, MN has a number of great locally owned boutiques and many are located in historic downtown on Division Street. Favorites include:

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We are the Quills! An ordinary family sharing our extraordinary travel experiences. 


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