By Sarah Kirchner Sheldon
Spend a week in Northfield this summer – and plan on keeping busy all week long.
For the outdoorsy types, the Northfield area is perfect for hikers, bikers, fishers, and campers alike. Carleton College has the amazing 800-acre Cowling Arboretum complete with forests, 150 acres of prairie restoration, and abundant bird- and animal-watching opportunities. The 15-mile trail system was ranked in Runner’s Magazine as one of the top 10 running locations in the country. Not a runner? A simple walk through the Arb provides beautiful scenery as well as fishing spots.
Take a short drive out of town to find Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. A quick, but slightly steep, hike will take you to the Hidden Falls waterfall. Eleven miles of lush, green, “big woods” trails are almost ethereal. Campers will find 51 drive-in sites that vary from open to wooded as well as four rustic walk-in sites. If water is more your thing, you can rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak from Gear Resource Outfitters in Dundas and float down the Cannon River.
Want to enjoy the outdoors but in a less outdoorsy way? There are many patios to choose from in Northfield. The Contented Cow and the Lily Padio offer live music most nights during the summer. Imminent Brewing, Tanzenwald Brewing, and Chapel Brewing all offer local brews – but Chapel’s patio provides gorgeous views as it hangs out over the Cannon River in Dundas. Two new patios will be open in time for summer – Reunion’s rooftop patio provides evening dining right in the heart of downtown, and Fairfield Inn & Suites’ patio let’s you enjoy the Cannon River on the north end of town.
Take a day perusing the shops downtown. Division Street has antique shops, clothing stores, gift shops, a kitchen store, a bookstore, craft and art supply stores – something for everyone. Great deals can be found at one of the local thrift stores. The Thrifty Parrot, Used-a-Bit, and the Clothes Closet are all just a few blocks from downtown. Local artisans sell their goods every Saturday during the summer at the Riverwalk Market Fair.
Sports fans can take in a local amateur baseball game. With two teams in the area, the Northfield Knights and the Dundas Dukes, there will be many opportunities to enjoy America’s favorite pastime. With five state championships and seven times as state runners-up, the Dukes are sure to have a good game.
It wouldn’t be summer in Northfield without an evening at the Red Barn Farm noshing on their handmade pizza made from ingredients grown right on the farm and fresh out of their brick oven. Bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair, your own beverages and sides, and get in line to order pizza. Keep busy while you wait for your pie by exploring the grounds, saying hello to the horses and chickens, or throwing around a frisbee. Stop in to the General Store to pick up salsa and chips or baked goods to round out your meal. The Red Barn Farm is only open for pizza Wednesdays May through October, and the third Sunday of each month, so plan accordingly.
Throughout the week, rest between your days packed of fun activities at one of Northfield’s many bed & breakfasts or hotels. The Contented Cottage, Northfield Inn, or Magic Door B&B provide quaint hospitality and are centrally located to whatever you plan to do in town.