Northfield Is Hidden Minnesota Treasure



by Mike virgintino,

Northfield is where history, art, culture, scenic Minnesota countryside and hometown friendliness come together. Northfield, Minnesota, was founded during 1855 on the banks of the Cannon River. But, it was September 7, 1876 that gave the town its place in history. Jesse James and his gang rode into town to rob the First National Bank.

By 1880, the town had grown to 2,300 people. Flour milling, an early successful industry, already was in decline. Dairy farming began to replace wheat farming, and Northfield became the center of the Holstein cattle industry. This led to the famous description of Northfield as “The City of Cows, Colleges and Contentment.”

Today, while agriculture continues to be the area’s largest industry, Northfield has become the home to several leading liberal arts colleges – Carleton College and St. Olaf College. The current population is about 15,000, which includes nearly 5,000 college students.

Northfield’s Recreation and Sports

The town’s parks and recreational areas provide a variety of activities, including canoeing and golf during the summer, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice skating during the winter, and just strolling, walking, hiking and biking during spring and fall.

The recreation areas include:

  • Ames Park and Riverside Commons: Stroll along the scenic Cannon River and take in the view of the 19th century downtown historic district.
  • The Carleton Arboretum: 400 acres of secluded woods and trails through local hills and along the river valley. It features walking and hiking trails, cross-country skiing, nature observation and an exercise trail.
  • The Cannon River Wilderness Area: A county park with wood acres along the river valley.
  • Skating and hockey: Indoor ice skating is available at the Northfield Arena from November through March. Outdoor facilities include five well maintained rinks in scenic parks, at the high school and at the colleges.
Northfield’s Celebrations, Attractions

For such a small town, many events are held throughout the year and focus on history and family fun. These include:

  • Defeat of Jesse James Days (weekend following Labor Day): The four-day festival celebrates the defeat of the James-Younger gang’s attempt to rob the First National Bank. Events include re-enactments of the raid, a rodeo, old-time tractor pull, beard judging contest and an arts festival.
  • Outlaw Trail: The route the James-Younger gang took as they rode through the area during 1876.The Chamber of Commerce offers a self-guided tour brochure. A guide service is available for tour buses and large groups.
  • Detour Days: Dundas, Northfield’s neighbor, schedules activities during September that include family baseball tournaments, kids games, evening entertainment and a street dance.
  • St. Olaf Christmas Festival: Thousands of visitors make the annual pilgrimage to enjoy this famous December music festival.
Locate Northfield on the Map

Northfield is situated on the most southern border of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Travel time from downtown Minneapolis-St. Paul and the international airport is about 45-60 minutes. Highways 19 and 3 intersect in Northfield.

For more information, contact the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce at 507-645-5604.

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