Northfield Minnesota

18 Things to Do in Northfield MN with Kids

Looking for a perfect family-friendly destination that combines small-town charm with a wealth of exciting activities? Search no further than the lovable Northfield, MN. 

Nestled in the heart of picturesque Rice County, Northfield offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and outdoor adventures, making it an ideal family getaway. From the great outdoors to quaint local shops, this vibrant Minnesota town will treat you with its beau. 

Read on, and we will guide you to a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences and highlight the top things to do in Northfield MN, that will captivate and entertain the whole family. And we hope with this guide, you and your loved ones create lasting memories as our family did. Get ready to embark on an adventure in a town brimming with adventures and surprises. 

Where is Northfield MN?

If you’ve never heard of Northfield, this town of over 20,000 people sits in Rice County in Minnesota, hugging a small part of Dakota County. It covers 8.53 square miles of area and is known for its line “Cow, Colleges, and Contentment,” showing how the town thrived from the high demand for cereal (farming in general) and Northfield’s educational progress. 

What is Northfield known for?

  • Flaten Art Museum
  • Get souvenirs from Makeshift Accessories
  • Enjoy the food at the Contented Chow 
  • Loon Liquor Company
  • Northfield Historical Society
  • Caron Park
  • Perlman Teaching Museum
  • Garden of Quiet Listening
  • Northfield Arts Guild Gallery
  • The Cowling Arboretum
  • Take a stroll at Cannon River
  • Explore Downtown
  • Waterford Bridge
  • Goodsell Observatory
  • Riverwalk Market Fair
  • Bridge Square Block Party
  • Defeat of Jesse James Days
  • Winter Walk

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Fun things to do in Northfield MN

Flaten Art Museum

With over four thousand masterpieces in its permanent collection, the Flaten Art Museum invites everyone to explore their inner artist. From prints and paintings to textiles from across the globe over various centuries, this museum at St. Olaf College Center for Art and Dance will take you on a journey of exploration. It is not one of those grandiose galleries where everything is in your face, with works from contemporary artists with lots of contempt. The Flaten Art Museum is so quaint it’s almost sacred. So if you love and appreciate art, visiting here is one of the best things to do in Northfield MN.

Get souvenirs from Makeshift Accessories.

This unique shop is one of the best places to get your memorabilia for Northfield escapades. With handmade pieces, there’s a touch of the town in each item. The place literally lives up to its name- makeshift keychains, rings, bracelets, and necklaces are out for grabs. You’ll find accessories made from military tank shell casings, machine plates, and carpentry items. Ever seen a Rolex spoon belt made into a ring? How about a money clip with a Buffalo Nickel? You can choose from a wide array of collections! 

Enjoy the food at the Contented Chow. 

You can expect an authentic English pub experience at the Contented Chow. Hiding discreetly on the lower level of an old building, the food and the taps here will satisfy you. And with the overlooking of the river by the deck and good music, it’s one of the best places to relax and let time fly by. 

Loon Liquor Company

All organic, all locally-sourced drinks are the mainstays at the Loon Liquor Company, the oldest distillery in Minnesota since its opening in 2012. You can drop by their Cocktail room and try out their selection, and no worries-it’s a kid-friendly place, so you can still visit even with small ones. The atmosphere is chill, and the staff is super friendly. And why not get a bottle or two for later? They offer a unique blend of classic spirits and a DIY kit to create your own cocktail. 

Northfield Historical Society

If you can’t attend the DJJD Event, dropping by the National Historical Society is your best bet to learn about the historic bank raid in Northfield in 1876. The tour will take you back in time with all the displays and artifacts from that day, including a saddle one of the gang members used and a tour of the actual bank they attempted to rob. It’s one of the most rewarding things to do in Northfield MN, for history buffs and anyone who wants to know the town better. 

Caron Park

You can explore 60 acres of land at Caron Park, but there’s a 1.5-mile trail you can follow, or you can just follow the stream that will lead you to a mini waterfall. During your journey, you’ll see a steel bridge and plenty of rock formations you and your kids can play with. The park also has a sheltered picnic area, so remember to pack up yours. Be here during summer or fall and see Caron Park at its best. 

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Free things to do in Northfield MN for kids

Perlman Teaching Museum

Carleton College Northfield Minnesota.

Carleton College offers a free visit to their Perlman Teaching Museum, where you can explore exhibits and collections from students, the faculty, and the community. Sitting right inside the Weitz Center for Creativity, more than 3200 items are in possession, ranging from photos and paintings to wood and metal works. Extend your budget and add this enriching activity to your list of things to do in Northfield MN. 

Garden of Quiet Listening

A piece of serenity from Japan hiding behind the Watson Hall at Carleton College, the Garden of Quiet Listening is a quarter-acre space with a stone lantern, shrubs, plants, and a cherry blossom tree, complete with a mini pond with bamboo where water drips and pivots it to the other side. It’s a serene place where you and your family can contemplate all the good things you have received, including your trip to Northfield. Kids might not find it as fun, but they will appreciate the beauty of this little piece of the East. 

Northfield Arts Guild Gallery

Add this stop to your itinerary if you want things to do in Northfield MN, at zero cost. The Northfield Arts Guild Gallery has an annual display of nine exhibits open to everyone from Tuesday to Saturday. Although it’s not an extensive collection, these artworks are meticulously done and will leave you contemplating. Kids might find it boring initially, but it’s an excellent spot to engage them and let their creativity flow. 

The Cowling Arboretum

Covering 800 acres, the Cowling Arboretum is another peaceful escape to mellow down after a whole day of adventure. There’s even a 2.7-mile loop trail you can follow. Taking a stroll amid the forest is enough to recharge your energies. You’ll also come across Lyman Lakes, which streams down nicely. You’ll also see different bridges that connect to various spaces, each having a personality of its own. It’s another free activity you can add to your itinerary of things to do in Northfield MN. 

Take a stroll at Cannon River.

Following the Cannon River is a simple activity, but it’s the best and most cost-effective way to get to know Northfield. Walking along the river will lead you to various points showcasing the town’s beauty and history. You’ll bump into the 6-foot Ames Mill Dam, a once functional dam used to power up the mill but is now decommissioned. Or, you and your fam can just get some food, settle on one of the benches, and munch while enjoying the view. If you have a line, throw yours, and you might be lucky to catch some smallmouth bass, black crappies, and bullheads. 

Explore Downtown

Walking around downtown will bring you to the heart of Northfield’s history and culture. Most of the buildings are still the same original ones from decades ago. You’ll even find an ancient boiler during your stroll. The beauty of the architecture around downtown gives a glimpse of what was once. Plus, the shops and restaurants downtown will provide plenty of new things to try. 

Waterford Bridge

This 140-foot-long steel bridge from 1909 is closed to anyone, but seeing this architecturally historic bridge is a worthwhile detour. Besides, it’s only roughly five minutes away from downtown. There’s now a new bridge next to it where everyone can cross. If you have a kayak or SUP, there’s a spot nearby where you can launch. The Waterford Bridge is decaying, with wildflowers and weeds growing through the cracks. Even the trail towards it is full of outgrowth. But it’s worth the effort if you want to see this historic spot for yourself. 

Goodsell Observatory

The Open House at Goodsell Observatory at Carleton College is a free event you can attend that usually happens on the first Friday. But if it’s cloudy, they cancel it out. Here, you’ll get face-to-face with the 16.2″ John Brashear refractor at the giant dome and the 8 ¼ ” Alvan Clark and Sons Refractor. The 8″ Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain LX200s is also available. All of them you can try during open houses. There are more telescopes and cameras on the lawn that you can also use when visiting. Don’t forget to add the Goodsell Observatory to your list of things to do in Northfield MN if you want a magical night during your trip. 

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Northfield MN Events

There are numerous local events at Northfield throughout the year. Here are some you might experience depending on which season you visit:

Riverwalk Market Fair

Happening every Saturday between late May to mid-October, you can explore the open market with various vendors, from artisan crafts to local produce, jewelry, and more. While wandering around, live music and freshly baked goodies make up for an ideal Saturday morning where you and your fam can feel like a local. 

Bridge Square Block Party

A party for the whole family running every third Thursday between May and September, the Bridge Square Block Party happening downtown is an excellent way to make new friends while in Northfield. Free and open to the public, it lasts from 5 PM to 7 PM with games and music to entertain the crowd. Just pack up a picnic or get some food from the nearby vendors and enjoy an evening enjoying the local ambiance for free. 

Defeat of Jesse James Days

Watch how the historic raid of the First National Bank of Northfield went on the reenactments, see a rodeo, witness the parades, and join the games at this local event between September 6 and 10. It’s a history-packed local tradition celebrated since 1948 to keep Northfield’s past alive. 

Winter Walk

Want to experience the local Christmas spirit? Joining the Winter Walk is one of the best things to do in Northfield MN. On this tour, you and your kids can enjoy riding sleighs, eating at restaurants, trying caroling, and wandering around the town to see its beauty during the holidays. 

Remember to double-check at Visit Northfield for updated schedules and other info on local events. 

Northfield, MN, truly shines as a family-friendly destination where nature, rich history, and a warm community create an unforgettable experience. 

From exploring historical sites such as the Carleton College campus and the Northfield Historical Society to experiencing the magic of nature at the Riverwalk and Sechler Park, Northfield has a lot of attractions that suit every family’s interests. The town’s commitment to preserving its heritage and creating engaging attractions ensures that there are consistently new things to try.

With its small-town charm, friendly residents, and family-friendly activities, this Upper Midwestern gem promises to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

So what are you waiting for?

Pack up and explore the wonders of Northfield MN!

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What are the top attractions in Northfield MN?

Here are some of the top attractions you must visit while in Northfield:

Flaten Art Museum
Get souvenirs from Makeshift Accessories
Enjoy the food at the Contented Chow 
Loon Liquor Company
Northfield Historical Society
Garden of Quiet Listening
The Cowling Arboretum
Northfield Arts Guild Gallery

You can also learn more about the best things to do in Northfield.

What are the best things to do with kids in Northfield MN?

Your kiddo will enjoy these activities in Northfield:

Take a stroll at Cannon River
Explore Downtown
Goodsell Observatory
Caron Park
Perlman Teaching Museum
Riverwalk Market Fair
Bridge Square Block Party

Click here to learn more about free things to do in Northfield for kids.