Living in Minneapolis · Neighborhood Tours · small towns and exurbs · Uncategorized

“Cows, colleges and contentment”. What is going on in Northfield MN?

Do small towns appeal to you? I love them. They make me think of community and knowing your neighbors and the businesspeople in town. Especially when they have a charming, walkable, central area with great shops and restaurants where people will gather. Let’s see what is going on in Northfield MN!

Even better, in my opinion, is when the town is the home to a college – or in this case, two colleges! Having students and academic institutions around do a lot for small town life. It brings the energy of youth, the cultural pursuits of the college, and it also pumps the local economy full of money spent by students, teachers and staff.

Northfield MN is home to St. Olaf College (approximately 3000 students) as well as Carleton College (approximately 2000 students). Both are private, competitive, liberal arts schools founded in the 1800’s.

Northfield is located on the banks of the Cannon River and the downtown area centers itself on that feature. It was founded in 1855 and the charm of the historic downtown reflects the long history. Watch my video so you can get a live look at the downtown. It’s cute!

Photo of the river in downtown Northfield from Tripadvisor

Northfield Parks

For a small town, Northfield has a LOT of parks! There are 30 city parks!

Northfield has a dog park right on the river, 6 outdoor skating rinks in the winter and the Northfield Ice Arena for year round hockey and skating.

In downtown Northfield you’ll find Bridge Square which is the heart of the city and the site of summer concerts and festivals like the “Defeat of Jesse James Days” fest in September of every year – Northfield’s claim to fame is that the James gang once tried to rob the bank in downtown! Nothing like a little armed robbery to encourage an annual festival…

In addition to typical parks, Northfield has 10 soccer fields at the Spring Creek Soccer Complex, a public pool with a low daily price – I think I read $4.75 / day?!? at the Old Memorial Pool. Sign me up! Our pool up here is closer to $15/day. cray. If baseball is your thing – you will likely be playing at the Sechler Athletic complex home to 4 baseball fields and adjacent to the Mill Towns Trail.

From the state DNR site: “When complete, the Mill Towns State Trail will connect the cities of Faribault, Dundas, Northfield, Waterford, Randolph, and Cannon Falls, for a distance of approximately 25 miles. The trail will be an important link in the developing southeast Minnesota trail system, connecting the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail in Faribault with the western end of the Cannon Valley Trail in Cannon Falls.” I love a good trail! If you live in Minnesota, chances are good that you do too.

Awards- Northfield brings home the bling

Northfield racks up the awards, they clearly have the attention of those who like to rank cities. If you check out the city web site you’ll find a comprehensive list, but there were multiple mentions for things like “Best Cities to Live in America” and “Safest Cities MN”.

Northfield MN Schools

Niche.com gives the Northfield schools and overall grade of “A”. The district consists of 3 elementary schools: Sibley, Bridgewood & Greenvale Park with a total enrollment of around 1600 students and a student teacher ratio of 16:1. The elementary students then move on to Northfield Middle School & Northfield High School – each also graded “A” by Niche.com.

Demographics – who lives in Northfield?

Median household income in Northfield is higher than the national average at $70,148. The population of Northfield is around 20,000 people.

67% of residents are homeowners and the median single family home price is less than the twin cities metro median, but on a consistent rise over the past 3 years.

I also pulled information for townhomes. Those prices are HIGHER than the median in the twin cities… maybe a function of supply and demand?

Northfield Public Library

Image courtesy of the Friends of the Northfield Public Library

The Northfield library is right in the heart of downtown. It is in yet another historic looking building but the interior is throughly bright and modern. They finished an interior renovation in 2016, but kept the exterior in the character of this charming town. It was originally built in 1908 with a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie! Interesting bit of historical trivia.

Grocery Stores that serve the Northfield area

I did a video on Twin Cities groceries and now I’m adding this to everything… I love food. Knowing what shopping options there are (especially in a small town!) is important to me, so with that in mind I will now unveil the map o’ food:

I think because it’s a college town of relatively decent size, they have a good amount of options from budget choices like ALDI, to Cub & Target and up near the center of town is the co-op. I don’t know what a Minnesota town would be like without a natural foods co-op. It’s a thing here.

Senior Citizens

I kind of stumbled on this while I was researching but wow! I think this looks like such a great resource for the no longer spring chickens… Northfield has a senior center that has an absolutely gorgeous gym, classes in the arts and a bunch of continuing ed / lifelong learning classes. It seems like such a great resource for community and fun. I hate the thought of anyone staying put in their homes when there are options like this available. Check out FiftyNorth.

Other Attractions in Northfield…

The Flaten Art Museum resides on the campus of St. Olaf College and is devoted to the visual arts.

The Cowling Arboretum is a part of Carleton College. It is 800 acres of land that is open dawn to dusk daily to enjoy the outdoors. They do have trails for cross country skiing in winter!

The Goodsell Observatory is on the campus of Carleton College and is such a beautiful old building. In normal (non-covid times) the Goodsell offers open houses for people to come in and take a look. Looking forward to having that option again (soon)!

Goodsell Observatory image from mortarr.com

I think that’s it?

Northfield has a LOT going on for a town this size. I start these profiles thinking it will be short and sweet and end up finding more and more as I look. It’s great because I now feel like I have a good bit of knowledge about a lot of places around the twin cities – I love that for me, but I really love that it helps me help other people who are trying to figure out where they want to live.

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