Along the Cannon River, 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities, Northfield and Faribault draw visitors with Victorian downtowns, funky boutiques, cafes, riverside bike trails and parks, and cultural events bolstered by nationally known prep schools and colleges.

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Day 1

Start the day in Faribault with a bike ride along the Cannon or Straight rivers or a hike through the 750-acre River Bend Nature Center, which offers hands-on fun for little explorers, hot coffee, and comfy chairs for watching songbirds and hummingbirds buzz feeders and flowers. If it's been raining, check out the waterfall on the drive into the park.

Donahue's Greenhouse is one of the largest growers of clematis in the country.

Take a spin along Shumway Drive to admire the historic campuses of Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school (known for grooming men's and women's Olympic hockey players) and state academies for the deaf and blind.

Enjoy local artwork at Paradise Center for the Arts and check out displays on Faribault-made Tilt-A-Whirls at Keepers Antique.

Learn about the nation's only remaining mill that crafts raw wool into cozy blankets with a tour of Faribault Woolen Mill.  Look for discounted, slightly flawed blankets at the company store.

Farifault Woolen Mill.
Faribault Woolen Mill

For dinner, enjoy local blue cheese on a burger or Ravin' Craisin salad at The Depot Bar & Grill. Spend the night in the porch-wrapped, periwinkle Historic Hutchinson House B&B.

Day 2

In Northfield, stroll the River Walk and swing into Northfield Historical Society Museum to learn why the infamous Jesse James Gang rode here from Missouri and why some consider the thwarted robbery to be the last battle of the Civil War. Look for action-packed reenactments during special events, such as June's Taste of Northfield or September's Defeat of Jesse James Days.

Defeat of Jesse James Days.
Defeat of Jesse James Days.

Grab a light lunch at The Hideaway Coffeehouse and Wine Bar's bistro-style menu with items named for James.

Spend the afternoon fueling creativity with shops such as Northfield Yarn for knitters and spinners, art supplies and toys at The Sketchy Artist, and new seasonings and gadgets at The Measuring Cup.

Cap off an evening with drinks and Parmesan-crusted walleye at the The Ole Store Restaurant near St. Olaf College. Follow it up with a drive among the campus's stone buildings or a stroll through Cowling Arboretum, Carleton College's 880-acre preserve.

More information: Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 658-2548; visitingnorthfield.com and Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, (800) 658-2354; visitfaribault.com