The home of Carleton College and St. Olaf College, this town of 20,000 draws visitors for its annual Defeat of Jesse James Days festival and for year-round shopping in downtown buildings more than a century old.

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What to Do

Cowling Arboretum Fifteen miles of trails through woods and prairie attract walkers, joggers and bikers (as well as cross-country skiers in winter). Bird and wildlife watching is also popular at the 880-acre preserve along the Cannon River, and spring brings an impressive display of wildflowers.

Defeat of Jesse James Days A foiled 1876 bank robbery in Northfield gives locals reason to celebrate the first weekend after Labor Day. Kids love it when volunteers reenact the James-Younger Gang raid with pistols and horses at the scene of the crime.

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

Northfield Historical Society Museum  See the First National Bank where Jesse James' gang botched a robbery (and hear how townspeople fared in a shoot-out). Exhibits include the original blood-spattered bank ledger and a photocopy of the newspaper that recorded the event for the citizens of Northfield.

Shopping You could easily spend the day among the shops, galleries and boutiques in the red-brick buildings (many dating from the late 19th century and early 20th century) along Division Street. Among our favorites: The Sketchy Artist for art supplies and funky gifts; Northfield Arts Guild for paintings and other works by guild members; The Rare Pair for clothing and accessories.

Shopping along Division Street.
Shopping along Division Street.

Where to Eat

Goodbye Blue Monday The coffee shop serves excellent fair-trade coffees and teas, as well as delicious homemade cookies and pastries.

Ole Store Restaurant The signature Ole Roll-sweet dough rolled with cinnamon, brown sugar, butter and chopped pecans-packs diners in for breakfast.  The lunch and dinner menus are more contemporary, with options such as ahi tuna sliders, pear walnut salad and prosciutto-wrapped halibut.

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