Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Charming Northfield, Minnesota August 5, 2019

A pedestrian bridge crosses the Cannon River in the heart of downtown Northfield.


CHARMING. That word, when tagged to towns, seems overused. But I attach that adjective to Northfield because it fits.


As a fan of historic architecture, I appreciate all the old buildings that define Northfield’s downtown.


This college town, hugging the banks of the Cannon River in southern Minnesota, charms with its downtown historic architecture,


On the Carleton College campus, a lovely nature area.


its natural beauty,


Message on the exterior of the Northfield Arts Guild.


its artsy focus,



A patch of tomatoes grows in the boulevard in this bike-friendly city.


its front-yard flower and vegetable gardens,


The entry to The Contented Cow.


its home-grown shops and eateries, and much more.


A section of a poem stamped into a Northfield sidewalk.


Think independent bookstore, Content. Think The Contented Cow, a British style pub. Think Tanzenwald and Imminent breweries and Loon Liquors Distillery and Cocktail Room. Think Sidewalk Poetry, public art sculptures, the Northfield Arts Guild. Think the First National Bank of Northfield (robbed by the James-Younger Gang) now turned historical society.



Today I feature a few photos from Northfield in images taken after the rain finally stopped on a recent Saturday. Enjoy this glimpse of a community that bills itself as the place of “cows, colleges and contentment.” That fits given the rural setting, St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges, and the seeming contentment of those who live and visit this city.


The river runs through, making Northfield’s downtown especially picturesque.


TELL ME: Have you visited Northfield or do you live there? If so, tell me what you love about this town. Or tell me about a similar community you would tag as charming.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


25 Responses to “Charming Northfield, Minnesota”

  1. Almost Iowa Says:

    Northfield exemplifies the term lifestyle. To live be there is to experience a style of living. It is a place where architecture, nature and culture combine to make something truly unique. For some people, it is what they do every day, for others, it is to be experienced in the evening or on weekends, either way, it is a vision of how to live.

    There are many ways of “how to live”, be it small towns, inner-city, “the burbs” or like Northfield, “the burgs” – we all have to find what fits, because one could not think of a sadder thing than living in a place or a style of life that we are not happy with. It is like having a job we hate.

  2. Marine on St Croix. Much smaller but we think it is charming.

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    Just lovely! This is how I remember Minnesota when I was young and we often took the backroads through towns and cities. This is a paintbrush kind of place where a person could put their folding chair and easel out and start painting. Aren’t bridges interesting? Some have a unique architecture!

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    Thanks for featuring Northfield. It is a charming town. We moved here 25 years ago and have enjoyed living here ever since.

  5. BERNADETTE Thomasy Says:

    Northfield holds a special place in my heart. On a weekend in Nov. 2015 my two sisters, my mother and I had a rare “girls weekend” in Northfield. We stayed at the old hotel and laughed and cried reading and reminiscing with the first pages we had written for our book Under Minnesota Skies. Needless to say the weekend yielded dozens more ideas and stories and a commitment that we would preserve and share our family story. Much earlier in the 1960s Northfield gave me my first taste of college life. As a high school sophomore I attended a four-day Junior Classical League convention at St. Olaf College. No one in my family had been to college so this was a big deal and furthered my aspirations to attend college.

  6. The Tampa Bay region is massive and has its hustle and bustle, but there are small towns/neighborhoods within that region that remain charming, quaint, small community, etc. The town I currently live in is charming with its downtown area, baseball, access to water be it the marina or hitting the beach, plenty of craft breweries (8 and continue to add new ones) and places to eat, great community, artistic and athletic, etc. I have fond memories of growing up near Northfield – I would go out of my way to go to the library there as well as do a little shopping. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  7. I want to go!! Lovely Photos, Audrey.

  8. BERNADETTE Thomasy Says:

    Oops it was Nov. 2013 for our weekend. Thanks for putting Northfield on the charm radar.

  9. As I mentioned in a previous comment, we just moved to Northfield this weekend and I am so excited! Thanks for awesome list of places to check out. Our new place has a perfect view of the Cannon Valley Coop grain elevators and beyond that, the farms are illuminated by the setting sun. I love this view and the trains I can hear go by. It feels like a good place to start a new chapter in our life with our son starting kindergarten here in the fall. Charming indeed!

    • You are going to love Northfield for its charm, its beauty, its arts scene, colleges (think theatre, music, art galleries, once-a-month open to the public observatory at Carleton College) and much more. What a great place for your family to restart and for your son to start school.

  10. Beth Ann Says:

    Of course I love all the great photos fromNorthfield . Your love of small town shines through in your photographs as always. I have driven past but never stopped so your post helped me see it through your eyes.

  11. jhc1218 Says:

    Northfield is one my favorite nearby towns. It’s less than a 30 minute drive, but feels like a mini-getaway. The girls love the cupcake and art supply shop, and I love the artist guild and breweries.

  12. Susan Ready Says:

    Nice overview of the town and a new restaurant to try will certainly bring you back for more adventures. Loved the poem in sidewalk as it reminds me of a St. Paul sidewalk project many years back

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