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The City of Northfield

Where is Carleton? Is it really in the middle of nowhere?

Where is Carleton? Is it really in the middle of nowhere?


With covid-19, the school search has become a lot harder.

Many schools are no longer open to visitors and students have to attend virtual sessions to figure out what their dream schools look like. I recently had a conversation with a prospective student who expressed frustration with not being able to travel during their college search. “What is the college really like once I set foot on campus?”  And perhaps more importantly, “what is the city or town like where the college is located?”

Well, many people describe certain liberal arts colleges as “in the middle of nowhere,” but where is “nowhere”? And where is Carleton?

Minnesota. (Duh)

Carleton is situated in a lovely city called Northfield, but believe it or not, Northfield is actually in the south of Minnesota. So why Northfield? I guess it’s all very relative. Perhaps North of Iowa? Northfield is about a 45 minute drive from the twin cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. It is worth mentioning that getting to Carleton is fairly easy — students fly into MSP (Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport) and can take the Northfield Lines to travel between the airport and campus.

So what is Northfield like?

Northfield certainly isn’t a big city. With a population of roughly 20,000, it is a city that is quite relaxing. Carleton is located very close to downtown Northfield, about a 5-10 minute walk, depending on where you are on campus. There are quite a few restaurants down on Division Street that students really enjoy, including an Indian restaurant called Chapati, a Chinese restaurant named Mandarin Garden, as well as Hogan Brothers which has amazing ice cream at a great price, not to mention Kahlo, Reunion, and many other places that are totally within walking distance from campus. There are also a few cafes, including Blue Monday, Little Joy, and Cakewalk, too.

Reunion Restaurant
Reunion restaurant during covid-19 shutdown

Grocery stores are also within walking distance. Family Fare is a grocery store about 15 minutes walk from our Sayles campus center and the Just Food Co-Op is also about that far of a walk. Of course, we also have shuttles running around Northfield which students can ride for free. Stops include Target, express clinic, the local cinema, etc.

Cannon River
My friend Ayasa and I along the banks of the Cannon River

I really enjoy walking down Division Street, there are many local shops along the street and I love walking along the Cannon River, which runs through Northfield. It is nice to grab a smoothie from Blue Monday and sit along the river bank and watch people walk their dogs and enjoy the sun on a weekend afternoon.

Okay, now Northfield may sound quite nice, but will I be bored coming from a big city?

I grew up in a large city in China with 8 million people, so coming to Carleton was definitely a change of scenery for me. Surprisingly, I have found myself appreciating the nature around Northfield a lot. I like to take walks in the Carleton Arboretum, and stroll along the Cannon River. I even find myself enjoying the winter, with tons of winter activities and winter sports.

Archer House
My friends and I walking in downtown Northfield, passing the Archer House in the winter

Indeed, there is no denying that campus can feel like a bubble sometimes, so it’s important to get off campus once in a while. As I have previously mentioned, Northfield Lines transports students between campus and the cities and has many different shuttles running during the week. Our Student Activities Office (SAO) also organizes trips into the cities. There are also clubs at Carleton such as the CANOE club that takes students on outdoor trips. So there are plenty of ways to get off of campus. And oh, did I mention? Carleton shares Northfield with our brother/sister St. Olaf college, where students can easily visit by riding the shuttle.

During my two years in Northfield, I have found that it is a small city but it really has everything you need. You will be surprised by what kind of stores you can find around Northfield. We also have a Northfield Hospital that’s very close to campus, and students can arrange free rides to the hospital if necessary.

Stay tuned, and until then, stay safe!


Lucy is a rising junior who studies biology and Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS). Growing up in China, US, UK, and Germany, Lucy has found herself a new home at Carleton. Lucy loves music and is a huge animal enthusiast. She sings in acapella and is a liuqin player in the Chinese music ensemble. Lucy dreams of making wonderful nature documentaries like Our Planet one day. Outside of classes you will find her busy capturing animals all over campus! Meet the other bloggers!