Things to Do and See in Minnesota

St. Olaf College is located in Northfield, Minnesota, a small city, which is 45 minutes by car from Minneapolis and Saint Paul. These two cities have been nicknamed the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities Metropolitan area (nearly 60% of the state lives there) has a population of 3 million. The state of Minnesota is 5.5 million. Minnesota is the 12th largest state in the U.S. by area, the 21st most populous, and number 10 for median income. Minnesota, like most of the U.S., was home to numerous Native American tribes before White European settlers arrived. Minnesota was originally admitted as the 32nd state to join the Union on May 11, 1858. The state is named after the Minnesota River, which is believed to originate from Dakota, one of many Native American languages, meaning sky-tinted water. The state has gained the nickname of the Land of 10,000 Lakes due to its abundance of natural lakes, which number over 15,000. The largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior, lies on the eastern part of the state. The Mississippi River also flows through southeastern Minnesota. Minnesota, and especially the Twin Cities Metropolitan area, has much ethnic diversity, including large Latino/Hispanic, Hmong, Somali and Vietnamese communities.


Things to Do On Campus:

  • Go to a dance at the Pause—a lot of times these dances will have themes and you can dress up and go with a group of friends. Many events are posted at
  • Join a student organization and meet new people while learning about things that interest you.
  • See a FREE newly released movie at Viking Theater in Buntrock Commons—there is a different one every week, usually playing three times per day on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Attend chapel time— every morning for 30 minutes. Students, professors, and guest speakers get invited to talk about issues that are important to them. If that doesn’t interest you, try going to Meditation Club! They meet every day during chapel time in the undercroft below chapel. There is also a Lutheran chapel service on Sundays.
  • Go to free lectures and talks. There are many throughout the year hosted by various departments on campus. Look out for flyers posted in Buntrock or your email inbox for announcements.
  • Take a trip down to the St. Olaf natural lands and visit the wind turbine while you’re at it. The natural lands are a great place to go stargazing on a clear night before it gets too cold.
  • Order a pizza from the student run kitchen ‘the Pause’ and watch a movie with friends!
  • Attend a theatrical performance in Kelsey Theater. St. Olaf students receive one free ticket per production with a valid student ID number.
  • Get creative in The Cave. The Cave is equipped as a working space with technology, tools and supplies to help give shape to ideas, including 3D printing, textiles, electronics and modeling materials.

Things to Do in Downtown Northfield:


  • Occasionally you will hear (usually by word of mouth) about a dance in downtown Northfield. You can get there by bus, walking, or sharing a taxi.
  • There are many nice places to eat, whether you go out with friends for dinner or decide to get off campus to study for a while. Here are some places that students love to eat:
    • Chapati (Indian food)
    • Ole Store Restaurant (great for breakfast and for their specialty, the Ole Roll)
    • Hogan Brothers (known for their sandwiches and ice cream).
    • Goodbye Blue Monday (quiet cafe where you can study)
    • Tandem Bagels
    • The Hideaway
    • Mandarin Garden
    • El Triunfo
    • Tokyo Grill
  • Cannon Valley Cinema 10- go watch a movie with friends! Student tickets are $5.
  • There is a bowling alley that can be accessed by bus.
  • The Riverwalk Market Fair runs every Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm in Downtown Northfield. Many local artists and shops will come to share their products by the river downtown!
  • Visit the Carleton College campus (another small college in Northfield). Maybe grab a dinner there with some friends (our meal plan works at both of their cafeterias and one has an ice cream machine) and visit the Cowling Arboretum (better known as ‘the Arb’), which is almost 900 acres of woods and prairie that you can walk, run, or bike through.
  • Make a trip to Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park! It is only a short drive from campus and is a beautiful hiking spot!
  • Jesse James Days, is one of the largest outdoor celebrations in Minnesota! Check out more info at

Other FUN Things to Do in Minnesota:

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  • Take a trip to the Mall of America. There are shuttles that can take you from St. Olaf to the Mall and back for $15 each way. It’s a great place to grab food, go shopping, ride a roller coaster, or just hang out! The Twin Cities Premium Outlets are also a 10 minute bus ride (about $1.75 one-way) from the Mall, located in Eagan.
  • The same shuttles can also take you from St. Olaf to Minneapolis and back for $15 each way.
  • Go to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis! They have free admission the first Saturday of every month, as well as every Thursday night from 5-9pm! You can also go across the street to the sculpture garden, which is always free.
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is always free.
  • Visit the Minnesota Zoo or the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory (FREE)!
  • University of Minnesota\Dinkytown: You can feel a glimpse of the bigger American university experience. Also has a lot of more diverse restaurants.
  • Bde Maka Ska in Uptown, Minneapolis: formerly known as lake Calhoun. Has some beautiful sceneries during the warmer weather, fall or spring. You can also experience a little bit of lake life. There are many restaurants and dessert/coffee shops along the beach or in Uptown area.