For most, it takes hours to get here: an early-morning plane ride, transfers to far flung places before an hour-long bus ride past waving fields of corn. And for most students, Northfield feels like a different place. Far from the metropoles and suburbs that they call home, it seems caught in a turn-of-the-century time warp. It’s not hard to imagine Jesse James galloping through Division Street today, past sturdy Swedish merchants and farmers.
Look more closely, though, and you’ll find that Northfield has its own subtle charm. Here, strangers greet strangers on the sidewalk and townies meet to share the latest gossip at the watering holes along Division Street. The unmentioned but ever-present backdrop is the bucolic Minnesota countryside which lends the town its old-world charm.
1:00 pm Friday | Sayles Café
Take your pick of a wide variety of made-to-order wraps, salads, and sandwiches here in Carleton’s student commons, the campus’s intellectual center of gravity. As you eat, enjoy some of the best people-watching higher education has to offer. If you’re so inspired, participate in a weekly ritual: buy your daughter or son “Friday flowers” from Forget-Me-Not Flowers then stuff them in their mailbox. Read your copy of the Carletonian to see what’s happening on campus. If you want to read what students are REALLY saying, read the Carleton Literary Assocation Paper (C.L.A.P.) – just don’t say we didn’t warn you!
3:00 pm Friday | Campus Tour
Take a spin around Carleton’s nearly 1100-acre campus and get a taste of the bubble your sons and daughter spend their time in. Must-see locations include the four-story “Libe,” Carleton’s largest academic building, Skinner Memorial Chapel, where weekly convocation takes place, and, most of all, the just-opened Weitz Center for Creativity, an architectural monument to aesthetics, art, and interdisciplinary learning.
6:00 pm Friday | The Tavern
Do your daughter or son a favor and give them a one-night reprieve from Bon Appétit. Located on picturesque Division Street, the Tavern has long been a favorite of Carleton students, faculty, and staff. It serves a wide variety of traditional heartland cuisine in addition to some multicultural favorites. Everything – down to the bread on the table – is made from scratch.
7:30 pm Friday | All in the Timing, Little Nourse Theater
Carleton’s Experimental Theater Board, an entirely student-run organization, presents David Ives’ collection of one-act comedies. Don’t let the dingy aura of Little Nourse fool you: it’s played home to some dramatic giants in its time, including the world premiere of Bertholt Brecht’s acclaimed Caucasian Chalk Circle. Try to sit near an exit if you can: they’re not kidding when they tell you “In case of fire, good luck!”
10:00 am Saturday | Tandem Bagels
Sample the loxy, cheesy crafts of this brand new addition to downtown Northfield. If you’re from Yankee country, enjoy a taste of home away from home – the bakers honed their technique on the bakeries of Nantucket, according to an advertisement. Grab a table and watch bleary-eyed college students tramp through, or sit at the storefont counter and watch Northfield wake up.
11:15 am Saturday | Arb Walk
Work off breakfast with a stroll through Carleton’s 880-acre Cowling Arboretum. Ranked the best place to run in Minnesota and among the top ten nationwide by Runner’s Magazine, the Arb boasts dozens of miles of trails and has abundant opportunities for hiking, and fishing. It’s home to an enormous variety of habitats, from wetlands to upland forests and savannahs, to traditional prairie. If you’re interested, pick up a map from the bookstore before you leave.
12:30 pm Saturday | El Triunfo
Make the short trip over the Cannon and grab a quick but spicy bite here at Northfield’s most prominent Mexican eatery. Don’t let the gas-station-you’ll-probably-be-shot-in feng shui of this student favorite fool you: the prices here are great, the portions are large, and the food is fresh-off-the-estufa authentic. While you’re waiting for your food, browse the aisles filled with authentic Mexican goods, or check out the Spanish-language soaps in the back. Wash your burrito down with Mexican Coke – made with real sugar!
1:00 pm Saturday | Bell Field
Watch Carleton’s 10-1-3 men’s soccer team take on MIAC rival Hamline University in the annual homecoming game. Keep an eye on freshman forward Peter Passalino, whose recent hat trick against Augsburg College led to his selection as MIAC athlete of the week. Pay attention, too, because the Knights record is sure to make them a hot contender for conference champions. If you’re interested, stick around for the alumni homecoming game and watch as legends of old try to prove that forty is the new twenty.
5:00 pm Saturday | Minneapolis/St. Paul
We all need time off-base, so take your son or daughter up to the Cities for the evening. Take in a show – the Twin Cities boast more theaters per capita than any American city except New York – or investigate the area’s similarly fantastic live music scene. Take the opportunity to sample global fare on your trip: the large Somali refugee community means that Somalian as well as Ethiopian restaurants abound alongside neo-Scandinavian spots that pay tribute to Minnesota’s Nordic heritage.