Northfield, MN Winter Walk: Main Street MN Christmas
“Christmas is coming,” sang the Northfield carolers to the sound of glove-muffled clapping, as shoppers strolled along luminary-lined streets.
For a dozen years, Northfield has carried on the Norman Rockwell-style Christmas tradition at Winter Walk, an annual festival offering shopping and dining, music and horse-drawn wagon rides along Division Street. In the town square, wreaths for sale are displayed, a roaring fire warms visitors, and carolers sing. Shoppers stroll in stores and galleries offering discounts of 10-30 percent or more.
“My favorite part of the evening is the carolers and the dancers,” said Brittney, a high school junior and member of the National Honor Society, whose members were charged with lighting the hundreds of luminaries lining the streets. As the sun set, shop lights came on, festive store windows were lit and visitors gathered around the fire in Bridge Square.
On the south end of Division Street at Eco Gardens, shoppers picked out Christmas trees and unique wreaths handmade of spongy princess pine, boxwood and other premium varieties.
“Winter Walk is a great tradition,” said Jeni Holt, Eco Gardens owner, as she made a wreath in the shop. “This year, we donated a Christmas tree to the festival we called a Bird Tree. Children can dip a pine cone in peanut butter and seeds and place it on the tree for the birds,” she explained as shoppers came in and out of the store to pay for their trees before hoisting them on their cars. “But it may become a squirrel tree by tomorrow,” she laughed.
A block away, shoppers hurried into Jesse James Hideaway coffee shop and wine bar – named for the infamous bank robber whose gang was defeated in the town in 1876 – for a coffee or hot chocolate to take along their shopping journey.
Down the street at Quality Bakery, the smell of fresh cookies filled the air, as families lined up to purchase made-from-scratch rosettes, sugar cookies or other varieties, or snuck away with fresh lefse.
“That one’s my favorite,” said one little girl with her face pressed against the glass cabinet.
Sponsored by the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the annual event was created to encourage area residents and visitors to support locally-owned businesses and area artists during the holiday season. Over the years, it’s also become an opportunity to continue Minnesota’s classic Main Street Christmas tradition.
As the crowds grow, a trumpeter and a trombone ensemble entertain shoppers as they come in and out of stores with hot cider and bags of presents in hand, or duck into restaurants for a bite to eat. Horse-drawn wagons offer rides along the streets, and the Archer House Inn’s decorated lobby becomes a cozy place to warm up.
For children, the line at the bakery is only rivaled by the line at the First National Bank, where Santa waits to hear their Christmas wish list. It’s not just Santa that makes an annual appearance at Winter Walk. At the Northfield Historical Society, visitors can have their photo taken with members of the James-Younger gang.
Nearby the Northfield Arts Guild hosts the annual Festival of Wreaths display and silent auction. Wreaths are hand-made by local residents, with themes ranging from classy to whimsical, and proceeds benefitting the Guild. Upstairs, the Guild dance troupe performs its version of the Nutcracker dubbed the NAGcracker (Northfield Arts Guild).
Each year, Winter Walk showcases the small town charm that makes Northfield unique, especially during the holiday season.
“I moved here from Minneapolis to start a business,” said Holt, watching the shoppers walk away with fresh wreaths, “but I love this town for its charm, its friendly residents and its active community. There’s no better example of this than Winter Walk.”
If You Go:
Northfield Winter Walk takes place December 12 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. along Division Street. Activities including shopping, dining, carolers, horse-drawn wagon rides, and visits with Santa and the James-Younger gang.
For unique gifts, visit the shops along Division Street:
- The Rare Pair offers shoes and clothing for men and women, including sweaters by Woolrich, unique hands and gloves, outerwear and purses.
- Try Fit to be TRI’d for activeware, shoes and other sporting goods.
- Sisters Ugly, Anna’s Closet and Bag Lady offer women’s clothes and unique accessories.
- Find kitchenware, furniture and home décor at Rooms by Tagg 2.
- At the Fine Craft Collective, open during the holiday season, find pottery, handmade knitwear, paintings, woodwork and other locally made art.
- Antiques of Northfield offers a wide variety of vintage housewares and gifts.
Dine at one of several restaurants along the street, including:
- The Contented Cow, offering British pub fare, wine and beer.
- Hogan Brother’s Acoustic Café, offering hot hoagies.
- The Tavern of Northfield, serving a wide range of foods including pastas, salads, Mexican, burgers, soups and sandwiches. Warm up on the Tavern’s famous chicken stew.
- Chapati offers Indian food, on the first floor of the Archer House.
- Froggy Bottoms River Pub offers burgers and other pub fare overlooking the Cannon River.
While You’re There:
Stay the night at Archer House River Inn in Northfield, MN, overlooking the Cannon River.
Northfield is less than an hour south of the Twin Cities. Take Highway 35 to Highway 19.
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