In 1876, a gang of eight men rode their horses into a small town in Minnesota, intent on robbing the First National Bank of Northfield. But instead of walking away rich, they were defeated by local citizens in a historic event that’s celebrated every year with a weekend festival here in Northfield.

Less than an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities, Northfield is the perfect place to settle down if you’re in the market for a picturesque small town with access to a major metro. It’s home to Carleton College and St. Olaf College — two highly-ranked universities that recently made it to Money’s list of best colleges — and it’s chock-full of city parks, golf courses and scenic trails. For many residents, a typical summer day consists of a kayak trip along the Cannon River, which flows directly through town, or a lazy bike ride around Northfield’s historic downtown. In the cold Minnesota winter, cross-country skiing through Carleton’s Cowling Arboretum and the many meandering paths kept clean by Northfield’s three snowmobile clubs keep locals plenty busy.

Daniel Rogness

Despite all it has to offer, Northfield is still a relatively affordable place to buy a home. The small city even made headlines last year thanks to a $5.5 million affordable housing project lauded for challenging the idea that energy efficiency has to come at a high cost.