Amid the valleys in Bluff Country lies Houston, the eastern trailhead of the Root River State Trail. Whether biking, in-line skating, or cross-country skiing on the trail, or canoeing, tubing, or swimming in the river, the area is teeming with adventure.
Houston is also home to the International Owl Center, featuring live owls and educational programming. Held the first full weekend of March each year is the International Festival of Owls, an impressive celebration that includes live owl presentations, birding trips, contests, activities, and classes.
At Trailhead Park, a wetland and levee planted in nature grasses and flowers invites visitors to explore the beauty of nature. The park also offers a picnic shelter, primitive campsites, public restrooms and showers, a band shell, and a creative and inspiring playground featuring a sand play area with buried fossils, hand water pump and log sluice, and stone tunnels and caves. The park is also home to the Houston Nature Center, where you’ll find a wide array of nature exhibits and educational programming for all ages.
Houston boasts two ball fields, a public archery range, and full 18-hole courses surrounded by scenic bluffs.
The Oak Ridge/Wet Bark DNR Recreation Area encompasses miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, mountain biking trails, and camping. Trails transform in winter for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
Just south of town, you can take in a stone church built in 1855 by natural stone quarried off nearby hills. Further down Highway 76, visitors can marvel at Schech’s Mill, a working three-story mill of native stone, built in 1876. It is the only original water-powered mill in Minnesota and still boasts original equipment.
North of town, visitors can tour two impressive big game farms by appointment; an elk farm and the ranch home of Cody the Buffalo II, where visitors can purchase bison, Scottish Highlander, and wild boar meat, and one-of-a-kind collectibles. Houston boasts several other distinctive shops, including a beautiful wheel-thrown and hand-created functional stoneware and porcelain pottery shop.
Houston hosts several festivals: the Root River Triathlon, two Southeast Minnesota Bluegrass Association Festivals, the Apollo Music Festival, outdoor summer concerts, and on the last full weekend of July, Houston Hoedown Days transforms the town into a celebration filled with trail rides, tractor pulls, the Minnesota State Horse Pull, nightly dances, and more!
Dining opportunities include a charming coffee house, pizza and ice cream, a bar and grill, and a food co-op.
Staying in Houston? Lodging is available, ranging from spirited and western to scenic and secluded to a more traditional inn.