Preston

Preston is settled in the heart of the driftless area of southeastern Minnesota. The topography sets the stage for astounding vistas and the winding river valley. Minnesota’s Trout Capital, Preston offers an abundance of waterways, wildlife, farmland and forests. The Root River watershed, dubbed “arguably the best” by Fly Fisherman, is part of one of the largest collections of freshwater springs in the world, easily luring the angler.

Seizing an opportunity for an environmental learning center at the heart of these prime waters, Preston’s National Trout Center is aimed at connecting visitors to the experience. While still in its infancy, the center plans a permanent, year-round facility with outdoor spaces for learning and hands-on demonstrations and indoor spaces for classes, exhibits, and retail space, all with access to the pristine Root River. Take advantage of a fly fishing shop now open in Preston on St. Paul Street.

Mystery Cave, the longest cave in the upper Midwest, owes its beginnings to the waterways. With nearly 20,000 visitors each year, the 13-mile cave system (with potentially miles more of undiscovered caverns) is a subterranean marvel, at a constant 48 degrees, that includes stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, fossils, and underground pools. Parks naturalists lead a variety of tours including an easy walk along lighted walkways to sites such as Turquoise Lake, a 12-foot deep pond colored a breath-taking blue by calcite, and physically-challenging passes past the Garden of the Gods formation and Blue Lake, the largest pool in the cave system. For a more adventurous outing, the Wild Caving Tour will see visitors crawling and squeezing through undeveloped portions of the cave.

The cave is part of the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, listed as one of the Best Midwest State Parks by Midwest Living. The 3,000 acre paradise is perfect for picnicking, watching wildlife, hiking, horseback riding, skiing, or snowmobiling and home to dramatic Big Spring and The Zumbro Hill Cemetery, reflecting early life and death in the boomtown of Forestville.

Historic Forestville, also part of the park, begins with a walk across the Carnegie Steel Bridge. Visitors will step into 1899 along with costumed guides depicting the people and life in the village businesses, homes, and gardens. The village includes five original structures; the Meighen store and home, granary, carriage barn, and barn. In a reconstructed barn, a gift shop offers 19th century replicas such as kitchen gadgets and supplies, bonnets and hats, books, toys, games, and custom glazed pottery. Several signature events are held at the site: Bread Making Day, From the Churn, and Homestead Day in June, 1899 Independence Day Celebration in July, By the Light of the Lantern in August, and Apple Cider Pressing and Apple Butter Making in October.

Downtown Preston boasts its own historical pride with the 1902 Milwaukee Elevator, a towering site. Also on the site are a restored 1939 Milwaukee Road boxcar and 1951 caboose. Future plans for the site include an interpretive center focused on highlighting rural agriculture. The trailhead is nearby and beckons visitors to hike, bike, skate, and ski the paved Root River Trail system or the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail.

Several unique businesses dot the city and surrounding area. A must-see and must-taste destination is an orchard boasting 1,000 apple trees on 5 acres, 1/4 acre of raspberries, a large garden patch, and store sitting above the city on the rolling bluff. Several culinary options are available in Preston; fine dining, quick and delicious made-to-order sandwiches, and the best breakfasts and burgers around.

The city features two golf courses; one 9-holes and the other,18-holes. The latter is part of a resort, rated as one of the 24 Best Midwest Campgrounds by Midwest Living. The resort sits atop a sloping ridge and offers amenities such as a camping, a hostel, restaurant, and pool. Another campground sits nestled along Forestville Creek and is on a century-old farm, while a second campground is nearer to town at the county fairgrounds. Also, downtown more traditional lodging options are offered. For those looking for an offbeat lodging experience, with all the comforts, the former Fillmore County Jail and carriage house has been completely renovated to a 12-room bed and breakfast.

Throughout the year, Preston is bustling with activity, including Trout Days festivities the third weekend in May, the Fillmore County Fair the third week of July, and Family Fun Night the second Thursday in August. The autumn and winter season offer Taste of the Trail in September, Pumpkin Fest & Fall Expo, the fourth Saturday in October, Turkey Day Run held Thanksgiving Day, the Holiday Expo the first Saturday in December, and the Candlelight Ski & Chili Cook Off Contest the third Saturday in January. And, on Veterans Day 2015, the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery opened on the east side of Preston. With over 169 acres of rolling hills and trees, this cemetery has been recognized as thr most scenic in the nation. An honorable place to honor those who have served.

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