Advancing from its agricultural fame to become a major skiing region, Hastings is a stunning river town near Minneapolis. Check out this list to learn about interesting things to do in Hastings.
Nestled in the Washington and Dakota counties, Hastings is a charming city in Minnesota that sits on the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.
Originally, Hastings was famous for its agricultural potential, but it’s more than just a hub for farming today. From skiing opportunities to vineyard tours, there are many fun things to do in Hastings.
Even before its modernization, Hastings was a popular tourist spot due to the presence of the spiral bridge built there in 1895 to slow horse traffic.
However, the authorities took the bridge down in 1951, as it did not serve the same purpose for motorized vehicles. Therefore, the city’s juicy fruits, skiing resorts, and parks replaced the bridge’s popularity.
Below, we look at some things to do in Hastings for all groups, families, and solo travelers.
Fun & Best Things to Do in Hastings, Minnesota
While St. Paul, with its beautiful parks and Minneapolis, boasts an urbanized lifestyle, often takes the spotlight from other cities in Minnesota, Hastings gives you many reasons to head its way.
Here are the best things to do in Hastings:
Afton State Park
The Afton State Park is nearly ten miles from the city, resting on the St. Croix River’s bank. Today, deep ravines characterize the park’s landscape and offer a scenic view of the region.
The park is open every day from 8 am until 10 pm and welcomes a number of nature lovers from nearby cities. Some highlights of Afton State Park include fishing, swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing, backpack camping, and prairie landscape.
You can also download the Bird checklist from the parks’ website and spot local birds flying around the vegetation. Moreover, the park hosts naturalist programs throughout the year based on its cultural, recreational, and natural resources.
If you are only in the area for an hour, don’t forget to visit the visitor center. After that, take the trail south of the building and walk for 0.4 miles to see the restored prairie. Take a longer hike to get closer to the landscape that gives a top view of the river valley.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a picnic at the beach. Besides the prairie, the park has other interesting landscape features, such as old oaks, sandstone formations, and a bluff. Plus, visitors can use horseback riding and cycling trails to explore the area.
If you often travel to Minnesota and pass by Hastings, get an annual park permit for just $35. Also, check the park’s website to learn about upcoming festivals and events.
See Related: Best State Parks in Minnesota
The Vineyard of Alexis Bailly
The grapes in Hastings quickly put the city on the map since they produce the finest wine. One way to taste this wine is by visiting the Alexis Bailly Vineyard, planted by a man of the same name.
He started experimenting with different fermentation methods to produce apple wines, ciders, and beers. His determination to make a name in the wine industry came from his wish to travel to Europe yearly.
Finally, he managed to plant a vineyard in 1973, which produced its first commercial wine only four years later. Today, the vineyard is open for visitors on the weekends and Fridays.
You can taste one of the many wines produced at the vineyard or shop from the on-premises store. The vineyard also hosts annual events related to wine. The most popular is a November festival celebrating the First Wine of the Season.
See Related: Best Things to do in Red Wing, Minnesota
If you’re in Hastings for a group vacation, there’s no excuse to miss Afton Alps. The resort has been here for the past 57 years, serving adventure lovers in the Twin Cities and nearby areas. It offers an unparalleled experience filled with skiing and snowboarding.
While you’re there, get a digital pin for your skiing expertise. The resort uses EpicMix RFID technology to give visitors digital badges for accomplishing tasks they can share on their social media pages.
The story behind the Afton Alps is quite interesting. It was the passion child of a few farmers in the city who developed 300 acres of land into a resort. Over the years, the resort has increased its offerings to 50 snowboarding and ski trails.
Plus, there are 18 chairlifts to take visitors up the slopes, providing a view of the scenic beauty below. Once you land, you’ll be greeted by multiple eateries and food trucks.
When the weather is more bearable, Afton Alps also opens for other activities, such as mountain biking and golf. It’s also the perfect place to visit for your birthday, a family event, or even to host a wedding.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Minnesota
Vermillion Falls Park
Enjoying a picnic at Vermillion Falls Park is another of the top things to do in Hastings. The park is off Highway 61 and has water bodies that will put Californian waterfalls to shame. It’s a wonderful place for experiencing the grandeur of Vermillion Falls or spending a day with the family.
Expanding over 25 acres, the park connects a number of green spaces in the city. Other attractions include the Vermillion River, and Old Mill Park flank it.
The park’s vegetation is arguably the most attractive thing about it. From bur oaks and basswood to black cherry trees, you’re bound to see many plant species Minnesota is known for.
Another attraction in Vermillion Falls Park is the ‘dry river,’ a rugged ravine snaking parallel to the river but not carrying water anymore. Meanwhile, the bridge on the opposite side of the Vermillion Falls gives a magnificent sight of the Vermillion River.
If you walk downstream, you’ll see the Ramsey Mill’s ruins. Although the pillars were built back in 1856 and have sustained substantial damage over the years, their ruins still stand today.
See Related: Best Museums in Minnesota
Visit William G. LeDuc House
The William G. LeDuc House is one of the best places to visit in Minnesota, although it’s unfortunately not as hyped as some other places. William G. LeDuc was a civil war veteran and a local attorney who got the land for the house as payment for legal work.
The design for the house and the carriage house came from the catalog by Andrew Jackson Downing. Thus, the house gives a Gothic vibe, which visitors can experience on Thursdays from May to October.
Among other attractions, a candlelit tour of the house is most popular among tourists. Meanwhile, there’s also a gift shop outside that sells different items, mainly Minnesota-themed memorabilia.
See Related: Best Things to do in Saint Paul, Minnesota
St. Croix Valley Nature Center
The St. Croix Valley Nature Center is among the best things to see in Hastings, Minnesota as the center was built to foster an appreciation for the outdoors and nature. Did you know?
The most notable thing about the nature center is its trails. The Savanna Trail is an often-taken route, spanning over a mile, leading you through a deciduous forest, a grassland, an apple orchard, and an oak savanna.
Meanwhile, the North Loop Trail is a one-mile trail that goes around an orchard and takes you through the ‘sugarbush,’ where boxelder trees’ sap is used to make maple syrup.
But if you prefer to be closer to the St. Croix River, take the South River Bluff Trail that goes on for a mile, taking you to the river through limestone ledges.
Apart from these commonly-taken paths, there are a number of other trails, including the Indigo, Little Bluestem, Ridgeline, Big Bluestem, and Goldenrod trails.
If you’re in Hastings, Minnesota, during the apple harvesting season, don’t forget to pick up apples from the nature center’s 80-year-old orchard. The Apple Shack also sells locally made goods, such as maple syrup, honey, pumpkins, and squash.
The nature center also has its fair share of animals, including different species of frogs, turtles, and birds, with the bald eagle and red-tailed hawk being the most fascinating. Watching the animals in their natural habitat is one of the most fun things to do in Hastings, Minnesota.
Moreover, the St. Croix Valley Nature Center hosts a number of festivals annually, such as the Carpenter Art Festival. Meanwhile, the Apple Festival begins the harvesting season, and the Earth Day Birding Festival introduces you to local birdies. All in all, there’s plenty to do in the nature center.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Minneapolis
If your idea of a vacation involves minimal walking, spending a day at Levee Park is in your best interest. It’s near downtown Hastings and more or less a 5-minute car ride from Vermillions Falls Park.
The area is filled with restaurants, ranging from quant to fine, and shops where you can head over for retail therapy. Sitting in Levee Park and watching the Mississippi River pass underneath the Hastings Bridge is one of the best things to do in Hastings.
You can also walk around the park or rent a bike if you enjoy cycling. Even better, get some food from a nearby eatery and spend the evening at one of the many picnic tables in the park.
See Related: Things to Do in Grand Marais
While some other cities in Minnesota, such as Alexandria, are known for their museums and amusement parks, Hastings’ charm lies in its historical downtown that still features buildings from the 1800s, including an 1871 courthouse.
Being a river town, Hastings has an enchanting vibe, amplified by the attractions and local gems in the downtown area. If you want to grab a drink, bars like Hastings Social Tavern, Hastings Public House, and Busted Nut are open until late at night.
Meanwhile, antique stores are the perfect places to find souvenirs to take back home. Among them, EyeCandy is a famous gift store that you shouldn’t miss.
The dining scene in the area is also quite impressive, with places like The Onion Grille (a local favorite) and the American Legion gracing downtown Hastings.
There’s live music from local performers and artists on most nights of the week. If you’re wondering what to see in Hastings that will leave an impression on you, downtown is the answer.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Wabasha, Minnesota
Afton Apple Orchard
Visiting the Afton Apple Orchard is arguably among the top things to do in Hastings. You can enjoy fourteen varieties of locally grown apples. Plus, the orchard also has pumpkins, raspberries, and strawberries.
Since it’s open throughout the week, you can visit the Afton Apple Orchard whenever possible. While you’re busy tasting the local produce, your little ones will have the time of their lives at the hayrides, play areas, petting farm, corn maze, and the popular Moo Choo train. Planning a destination wedding? The Afton Apple Orchard makes a magnificent venue.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Lake City, Minnesota
Where to Stay in Hastings, Minnesota
If you’re planning a week or month-long vacation in Minnesota, you must know about the reliable lodgings in the region. The camping sites at Afton State Park naturally come up as the first option, but we understand that not everyone is into camping.
If attending nature calls in the woods is not on your wishlist, head to the Nichols Inn & Suites in Hastings. The motel offers free parking; all rooms have cable TV and a seating area. More importantly, it’s around 3 miles from the town center and 6 miles from the Mississippi River.
Another cozy lodging in the area is the Coratel Inn & Suites Hastings. All rooms have flat-screen TVs and private bathrooms with a shower and hair dryers. You also enjoy free parking and proximity to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, only a 21-minute ride away.
The Hastings Country Inn is also the same distance from the airport. All rooms in the hotel have a coffee machine, refrigerator, and microwave. Plus, there’s an indoor pool if you plan on taking a day off from exploring things to do in Hastings.
But if you plan on staying in more luxurious accommodation, the Port of Prescott is just outside Hastings and offers an exceptional experience. All rooms have a coffee machine, free toiletries, a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV, and a shower.
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