Hastings on the Mississippi mural

18 Fun Things to do in Hastings Minnesota Along the Great River Road

There are some towns that you know the moment you set eyes on it that you are with your people. Hastings Minnesota, along the great river road, is one of those towns for me.

Biking, Hiking, History, and Shopping are just some of the great things to do in Hastings Minnesota. You could spend weeks exploring all the fun things to do in town. It’s just a few minutes south of St. Paul take the trip!

The appeal to Hastings MN started with my first visit to Afton State Park. I wanted to stop into town and check out the scenic Vermillion Falls.

Driving across the town’s stunning Hastings High Bridge, and into a historic downtown melted my heart. I could picture myself strolling down the streets, browsing stores, and canoeing down the river.

Then I quickly snapped back into reality as my kids started asking their normal, “Can we go home now?” questions. They were over DayTripping. I knew I’d have to come back more and explore the town fully.

DayTripper is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small commission. I never promote things I haven’t vetted myself.

Things to do in Hastings Minnesota

Hastings Minnesota is one of the first towns to be formed along the river. Sitting at the conversion of the St. Croix and Mississippi River, the nearby Vermillion River Falls powered the town.

Its nearby highways link Hastings Minnesota to the rest of the Twin Cities and still flourishes today, still keeping its small-town feel.

Afton State Park

Hastings MN is home to one of the Twin Cities’ favorites State Parks, Afton State Park. It’s got beautiful natural trails, stunning overlooks, a small beach, fishing, and more.

The park does allow camping, but it’s walk-in sites only. If you have the time, you should check it out! There is also a password hiding on the Hiking Club Trail for those participating.

It’s a fun program to encourage you to see more of the great state parks Minnesota has to offer.

Adjacent to Afton State Park is Afton Alps. A great place to do downhill skiing in winter.

St Croix River Shoreline at Afton State Park

Vermillion Falls

The original source of power for the town. The river was named for the red clay banks. Before the river makes its way to the Mississippi, it drops 35 feet.

The power energy it produced created power for four flour mills starting in 1850. The first mill produced the first saleable graham flour in the state. The mills are no longer in operation, but you can still see a few ruins.

Get to the waterfall by going to Vermillion Falls Park. Then follow the sound of falling water along the paved trail to the viewing platform

See Related: 11 Stunning Waterfalls Near Minneapolis

Vermillion Falls in Hastings

Old Mill Ruins

Hike down to Old Mills Ruins. There is an amazing structure with jungle gym-like properties that were once the Ramsey Mill, built-in 1856. At its peak, the mill was producing 125 barrels per day. On December 22, 1894, the building was a victim of arson.

Today it sits alongside the Vermillion River at Old Mill Park. The parking lot holds about 10 or so cars, so plan accordingly. From there, take the path left to the ruins. It’s a short walk down the trail, you can’t miss it. From there start the exploitation, getting into the ruins from the left and then to the beach.

See Related: Things to do at or near Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis

Bike Riverwalk

Connecting Veterans Memorial Levee Park and Lake Rebecca Park. This is one of the best places to stroll along the river and catch a view of the stunning river bridge. Levee Park also has an amphitheater with summer concerts are held.

There are plenty of picnic tables along the river to enjoy a summer day. The paved trail is perfect for walkers and bikers alike. This is part of a 10-mile trail loop, taking you through the best parts of Hastings MN.

Hastings MN Biking and Trail System

Port of Hastings Outfitters

The Port of Hastings Outfitters is there to help you experience Hastings differently. With rentals of both E-Bikes and Watersports, you’ll have plenty of ways to take advantage of this great city.

The city bike paths are a great way to take advantage of the opportunities in Hastings.

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Spring Lake Park Reserve is part of the Dakota County Parks. If you do one thing in Hastings, make sure you drive to the top of Schaar’s Bluff.

It is one of the most picturesque views of the Mississippi River, Spring Lake, and the city of Hastings MN.

Aside from checking out the overlook, the park has a great trail system that connects to the city, as well as hiking trails.

A few miles down the road is a second entrance to the park, holding the Archery Area. Designed with towers and targets to practice your skills. There is even a secluded overlook off the north archery loop.

Most of the park has restored prairie landscape and overlooks the deep ravine of river valley. 

Plus there as a great playground for the kids. Plus it’s one of the free things to do in town! It’s a hidden gem in Hastings.

Schaar's Bluff at Spring Lake Park
Archery Tower at Spring Lake Park

Carpenter Nature Center

The Carpenter Nature Center is a great way to explore and learn about the animals of the area. The Nature Center has a few animal ambassadors, as well as events throughout the year like Animal Meet and Greets, Wilderness Women, and Evening Explorations.

There are also multiple different paved trail loops, all about a mile in length. The nature center has an auxiliary branch on the Wisconsin side of the river.

There is no charge for admission, to ensure everyone has access to it. Their classes follow this same model but they have a suggested donation when registering.

Charming MN Towns

If you love the Charm of Hastings you’ll need to check out Red Wing. They were both built around the same time and have some incredible small-town charm to them.
Top 19 Things To Do in Red Wing MN: A Complete Guide

Whistling Well Farm

Whistling Well Farm is a top attraction in the picturesque city of Hastings, situated in the scenic St. Croix River Valley. This charming farm offers visitors a variety of things to do in Hastings, making it one of the best things to see in the area.

The farm’s name is inspired by a natural spring that produces a gentle whistle sound, adding to the peaceful atmosphere.

At Whistling Well Farm, visitors can take a scenic stroll through the fields, pet the friendly farm animals, and even take a wagon ride tour through the property. 

This idyllic location is a perfect example of the natural beauty found throughout Hastings and its surrounding area. If you are looking for a relaxing and unique experience, look no further than Whistling Well Farm. 

Lock & Dam 2

Located on the Mississippi River, mile 815.2 sits just upstream of Hastings Minnesota. The Dam was constructed in 1930. The Dam is 722 feet long with 19 tainter gates each 30 feet long.

The dam produces 4.4 megawatts of power owned by the City of Hastings. The lock is 110 feet wide, by 600 feet long.

The Lock and Dam is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St Paul. Above the lock is an opportunity to view it in action. Like most of the lock and dams in Minnesota, the viewing platform is not open during the winter.

See Related: Hiking the Legendary John A Latsch State Park

Lock and Dam #2 in Hastings MN

Shopping in the Historic Downtown Hastings

As being one of the first river towns in Minnesota dating back to the 1800’s it is no surprise to see that there are 16 homes or sites in the National Register of Historic Places.

These original buildings are home to some classic downtown shopping experiences. The city also has some great artwork, alongside the highway 10 bridge and underneath it. The best things about Hastings is all the historic buildings. You have to check it out.

Historic Downtown Hastings
Downtown Hastings artwork
Downtown Hastings - Origins

Apple Orchards

Hastings Minnesota has four Apple Orchards. This is almost unheard of. The Orchards include Afton Apple Orchard, Carpenter Nature Center, Fischer Croix Farm Orchard, and Whitling Well Farm.

A place like Afton Appels also lets you pick your own pumpkins and strawberries. The kids will love picking fresh apples. In October the orchards celebrate the harvest with family-friendly games.

They also participate in the St Croix River Valley Apple Fest.

Apple Picking, Autumn in Minnesota

LeDuc Historic Estate

The LeDuc Estate is a Civil War-era Gothic Revival home built in the mid 1860s The home is that of Civil War Brevet Brigadier General William LeDuc, Mary Bronson LeDuc, and their four children.

LeDuc came to Hastings in 1850 to open a book store and law office. Four years later, he would purchase a quarter of the town from Alexander Faribault.

The home was designed based on the images from Andrew Jackson Downing’s 1852 book Cottage Residents. For more information about this home and others in Minnesota, check out Historic Home of Minnesota by Roger G. Kennedy. The Minnesota Historical Society now owns the property and runs tours.

Historic LeDuc Estate in Hastings MN

Alexis Bailly Vineyard

Alexis Bailly Vineyard was the first vineyard to make wine with 100% Minnesota Grown Grapes. The Vineyard is a perfect place to get a glass of wine and sit out with your favorite picnic blanket. Sample some of their delicious concoctions and enjoy the weekend.

Spiral Brewery

Hastings has a rich history of viewing that takes back into late 1800 with at least four different breweries in operation. When prohibition started, it all went away, that is until now.

Spiral Brewery started with five friends in 2014. They’ve got nine different beers on tap.

Spiral Brewery is a family-friendly brewery allowing anyone to enter as long as they are well behaved. That includes pets on a leash. You can also bring in outside food and beverages. Stop by and check them out.

Spiral Brewery

Aquatic Center

When it gets hot in Hastings, everyone heads to the Hastings Family Aquatic Center. They have a Zero-depth entry pool, 201-foot water slide and drop slide, log crossing and rock wall, play structure, and more. The Aquatic Center is less than $10 per person, making it an affordable water park experience.

Extreme Sandbox

Kids love digging around in a sandbox with their tiny construction equipment, but have you ever wanted to dig in a real construction truck? Extreme Sandbox in Hastings MN brings that dream to life.

You’ll get to drive a 26-ton excavator or bulldozer. You can drive a bulldozer, crush a car, and then finish off with a ride in our fire truck. How about driving a harvester during harvest season? You’ll be telling everyone about the fun after you get back.

Levee Park

Levee Park is a popular waterfront attraction located in Winona, Minnesota. The park is situated along the banks of the Mississippi River and offers visitors stunning views of the water and surrounding areas.

It is an ideal place for picnics, walking or jogging, or just enjoying the peaceful scenery. Levee Park also features a playground area for kids, perfect for families with children.

The park is equipped with amenities, such as picnic tables, so visitors can relax and enjoy their meals under the open sky.

Additionally, there are several events and festivals that take place at the park throughout the year, making it a hub of activity and an important gathering place for the local community. 

Eating in Hastings Minnesota

Hastings has plenty of options for dining downtown. In the historic part of town, expect to see one-of-a-kind restaurants with outdoor seating along the riverfront.

They include The Onion Grille, The Busted Nut, and Lock And Dam Eatery. For those that prefer fast food, they have it too, it’s just a few miles off the main drag.

Breakfast at Froth and Cork

Start off your trip with a stop at Froth and Cork. Classified as a Wine Bar, during the morning hours, it’s all about the froth and treats.

Across the street from City Hall, this Coffeehouse looks to be no more than a historic house Downtown. Inside you can smell the fresh aroma of what’s brewing.

They have plenty of seating inside and out, along with charming decor like crystal chandeliers, and old fashion repurposed stoves as water carts. If I wasn’t trying to pack so much in on my day trip, I could have stayed for hours.

Froth and Cork Coffeehouse in Hastings

Lunchtime at the Smokin Oak

In the mood for something smoked? You gotta go to the Smokin Oak Express. BBQ is always something everyone can agree to in my family. That’s why we loved stopping at the Smoking Oak Express.

At the time of our visit, they hadn’t re-opened their dining room yet, but we didn’t mind. it gave us the perfect excuse to picnic at the Riverwalk.

They are using an old bank building and had a great drive-through system setup. We took everything down to a riverside picnic table and enjoyed the sunshine.

The Smokin Oak
Philly Cheese Steak at from the smokin oak
Philly Cheese Steak

Ice-cream Treats at Schoolhouse Scoop

When it comes to a desert in Hastings MN, you have to check out Schoolhouse Scoop. It’s a family-owned and operated ice cream that believes in great customer service and scoops up 32 flavors of hand-dipped premium ice cream year-round.

See Related: Over 20 Things to do in Excelsior MN | A lake lover’s dream

School House Scoop Ice Cream
Photo Courtesy of Schoolhouse Scoop

Staying in Hastings Minnesota

If you are looking for more than just a Day Trip, check out Hastings County Inn. Located near all the action, you’ll have plenty of time to rest up before you hit the town again and again.

Where to Stay in Hastings

What river runs through Hastings MN?

The Mississippi River runs through the northern border of Hastings. The vermillion river is the other river going through town before it reaches the Mississippi.

Would I go back to Hastings Minnesota?

Yes, the town is fabulous. If you only have an hour or two, stop at Vermillion Falls, then run over to the top of Schaar’s Bluff. Get a bite to eat downtown and take in a little of the small-town feel.

Alternatively, you could also take the bikes on a quick riverfront trip at the Riverwalk over to the Dam. Trust me you’ll have a great time whatever you do Hastings Minnesota, you may run into the same problem I had and not want to leave.

Similar Posts