Lock and Dam 2 (651.437.3150) opened in 1930 but unexpected settling ruined the first structure, so it was rebuilt in 1948; it went through a major overhaul from 1987 to 1995. The dam is 822 feet long, and the lock has a maximum lift of 12 feet. The 4.4 megawatt power plant next door is operated by the City of Hastings.
Hastings City Hall (101 E. 4th St.; 651.480.2350) was built as the Dakota County Courthouse in 1871 with a strong Second Empire vibe; the neo-Classical dome was added in 1912 when the building was expanded. It was purchased by the City of Hastings in 1991 after the new county courthouse opened. The interior is worth a walk-around to see the gorgeous art glass windows (hidden from World War II to 1992) and art enlivening the hallways. The Pioneer Room (651.480.2350) has a number of local history artifacts, historical photos, and local records; call ahead to find out when they’re open.
The landmark LeDuc Historic Estate (1629 Vermillion St.; 651.437.7055) is a grand Gothic Revival home built by big characters. William and Mary LeDuc spent two years planning the construction. Mary found the design for the house in an 1853 book called Cottage Residences by noted landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing. The LeDucs wanted to build a prince’s house on a poet’s budget, so they were constantly juggling their dreams with their limited budget. Who hasn’t been there. They moved into an unfinished house in August, 1865, after William was discharged from the service. The LeDucs had hoped to spend $2,000 on construction but estimated it would cost $5,000; in the end, they spent $30,000. The house had an unusual feature: an indoor outhouse. Your standard outhouse had to be relocated occasionally and the old hole filled. William, ever the innovator, put removable carts under the seats to collect the, um, material, so the carts could be rolled and dumped. The end result was a privy experience that was much more satisfactory than the standard one, especially during those long Minnesota winters.
Explore the ruins of an 1857-era mill next to the Vermillion River at Old Mill Park (800 18th St. West); originally built by Alexander Ramsey and Thomas Foster, the mill burned down in 1894 in a suspicious fire.
The Vermillion River carved a limestone ravine in what is now the middle of the city, creating a dramatic waterfall in the process. This is now part of Vermillion Falls Park (215 21st St. East), a pleasant place to picnic while accompanied by the sound of falling water.
Great Rivers Art Gallery (301 E. 2nd St.; 651.437.2800) stocks mostly for-sale items from regional artists but also has a small gallery in the back.
Hastings has a dense network of paved trails around town, including many along the river; pick up the Hastings Trail Map brochure at the visitor center.
Hastings is at the southern end of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (651.290.4160; www.nps.gov/miss/index.htm), 72 miles of parks, trails, and recreation areas managed by the National Park Service that go through the heart of the Twin Cities along the Mississippi River. Free guides are available throughout the region.
If you are disc golf enthusiast, you can indulge your passion at C.P. Adams Park (1301 18th St. East; 651.480.6175).
The Hastings Family Aquatic Center (901 Maple St.; 651.480.2385) has several waterslides and a large pool.
In the winter, the Hastings Civic Arena (2801 Red Wing Blvd.; 651.480.6195) is the place to go for indoor ice skating; call for public skating times.
Southeast of Hastings, you’ll find Hastings Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area (651.259.5800), which preserves 260 acres of dry prairie. It’s a good place for a hike or to cross-country ski. There are two main access points. For the northwest section, go south on US 61 from Hastings, then south on Minnesota Highway 316 for one mile. Turn left (east) and Tuttle Drive and follow it east and south for 0.6 miles; park by the stormwater utility and walk on the maintenance road into the site. To access the southeast section, follow Minnesota Highway for 2.4 miles from Hastings. Park in the lot on the southwest side of the road, just past guard rail.
A little southeast of town, the 69-acre Hastings Scientific and Natural Area (651.259.5800) is a popular place for bird watchers. The Vermillion River meanders through the northern parcel’s floodplain forest and marshes. The southeast section includes some bluff tops and floodplain, with a few patches of old-growth red oak, sugar maple, and basswood. There are no developed trails, so bring shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy or wet. To get there, park at CP Adams Park (1301 18th St. E), then walk east to the area.
You’ll find pleasant riverfront walks in Lake Rebecca Park and Jaycee Park near the lock and dam and upriver of the bridges. Levee Park runs along the river adjacent to downtown and offers good views and plenty of places to sit and watch the river flow.
Just a mile east of Hastings, Gores Pool #3 Wildlife Management Area (651.322.4643) preserves 7,000 acres of floodplain forest and marshes. From Hastings, follow 4th Street east for one mile; when the road turns to gravel, stay left.