15 Best Things to Do in Hastings, NE

Hastings, NE
Todd Stahlecker / shutterstock.com

Hastings in Nebraska was founded after St. Joseph and Denver Railway Lines got completed in 1872.

This city was named after the railway contractor, Colonel Thomas D. Hastings.

Nebraska City has earned its popularity across the United States for being the birthplace of the beloved instant juice drink Kool-Aid.

From a visitor's perspective, Hastings is an unassuming city with high regard for its rich history and fondness for sports.

The city is home to a world-class softball complex and a speedway regularly filled with racers and spectators.

Moreover, Hastings is also known for its rich history and love for music and arts.

With all that in mind, this small city in the middle of vast open fields is a nice destination for short excursions.

It has plenty of open spaces, parks, opportunities to explore historic sites and museums, and numerous leisure and entertainment establishments.

Indeed, this city has many things to enjoy, especially if you bring your loved ones with you.

Not to take this long, read the 15 best things to do in Hastings, NE, below.

Trace the History of Kool-Aid

Exterior of the place where kool-aid was made.
Father of Nehrams2020, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kool-Aid is a popular juice drink across the United States.

Not many have known that Kool-Aid was born in Hastings, Nebraska.

Thanks to Edwin Perkins, many people today of all ages quench their thirst with a pitcher of Kool-Aid.

You will find many significant places in Hastings relevant to Kool-Aid, including the Kool-Aid Man's footprint in Hastings Museum, where you'll also find a separate exhibit dedicated to its history.

In addition, check out the original Kool-Aid factory that Perkins built back in the day along First Street in Hastings.

The old factory is easily noticed while driving by because of the huge mural painted on its walls to tribute Perkins's great contribution to the city and the world for his flavorful product loved by many.

Aside from tracing Kool-Aid's history, you can also join the annual Kool-Aid Day every August, where thousands of people across the United States converge in Hastings to parade, celebrate, and join various games and activities along with locals.

Learn History at the Hastings Museum

The Hastings Museum is considered the most extensive municipal museum between Denver and Chicago.

This museum, which opened back in 1927, offers visitors a huge collection of animal species, both alive and preserved.

They also have an exhibit that chronicles the backstory of Nebraska's Paleo-Indian inhabitants and the first European settlers.

Furthermore, Hastings Museum also has a separate exhibit featuring prehistoric animals that inhabited the area when it was still the Cretaceous Sea millions of years ago.

It's also where you'll trace back the history of the famous Kool-Aid, which has a separate museum and interactive galleries.

Hastings Museum also has a planetarium, Wildlife Diorama Hall, Stock & Barrel Exhibit, Minerals & Fossils exhibits, and a lot more.

Be Amazed by the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot

The U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, commonly known as NAD, is the most extensive WWII ammunition depot and plant.

This is a wonderful place for military history lovers to visit and explore its massive concrete buildings, bunkers, and walkways through the facility's self-guided tours.

The entire facility covers a massive 49,000-acre area that stretches to Clay and Adams County.

It started manufacturing the U.S Navy's ammunitions the following year after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

During WWII, most of the U.S. Navy's ordnances got assembled, stored, and loaded when the United States started its war efforts.

Fast forward to 1992, the facility got recognized by the Adams County Historical Society by erecting a historical marker.

Traverse the Pioneer Spirit Trail

Pioneer Spirit Trail is one of the best places in Hastings to hike, jog, or bike through its 11.2 miles stretch.

The Pioneer Spirit Trail was born out of necessity as Hastings and other surrounding communities needed a top-notch intermodal pedestrian transportation network.

Today, it serves its purpose perfectly as hundreds of people traverse the trail to visit different places or exercise.

For a great spot to hike in Hastings, you should check out the Pioneer Spirit Trail, which is open to the public.

Get a Glimpse of Celestial Bodies at the Hastings College Observatory

Hastings College boasts one of few observatories found in a higher education facility.

Formally known as the Clyde Sachtleben Observatory, this scientific facility is equipped with a roll-back room allowing visitors to utilize its four-mid-sized telescopes for stargazing.

The observatory offers a clearer view of the moon, galaxies, nebulae, clusters, and double stars.

What makes this place a wonderful place to visit is it's open to the public for free.

This observatory is the best place to check out for a unique experience during your visit to Hastings.

Uncover the Mystery of the Nebraska Bigfoot Crossroads of America

The Nebraska Bigfoot Crossroads of America is the state's only museum and research center for this mysterious and very elusive cryptid.

Upon visiting the museum, you will be amazed by the artifacts and pieces of evidence displayed from 60 years of comprehensive collection courtesy of its curators and researchers.

The museum's main goal is to provide further information to the public, including those who don't believe in Bigfoot.

One of the most fascinating artifacts to check out at the Nebraska Bigfoot Crossroads of America is the Patterson Gimlin Film and the hairy Bigfoot's life-sized statues.

In addition, check out the collection of other Bigfoot evidence, such as the leftover food, footprints, and documents of various sightings in Nebraska.

Cool Down at the Hastings Aquacourt

The Hastings Aquacourt is a popular outdoor recreation area featuring large swimming pools, slides, and exciting features.

If you're seeking to have fun and cool down a bit in Hastings, this place is the perfect place for you.

The Hastings Aquacourt is an exciting place to bring the entire family and check out the facility's features, such as the wave pools, tube slides, flume slides, drop slides, and lazy river.

This place in Hastings is a great place to visit, especially during the hot summer months.

Treat Yourself to Some Delicious Bread at the Back Alley Bakery

The Back Alley Bakery has been recognized all over Hastings for its natural 'artisan bread,' made from organic ingredients sourced from local farmers.

Back Alley Bakery has been serving locals in Hastings since 2003 and hasn't changed in terms of the quality and taste of their freshly baked bread and pastries daily.

If you want a guilt-free snack, you should check out this bakery in Hastings that boasts wholesome ingredients to their bread and pastries.

It's highly recommended to try their famous sourdough or their Russian rye sourdough baked from their traditional brick oven.

In addition, Back Alley Bakery also serves breakfast short orders and offers catering services.

Indulge in Nice Craft Beer at the Steeple Brewing Co.

The Steeple Brewing Co. is a popular hangout spot in downtown Hastings because of its finely-brewed craft beer.

If you're looking for a pub in Hastings to unwind and chill, just drive to Steeple Brewing Co. and head to their taproom along First Street.

They have a cozy and welcoming taproom where many of Hastings' locals converge after a tiring day at work.

It's a great place to drink craft beer and meet locals along the way.

Moreover, Steeple Brewing Co. found a unique way to name their craft beer varieties.

You should try their "Bats in The Belfry," "Fellowship Hour," A Time to Retire, Kitchen Kerfuffle, and Parking Lot Meeting.

All have different kicks, hints, tastes, and characteristics, all worth trying.

Watch Exciting Races at the Motorsport Park Hastings MPH II

Hastings' locals are sports lovers, and a testament to it is the Motorsport Park Hastings MPH II, where many regional and even national races happen.

This speedway, which features an asphalted 2.15-mile-long circuit, has been included on Forbes.com's top 10 best places to speed legally in the United States.

The Motorsport Park Hastings MPH II can accommodate different races, from four-wheels to two-wheels.

In addition, it also offers driving and riding schools for visitors who are interested to learn about racing.

You can even stay for the night at one of their 18 guest bedrooms from their clubhouse.

The Motorsport Park Hastings MPH II was opened in 2006 by local racers and has grown into a major sporting venue over the years.

There are scheduled events and races there that you can watch if you're not keen to learn racing.

Just their official website to see their scheduled races and related events.

Watch Games at the Smith Softball Complex

Considered one of the most excellent softball complexes in the United States, the Smith Softball Complex is another sporting venue in Hastings you need to check out.

The entire facility boasts seven softball fields equipped with the standard 300-foot distance from the outfield fence to the home plate.

It also has a portable fence allowing it to expand further to host bigger tournaments.

Located within the Prairie Ridge Park in Hastings, the Bill Smith Softball Complex is a regular host of the Nebraska Softball Association's national-level tournaments, including the ASA Championship State and National tilts.

Whether you're a softball fan or a casual tourist, visiting this sports venue is worthy of your time.

You'll surely enjoy watching games and cheering alongside locals.

Explore Lake Hastings

Another popular outdoor recreation area in the city is Lake Hastings.

It's where most locals and even visitors do outdoor activities such as playing sports, boating, and fishing.

The entire lake spans over 68-acres along N. Sore Drive, west of Highway 281, just outside Hastings' city limits.

There, you can play sand volleyball and disc golf while you can rent a boat and lure your line to catch some catfish, largemouth bass, and bluegill.

There are many ways to enjoy Lake Hastings aside from the mentioned outdoor activities.

It's also a perfect place to relax, have a picnic, breathe fresh air, and enjoy the scenery from the lake under the canopy of trees.

Watch Events at the Adams County Fairgrounds

The Adams County Fairgrounds is a vast trailer/camping grounds while functioning as a convention center in Hastings.

This open space is so huge that most major events in Hastings happen like festivals, conventions, concerts, and civic-related events.

If you're bringing an RV with you or perhaps want to camp during your stay in Hastings, the Adams County Fairgrounds has 450 hook-ups for your convenience.

The fairgrounds' hook-ups are complete from water, power, and sewer, making it a convenient spot to stay while you tour around Hastings.

In addition, there's a good chance you can catch some events happening there.

Bring Your Kids to the Children's Museum of Central Nebraska

The Children's Museum of Central Nebraska is a comprehensive and interactive learning hub for kids.

It's a one-of-a-kind facility that offers fun-filled and educational activities for kids.

You should bring your kids there to give them some memorable experiences during your trip to Hastings.

Their exhibits and galleries have interactive sessions, which the museum curators believe help stimulate the children's minds to become more creative, collaborative, and skillful.

Their exhibits and galleries range from science, nature, and lots of other interesting themes that guarantee them an enjoyable time spent there.

Experience Farm Life at the Prairie Loft

Also known as the Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor & Agricultural Learning, this attraction in Hastings is popular for its fun-filled and educational experience about farm life.

Opened in 2005, Prairie Loft offers visitors place-based programs by teaching them interactive and hands-on agricultural activities like planting, harvesting, and other farming techniques.

It's a fun experience to have with your family, plus you'll learn a lot of things along the way.

In addition, they also have summer camps, workshops, and field trips for everyone.

They also celebrate Flatwater Music Festival every June, featuring musical concerts, food stalls, art activities, and a lot more.

Final Thoughts

Hastings may be an unassuming city, but its history and vibrant community make it a destination worthy of visiting.

Hastings thrived and created its unique identity that attracted tourists despite being in the middle of vast open fields.

So, which of these places in Hastings you're going to visit first?

Make sure to bookmark this post for your travel reference!