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Things to do: shop until you drop!

A portion of historic downtown Hastings is pictured above.

Some 150 years ago, traders and settlers roamed the rolling hills and grassy plains of what we now call downtown Hastings, or Second Street. Warehouses, mills and elevators were built along the levee. Stone and brick commercial buildings quickly replaced log and clapboard. Millers, brewers, lumbermen, steamboat captains, merchants and bankers built their big houses near downtown. Hotels serving salesmen and society followed when the railroad connected Hastings with St. Paul and Milwaukee. The Spiral Bridge, built for farm wagons, spanned the Mississippi River in 1895. By that time, downtown looked much as it does today.

The year 1951 saw the end of the Spiral Bridge and the beginning of a new era for Hastings. The new highway bridge carried traffic over and past downtown, and two blocks of commercial buildings along Vermillion Street were demolished to make room for its approaches. New shopping centers were built along the highways as the town grew south and west, away from downtown. Although the demise of downtown was predicted every few years, the family businesses located there went right on serving customers in their old-fashioned setting.

Old-fashioned became "historic" in the 1970s. Having survived almost intact, two blocks of downtown were designated a National Register Historic District. In the early 1980s, the National Trust for Historic Preservation focused on saving downtown architecture. It found that good retail was good preservation and vice versa. Hastings adopted its Main Street Program in 1984, and during the next eight years, the city, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the downtown businesses and property owners cleared the river bank, repaired buildings, replaced streets and sidewalks, restored storefronts and built parks and parking lots.

Because it so closely resembles the way it looked so long ago, the downtown area is often used by movie and commercial producers for a period background.

Downtown Hastings is a historical treasure with 19th century architecture and wonderful specialty shops. There are more than 60 buildings listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. Many of the buildings have undergone restoration to preserve their historical character.

The charm of the downtown is the specialty retail stores and restaurants. Like an old-fashioned main street, there is something for everyone downtown. There are several art, antique and craft stores along with clothing and home decor shops, and a toy store. Downtown restaurants include custom deli sandwiches, burgers and fries, and fine American dining.

Farther down Vermillion Street, at the intersection of Vermillion and Highway 55, one can find Midtown Shopping Center. A restaurant, a floral shop, a bakery, coffee shop and several other shops can be found there.

Located on Highway 55 near the Dakota County Government Center, this shopping area includes a nine-screen movie theater, public library, two major discount stores, grocery store, restaurants and several other shops.

Near the intersection of highways 316 and 61, visitors will find several lodging facilities, a large grocery store, restaurants, home improvement stores, an athletic complex, civic arena and the Industrial Park.