The advantages of the location that led to Hastings' original growth are that it is well-drained, provides a good riverboat port, and is close to a hydropower resource at the falls of the Vermillion River. Sites closer to the river confluence are either too swampy (Dakota county) or too hilly (Washington county and Pierce County Wisconsin).
U.S. Route 61 and Minnesota State Highways 55 and 316 are three of the main arterial routes in the city.
As of the census of 2000, there were 18,204 people, 6,642 households, and 4,722 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,798.2 people per square mile (694.5/km² ). There were 6,758 housing units at an average density of 667.6 per square mile (257.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.16% White, 0.43% African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.36% from other races, and 0.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.14% of the population.
There were 6,642 households out of which 37.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.8% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.9% were non-families. 22.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.13.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 99.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $53,145, and the median income for a family was $61,093. Males had a median income of $41,267 versus $27,973 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,075. About 2.1% of families and 4.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.4% of those under age 18 and 9.8% of those age 65 or over.
The busiest road in Hastings is U.S. Highway 61, which in Hastings is known as Vermillion Street. Highway 61 is a four lane thoroughfare that cuts through the eastern side of the city in a north-south direction. Following 61 north out of the city takes you to over the Mississippi River via the Hastings High Bridge to Cottage Grove and eventually St. Paul, and taking it south brings you to Red Wing. The current bridge, which carries 32,000 vehicles per day and is the busiest two–lane bridge in the state of Minnesota, is expected to be replaced with a new bridge beginning in the year 2010.
The other major road in Hastings is Minnesota State Highway 55; the main east-west roadway. Highway 55 is also a 4 lane highway that enters the city from west and cuts through the middle of town where it eventually comes to an end at Highway 61. Highway 55 is a major commuter route for residents of Hastings, taking them northwest to Eagan and eventually to Minneapolis.
Highway 316 is an 10 mile highway that starts at Highway 61 in southern Hastings and heads southeast. It acts as a more direct shortcut between two points of Highway 61.
Highway 291 (Minnesota Veterans Home Highway) is a short, one mile highway on the east side of town that lies host to a Minnesota Veterans Home. Other routes that lead into town are Dakota County Roads 42 (northwest side of town), 46 (southwest), 47 (southwest) and 54 (east).
Hastings is not served by the MTC public transportation bus routes, but preliminary studies are underway to bring commuter rail to Hastings via the Red Rock Corridor. Amtrak trains pass through, but do not stop in Hastings (Prospective passengers must go north to St. Paul or south to Red Wing to board).
The Mississippi River in Hastings is a major thoroughfare for barges, and they're helped upstream by Lock and Dam No. 2 on the northwest side of town. There are several access points to the Missippippi River for private watercraft.