Nebraska : Safety by City
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Anyone who has ever enjoyed a cup of Kool-Aid will love the history of the drink in Hastings, Nebraska.
This small Nebraska town of 25,000 has much more history than you might expect.
As is the story with many Nebraska cities, Hastings sprang to life when the railroad first came to town in the 1870s.
Before that, it was a stop on the famous Oregon Trail, and even the ill-fated Donner party passed through here on their way out west.
Please note that Hastings, Nebraska has nothing to do with the Hastings Cutoff, which was one of many bad decisions made by the Donner Party.
Hastings is a great choice in central Nebraska for those looking to get away from the interstate and has a quieter, more rural experience.
Plains stretch out in all directions, and there’s a certain rustic vibe that still clings to the revitalized downtown.
It’s not a place stuck in time, but it’s a time-honored tradition that’s still celebrated here in every aspect, from the city to the secluded sunset views.
You’ll get a great history lesson here and have a new appreciation for the “flat” state of Nebraska and its role in making America what it is today.
Warnings & Dangers in Hastings
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk, but it's an average risk by Nebraska standards. It's not a place where people will leave doors and cars unlocked, but it's not a place you need to clutch your pearls either.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You know you have limited options in a city when even the tourism site lists four options. You'll need a car here or have to rely on a lone cab company or a few rideshare freelancers. Amtrak does go through Hastings.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The risk is low, with just one reported in 2021, but you should always use extra caution during big events, festivals, rodeos, and things like that. Thieves will scour the crowds looking for opportunities, so you just do your best not to create one.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
This is a medium risk because, wow, Nebraska gets some wild weather. I say that as someone living in Nebraska who has also been through just about every natural disaster imaginable throughout my life's adventures. The biggest risk is tornadoes which are spawned by massive storm systems that sweep across the plains. Winter can bring a lot of snow and limited visibility, but it's never a sure thing. Wildfires are especially likely in this region, fueled by incessant Nebraska winds.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
With just six robberies reported in 2021, the risk is low, but the growing drug trends should prompt you to keep your guard up. People who sell or are addicted to drugs can take desperate measures.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Ever since the Naval Ammunition Depot in this region was closed down, there are no hard targets in this area. The risk is low of international terrorism, but domestic terrorism and random acts of violence are always a concern. You can do your part by reporting anything suspicious and taking any threat seriously.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Scams here are focused on residents, but if you notice anything that seems fraudulent, report it to the police.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There are an uncomfortable number of domestic issues pushing a sexual assault rate at almost twice the national average, but for a visiting woman, there isn't much concern. Use standard safety precautions to keep the risk low.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance. Any issues with stormwater or water main breaks wouldn't reflect in the report, so follow the social media sites of the city and police to keep updated during your visit. In the winter, during a cold spell, always leave your faucet dripping to prevent pipes from freezing.
Safest Places to Visit in Hastings
Visit Hastings Nebraska is the name of the tourism website, but it does cover all of Adams County.
Grand Island, about 45 minutes north, also has a tourism website that covers some places you might want to add to your itinerary as well.
Hastings Chamber website is from the Chamber of Commerce and would include some of the new businesses.
Hastings Downtown is the website for the revitalized and historic downtown district of the city.
Downtown Hastings doesn’t have a lot of nightlife, but the venues there are worth exploring.
Live music, performances, and Nebraska-made brews are available.
It’s a charming section of town with enough energy to keep you from getting bored at night.
While you’re there, snap a photo in front of the Original Kool-Aid Factory.
If you want to see Kool-Aid Man’s footsteps, those are at the visitor’s center on North Shore Drive.
NOTE: There’s a Kool-Aid Factory website that has nothing to do with Hastings or this invention.
The only details are available on Nebraska tourism sites and the Hastings Museum website.
Speaking of big feet, don’t decide if you believe in Bigfoot or not until you visit the Bigfoot Crossroads of America Museum & Research Center.
It opened in 2019 and now hosts a Bigfoot Conference annually.
I urge you to look up the museum on Facebook because my cheeks hurt from smiling so much at the displays.
How mean could a Bigfoot named Patty or Sassy really be anyway?
Hastings Museum is a great place to learn about the history of this land, from the dinosaur days to the invention of Kool-Aid to the pioneers and railroad and beyond.
The museum grounds also have a planetarium and movie theater.
The museum is great for kids, but there’s also the Children’s Museum of Central Nebraska in Hastings with more hands-on activities.
Military buffs will want to explore the Naval Ammunition Depot property, but before you go, please download the tour map.
It’s very detailed and explains the critical role these bunkers played in World War II.
However, going off the path could get you face-to-face with an angry private landowner or a federal government officer.
Hefty fines and arrests await anyone who goes off the designated path.
Visit Nebraska Flyway’s website to learn about the annual Sandhill Crane migration.
There are viewing options in Hastings, Grand Island, and Kearney.
There are scheduled tours or self-guided maps to help you find the birds and see this annual migration that also draws thousands of people each year.
Prairie Lake Recreation Area is just southwest of town, with trails, lakes, camping, boating, and winter sports available.
There’s an Oregon Trail and Pony Express historical marker just six miles away for a great Instagram moment.
Places to Avoid in Hastings
Hastings is too small to have a bad part of town, but it’s also small enough that you can stick to main roads without going through neighborhoods.
You should avoid any situation where someone is offering drugs, even if they look like legal prescription drugs or the seemingly “safer” drug of marijuana.
There’s a big problem with fentanyl in Nebraska, and it’s undetectable to the human eye, nose, or mouth.
You won’t know you’ve been given a lethal dose until you’re overdosing.
Six people died in Hastings in 2021 from overdoses.
It’s becoming more common for people to carry Narcan with them in case they come across someone overdosing.
Many pharmacies will give Narcan for free to anyone who asks.
You can see the most updated list on Stop Overdose Nebraska’s website.
I couldn’t tell you meth from marijuana, but I do have Narcan in case I find myself in a position to save someone’s life.
It’s a simple nasal spray, so you don’t risk any contact with bodily fluids.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Hastings
- Hastings has its own police department. You should follow them on Facebook @HastingsPoliceDepartmentNebraska to get updated crime and safety information. The department posts daily news bulletins with crime reports from the previous day. They are also on Twitter @PoliceHastings.
- Sign up for AlertSense emergency notification system alerts through the Adams County Emergency Management website. They are no longer using the CodeRED system. You can’t afford to miss weather alerts here.
- Be Ready Nebraska is a website dedicated to explaining all the crazy weather potential here. You’ll find definitions of things like a watch vs a warning and a list of supplies to keep handy on the road.
- The police department is really trying to crack down on drug crimes but often runs into problems with people who are too scared or close to suspects to give information. If you have details about a drug crime or suspicious drug activity, you can anonymously fill out the Drug Crime Form found on the department’s landing page.
- If you’re there during a snowstorm, you should know what a snow emergency is because it’s not as dangerous as it sounds. That just means all parking along emergency snow routes is banned, so snow plows can get through. It’s best when there’s any snow in Nebraska to avoid street parking with the way people drive.
- Car accidents that don’t result in injuries or do more than $1500 in damage don’t require law enforcement to respond. You need to fill out a Nebraska State Accident Report on your own, which your insurance will need to investigate the claim.
- Use the Nebraska Outdoors app to get information about fishing, wildlife, wilderness areas, and anything else to do with the outdoors. You do need a license to fish, and you can get that information and make the purchase through that app.
- Never trust the ice on any body of water in Nebraska in the winter. It’s not a state where the water is frozen for months at a time, as in Hastings, Minnesota. Look for signs or ask the local park ranger about them. You can also ask a local sporting goods store. As a Nebraska resident, I can’t think of a good body of water nearby that froze over for a long period of time in the warm winter of 2022/2023.
- Use 511 Nebraska’s app to help navigate the roads. You can check road conditions and look at the color-coded layout to see if there are ice, snow, rain, or dry conditions on the streets. Even the snow plows have cameras in the winter, so you can see the real-time road conditions.
- If you’re here to see the Sandhill Cranes (or even if you aren’t, and you notice them), don’t feed them or get too close. Use your car as a blind to hide behind and just enjoy the view. Binoculars are the best way to get an up-close view. If you’re easily triggered by loud noises, maybe grab some earplugs. Those birds make a lot of noise.
So... How Safe Is Hastings Really?
Hastings is a city that has an average safety rating compared to Nebraska’s crime rate, but it’s still below the national average.
The problem is that violent crime rates are going in the wrong direction.
Violent crime hit an all-time high, at least dating back to 2000, in 2021.
The number of violent crimes was 13% higher than in any previous year, with the second-highest year being 2014.
Aggravated assaults doubled between 2020 and 2021.
Theft is 25% higher than the national average, and shoplifting feeds that rate with 38% of all cases.
21% are related to car break-ins or accessory thefts, like pricey catalytic converters.
With the drug crime rates in rural Nebraska increasing and overdoses becoming more common, that’s causing an increase in the rest of the crime categories either by desperation, defending “turf,” or dynamics among juveniles more prone to crime than ever.
Common sense and staying out of trouble will go a long way here.
Sure, if you’re from a big city, you might laugh at any crime in a small Nebraska town like Hastings.
However, there are challenges here you can’t ignore without raising your risk.
How Does Hastings Compare?
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- Visas - All international visitors should review the new changes in 2023 from the U.S. State Department. The goal is to expedite the process of getting a visa or visa waiver. You'll also need a passport to travel. Check the Customs and Border Patrol websites to see what items are banned from bringing into the country.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Don't wait until you're in Hastings to get currency exchanged. Take care of that at home, so you can get the lowest fees. If you are going to use a bank here, they usually require an appointment.
- Weather - Hastings gets all four seasons, sometimes all in one day! Layers and versatility are important here because you don't want to be stuck without a coat in a snowstorm or in a big sweater when December drops a spring-like day. Summers are consistently warm, but a jacket or hoodie will be helpful for cooler nights. You'll also need bug spray and sunscreen.
- Airports - The nearest commercial airport to Hastings is the Central Nebraska Regional Airport (GRI) in Grand Island, about 30 minutes north. Kearney Regional Airport (EAR) and the Lincoln Airport (LNK) are both about an hour's drive from Hastings. If you want the biggest airport possible in the state, drive the 2.5 hours to Omaha.
- Travel Insurance - We always recommend travel insurance to places with extreme weather potential throughout the year. You don't want to lose money due to a storm beyond your control.
Hastings Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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