There is a new middle school that opened in the fall of 2008.The high schools are Hastings High School (public) and St. Cecilia's (Catholic). Just outside of town is Adams Central Jr./Sr. High(public rural). All of these schools score above the national average in the SAT.
Hastings College, the alma mater of former U.S. Congressman and current University of Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne, is a private liberal arts college located in Hastings.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.0 square miles (25.8 km²), of which, 9.8 square miles (25.5 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (1.31%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 24,064 people, 9,610 households, and 5,948 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,448.5 people per square mile (945.2/km²). There were 10,333 housing units at an average density of 1,051.4/sq mi (405.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.39% White, 0.79% African American, 0.42% Native American, 2.02% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.39% from other races, and 0.96% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.58% of the population.
There were 9,610 households out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.8% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 31.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.6% under the age of 18, 12.8% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,461, and the median income for a family was $44,688. Males had a median income of $29,633 versus $21,262 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,941. About 5.6% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.6% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.
Fisher Fountain was originally meant to be a temporary exhibit at the 1932 Adams County Fair, but was made permanent because of its popularity. The fountain was relocated to Highland Park in 1933.
The fountain's name was developed by school children during a contest held by the town. The two winning essays were combined to create the fountain's permanent name. Jacob Fisher was the mayor of Hastings when the Highland Park was first developed. The "Rainbow Fountain" describes intricate lighting of continuously changing arrays of water jets (which reach heights of 67 feet). It is called the "Rainbow Fountain" because the water changes to various colors (green, yellow, orange, red, pinkish-purple, and blue).
In early July 1984, Fisher Fountain was the target of brutal vandalism and blown up with dynamite. Although the perpetrators were never brought to justice, many citizens of Hastings held serious suspicions toward several farmers that lived outside the town and who had access to explosives. The destruction of such a beautiful local attraction aroused a strong community response. Many members of the town volunteered their time and quickly rebuilt the fountain. In defiance of the vandals, the Fisher Fountain was rebuilt to the exact specifications of the original and boasts no security besides a waist-high wrought iron fence. There is a simple plaque describing the attack and subsequent community efforts on the side of the fountain's pump house.
During World War II the Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) was the largest of four munitions depots in the country and was known for producing nearly 40 percent of the Navy's ammunition supply at one point during WWII. Igloo-shaped, earth covered mounds still line U.S. Highway 6 for a distance of over four miles. The Depot included over 2000 structures, and encompassed 48,753 acres. A blast on September 15, 1944, ascribed to human error (thought to be caused by someone illegally smoking in one of the "igloo" shaped storage facilities), killed nine people and injured 53. The blast was so bright that it could be seen from the nearby town of Doniphan (11 miles north of Hastings). During the Vietnam War, a portion of the NAD was turned over to the Air Force. This became a radar bomb scoring detachment that helped train pilots in electronic bombing techniques that were used in southeast Asia. The land now houses the Central Community College, a Department of Agriculture Meat Animal Research Center, an industrial park, golf course and training facilities for National Guardsmen and Reservists.