Iowa : Safety by City
- Arnolds Park
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- Cedar Rapids
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- Des Moines
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- Iowa City
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- Spirit Lake
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- The Amana Colonies
- West Des Moines
Ankeny, Iowa sits on the northeast side of the Des Moines metro area and is a dense residential area of nearly 68,000 people.
This suburb is safe and well planned, offering the basic amenities of an American suburb with some fascinating stories, as you dig for information beneath the cul-de-sacs and soccer fields.
Ankeny has twice been hit head-on by a tornado, once in 1974 and another time in 1990.
Some of the lesser-told stories of those tragedies are the couple who lost a home in each tornado and a man who tells the extended version of being sucked out of his car and tossed around by the 1974 twister after the local meteorologists had wrongly given the “all clear.”
There are plenty of hotels on Ankey’s side of town, with most along the I-35 corridor on the east, while the western edge is flanked by Saylorville Lake with plenty of camping and RV sites.
One bonus of Ankeny is the distance from being in the remote wilderness and a fancy restaurant is just a few miles.
There’s flexibility and efficiency in the things to do here.
Ankeny is very popular right now and has grown 33% in the past decade, so even by the time I’m done writing this article, several new businesses might have opened.
Warnings & Dangers in Ankeny
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk in Ankeny with low crime rates and a lot to do nearby. There are main routes for transportation to Des Moines and the smaller towns of rural Iowa.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
DART is the bus system that goes through the greater Des Moines area. There are a handful of stops in Ankeny. Taxis and rideshares are available, and this is a town that's easy to navigate on a bicycle. There's low risk with any transportation options.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The theft risk here is 36% lower than the national average, and there's a low risk of being pickpocketed. You should use caution in the shopping and dining areas and don't be careless with where you leave your bags or purse, even when dining.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Ankeny has had its fair share of tornadoes over the years, and it is still at risk to this day. Severe thunderstorms can be dangerous in their own capacity with large hail, damaging winds, and torrential rain. The 2020 Derecho hit much of Iowa hard. Winter brings snow and ice storms with the potential for extreme weather. There's a medium risk because these storms can happen all year long. Those who remember the previous tornadoes here will be the first to run for shelter when weather warnings are issued.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
With just two robberies reported in 2021, there's a low risk of being robbed here. The violent crime rate is low, almost three times lower than the national average, so there's little concern a robbery would escalate to a violent crime.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Since this is part of a large population center, there's medium risk. However, Des Moines isn't the biggest city in the Midwest, so it's at the low end of medium risk.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The biggest scam right now is people posing as law enforcement and demanding payment for the victim to avoid being arrested. They are asked to buy gift cards to pay the fine. This is a scam, as is anything that involves buying gift cards to pay for a threatening situation. This scam is mostly targeted at residents, so there's a low risk it will happen to you.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel safe traveling here with low risk. The sexual assault rate is almost 30% lower than the national average. There are a lot of activities to do in busy, well-lit places, and a low risk of ending up in a dangerous neighborhood within the Ankeny city limits.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of any issues when using the tap water here in Ankeny. Des Moines Water Works details the results of testing in 2021 in the annual Water Quality Report you can see on the "Water" section of the city website.
Safest Places to Visit in Ankeny
The District at Prairie Trail is the shopping and dining destination of Ankeny.
It’s an open-air mall with some of the most popular brands nationwide.
There’s also an arcade, movie theater, and bowling area on site.
The Ankeny Historical Society is a great place to learn about the history of those tornadoes and other impactful events that changed the course of Ankeny.
Exhibits are switched out throughout the year, so it’s not always the same experience as visitors get in other seasons.
The historical area is home to Uptown Ankeny, with more unique stores and cafes, plus some local businesses.
Events here range from trivia nights to drag queen performances to movies in the park.
There’s also a farmer’s market here on Saturday mornings from May through September.
Saylorville Lake is just five miles west of Ankeny and is a popular place for Des Moines residents and tourists throughout the year.
While this lake actually serves as flood control, it has been parlayed into an outdoor recreation oasis.
You don’t have to worry about crowds either, because there are 50 miles of lake and river to explore.
Campsites are scattered along different parts of the lake area as well, so there’s room for everyone.
Ankeny Miracle Park is a playground meant for every child, no matter what physical or mental limitations they might have.
There are wheelchair ramps in the playground equipment.
Iowa’s High Trestle Trail starts in Ankeny and runs 25 miles to Woodward, with a bridge that sits 13 stories above the river and has incredible design and lighting.
While you can hike on this trail, it’s best to take a bicycle since it’s such a long road.
It takes at least 90 minutes to get from Ankeny to the bridge on a bicycle, but plan for two to two and a half hours if you want to make the bridge your turnaround point.
Places to Avoid in Ankeny
Ankeny west and northeast have the highest crime rates in the city, but that’s still not enough of a concern to avoid those areas.
Since crime is relatively low here, even higher crime areas are safe places to visit.
If you are visiting here to get a taste of the full Des Moines area, this might not be the best place for you.
This is a very suburban area, so if you are coming from the suburbs it’s not going to feel a lot different than home.
Downtown Des Moines is less than a 30-minute drive without traffic, so you aren’t too far away.
You also aren’t in the heart of the action either.
You have to avoid being cavalier about the weather here.
History has shown just how dangerous storms can be here.
You should always have a reliable weather app with notifications enabled.
Alert Iowa and CodeRED are other great apps to keep you aware of all safety risks in the region.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Ankeny
- If you are visiting in the winter, go to the city’s website section called “Connect With Us.” There’s a specific place where you can sign up for snow emergency notifications. This will impact where you can park if snow has accumulated on the streets.
- For visitors in the spring and summer, the city no longer sprays for mosquitoes, so you need to bring and use bug spray. Mosquitoes are more than annoying – they can also carry West Nile Virus. Wearing a citrus-scented perfume or cologne is a great deterrent against bugs too.
- If your car gets damaged on an Ankeny city street due to issues like big potholes, contact the city clerk’s office to file a claim. If the damage happens on a state highway, contact the Iowa Department of Transportation.
- There is an outdoor ice rink in the winter at Sunrise Park. There are no skate rentals at the park, so you’ll need to bring your own. The rink is also not supervised, so you skate at your own risk. If there’s a red flag, it means the rink isn’t safe for skating. A green flag means it is.
- All vendors and solicitors need to have a permit from the city. If you suspect someone is peddling a product without permission, ask to see a solicitor’s badge. If they can’t show you one, contact the police at (515) 286-3333.
- Fishing and hunting have strict regulations in Iowa and you’ll need a separate permit for each activity. You can see the rules and regulations on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website. Don’t wait until the last minute, because some of the license requirements include passing a test or taking a safety course.
- Before you visit Saylorville Lake, check the Corps Lake Gateway website to see which areas are open and if there are any safety warnings. You can also book a campsite right through that website. If you want to use a boat ramp while you’re there, call (515)509-2015 ext. 30 to find the list of available ramps that day.
- To get the kids engaged in water safety, Bobber the Water Safety Dog has his own website. The site has cartoons, coloring books, and interactive games that focus on teaching children how to be safe in and around water.
- The Ankeny Chamber of Commerce puts out a monthly newsletter that can be downloaded by anyone. This will include the biggest and safest events in the city, as well as new business openings. This is the best way to learn about the chamber-approved businesses and events.
- In spring and summer, construction starts up and that could mean detours and delays in your travel. The city website has a list of construction projects to help you navigate around the work. 511ia.org will show you the construction sites and road conditions across the state.
So... How Safe Is Ankeny Really?
This is a relatively safe suburban cocoon.
It does have crime, but nowhere near the state or national levels.
Almost all crime levels that could impact a tourist were down, aside from motor vehicle theft, which was up 18%.
Here’s how the risks break down in Ankeny:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 700 risk
- Sexual Assault: 1 in 3,513 risk
- Theft: 1 in 112 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 33,944 risk
The benefits of Ankeny are the number of basic amenities, with plenty of hotels close to major interstates and outdoor areas.
You don’t have to go out of the city to get what you need, but you’re close to wherever you want to go in the Des Moines area or central Iowa.
The weather risks are always going to be there.
You’ll hear people tell stories of the tornadoes because many people have built their lives here throughout several generations.
If you aren’t used to the weather Iowa has, it might be a bit scary.
You can review the emergency management plan for the city and the county and be hyper-aware of how to handle any emergency that happens.
How Does Ankeny Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need about four months' leeway to get a U.S. Visa. While you might get it done much faster, you should still give plenty of time in case of unforeseen delays. You will need your visa at the airport, but not to travel throughout the Des Moines area. Bring your passport as your ID for car rentals and hotel check-ins.
- Currency - You'll only be using the U.S. Dollar (USD) here. There isn't a need to carry cash as all of the stores and restaurants take credit cards or mobile payment apps.
- Weather - Layers of clothing are great for all seasons. Winters can get dangerously cold, so you'll need base layers and outer layers. In spring and fall, the temperatures can fluctuate often, so bring some extra sweatshirts and jeans. In summer, you'll need layers of clothing because, with the humidity, you might need to change clothes more often. You can easily sweat through a t-shirt on a warm day. Bring sunscreen and bug spray too.
- Airports - The Des Moines International Airport is 30 minutes due south of Ankeny along I-35. That's the closest and largest option and any other airport is going to be a long drive through the pretty static countryside.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance should be strongly considered given how weather can impact every method of travel here. You want to have flexibility in your travel in case you get delayed a day or two on either side of the trip.
Ankeny Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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