Iowa : Safety by City
- Arnolds Park
- Cedar Falls
- Cedar Rapids
- Clear Lake
- Council Bluffs
- Des Moines
- Fort Dodge
- Fort Madison
- Iowa City
- Mason City
- North Liberty
- Pleasant Hill
- Polk City
- Sioux City
- Spirit Lake
- Storm Lake
- The Amana Colonies
- West Des Moines
Near the Minnesota border of Iowa sits a series of lakes and small towns that bring in more than a million visitors each year.
One of those cities, perhaps the most well-known, is Arnolds Park.
When you visit this region of northern Iowa, you have several tourist cities to see, including Spirit Lake and Okojobi.
The entire region is known as Okojoibi, making it a little more confusing for tourists new to this area.
Some of the locations here might have different addresses that don’t coincide with the nearest city, so it’s important to look at the location on a map before setting out on your adventure.
When you think of Arnolds Park, think amusement park.
Arnolds Park is the southernmost of the biggest cities and it is home to an amusement park and a steamboat cruise ship.
The amusement park was the scene of a 2007 movie released with the titles “Carousel of Revenge” and “Arnolds Park.”
It is also home to one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the country, dating back to the late 1920s.
While only 1,100 people live in Arnolds Park, the surrounding county is home to 18,000 people.
The Great Lakes Region is a flurry of large and small lakes spanning 12,000 acres and 70 miles of shoreline.
There are beaches and boat docks along the way, plus plenty of private homes or condos.
Most tourists visit here in summer, but there’s a lot to do here in winter as well.
The Great Lakes of Iowa are tucked away in a corner of the state where the nearest bike city is 90 minutes and another state away.
The crystal blue waters of the lakes beckon people and the history is as deep as the water in some places.
Arnolds Park is tucked into the land where East Okojobi Lake, West Okojobi Lake, Minnewasta Lake, and Lower Gar Lake meet.
You couldn’t be better poised for an outdoor adventure than Arnolds Park, Iowa.
Warnings & Dangers in Arnolds Park
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk, but that's assuming you practice all the safety steps needed on these bodies of water. The crime in the entire county is low, and the list of things to do is long with a little something for everyone.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll need a car here unless you want to rent a shuttle or bicycle for long distances. There are taxis and rideshares available, but no public transportation. There's low risk with any option, but I can't emphasize enough how important it would be to have your own vehicle here.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk given the crime rates, but that could also be due to great safety practices by tourists. Any place that gets this crowded and causes people to relax could be a place of opportunity for would-be thieves.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk for severe weather here throughout the year, but nothing is uncommon for this region. There are severe thunderstorms that can produce tornadoes during the warmer months and winter storms that can halt road travel.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of being mugged here as no robberies were reported in the entire county in 2020 or 2021. You should still stay aware of your surroundings at all times and don't let a safe record make you careless.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of terrorism here. Despite how popular it is, it's not as popular globally as places like Lake of the Ozarks or Lake Tahoe. This is a hidden gem of Iowa and hopefully, terrorists never even learn about it.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
As long as you book excursions and places to stay through verified sources, you should have a low risk of being scammed. You should never have to wire money to reserve anything. If you do feel like someone is trying to scam you during the rental registration process, report them to the local police and the FTC.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk for women here but it's wise to use caution when enjoying the many bars in this area. It can be quite a party town on some nights and you never want to leave your drink unattended or take a drink you didn't see the bartender make. You should also drink water between each beverage for safety and hydration. There are some potent specialty drinks made here.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The tap water is safe with low risk, according to the most recent water quality report. No violations were noted and all water meets or exceeds the requirements.
Safest Places to Visit in Arnolds Park
Arnolds Park Amusement Park is open from late May through early September each year.
Tickets range from $35 to $55.
Compare that to a $109 ticket to Disney World.
The park has 24 rides and a mirror maze.
The rides each cater to different sizes and fear levels, with plenty of rides for the younger kids.
There is also a go-kart racetrack, two performance venues (Sir Mix-A-Lot is coming next week!), and summer movie nights in the park.
Don’t miss the games at the midway for a chance to win a very cheap stuffed animal after you’ve invested a lot of money trying to shoot a water gun full of liquid into a balloon!
There are two museums in this amusement park area as well.
The maritime museum is great for marine enthusiasts.
You do need to book tours three weeks in advance.
Your amusement park pass will also get you into the Arnolds Park Museum with a look at some of the rides that used to be in the park.
You can also book tickets on the Queen II steamboat, which is open from May through early September.
Cruises generally depart every two hours from 1:00 pm through 7:00 pm.
Tickets are $17 and under.
Take the sunset cruise.
Next to the Queen II harbor, you’ll find a beach with sand volleyball courts and water rentals.
There are also more cruises available, including a glass-bottom boat tour.
To learn more about the cruises available during your trip, call (712)332–9904 or visit parksmarina.com.
The Abbie Gardner Cabin and Museum is a place that tells the story of a violent time in this region, but this is a family-friendly attraction.
In the 1850s, Abby Gardner and her family lived in the cabin still on display here, and there was tension between the Native Americans and settlers.
The Spirit Lake Massacre happened when the Native Americans attacked the settlers and 13-year-old Abby was taken by the Native Americans.
She survived the ordeal and returned to her home and set up the museum and wrote a book to tell her story.
Even the “Welcome” video is very G-rated with the way they tell the story of what happened here, and there is no mention of the dozens of settlers who were scalped alive in the massacre.
(Ok, no other mention than THAT one.)
Boji Splash Water Park is a way to enjoy the water without having to get into the lake.
There are slides and lazy pools for anyone who just wants to relax at the pool.
There are fishing excursions you can book in Arnolds Park or in several of the other cities along the lake.
You can either rent your own boat and buy supplies or take a charter that covers everything you’ll need.
Some of the day-long excursions include frying the fresh-caught fish at dusk.
Most of the restaurants here are only slightly more elaborate than a food bar, but there are a few choices for finer dining.
Maxwell’s Beach Cafe is right across from the amusement park and you’ll need to make reservations.
Dinner prices are about $40-$50 per entree.
Read our reviews of Spirit Lake and Okojobi for more to do in this region.
Even with the three articles, it’s hard to mention all the great things to do here.
Places to Avoid in Arnolds Park
There aren’t any bad parts of this city to avoid.
You can get lost without worrying that you’re in a bad neighborhood.
The crime rates here and in the surrounding cities are low.
There’s not one town that is safer or more dangerous than another.
With the amusement park here and so many attractions in a small area, this is going to be more crowded and louder than some other areas.
If you’re looking to get away from kids and related noises, this isn’t the place for you.
There is also going to be more traffic here.
For a quieter place, Spirit Lake has some hotels right on the main highway with easy access to any part of the lakes you want to explore.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Arnolds Park
- Arnolds Park has its own police force with a chief, assistant chief, and three officers. They are supported by the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office and work in conjunction with the Okoboji and Spirit Lake police departments. You can still call 911 for emergencies and it will get routed to the right person to help you. The non-emergency number is (712)332-2227.
- There are three tornado sirens in Arnolds Park, and they are tested every Wednesday at noon. It’s good to know that, because you might get concerned to hear such a loud siren on a sunny day. These tests are required to make sure the sirens are functioning properly in case of a real tornado.
- Anglers need a fishing license here from the state of Iowa. The Department of Natural Resources has all the in-depth information you need to get a license, where to catch certain kinds of fish, and any alerts on the waters an angler needs to know. Even if you are going on a fishing excursion, you still need a license.
- On the Dickinson County Emergency Management website, you can sign up for “Dickinson Alerts.” This will send any weather emergency information to your mobile device. It’s critical you pay attention to the weather forecast here as a severe thunderstorm can be dangerous and you’ll need to act immediately for the safest outcome.
- This is a place open all four seasons, and winter brings chances for ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and sledding. You can rent the equipment you need and don’t need to carry your skis with you on the flight here.
- You might hear people talk about the University of Okojobi here. There are even winter games hosted by the U of O. However, there is no university. It started as a joke in the 1970s and the community has carried it forward, even making t-shirts and hats with a fake logo.
- Review the safety rules for the amusement park. Some rides have height and other restrictions. For larger-sized people, ask for a seat belt extender to help keep the belt nice and snug, but not painful. For most rides, children need to be 48 inches or taller, but there are some rides with height requirements of 30 inches.
- The Iowa Water Safety Council has a great booklet that includes all the boating, swimming, personal watercraft, and winter rules and regulations. You can even watch some videos showing how to survive an accidental fall into cold winter water. It might not be as exciting to watch as TikTok, but it’s worth your time. Do you know what to do if you fall in water just above freezing? You will soon!
- After swimming in the lake, find the nearest shower and wash off. There are invasive species and bacteria that can get into the water. While the water isn’t dangerous to swim in, you just want to wash off anything that might give you a rash or make you sick.
- When hiking in this region, be on the lookout for poison ivy, ticks, and coyotes. Poison Ivy can look a lot like other plants, so it’s best to stay on the trails and don’t touch any plants. That’s going to help keep ticks away, but be sure to do a full-body scan when you’re back at the hotel or campsite. Pull ticks out by their heads and disinfect the skin afterward. If you happen to see a coyote, make a lot of noise and throw stuff in its general direction to scare it off. They aren’t predatory towards humans, and the noise alone will usually scare them off. If you happen to have a pet with you, pick the animal up until the coyote is out of sight.
So... How Safe Is Arnolds Park Really?
The only real dangers in Arnolds Park are the natural and weather variances.
Crime levels are very low.
Even in 2020, there were only 15 thefts reported in the entire county.
If there is a threat of severe weather on any day, plan for indoor activities.
The rides at the park will be shut down if there is a storm on the horizon and some activities are canceled just due to rain.
Stay away from the water until 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder.
Should there be a tornado warning while you’re there, seek shelter inside immediately.
You should ask at your hotel where the safe place is, and know where the closest public building is at all times should you need a quick escape.
Rarely is a tornado warning going to happen without a precursory tornado watch.
For winter, follow 511ia.org for information about road closures and snow plow routes.
The snow plows in Iowa all have cameras on the front so you can see the road conditions before you go.
How Does Arnolds Park Compare?
- Visas - You'll need to plan at least three months ahead of time to get a U.S. Visa. You'll need to present that visa at the airport, but you won't need it to get around the Great Lakes of Iowa cities. Your passport will be used as your legal ID. For U.S. citizens visiting here, just use your local driver's license.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar (USD) here. Many tickets can be purchased online ahead of time, like the amusement park. There will be some places that only accept cash, so exchange currency at the airport before you make the trip to this rural Iowa region.
- Weather - You'll need a lot of warm layers that will keep you insulated as you spend a lot of time outdoors. The wind chill here can be particularly brutal, so bring something to keep your face warm. Spring and fall can be chilly at times, so bring layers of clothing to peel off or add on as the temperatures fluctuate. Summer will be warm during the day with high humidity. Generally, when a storm rolls through, the humidity will go down a bit and it will be a welcome break. Bring a rain jacket too.
- Airports - The Sioux Falls, South Dakota airport is the closest one and that's about 90 minutes west. Minneapolis and Des Moines have larger airports, but you'll be on the road for a good three and a half hours to get to one of those.
- Travel Insurance - Make sure you have travel insurance for air, land, and sea (uh.. lake). There are a lot of fun things to do, but a lot can also go wrong. Weather can also halt air traffic or cripple road travel for long periods of time.
Arnolds Park Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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