Kentucky : Safety by City
- Bowling Green
- Cave City
- Cumberland Falls
- La Grange
- St. Matthews
Hop on the Country Music Highway and head for Ashland, Kentucky, the hometown of The Judds.
Ashland sits along the Ohio River in the tri-state area, including West Virginia and Ohio.
This city is a little bit country and a little bit creative, with music and murals dominating the social scene.
History floods the streets, from downtown to neighborhoods, and the first mall built in Kentucky in 1926 still welcomes visitors.
The historic driving tours here are truly worth the time.
Once a boomtown for coal, oil, and iron, Ashland’s most affluent residents lived in elaborate homes with jaw-dropped architecture.
The city is home to one of the original Paramount movie theaters from the age when audio was first added to movies.
The Great Depression halted those plans, but the community came together to keep the Paramount Theatre alive as it is today.
Ashland hit a population high in 1960 with a decline every decade since.
Now, at less than 22,000 people, the affluence went as well, with a 21% poverty rate citywide.
The dawn of a new era is underway in Ashland, with a grassroots focus on creativity in all forms and a redefinition of what Ashland means to visitors and locals.
Ashland is commonly referred to as “ANK,” after the train station designation.
Warnings & Dangers in Ashland
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Ashland with below-average violent crime rates but higher than average property crime rates. The city isn't as impressive as some other Southern towns at first blush. This is a poorer city without funds to spruce up the historic areas, and there's an underdeveloped beautiful riverside area.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Ashland Bus System has five routes throughout the city and goes as far as Catlettsburg and Summitt. The bus will get you to the top tourist spots. You can also get a taxi or rideshare, but if you really want to explore this region, you'll need a car. All options come with low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of being pickpocketed or having a purse snatched, as none were reported in 2020. The highest theft rate is shoplifting, driving 34% of all thefts.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
This one's gonna hurt. There's a year-round medium risk because if there is a severe weather type, it can happen here. The biggest risks are flooding, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and intense winter storms.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There were just seven robberies in 2020, but 31% of those were against strangers. While the risk is still low, you should definitely use caution if you see someone suspicious approaching you. It's best to stay inside at night and not wander around looking for something to do.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. Even with a major river running nearby, it's not developed enough to impact shipping or distribution. The population is small, and it's a town with 21% poverty. A city like Louisville would be a much more possible target.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There are some creative scams here. One involved people calling asking for money to help police fight the opioid epidemic. Police would never call to ask for donations like that. All of the reported scams are targeting locals, so tourists have a low risk.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk for women visiting here, but you should stay aware of your surroundings. There are parts of the town that look shady simply because there isn't money for renovation or degentrification. The sexual assault rates are below the national average. You will need to avoid walking around at night by yourself. It's just not worth the risk.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows all standards were met or exceeded. There are reports of two violations, but those were in 2017, so I'm not entirely sure why it was disclosed in 2022. Kentucky doesn't regulate PFAS, the "forever chemicals", but those have been found in Ashland's water. As it stands now, there's low risk when using the water.
Safest Places to Visit in Ashland
It’s a great idea to start downtown where the artistic renaissance started.
This area is known as “The District”.
Unique shops and restaurants fill the buildings, and this is where the Camayo Arcade is located.
That’s not a real arcade, it’s an old shopping mall designed before the traditional American shopping mall was popular.
Stop by the Paramount Theatre and see what performances are happening during your visit.
This is the movie studio that was supposed to be three times bigger than it currently is, as development was strained during the Great Depression.
If you are visiting during the holiday season, this place comes to life with a festival of trees that is one of the top holiday events in Ashland.
From there, take a walk to Riverfront Park.
Along the way, you’ll pass several murals that will make you stop in your tracks.
These beautiful designs are with it just for that, but it’s also incredible to see how a community that didn’t have much money turned a dilapidated downtown area into an art palette.
Be sure to use #visitaky if you post pictures on social media.
You might end up on the tourism website!
Look for the Ohio River overlook at the top of the stairs in Riverfront Park.
There are panoramic views of the river and region.
This is an especially stunning view as the fall colors change.
Before you leave, check out the new sculptures along the riverfront.
Central Park is exactly what it sounds like.
While not as big as the real Central Park in New York City, this park is the center point of The District and has a pool, historic log cabin, serene pond, and walking trails.
This is also the start of a Historical Walking Tour of the elegant homes from the lavish era when Ashland was a boom town.
Wear comfy walking shoes because this tour is extensive.
A stop at the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center will take you back in time to more than just amazing homes.
This is where you can learn about the region’s music and its strong ties to the railroad industry.
There’s a makeshift steamboat to pilot and a special exhibit about caves in the region.
After all that walking, get off your feet and into your car and drive as far as you’d like on Country Music Highway that spans 100 miles, starting at the Paramount Theatre and going all the way south to Pikeville.
Places to Avoid in Ashland
The highest crime rates run along the river length in the city and into the downtown area.
This is also one of the most visited areas of this small town, so it makes sense that there would be more crime there.
You don’t have to worry about driving through a dangerous neighborhood.
There aren’t any bad parts of the town.
That said, the average home price here barely breaks $100,000, and outside of the historic areas, there’s not really a reason to drive around neighborhoods.
All of the attractions are pretty centered near The District.
If you’re there during a severe storm, the downtown area can flood.
There has been flooding here before that left people stranded in their cars in the downtown area.
Even if you visit during a few rainy days, that’s enough for the river to overrun its banks.
You need to stay weather aware here.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Ashland
- Sign up for weather alerts through AlertSense. This is offered by the Boyd County Emergency Management office. You do need to add an address, so use your hotel’s address. This is especially important in case of a boil order or other concerns that only impact a certain area. Once you have an account, download the app to get notifications on your mobile device and track alerts in the area.
- The Ashland Police Department suggests that people carrying a purse shouldn’t use a crossbody bag, since someone trying to snatch it could hurt the victim by pulling them to the ground. It’s advised never to fight for your purse or wallet. Also, the department says “the only place for your purse should be your lap” when dining out, since hanging it from the back of the chair could make it an easy target.
- There are forms to report a minor crime or fender bender on the police department’s website. This is a great tool, especially for accidents, because you can print the report to submit to your insurance agency. As for crime reporting, a general rule is if the crime involved less than $500 being taken by fraud or loss, and no weapon was involved.
- The Ashland Police Department website is very outdated. There’s a link to an app that is almost a decade old. There is an annual report section, yet it hasn’t been updated since 2016. The Facebook page for the police department is a much better source for updated information. The handle is @ashlandpolice.
- Anglers need a license from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife. There are many rules and permits for those who also want a hunting license. Be sure to review the website before you purchase a license. You can’t use the license from your home state or city here.
- Winter visitors should use a lot of caution when it snows. Salt is used here to help the ice and snow melt, but once the temperature gets below 15°(F), the salt can’t do its job. Avoid parking on city streets during one of these events, so you don’t get sideswiped by a snowplow or hit by a sliding vehicle.
- The city also has street sweepers that come through different parts of town daily. There are many parking restrictions associated with that, but as a tourist, you don’t want to remember them all. Try to always park in a parking lot or parking garage to avoid any issues.
- If you’re using the bus system here, the best deal is a $7.50 weekly pass with unlimited rides. The bus runs Monday through Saturday with no service on Sundays.
- If you come across a pothole in a roadway, and let’s face it, you will, you can call the Pothole Hotline. The number is 1-800-PATCH-IT. This will give a heads-up to the state to fix the hole in the road. Don’t assume someone else has done it already because the more reports of the pothole, the greater chance it will be fixed quickly.
- When driving the Country Music Highway, there are dozens of locations where you can pull over to take pictures. Don’t do it while driving. Abide by all speed limits, even when going through a small town at very low speeds.
So... How Safe Is Ashland Really?
Ashland is all over the place with its crime numbers.
For example, the violent crime rate is 33% lower than the national average, but the homicide rate is three times higher than the national average.
The robbery rate is almost three times lower than the national average, and even the aggravated assault rate is lower than average.
The theft rate is twice the national average, but 34% of that is shoplifting.
Just 15% of thefts were car break-ins, whereas many other cities have a break-in rate closer to 30% of all thefts.
Ashland isn’t the safest city in Kentucky, but it’s also not among the most dangerous.
The economic struggles of the town and its residents are the biggest challenges here, along with increased drug crimes.
What the city needs is more people to believe in it and visit, sharing their tourist stories to build momentum for more funding.
How Does Ashland Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
- Visas - A U.S. Visa will cost between $160 to $190. You should plan several months ahead of time to complete all the steps. The visa is used to get in and out of the country, meaning you don't need it to travel between cities or states.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here as currency. There are several businesses and restaurants in town that only take cash, so bring a little bit of cash with you each day. Just don't carry a lot of it in one place.
- Weather - Layers of clothing will be the best idea here because temperatures fluctuate during the different seasons. During winter, you'll still need outerwear. During summer, you'll need bug spray and a non-floral perfume to avoid attracting bugs. A good mix of t-shirts, tank tops, and sweatshirts combined with shorts, jeans, and leggings should be perfect.
- Airports - The Tri-State Airport in Huntington is the closest airport and is served by Allegiant and American Airlines. You can also get to airports in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, in roughly two hours. Going to the Lexingtonairport will take about two and a half hours.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance helps with so many unpredictable parts of a trip, from flight delays to hiking accidents or even dehydration. It's a smart choice to protect your trip as you do your home, car, and life.
Ashland Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|