Minnesota : Safety by City
- Brooklyn Park
- Detroit Lakes
- Fergus Falls
- Grand Marais
- Grand Portage
- International Falls
- Maple Grove
- New Ulm
- Red Wing
- St. Cloud
- St. Paul
- Two Harbors
Brainerd is known as Minnesota’s vacationland, including nearby Baxter and Brainerd Lakes in this premiere outdoor destination surrounded by the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Brainerd also calls itself home to Paul Bunyan, a fact that would be disputed by the Minnesota towns of Bemidji and Akeley, and Bangor, Maine.
However, since Bunyan is a mythical man of folklore, we will just let that one slide.
The Brainerd region is a great pivot point, with the North Shore, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Fargo, North Dakota, each being two hours away.
A drive three-and-a-half hours north takes you to the Canadian border at International Falls.
Within Minnesota’s Playground (another nickname), you’ll find the best of city amenities like great hotels, dining, and shopping while still being able to explore the rugged four-season outdoor adventures of Minnesota.
Brainerd also ups the ante of adventures with an international raceway and resort, in addition to traditional activities like fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, and boating.
Brainerd is truly close enough yet far away enough for every skill level and adventure seeker.
Relax, rejuvenate, or revive your inner explorer with dozens of options.
Warnings & Dangers in Brainerd
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Brainerd has a low risk for tourists, but it does have a higher violent crime rate than the national average. It's very much a "don't go looking for trouble, and you won't find it" kind of town.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
A public transit system offers shuttle rides on weekdays but is more for trips to the grocery store or doctor's office. Taxis and rideshares are available. If you want to explore the best parts of the region, you'll need your own vehicle. Bicyclists can get around easily, but there are a lot of lands to explore, which could get exhausting. It's best to pair a vehicle with a bicycle.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Just two pickpockets were reported in 2021, which makes it a low risk, despite a theft rate higher than 30% of the national average. Shoplifting has increased downtown, which isn't a direct risk but could always escalate to a more serious offense. If you notice a shoplifter, just report it to the police and don't intervene.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Central Minnesota gets the best and worst of all severe weather. Ice storms, blizzards, and forceful winds can hamper great snow activities. Spring brings tornado season, with severe thunderstorms and straight line winds that bring outdoor activities to a halt. Wildfire risks are ongoing, especially during a drought.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Petty thefts are much more common than muggings, with just four robberies reported in 2021. More than 70% of violent crimes are aggravated assaults, which is what a robbery can turn into if force is used. Stay off dark streets at night, and don't walk around alone.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Lone Wolf attacks would be the only concern here, as the region doesn't have any reason to be a major terror target. Emergency management here spends more time focused on weather safety than any other risk.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The biggest scam reported here involved utility scams, which won't impact tourists. You should also use the Chamber of Commerce recommendations for rental homes or cabins to ensure it's a legitimate listing. Don't use Craigslist for rentals, and never wire money to reserve a rental.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The biggest risk for women is to assume a place such as "Vacationland" is a safe and serene place. This small town does have some big city crime rates, but the risk isn't anything that common sense and situational awareness should overcome. You should also have wilderness and weather safety education here.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report did show one violation involving copper. A small exposure to too much copper could lead to gastrointestinal issues. Long-term exposure could hurt the liver or kidney. There's also a Superfund site at a former railroad tie factory between Brainerd and Baxter that released toxic sludge for many years. Some wells could have high levels of PFAS (the "forever" chemical). While there's no advisory or warning on the water supply, it would be safest to use bottled water for drinking and tap water only for bathing.
Safest Places to Visit in Brainerd
Visit Brainerd, Explore Brainerd Lakes, and Downtown Brainerd are the respective websites to get the full scope of things to do in this region.
Baxter is included on the Visit Brainerd website.
Baxter is much more residential and suburban than the lakes or Brainerd proper.
Downtown Brainerd is just east of the Mississippi River along Washington Street, with shops and restaurants fanning out on several blocks north and south.
The Northern Pacific Center District is just east of downtown.
It’s an entertainment district set in the historic railroad building.
The shops are all locally crafted and regional brands, making this unlike any traditional American shopping mall.
Paul Bunyan Land makes you truly believe in the legend of the giant lumberjack.
A giant statue greets each person by name as they enter and then opens to a park filled with amusement rides, bumper cars, a pioneer village, a ghost mine, and a petting barn.
An old mine with magnetic anomalies will make you skeptical until you get thrown out of a chair just by sitting down or see a ball roll up against gravity.
Around Halloween, you can visit Haunted Hidden Hallows here.
Brainerd International Raceway brings drag racing, superbike races, muscle cars, and NHRA sanctioned events.
Try your own racing skills at Billy Bones Raceway or Northland Kart Kountry.
Brainerd is surrounded by so many lakes they are hard to count (ok, at least 460 are nearby).
You can also head to Brainerd Lakes to visit Crow Wing State Park along the Mississippi River.
Scuba diving, boating, and fishing are popular sports here.
Nearly 20 city or county parks open the door to beaches, playgrounds, ice skating, and other seasonal activities.
You can still get wet in the winter with three indoor water parks in the region.
Even if you just want to soak in the hot tub after a cold winter’s day, there are plenty of places to relax inside.
Six ski trails surround the area, bike trails open in all seasons, with the trendy fat tire biking in winter.
Snowshoeing trails are also an option.
Museums to explore include the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and the Crossing Arts Alliance gallery.
Check the tourism calendars or city website for live music at local venues throughout the year.
Places to Avoid in Brainerd
You don’t need to worry about dangerous neighborhoods or bad parts of town.
When you’re in the city, stay on main roads and highways – just use common sense.
When you’re in the wilderness, the crime risk drops off substantially, but weather and wilderness risks can take over if you aren’t prepared.
Many activities in Brainerd will require a license, pass, or permit.
Even using the designated cross-country skiing trails will require a ski pass.
You can research that price and accessibility on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website or call 1-888-MN-LICENSE (1-888-665-4236).
While you’re on that site, look for fishing licenses.
Snowmobile drivers also need a license from DNR.
Yep, that’s another license.
Avoid eating the fish you catch in the waters around Brainerd.
The DNR has a “Fish Consumption Guidance” updated regularly to warn you about the risk of eating certain fish from specific waterways.
A new study in 2021 showed elevated levels of PFAS chemicals in freshwater fish caught in this region.
When in doubt, call the health department or DNR.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Brainerd
- Brainerd and Baxter have their own respective police departments. Each department is also on Facebook. Follow both departments to get information across the neighboring cities.
- The Brainerd Dispatch is the newspaper in town, and the website is free to access and read. You are welcome to subscribe, but you won’t run into a paywall if you’re just trying to read the stories of the day.
- Sign up for Crow Wind County Alerts to get important weather and safety information sent via text message. Storms here can develop quickly, and you must know the risk well ahead of time. A storm watch means conditions are ripe for storms to develop, and a warning means a dangerous storm is imminent.
- Tornado sirens are tested in the city on the first Wednesday of every month at 1:00 pm. This is totally normal for American communities. It lasts less than five minutes and ensures the devices are ready when a real storm develops.
- You can use the Pulse Point app to learn about fires or medical emergencies throughout the city and county. Visitors who are trained in CPR or could be at risk of a situation where they need CPR should use this app to help get help when seconds matter. I use Pulse Point every time I hear an ambulance in my neighborhood to see what is happening and if my CPR training could be used.
- When a snow emergency is declared, parking on public streets will be banned. Instead of having to read the rules and parking ban hours, it’s best to avoid parking on the street if there’s any chance of snow. You could be towed if your car is blocking a snow plow route.
- Use 511 MN to track road conditions, traffic flow, construction, and accidents during your visit. The app and website cover the entire state, but you can set your preferred routes and get alerts for specific roadways. This will also help you see what roads are plowed or if trails are closed due to snow or storm damage.
- The opioid crisis is getting so bad in America that it is now standard for me to offer this advice to any visitor – carry Narcan with you at all times. Especially if you’ll be partying at the lake or dancing the night away at a club, an opioid overdose can be quickly reversed with the use of Narcan, which is a nasal spray. In Minnesota, you are protected by a Good Samaritan Law that lets you avoid prosecution if you use Narcan on someone in good faith, even if you are doing drugs at the time. To learn more, read the Naloxone section of the Minnesota State Health Department’s website.
- State park information is available on the DNR website. You should look at the “Seasonal Update” for your preferred park. This will provide information about drinking water, trail updates, and special accommodations. Crow Wing State Park does have an electric powered track chair to help those with mobility issues be able to enjoy the park trails.
- To keep up with safety alerts in the city, sign up for specific notifications on the NOTIFY ME section of the city’s website. You can skip the city council meeting notes and such. Choose the Alert Center and News Flash options.
So... How Safe Is Brainerd Really?
This seems like a small town, but by Minnesota standards, it’s a medium-sized region.
Adding in all the cities and townships, there are nearly 100,000 people who live here and thousands more that visit each season.
Violent crime rates are 60% higher than the national average, but just 14% of violent crimes happen against strangers.
The police department does have crime mapping technology on its website if you want to check crime rates closer to your visit.
68% of violent crimes happen in homes, which is why we gave this city a low risk.
While the rates are high, they are also not targeting tourist destinations or causing random acts of violence.
The city has also seen just three homicides since 2000.
The main concerns for a guest here are petty theft and car break-ins.
Reduce any crime of opportunity by locking your car doors, rolling up the windows, and leaving nothing in plain sight.
Don’t leave backpacks or purses underneath your table or on the back of your chair at restaurants and bars.
When camping, put all valuables in a safe location, not just lying around the campsite.
Winter guests should know ice safety, and that wonderful DNR website has a whole section on that too.
You should never assume ice is safe, and if you don’t know how to measure the thickness of ice (and what that thickness means), then stay away from it.
Water safety is important, too, especially with the number of swimming, boating, and paddlers on the waters.
How Does Brainerd Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa and passport to get through Customs at the airport. Travel Visas take the longest, so start planning ahead of time. If you are coming here for work or to go to college, that's a separate visa. The U.S. State Department offers abundant information about the process online.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency that can be used here. Book rentals early, so you don't have to pull out your wallet as much. Keep your wallet in a waterproof bag to protect it from water or mud damage.
- Weather - The typical four season weather can be expected here, with winters erring on the bitterly cold side and summers being much cooler than in the southern U.S. Weather comfortable, casual clothing with plenty of layers for fluctuating temperatures. You'll need ankle support in boots for hiking or snow trips. Water shoes are great for lake days; don't forget sunscreen and bug spray.
- Airports - Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport is just five miles from downtown and surprisingly robust for a more rural area. If you're flying out of the Twin Cities, plan for a 2.5-hour drive.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance gives peace of mind when severe or winter weather causes unexpected delays or cancelations.
Brainerd Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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