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
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, decided to add a fifth season to the calendar and nobody seems to mind.
The branding slogan “City of Five Seasons” represents the fifth season, which can happen any time of year.
It’s when you take the time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and expand your work/life balance toward the “life” side.
This is not to be confused with Cedar Falls, which is a smaller city 62 miles north.
I remember the names because rapids are bigger than waterfalls, so Cedar Rapids is the bigger of the two.
Cedar Rapids is about two hours east of Des Moines, in eastern Iowa.
The city has a namesake movie starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly, but unfortunately, no movie monuments are here as the film was shot in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The strength of the city leadership and citizens shows with every developed neighborhood and city block.
This is a city that was nearly wiped out in a 2008 historic flood that covered more than 9 miles of the city, and a Derecho in 2020 that hit Cedar Rapids the hardest, damaging every single building in the city.
Yet, I’m still here today to write about all the amazing attractions that just keep bouncing back after tragedies.
This is the second-largest city in Iowa, so it’s not the typical Iowa small town.
There are 138,000 people who live here and the population has grown almost 10% in the past decade.
Warnings & Dangers in Cedar Rapids
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Cedar Rapids has an average amount of crime, and one category that is far above average, but we know why. There's a low risk when visiting here, but I really encourage you to think of it as an "average" risk like you'd find in any city with 140,000 people.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's a bus system called CR Transit. When the buses aren't running, there are plenty of taxi options or you can call rideshare. There are shuttles to and from the airport for those staying at an accommodating hotel. There's a low risk to your safety with any option, but again, that's an average risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The city averages about three pickpockets and purse snatching a year, which is a low risk of it happening to you. Don't let your guard down, however, because being particular about what you carry with you in a wallet or purse is still important.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
This poor city has seen more than its fair share of tragedies. A flood in 2008 was nearly catastrophic for the city as a whole. Then there was a flood in 2016 that did a lot of damage too. The 2020 Derecho swept through, taking down power lines and many roofing materials and trees in the area. I encourage you to look at the videos recorded on YouTube. A Derecho is a long-running thunderstorm and this one carried winds equal to Category 4 hurricanes. Then there are winter storms that bring snow and ice. You should prepare for severe weather here because there's a medium risk all year long.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There were 66 robberies in 2021, which still comes in below the national average when you do the math to see crimes per 100,000 people. There is a one in 2,086 risks of it happening to you.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here as it's not a large population center, at least, not large enough to register on major terror groups' radar. You can still review the terrorism plan through the Linn County Department of Emergency Management, just to be safe.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Contractor scams were the biggest problem to deal with in the aftermath of the 2020 Derecho. There aren't any reported scams that are unique to Cedar Rapids or that directly impact tourists. You have a low risk here.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel safe here if they are following the basic safety protocols. There are some skyway bridges to avoid having to walk at night in the cold downtown. There were six sexual assaults reported in 2021, which is much lower than the national average for a city of this size.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Four years in a row now, Cedar Rapids has met all the required standards of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources when it comes to water quality. You should really only have to worry about water quality if another flood happens.
Safest Places to Visit in Cedar Rapids
The Veterans Memorial Museum sits on an island in Cedar Rapids.
The stained-glass window is breathtaking and designed by famous local artist Grant Wood.
Exhibits change here throughout the year, so check the schedule before you go.
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art features a wide collection of Grant Wood’s work and several galleries of modern art.
Centuries ago, Czech immigrants made a home here in Cedar Rapids, and the Czech Village still stands for tourists and locals to enjoy the European flair.
There’s a Czech & Slovak Museum to learn more about the diverse cultural history.
Visit the 1886 mansion built in Queen-Anne Style architecture and go for a tour of this elegant property.
Docent-led tours will give you all the history of the mansion and the surrounding 26 acres of land.
For another history lesson, the African American Museum of Iowa holds some surprises about how Iowa was desegregated long before the rest of the country.
There are traveling exhibits here, but “Endless Possibilities” is the one that will be there as long as the museum stands.
For a unique dining experience, visit the Lighthouse Inn Supper Club.
While supper clubs are already a Midwestern social tradition, turning eating dinner into the art of a social gathering running late into the evening, there’s much more history here.
This restaurant was a popular place for John Dillinger and Al Capone, infamous mobsters from back in the day when they needed to get away from Chicago.
The kids will love the Wickiup Hill Learning Center, which is really just an outdoor playground where imaginations run wild.
There is an inside area of the center for rainy, cold, or hot days, but outside is where the kids can get dirty and creative at the same time.
You won’t even realize how much you’ve learned at Indian Creek Nature Center until you leave.
It looks like a zoo, farm, and park combo that spans 200 acres.
What the nature center is really preaching is environmental sustainability, but it’s done using hands-on training and not just pamphlets and lectures.
Places to Avoid in Cedar Rapids
Crime maps show that crime distribution is really across all parts of the city and it’s hit or miss among certain neighborhoods.
The downtown area is one of the higher crime parts of the city, but that’s to be expected with more people being centered there.
Don’t spend too much time looking for the rapids in Cedar Rapids.
They aren’t as dominant as the name might suggest.
However, the city is working on an elaborate plan as part of flood control management and recreational expansion to bring competition-level whitewater rapids to part of the Cedar River.
It’s important to know the emotional, physical, and psychological damage done by the 2020 Derecho.
Some restaurants might have different addresses now because their old ones were destroyed.
Others might still be dealing with insurance issues or damage repairs.
Be respectful of this conversation if someone brings it up.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Cedar Rapids
- Cedar Rapids has what’s called “Automated Traffic Enforcement” on some of the major roads. This means there are red-light cameras and speed control devices that could result in you getting a ticket a month after the incident happens. Of course, this won’t be an issue if you don’t run red lights or speed.
- The police department uses CrimeReports, a program that allows users to search for criminal activity on an interactive map. Let’s say, for example, you want to know how many thefts there have been at where your hotel is over the past three months. You just set those parameters and results appear instantly with a brief summary of each crime.
- You can submit an anonymous crime tip to Linn County Crime Stoppers and be eligible for a cash reward. The hotline is 1-800-272-7463. You can also text a tip by texting CRIMES(274637). Be sure to give as much detailed information as you can about crimes like suspected drug activity, vandalism, or graffiti.
- You can review the daily police reports on the department’s website. You’ll get a full list of all the criminal activity from the day before. Right now, I’m looking at the one from yesterday, and charges range from sniffing glue to domestic assault.
- Cedar Rapids has a city podcast which might be a good tool for you as a visitor. The topics range from city issues to recycling to recreation. True crime aficionados might like the “Cold Case” podcast.
- You might be concerned about visiting a place that floods so much, and the city wants to educate residents and tourists about what’s being done to control future flooding. Go to the “Flood Control System” on the city website to see a video on planning and progress.
- There might be times you smell a foul odor in Cedar Rapids. It’s from the same system that processes tap water and makes it safe to drink and use for bathing. While it isn’t a smell that’s there all the time, when the atmosphere and winds are just right, it might waft over the city.
- When parking in downtown Cedar Rapids, use the ParkMobile or PassportParking apps. This will allow you to extend your time at the meter without having to leave your location. You can also search for available and convenient parking spots. Visit ParkCedarRapids.com for more information.
- Download the Mobile CR app to have a direct line to the city and answers to any questions a tourist could have. You’ll also be able to see 360° views of the places you want to visit.
- Go to the website of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to get a fishing license. You can’t fish in Iowa without a state-issued license and one from your home state or city won’t suffice.
So... How Safe Is Cedar Rapids Really?
Cedar Rapids Police Department offers a very detailed 2021 Annual Crime Report, that is one of the most elaborate I’ve seen.
You’ll get a lot of questions answered there.
A lot of the safety of a city is perception, based on how safe it is where you live.
People from St. Louis wouldn’t think much of the crime in Cedar Rapids, while those from Omaha might disagree.
Theft is the one area that was 32% higher than the national average, but that also comes with nearly 30% of the thefts being shoplifting.
While that’s not a crime that will impact a tourist, the 33% of thefts that are related to car break-ins could.
It’s a nice reminder to lock the car doors with the windows securely rolled up.
Don’t leave anything in the vehicle when you park it.
There were 11 homicides in Cedar Rapids in 2021, and that number has been trending upward since 2019.
There were 66 robberies in 2021, when previous years had a minimum of 90 robberies, with most of the past five years being in the triple digits.
You should feel comfortable visiting Cedar Rapids as long as you don’t assume you’re in a perfectly safe small town.
It’s easy to assume Iowa is a very safe state, which isn’t always the case.
Cedar Rapids isn’t among the safest cities in Iowa.
You should practice good personal safety measures no matter where you visit.
How Does Cedar Rapids Compare?
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- Visas - Only visitors from outside the United States will need a Visa and that process can take up to four months for processing. You will have to do an in-person interview. Once you have your Visa, you still have to make it through Customs. Be on your best behavior at the airport and don't make any jokes.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar (USD) here. You should be able to use a credit card or mobile payment app for all purchases, but you might want a little bit of cash just in case you find a cash-only vendor. Just be sure to avoid carrying large amounts of cash in public.
- Weather - You'll do a lot of walking in Cedar Rapids, so bring sturdy shoes for any visit. You'll want to bring warm clothes, as temperatures here in the winter can be very cold. Snow is possible, but not guaranteed. Fall and spring will bring fluctuating temperatures, so dress in layers. A few extra t-shirts and sweatshirts will be helpful. Summer is going to be hot and humid. You'll do a lot of sweating here. There really isn't a way around that, but you do want bug spray and sunscreen.
- Airports - Eastern Iowa Regional Airport has commercial flights and it's just nine miles from the city center. You should be able to get to several larger connecting airports by flying out of there. The Des Moines airport is about two hours east.
- Travel Insurance - The weather here can be intimidating and unpredictable, despite the meteorologists' best efforts. You should have travel insurance to protect against weather delays in the sky or closures due to weather on the ground.
Cedar Rapids Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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