How Safe Is Detroit Lakes for Travel?

Updated On February 14, 2023
Detroit Lakes, United States
Safety Index:
82
* Based on Research & Crime Data
User Sentiment:
100
* Rated 100 / 100 based on 2 user reviews.

Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, is a four-season destination with more than 400 lakes within a 30-minute drive, as well as several that flank the city.

This includes the large Detroit Lake.

While this location is nowhere near Detroit, Michigan (900 miles apart), the word “Detroit” comes from the French word meaning “strait.”

The strait splits or connects bodies of water, but that name is really the only thing the two cities have in common aside from cold winters.

Detroit Lakes is a small town of fewer than 10,000 people.

Still, the population swells seasonally as people escape the summer heat to enjoy the lakes or enjoy winter’s abundant outdoor activities.

DL, as it’s referred to by locals, is less than an hour from Fargo, North Dakota, and 3.5 hours to the Twin Cities.

You can also enjoy Detroit Mountain (not the one in Utah) in all seasons without worrying about altitude sickness since the peak is just 1,624′.

Plenty of hotels are available right off the main highway through Detroit Lakes but don’t miss a chance for the many resorts and rentals surrounding the nearby lakes.

Warnings & Dangers in Detroit Lakes

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

Detroit Lakes has a low crime rate and an economy that relies on safety and recreation. The biggest dangers are from adventurers exploring beyond their skill levels, and it's an easy area to navigate while still being close enough to major cities that you aren't out of mobile phone range in many parts of the region.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Surrounding Becker County has a transit-on-demand system that is open to anyone. While it's not robust enough to rely on for all travel, it's a convenient option. Having a car is ideal here, but taxis and rideshares are available for short rides. All options are a low risk, but you should know how to drive in winter weather.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

Three pickpockets were reported in 2021, which gives this a low risk. Even car break-in numbers are low, but that's likely due to better safety steps by guests. Thieves will always look for a crime of opportunity, so don't create one.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW

Spring and summer bring risks of severe thunderstorms, derecho, tornadoes, and wildfires. Winter brings blizzards, ice storms, and blustery cold conditions that could lead to frostbite or hypothermia for those unprepared. You must always stay weather aware in a place like this.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

This is a low risk, with one robbery in 2021 and no more than three robberies in a year going back to 2000. Don't let your guard down and become complacent.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

International terror attacks are very unlikely in this small outdoor-oriented region, but there's always a risk of a Lone Wolf act. The Department of Homeland Security posts bulletins throughout the year with overall details of terror concerns. Any international visitor should subscribe to these to be aware of potential risks.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

While most scams reported target locals, elderly people should be aware of people looking to take advantage of them. Rental scams are possible if you aren't vigilant about demanding proof of a rental license and refusing to wire money to reserve a cabin.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

The risk is low once again, but women should know basic outdoor safety and wilderness survival. There is no reason a solo female traveler should have any concerns about visiting Detroit Lakes. It's a family-friendly destination as well.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance in all categories. You should always let a stagnant faucet run for a few minutes before using the water to rid the supply of any lead deposits from the pipes in older buildings.

Safest Places to Visit in Detroit Lakes

Visit Detroit Lakes is the official tourism website for the region.

It’s one of the easier to navigate tourism sites I’ve seen, with easy to find articles about things to do in Detroit Lakes for all seasons.

You can also get a free tourism guide without giving any personal information.

The newly renovated Becker County Museum opened in February 2023, which hands-on exhibits and plenty of history lessons from the Native American presence throughout history through the industrial age and the advent into a recreational destination.

For entertainment, check the schedule at the Historic Holmes Theater, or plan your trip around one of the many festivals in the city – including a traditional Native American Powwow.

Winter guests should put the Ice Palace Royal Courtyard on their bucket list as 1,000 blocks of ice are unique places to create a castle even Elsa from Frozen would love.

The good and bad part of having more than 400 lakes is finding the one that suits you. Detroit Lake (split into Little and Big Detroit Lake by a sandbar – er – “strait”) is the biggest one close by and right on the southern border of the city.

The north shore of the lake has a beach and public boat ramp.

The south shore has a boat ramp and parks on the water.

The east and west sides of the lake have scenic stopping points for picnics or a photo op.

Heading south from Detroit Lakes on the way to Vargas, you’ll pass several lakes and a seasonal zoo.

If you head north out of the city, you’ll find wildlife areas.

Detroit Mountain is just to the east, with trails for each season.

Farther west, you’ll come across Smoky Hills State Forest.

In mid-May, the area hosts the Detroit Lakes Festival of the Birds, which pays tribute to the nearly 300 species of birds in the region.

Polar Fest is held in the dead of winter (February) and includes sports, concerts, and fireworks.

Places to Avoid in Detroit Lakes

There aren’t dangerous neighborhoods to avoid or parts of the city that are too risky to visit, but you should try to stay on the main roads at all times.

It makes navigation easier and avoids unnecessary traffic on neighborhood streets where children might play.

Avoid going onto private property to get a lakeside view or parking spot.

The resorts and private homes own the land to the lakefront, and there are plenty of public access locations on the lakes here.

If parking is full, you still have about 399 other lakes to explore.

Ice fishing is a popular sport in Minnesota, but if you haven’t done this before, you need to learn about ice safety.

Even if you arrive during a cold spell, the full seasonal scope of temperatures could make that seemingly solid ice weak underneath.

In December 2022, a man and his rescuer fell through the ice on a nearby lake.

Both made it out safely, but not everyone is so lucky.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a website section about ice safety and how to judge ice thickness.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Detroit Lakes

  1. The city of Detroit Lakes does have its own police department, but the website isn’t very updated. You should use the Facebook page to get the latest information. The handle is @detroitlakesmnpolice.
  2. Sign up for CodeRED emergency notifications through the Becker County website. These alerts will send potential life-threatening safety alerts to your phone or email as severe weather approaches and bears down. AMBER alerts, road closures, and shelter-in-place orders will also be included in the list of emergencies.
  3. Children until 16 have a 10:00 pm summer curfew in Detroit Lakes. That time is for June, July, and August only. The rest of the year, the curfew is 9:30 pm.
  4. There is no alcohol allowed in the city parks, beaches, and public spaces. Driving under the influence arrest can be made for those driving a boat or a snowmobile, as well as a car, so don’t operate any machinery if you’ve been drinking.
  5. The streets of Detroit Lakes won’t be bowed unless two or more inches of snow falls on a weekend, four inches on a weekend. If a snow emergency is declared, that means no parking is allowed on city streets overnight.
  6. Follow Detroit Lakes Public Utilities when you’re there during extreme heat or cold. During extreme temperatures, the power operator might ask people to limit electricity use to keep the power grid stable. The request would include not using washers/dryers/dishwashers/ovens and keeping the thermostat several degrees lower than normal. If the power grid is at its limit, rolling blackouts could happen.
  7. Many activities here will require a license, like fishing and snowmobiling. The DNR oversees all license requirements. You can get a hunting license, but it takes a lot of extra training compared to other licenses. Plan ahead.
  8. If you plan to ski, you can either invest in a Great Minnesota Ski Pass or look for the Becker County ski trails that don’t require a ski pass. Don’t try to get around the Ski Pass rules if they are required. The money for the passes goes to keep the trails safe for everyone.
  9. Use 511 MN to check the road condition in the area and across the state. You can create your own account and then set preferred routes. You’ll get alerts about the routes during your trip. Accidents, traffic backups, construction, and weather conditions are visible on all roadways. You can also track snow plows during the winter.
  10. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency tests the lake waters weekly between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Before you head to the lake, check the water quality. Never go in or near a lake with blue-green algae on top. The bacteria in the algae can make people sick and prove fatal for dogs.

So... How Safe Is Detroit Lakes Really?

Even before you consider the large tourist crowds, Detroit Lakes has a lower than average violent crime rate.

The city has seen one homicide since 2000.

Robberies have also been sparse during that time period, with no year seeing more than three robberies.

Just 13% of violent crimes happened against strangers, making domestic crimes far more likely.

The theft rates are 64% higher than the national average, but that number is fueled by a shoplifting rate that accounts for 60% of all thefts.

You should never intervene with a shoplifter, but you should report it to a store associate or call the police to give them information about it.

You should still lock your car and keep personal items out of plain sight.

No area is safe enough to leave the doors unlocked overnight at your hotel, resort rooms, or cabin.

Study the type of outdoor activity you’ll be doing to get specific information about the Minnesota wilderness.

The DNR covers every topic you can think of, and you should also check the Minnesota Health Department’s latest update on the Avian Flu since this area has so many birds.

While humans aren’t likely to catch the Avian Flu, they can carry the virus between different areas.

When it is suspected one bird in a flock has the flu, the entire flock has to be put down.

How Does Detroit Lakes Compare?

CitySafety Index
Detroit Lakes82
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Belize City (Belize)37
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

Detroit Lakes offers tax incentives for Canadian visitors, and if you're entering at the border, you'll still need a passport and U.S. Visa. If you are coming here on a tourism visa, please start that process early due to a backlog of applicants. The U.S. State Department offers a Visa Wizard on its website, so you can get started in the right direction.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar will be accepted here. You should make reservations as far in advance as possible and pay when you book to limit the times you'll pull out your wallet. You should carry about $100 in cash with you at all times (hidden, of course) in case you come across parking lots or entrance fees that don't take credit cards.

Weather

Weather

You'll need typical outdoor layers of clothing for all winter and part of fall and spring. Comfortable boots that are worn in are going to save your feet and ankles from a lot of pain. Spring and fall can still be cool, so bring layers you can add on or peel off. Summer will be hot and humid, and you'll want bug spray to ward off the annoying mosquitoes.

Airports

Airports

You can get to the Fargo airport in less than an hour, and it's an easy drive across one highway. The airport's name is Hector International Airport with an airport code of FAR.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance offers peace of mind for unpredictable severe weather than can cause ground stops and flight diversions. You can also explore adventure insurance to cover events like camping, skiing, and boating.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Detroit Lakes Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -14° C
Feb -11° C
Mar -3° C
Apr 6° C
May 14° C
Jun 18° C
Jul 21° C
Aug 20° C
Sep 15° C
Oct 7° C
Nov -2° C
Dec -10° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
-8-43132125272621133-5
Low
°C
-19-17-9-1611141381-7-15
High
°F
182537557077817970553723
Low
°F
-211630435257554634195

Minnesota - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Bemidji78
Brainerd72
Brooklyn Park57
Detroit Lakes82
Duluth78
Ely84
Fergus Falls78
Grand Marais80
Grand Portage80
International Falls77
Lanesboro82
Mankato82
Maple Grove84
Minneapolis51
New Ulm83
Pipestone81
Red Wing78
Shakopee81
St. Cloud52
St. Paul64
Two Harbors83
Winona86
Woodbury83

Where to Next?

2 Reviews on Detroit Lakes

  1. A
    Andrea Gill says:

    Safety was a priority for me and my family when planning our vacation, and Detroit Lakes exceeded our expectations.

  2. K
    Kevin Reyes says:

    I had reservations about traveling to Detroit Lakes initially, but after spending a week there, I can confidently say it’s a safe destination. The well-maintained public spaces and visible law enforcement presence were reassuring.

Detroit Lakes Rated 5 / 5 based on 2 user reviews.

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