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
How about a trip to three states for the price of one?
That’s just what you get in Dubuque, Iowa.
The Mississippi River cradles the east side of the city with Wisconsin and Illinois on the other side, depending on which bridge you take to cross the water.
Dubuque has the same novelty experience as Keokuk in far southeastern Iowa where there’s a spot on the river where you can technically be in three states at once.
When you step foot in Dubuque, you’re following in the footsteps of Julien Dubuque who first arrived here in 1788.
He’s the first English settler believed to ever walk on Iowa land.
The legacy he built stands to this day and offers many tourist attractions to visit rooted in history.
We’re not done with history yet.
Baseball fans might not realize the first baseball game with nine innings ever played happened right here.
That was in 1865 and look how far baseball has come since then.
In just 30 minutes, you can be at the actual “Field of Dreams” in Dyersville.
I cannot resist telling you to “Go the distance!”
The muddy, deep waters of the Mississippi River mean a unique opportunity to ride a riverboat.
Before you book the hotel, it’s worth noting one of the riverboats offers a cruise that includes a two-night stay.
Forget what you think about Iowa being as flat as the day is long.
There’s also a ski resort here, leading to endless things to do in this city of 60,000 people.
If you can’t find something to do in Dubuque, you are way too hard to please.
In case you didn’t know how to pronounce the name, it’s “Duh-BYUK.”
Warnings & Dangers in Dubuque
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Dubuque, but it's teetering on the edge of medium risk. Crimes rates are higher than the national average, but not by much.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Jule is the bus system for Dubuque with shuttle rides to and from the area pools and other fixed-route services. No need for cash because the MyJule app allows you to pay through your mobile device. Getting a taxi or rideshare won't be a problem. Rental cars are also available at the airport and in town. There's low risk with any option that works best for you.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a one in 64 risks of being a theft victim here, but about 30% of that accounts for car break-ins. If you are cognizant of personal safety practices, you can enjoy a low risk here. However, being a big tourist area, it's easy to get distracted. Only bring essentials with you when sightseeing. I saw a new wallet being advertised that has an Apple air tag built into it. This way, if you lose or it gets stolen, you can track it down.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk because of all the extreme weather possible throughout the year. Any city along the Mississippi River is going to face flooding concerns. Tornados produced by severe thunderstorms can happen throughout the year, but ramp up in spring and summer. Winter can include snow and ice storms.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's low risk with the robbery rate being half the national average. There is an above-average violent crime rate, so don't fight back if you get robbed. The best advice from the police is to remember as much as you can to be a good witness. More than 75% of all robberies were solved in 2021.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. While the Mississippi River will be considered a hard target for terrorists, there are much larger cities along the river. St. Louis is more likely to be a target than Dubuque.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
No scams reported here in the city or county focus on tourists. They are common scams that happen everywhere. There's a low risk it will happen to you, but always be on the lookout for someone offering a deal that seems too good to be true.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There were 50 sexual assaults (either rape or sodomy) in 2021. That averages almost twice the national level. Be very careful about sharing personal information, your hotel details, or meeting someone new in a private place. While there's an overall low risk for your visit, you're going to need all the common-sense safety steps while you're here.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows there is low risk when using tap water here, and the water department sends this message to anyone visiting, "The City of Dubuque’s Water Department is proud of the high quality of the City’s readily available water supply, which meets all state and federal drinking water quality requirements."
Safest Places to Visit in Dubuque
TravelDubuque.com is the tourism website for this area, and I have to say, it’s very helpful.
There are suggested itineraries if you want to visit all three states.
It has categories for lovebirds, families, or solo adventurers.
With so much to do here, it’s hard to tap into all the safe adventures.
There’s a popular railroad tour here that only travels less than 300 feet.
You get to pay for this experience.
What’s the catch?
It’s the SHORTEST and STEEPEST railroad in the world.
The Fourth Street Elevator is on the bucket list of things to do in Dubuque.
Head up – you can only pay cash.
Credit cards aren’t accepted.
The Dubuque Marina and Yardarm is where the boaters come to play and launch for the day.
There’s a restaurant and bar with some great views of the river.
You can also go across the river to Wisconsin and enjoy the view of Dubuque from that side at the Coconut Cove Resort.
Gambling is popular in the Mississippi River cities, and you can place a few bets at Diamond Jo Casino.
It’s open around the clock and has dining and entertainment options in addition to the casino.
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is in Dubuque with exhibits and live animals.
Fair warning, many of the animals here are lizards, spiders, or snakes.
However, the Cownose Ray sure does look cute.
The Mines of Spain Recreation area takes you back to the founding days of Iowa with a Julien Dubuque statue with a nature center and a wildlife preserve on-site.
You’ll get sweeping views of the river, prairie land, and meadows.
For those who want a much older historical experience, check out the Crystal Lake Cave and take a magical walk nearly a mile underground.
You can even go gem mining while you’re here.
They say it’s a great activity for kids, but to be honest, I’d like to do that!
The “If You Built It” exhibit is in Dyersville, and fans of the movie can’t resist this one.
You can walk on the field, tour the museum, and repeatedly quote your favorite lines without anyone judging you.
For winter lovers, Sundown Mountain Resort is the place for you.
There are 21 trails with a variety of difficulty levels.
Some of the local hotels have “Stay & Play” packages, so ask about that when booking your reservations.
Places to Avoid in Dubuque
The highest concentration of crime is focused in the downtown area, where most of the tourist attractions are.
This isn’t uncommon because more people will bring more crime and crimes of opportunity.
You don’t need to avoid any part of Dubuque, but I would recommend staying on the main roads and not driving through unknown neighborhoods.
I would also recommend not eating at a single national restaurant chain in Dubuque because its food scene is incredible.
The local restaurants are unique and fun.
This isn’t going to be a small building with a special burger.
One of the specialty restaurants in the Midwest is a Supper Club.
This is where you can take your time, enjoy every bite of your meal, and make a whole night out of dinner with live entertainment on site.
The patrons are social and you’ll make a lot of new friends.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Dubuque
- There are several ways to get emergency notifications or community alerts while visiting Debuque. One is the Alert Iowa system, which will send countywide weather alerts and if you’re driving across Iowa, you’ll be able to keep up with the weather in one app. The second is Reverse 911, which is good to have anywhere you travel. You can add in personal information should you need 911. There are options to put in medications, nicknames, emergency contacts, and pet instructions. Ok, maybe I just added in pet instructions, but it doesn’t stop you from doing so! The third is the “Notify Me” option on the city’s website. This is where you can get information about flooding, road closures, construction, and other local anomalies.
- If you have a non-emergency crime to report, you can do so on the police department’s website. This could be because of a broken car window or graffiti report. It’s a great way to let the police know without slowing down your vacation.
- You can park on the streets of Dubuque, but not for longer than 24 hours. After 24 hours, you can be ticketed. If the car isn’t removed after 48 hours, it will be towed. If you are going to park and walk around, use a parking garage or parking lot at your hotel.
- For parking meters and lots, you can download the Passport Parking app to pay for your parking and never risk the meter running out.
- Dubuque has some areas on main roads for bicyclists. You’ll notice these have the “Sharrows”, which are arrows and a bicycle. The sharrows are there to show the ideal riding area for a cyclist. You have to follow all the same street laws as if you were in a car, so no rolling through stop signs or red lights.
- Severe weather can impact many outdoor attractions here, but the local cruise ships aren’t going to cancel just because of a thunderstorm. The captain of the ship has the final say if a cruise sets sail or not. If you are anxious about going on the river during a storm, check the forecast before you book.
- Cruises on the river shouldn’t make you seasick, as they are very stable and the river currents are fairly predictable and trackable. However, if you want to take some Dramamine ahead of time, there’s no harm. I take it before any water adventure, just in case.
- As fun as the Mississippi River is, there are a lot of dangers too. You should review the Iowa boating laws before renting a vessel. Don’t drink while you’re driving a boat. There is a lot of traffic on the waters here and it’s easy to find yourself in a dangerous situation where you need all your senses. There’s an Iowa Boater Education educational opportunity on the Department of Natural Resources website.
- While you’re there, check out the rules for an Iowa non-resident fishing license and the elaborate rules around hunting season. There are places where the public and hunters might overlap, so you need to pass several hunting courses before you can get a license here. There is a reciprocity agreement between Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, so a fishing license from any of those states will work in all three. The same doesn’t apply to hunting licenses.
- Dubuque is a great place to see and enjoy unique meals, but there’s something that stinks about it. There has been an ongoing problem with the wastewater treatment plant emitting an odor that travels for miles. The city is investigating ways to reduce the rotten egg smell. Of course, the Mississippi River doesn’t always smell so good either (says the woman raised on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Louis), so you might need to overlook that one little blemish.
So... How Safe Is Dubuque Really?
When I research cities, there’s a big difference between if I’d tell you it was safe to VISIT there, or if I’d tell you it’s safe to LIVE there.
For visitors, I focus on thefts, violent crimes, sexual assaults, and robberies.
Even a city with a high violent crime rate could have all those crimes occur in domestic situations.
If there are a lot of thefts, there might be a shoplifting ring happening that year, which isn’t going to impact a tourist’s risk.
It will indicate the presence of thieves, so it remains somewhat relevant.
I say all that in advance of presenting the crime data because some of the categories might make you skeptical about visiting.
That’s another prong of this advice – where you are coming from.
People from Chicago won’t think Dubuque is dangerous at all.
Those from West Des Moines might be death-gripping their purse the whole time.
The violent crime, sexual assault, and theft rates are higher than the national average, but as I said before, not by much.
Here’s how the risks break down:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 233 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 2,712 risk
- Theft: 1 in 64 risk
- Sexual Assault: 1 in 1,193 risk
Dubuque is only slightly higher than the state average as well.
By comparison, Dubuque is much safer – only relying on crime data – than Davenport, which is an hour to the south.
You should feel safe visiting here, but you’ll need all the same safety steps as you would in a big city.
As part of the community policing initiative, it’s also important to report anything suspicious you see.
A tourist might have a different perspective than someone who lives there and is used to the current crime rate.
How Does Dubuque Compare?
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- Visas - Plan for four months to go through the elaborate U.S. Visa process. Make sure you understand every step of the process so there aren't any delays or missed signatures. Once you go through Customs at the airport, you won't need to show your visa to travel between the states.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. It's wise to carry cash for places that don't take credit cards, but the research that ahead of time and only bring the cash you need. Use a credit card for as many purchases as you can. That will give you better fraud protection.
- Weather - There are benefits to every season in Dubuque, but you do need to pack accordingly. Winter can be very cold with dangerous wind chills. You might be spending a lot of time outdoors, so don't skimp on the warm layers or worry about being fashionable. This is a laid-back community. Spring blooms with a variety of temperatures, so pack layers of clothing. You'll usually need a hoodie or jacket in the Midwest spring. Summer is going to be hot and humid. You'll sweat a lot and be doing a lot of walking, so bring a water bottle and good walking shoes. Don't forget bug spray or sunscreen. Fall brings stunning colors as the leaves turn, but it can get chilly, so bring a jacket and several pairs of jeans.
- Airports - Dubuque's airport is on the far southern side of town, about 15 minutes from downtown. Flights out of Chicago or Milwaukee will take about three hours of driving time.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance by air, land, and river should be considered for a trip to Dubuque. The weather can really delay or impact traffic and the larger airports are going to take priority when flights resume.
Dubuque Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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