Kansas : Safety by City
- Cottonwood Falls
- Council Grove
- Dodge City
- Fort Scott
- Garden City
- Great Bend
- Junction City
- La Crosse
- Overland Park
- Prairie Village
Get ready to rock and ride in the outdoor haven of Emporia, Kansas.
Emporia is on the edge of what is one of the rarest eco-systems in the world.
While it might just look like a bunch of tall grass on oddly-shaped hills, there’s a real treat in the geology of this region and it has turned into a whole series of sports.
The Flint Hills stretch across east-central Kansas and into Oklahoma.
The soil is too riddled with pellets of bedrock to plow, as the early settlers learned, so cattle farming became popular.
The Emporia area is one of the last preserved Flint Hills sections where there’s just a tallgrass prairie for as far as the eye can see.
The unique grasses here grow up to five feet tall.
This region has fueled the sport of gravel biking and Emporia has jumped on the trend.
The World Series of Gravel Biking events is called UNBOUND Gravel.
Gravel biking is known as “gravel grinding.”
It’s not quite as easy as riding a bike on the pavement, but it’s not as rogue as mountain biking.
More than 2,000 bicyclists grind the gravel each September.
Emporia is also the “Disc Course Capital of the World” with a dozen courses in the region.
The Nike of disc golf is a company called Dynamic Discs and it’s headquartered in Emporia.
The Flint Hills are also great to explore in a four-wheel-drive vehicle or on an organized tour.
There’s fishing, camping, and hiking here.
To start or end a day of outdoor adventures, there’s a charming city of 24,000 people and plenty of food, booze, and shopping to be explored.
Another treasure in this small town is that Emporia was the first city to celebrate Veteran’s Day and started the national holiday that we still celebrate to this day.
Warnings & Dangers in Emporia
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here with a lot of things to do and very low crime numbers. The city has 14 hotels and plenty of rental homes and RVs for travelers.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There isn't a public bus system here, but a taxi or rideshare should be available. There are many places to rent a bicycle during your stay and people are encouraged to do so. There's low risk with any option, but if you are going to bicycle around, be sure to study the laws in Kansas. You'll need a car if you want to explore the scenic roadways, but there's a rental car agency in town.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of getting *something stolen here with a theft rate 25% higher than the national average. The medium risk is more getting your attention because there are a lot of ways you can get forgetful with your stuff. With just two pickpockets reported, it's unlikely someone will do that, but 30% of the thefts were stolen bicycles or car break-ins. Always use a bike lock and never leave personal items unlocked in a car.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Emporia was the site of a devastating EF-4 tornado in 1974. That same threat exists to this day, and every spring it's a game of chance to see which city in Kansas gets "the big one." Severe thunderstorms are more common and can be dangerous themselves. There's a risk of wildlife in the tallgrass prairie and winter weather in the form of snow, sleet, and ice. Because of all the ongoing threats, there's a medium risk here.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There were just two robberies in 2020, so that's almost as low of a risk as you can get! One robbery was at a home and the other was at a convenience store.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here if a risk would even exist. This is a small historical town with empty land as far as the eye can see.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Keep an eye out for rental scams here. One woman was asked to pay an application fee to rent a home by purchasing a $40 Apple gift card. If you are ever asked to use a gift card to pay for anything, it's a scam. If you are asked to wire money instead of using a credit card, it's a scam. You should ask for proof of a renter's license if you aren't staying in a hotel. While there's an overall low risk, there have been a few scam artists stopped in their tracks, like one woman using $80 to enroll vendors in a craft fair that didn't exist.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk for women here as long as they use common sense and basic safety precautions. The sexual assault rate is a bit high compared to the national average, but looking at the violent crime data, none of the sexual assaults were against a stranger. They were all known to their attacker in some way.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
I love water utilities that just answer the "Is the water safe?" question instead of tap dancing all around the answer. The City of Emporia states, "The bottom line is the water provided is safe to drink." To confirm the low risk, I looked through the reported data and there were no violations, so drink up!
Safest Places to Visit in Emporia
Emporia is as rich with history as it is with gravel.
One special museum here is the National Teacher’s Hall of Fame, honoring educators from the early days to modern times.
There’s a memorial there as well for teachers who lost their lives while on the job.
It’s overwhelming to see the full list, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy.
The Schmidt Museum of Natural History honors the wildlife unique to the Kansas region.
There are more than 2,500 animal artifacts in the museum, so give yourself plenty of time to see them all.
If you want to see live animals, head over to the David Traylor Zoo.
This small town has its own zoo!
It’s one of the smallest zoos with accreditation in all of the country.
There are 400 varieties of birds, mammals, and reptiles with many of them displayed in their natural habitat.
The zoo is free, but donations are welcome.
The 47-mile tour of the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway is a great day trip.
You’ll learn why the hills aren’t smooth, but instead have a jagged “stair-step” appearance.
One wonderful thing to know about this tour is the view you see isn’t much different than it was thousands of years ago when Native Americans roamed the land.
Turn your car radio to 1680 AM to learn more as you drive.
Visit the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve to see the grass growing taller than some people.
I’m 6′ tall, so the grass doesn’t grow THAT high, but maybe if you’re at the shorter end of the spectrum you can get a great photo op with a piece of grass at eye level.
It’s just a quick 30-minute drive from Emporia and you can hum “Home on the Range” while you literally see the deer and antelope play.
You will have to walk or bicycle here because cars aren’t allowed beyond the parking lot entrance.
Bring your fishing gear because there are several opportunities here.
Downtown Emporia is full of unique stores, restaurants, bars, and art galleries with special mural selections on display.
Emporia is home to Emporia State University, and there’s plenty of nightlife for students and visitors.
My favorite after researching the nightlife is a bar called “The Gym.”
So if someone asks where you are going, you can say “The Gym” and won’t be lying!
Places to Avoid in Emporia
If you really need to know the more dangerous part of the city, it’s on the northeast side, but honestly – travel freely here and you’ll feel safe.
This is also a diverse community with 28% of the population being Hispanic/Latino, so the community is inclusive as well.
You will love seeing the beautiful fields of wildflowers around the Emporia area, but don’t pick them.
Leave everything in nature as it is and savor the moment with (or without) a picture.
If everyone who came here picked wildflowers, it could hurt the ecosystem.
If you are a newbie to disc golf and want to try it out, select one of the courses designed for beginners.
Much like an actual golf course, you don’t want to hold up people behind you trying to figure out how to throw the disc.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Emporia
- Sign up for notifications from the Lyon County Emergency Management Agency. You’ll get weather alerts to your email or mobile device, along with any major accidents or road closures. Staying informed is critical in a place that has such a high potential for severe weather.
- A great number to put in your contact list is the Emporia Police Department non-emergency number. That number is (620)343-4200.
- In the spirit of “Here’s a number I hope you never need!”, this part of Kansas has an emergency hotline for domestic issues. Dial 1-800-825-1295. This number is also for sex trafficking, stalking, and child abuse.
- You’ll need a fishing license from the state of Kansas to catch fish anywhere in the region or state. Your home license won’t suffice. There are special permits for certain kinds of fish, so review the options on the Department of Wildlife website.
- When visiting the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the only fishing allowed is catch and release fishing. Swimmers are not allowed in the ponds throughout the preserve.
- There’s a good chance you won’t have mobile service throughout the preserve, so bring a map with you. Pick one up at the park ranger center. Be sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to be back.
- Hiking and bicycling on gravel can be dangerous. It’s easy to slip and twist an ankle or have the bike slide out from underneath you. Always use caution on the gravel trails. Very few trails in this area are paved.
- In the middle of the beautiful tallgrass are a bunch of weeds and you need to learn how to identify poison ivy. If you stay on the trail, you should be fine. However, many of you just go off the trail sometimes and you’ll end up with an itchy rash. Immediately wash your clothes after going into the prairie to get the plant’s residue off you.
- You should never get within 125 yards of a bison. These animals can run faster than the neighborhood speed limit. While normally they won’t give you a second thought, if you get too close, the tail will tell you. A bison with a tail horizontal or upright is not a happy bison. If you see a tail in any position but relaxed, slowly back away and don’t turn your back on the bison.
- When visiting in the winter, check KanDrive.com before you go on any road trips. The website shows all the roads that might have icy or snowy conditions and will also display construction zones and road closures.
So... How Safe Is Emporia Really?
Emporia is an overall safe community with mostly low crime levels, aside from the theft rate.
The community is going to have more risks during the big events throughout the year when there are more people from out of town.
Some of these events draw international guests.
There’s a sigh of relief when you find out not a single violent crime from 2020 happened to a stranger.
All of the crimes were among people who knew each other.
When it comes to theft, 35% of the crimes were shoplifting, and don’t forget that 30% of the thefts were bikes or cars.
You should never leave a bicycle or car unlocked.
Don’t leave anything in plain sight inside a vehicle.
I never know what’s better – a safe town where you might be tempted to let your guard down or a more dangerous city where you’ll be on alert.
It’s good advice to treat every city with the best safety practices known without being paranoid.
How Does Emporia Compare?
- Visas - You'll only need your visa when you enter and leave the United States. Other than that, your passport will suffice for identification if you are from outside the country. You can travel freely between cities without showing an ID.
- Currency - The only currency you can use in Emporia and surrounding Kansas is the U.S. Dollar. Keep cash-carrying to a minimum and put it somewhere safe so it can't slide out of your pocket while hiking or biking.
- Weather - Extremes can happen in summer and winter, so be prepared for the worst. Winter will require waterproof and warm layers, and summer will require bug spray and sunscreen with comfortable, closed-toed shoes. Fall and spring can vary in temperature throughout the day, so bring layers of t-shirts and sweatshirts.
- Airports - The Topeka airport is less than an hour away, but the much larger Kansas City International Airport is two hours away.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a smart idea here, and be sure to clarify what kind of coverage you get if you choose to ride a rented bicycle.
Emporia Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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