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
Fergus Falls is in the Lake Region of West Central Minnesota.
It’s a town too easy to pass by when driving between the Twin Cities and Fargo, but there’s too much to see here to miss your chance.
With a tourism slogan of “Find Us, Lose Yourself,” this small town of 14,000 offers the beauty of Minnesota’s four-season outdoor adventures and the modern amenities of arts, dining, and shopping.
In fact, after years of a population decline, more people are moving here with the advent of remote working to enjoy a lower cost of living and higher quality of life.
With the Otter Tail River running through the city, there’s a mix of green spaces with a Riverwalk that leads to downtown shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Surrounding Otter Tail County opens more outdoor spaces with dozens of lakes and a couple of state parks, with plenty of small towns dotting the landscape.
In fact, Otter Tail County has the most lakes of any other in the United States.
The scenic drives in this region are stunning in fall when the leaves begin to change colors.
Winter brings cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, while spring hikes bring people back out from winter blues.
Summers are rich with lake activities and festivals.
Warnings & Dangers in Fergus Falls
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Fergus Falls, backup up by lower than average violent crime rates, and plenty of activities to keep you busy in safe spaces.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The only public bus system here is for residents, and reservations are required at least two days in advance. Your best option is to rent a car to get around, but taxis and rideshares are available within the city.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Just one pickpocket was reported in 2021, but theft rates are well above the national average. The best way to keep the risk low is to avoid creating a crime of opportunity. Keep your belongings secured and only bring what you need. Don't leave car doors unlocked or windows rolled down.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Minnesota visitors can expect dangerous winter weather at times, with blizzards, ice storms, and snow squalls likely. Spring brings tornado season, and Fergus Falls holds the record for the second deadlines tornado in the state. In 1919, a tornado leveled much of the town and took 60 lives. You just can't make light of the weather risks here. Watch out for flooding since there are so many lakes and rivers nearby.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Just four robberies were reported in 2021, and they were either in a home or at businesses. That's a low risk, but it's still not something to take for granted. Still use smart personal safety steps, especially if you're out at night.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of international terrorism here, but mass shooters and Lone Wolf terrorists are a concern anywhere. In June 2022, a Fergus Falls man bragged about a planned mass shooting that happened to be just days before a summer festival and parade. The man was arrested, and weapons were found at his home. This is a great example of reporting suspicious activity. Had people in the chat room with that man not spoken up, this risk would be much higher.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Reported scams here involve utility payment demands and fake police officers, so tourists shouldn't have to worry about being targeted. It's important to check the Better Business Bureau website for a city before visiting to see if new scams have popped up.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
This is another low risk, but be sure to study ice, lake, and outdoor safety for Minnesota (depending on which season you're visiting in) to make sure you have a low risk during all your activities.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report for Fergus Falls shows full compliance and no violations, which means there's a low risk. If any water quality issues happen, the city will post the information on its website and social media pages. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency posts water quality information for the many lakes on its website. You can also download the CyAN app from the EPA to get water quality information about dozens of the largest state lakes.
Safest Places to Visit in Fergus Falls
You can get tourism information safely online from Visit Fergus Falls or Otter Tail Lakes Country.
Each one offers amenities, attractions, and advice.
The Otter Tail website includes an “Inner Otter” quiz where you can answer some questions and get specific answers.
(I’m an “Active Otter.”)
I’m a fan of starting any visit at the local history museum.
It makes you appreciate the places you see that much more.
However, the Otter Tail County Historical Museum is worth it for that reason and so much more.
This is a fully-immersive, sensory-overload experience.
Actors play the part, and sounds of the golden era fill the room as you learn about how the city got started and thrived over the decades.
Otter Cove Children’s Museum is an interactive place for kids of all ages to explore their imaginations.
Don’t miss the art room where you can get your hands dirty on the paint wall.
Before or after the museum, take a stroll down Lincoln Avenue and choose from local restaurant favorites like The Fabled Farmer, The Viking Cafe, and Don Pablo’s Mexican.
You’ll also find a bunch of local stores and boutiques.
For more traditional and national brand stores, head west along the I-94 corridor at the Viking Trail.
Phelps Mill County Park is home to one of the original agriculture mills.
The recently renovated building is Instagram worthy from a distance with an idyllic charm.
The park also offers fishing and picnic areas along the river.
Grotto Park, also known as Adams Park, is just south of downtown and has 20 acres to explore.
The main attraction is Otto the giant otter.
Bird lovers should head to the Riverside Waterfowl Sanctuary for a new experience each season.
Places to Avoid in Fergus Falls
You don’t need to worry about bad neighborhoods or dangerous parts of town here.
The city is laid out very well, so you stay on the main roads and highways to get between attractions as well.
The Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center is a massive building that once housed a hospital for the mentally and physically challenged.
Do not try to enter the now-closed facility.
You are welcome to walk the grounds.
A plan was being discussed in 2021 to renovate the space for either arts or housing, so check with the city before your visit to see if the building will be open.
I can’t stress enough the safety education you need about ice-covered lakes here.
I grew up in the Midwest, and I’m used to really cold winters, yet I am still scared to step on any ice that isn’t a public ice rink on solid earth.
In early 2023, two snowmobiles and an ATV fell through thin ice, and one of the riders died.
On top of that, six snowmobile deaths happened in Minnesota in just the first two weekends of 2023.
That information isn’t meant to scare you, but instead, the goal is to tell you how important education about snow and ice safety really is.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Fergus Falls
- Fergus Falls does have its own police department. The non-emergency phone number is (218)332-5555. The department’s website is pretty bare bones, so use its Facebook page to keep up on local safety guidance and crimes.
- Sign up for emergency notifications through the Fergus Falls Emergency Management website. You need to stay weather aware during every season. Sirens will be sounded in the event of an emergency, but you won’t know what the risk is unless you have notifications set up or access to the National Weather Service.
- Fishing, boating, snowmobiling, camping, and hunting are all things that require a permit, license, or reservation. Before you choose any activities, check the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website (DNR) to see what licenses and permits are required. Camping reservations will be made through each state park’s website, which is also under DNR.
- 511 MN is the statewide traffic and transportation system. You can view interactive maps of weather conditions, construction, accidents, and traffic. Live camera views are available on many roads. You can also call 511 in Minnesota to get an automated system that will answer your direct questions.
- Winter hiking in Otter Tail County has different rules than summer hiking. If you come across a cross-country skiing groomed trail, do not use it for snowshoeing or walking. You can go off that trail and walk anywhere there’s fresh snow. In the summer, stay on the marked trails to avoid poisonous plants or critters off to the side.
- Spring and summer storms can develop quickly. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to get hit by lightning. Bring a battery-powered weather radio to the lake or park in case mobile phone service is spotty. Don’t seek shelter under a tree during a thunderstorm. Look for a safe place inside without windows.
- Follow @CityofFergusFalls on Facebook to get updates about parking bans and snow plow routes in the winter. You’ll also get details of street closures and such during warm weather events. If you are parked in a place that prevents snow plows from getting through, you’ll likely be towed at your own expense.
- Minnesota State Parks and Trails is a great social media account to follow. It will include trail, water, and road risks and safety tips throughout the year. You can also find cool events like a Valentine’s Night Candlelight hike.
- You’ll need a State Park Pass to get into any state park, and you can buy that ahead of time online. You can also download the Avenza Maps app to get maps that work with GPS. That means if you’re on a trail with no mobile phone service, you’ll still be able to trace your steps using satellites. The free version of the app allows you to download three maps, but if you pay for the premium version you won’t have a limit.
- Fergus Falls has two liquor stores that are the only locations in town to buy spirits in a bottle. You do need to be 21 years old to make a purchase. You won’t be able to buy liquor at grocery stores and convenience stores. Never drink, boat, or ride a snowmobile while intoxicated.
So... How Safe Is Fergus Falls Really?
Fergus Falls has seen a roller coaster of crime rates over the past decade, but in 2021, the rates were less than half the national average.
24 violent crimes were reported, and just one was against a stranger.
The theft rates are 35% higher than the national average, but pickpockets were very low, and car break-ins were just 10% of the thefts (much lower than the average 30% seen in most American cities).
The social media accounts for law enforcement here are a mix of petty crimes and lost and found posts, which, again, reinforces the low crime rates.
You won’t find too many cities where lost keys and backpacks are turned in to the police instead of being taken for personal gain.
67% of violent crimes happen in homes, making the risk that much lower for visitors.
The real risks here are the outdoor safety steps and education required to enjoy the great outdoors.
The DNR has a whole website section on Ice Safety, and if there’s an outdoor activity to do here, then there’s a DNR website section about safety.
The more you prepare to visit Fergus Falls and the many lakes of Otter Tail County, the better your trip will be.
How Does Fergus Falls Compare?
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- Visas - International travelers need a visa and passport. Be sure your passport isn't within six months of expiring from your departure date to go home. Travel visas are most backlogged, so plan well ahead of time to get that process moving along.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and don't try to sneak in any Canadian Dollar currency, as businesses won't accept it. You should use your credit card as much as possible for the best fraud protection.
- Weather - You get a robust four seasons here, but always bring extra layers. Winter layers should be thick, insulated, and waterproof. You can rent ski equipment here but bring your own worn-in boots. Bug spray and sunscreen are essential from spring through fall.
- Airports - Fergus Falls has an airport, but it doesn't have commercial flights. You can use your rental car or get a shuttle to take you to Fargo, North Dakota (one hour away) or the Twin Cities (2.5 hours away) to reach the closest commercial airports.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance offers peace of mind for weather-related flight delays and cancelations. If you'll spend a lot of time doing outdoor activities like camping or boating, consider adventure travel insurance to cover the costs of injuries and rescues.
Fergus Falls Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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