Iowa : Safety by City
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If you can’t decide between small-town Iowa and big-city Iowa, why not stay in Indianola, Iowa, where you can have both?
That’s not just a bunch of hot air, either.
Indianola is known for its hot air balloon festival and the National Balloon Museum.
It sits less than 30 minutes south of Des Moines, the state’s largest city.
Indianola is so much a part of the Des Moines metro area, even though it’s a short drive through some cornfields, that the Des Moines Metro Opera is located here.
Things really blossom here as Indianola has its own arboretum and winery.
Lake Aquabi State Park is just a 10-minute drive or 30-minute bike ride away.
(Iowans love riding their bicycles wherever they can.)
Indianola has three hotels for visitors, all situated along Highway 69.
This makes it easy to get to and from Des Moines.
A much larger Lake Red Rock is about 45 minutes away near the Dutch-inspired community of Pella.
You’ll get to drive through a city named Pleasantville on the way there and it’s worth stopping to find out if the community lives up to its name.
Warnings & Dangers in Indianola
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk in Indianola, although the crime statistics aren't as low to support the "low crime rate" claims on the city and tourism website. There are some really low numbers and some that exceed national averages.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
There's an on-demand public transportation system in the surrounding counties, but Indianola isn't part of the Des Moines transit system. You can call a taxi or rideshare with a short wait time. It's ideal to have a car here if you can.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The theft rate is just above the national average, but there's a low risk of being pickpocketed or having a purse snatched. Generally, about 60% of thefts are related to car break-ins and shoplifting.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here because Iowa can get severe weather throughout the year. The people who live here are used to the risks. Tourists can be caught off guard by the severity of storms, especially if they don't live in an area prone to tornadoes. Spring can bring tornadoes and intense thunderstorms. Winter can have ice storms, snow storms, and blizzards. A snow storm and a blizzard are kind of the same thing, but a blizzard is a much more intense snow storm that meets certain criteria.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here because the city had no robberies in 2021, down from four in 2020. Don't let that make you too relaxed. You should always be aware of your surroundings and picky about what you bring with you when going to public places.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here of Indianola being a terror target. The biggest risk would be in Des Moines, simply because of the large population. There's not a standing concern that anywhere in Iowa is getting a terror threat.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The only scams the Indianola Police Department warns about are internet and email scams. There were 100 cases of fraud reported in 2021. There's a low risk that a scam will be targeting tourists.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is twice the national average here, so use caution if you're meeting someone new or spending time in bars here. There were 345 cases of sex abuse in 2021 in this city of just under 16,000 people.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Annual Water Quality Report shows a low risk in the water as all testing was at or exceeding national standards.
Safest Places to Visit in Indianola
The National Balloon Museum is the most unique attraction in town.
It’s affordable, too, with tickets being $5 for people 13 and older.
Those younger than 13 get in for free.
There are plenty of exhibits on the history of air balloons, and I don’t want to ruin the stories for your visit.
There is also an area in the museum just for children.
The National Balloon Classic happens each year around the end of July/beginning of August.
This nine-day event showcases the best balloons in the world and you can watch them glow at dawn or soar in the atmosphere in daylight.
I lived in Reno where there was the Great Reno Balloon Race each year and seeing the dawn patrol and balloons fill the sky is truly a memorable event.
Summerset Winery is in Indianola but off the beaten path.
This winery has been crushing it since 1989.
There are tours available and you can also book a formal wine tasting.
You’ll get to sample six wines with a cheese plate and take home a wine glass to remember your Iowa adventure.
Pickard Park is the largest Indianola park.
This is where the National Tour for disc golf is held each year.
You can also go hiking or camping here.
There are always sporting events going on, so it’s a great place to relax and watch a game.
Buxton Park is the place to go for wildlife and wildflowers.
There’s an arboretum there with a children’s garden, formal gardens, a butterfly garden, and art sculptures as you wind through this tranquil setting.
Pick up the tree tour pamphlet on your way in, or print it out from the website, and search for 25 unique trees throughout the park.
Downtown Indianola is the heart and soul of the city with more than 100 businesses and plenty of events throughout the year.
You can follow the organization on Facebook on their “Indianola Downtown” page to see what’s happening during your visit.
Places to Avoid in Indianola
The southwest side of the town has higher crime rates than the rest of the area.
This is good news for travelers because the hotels are all located on the north side of the city.
While there isn’t a part of the city to avoid because of crime dangers, there’s really not much for a tourist to see on the southwest side anyway, unless you have family or friends who live there.
Lake Ahquabi is going through a major restoration project which has led to the lake being drained.
The lake should re-open sometime in 2023.
If you are visiting before the project is finished, don’t go to that area.
There have been reports of people getting into the mud where the lake used to be and being trapped up to their waist.
In one case, the fire department had to be called.
The others just had to figure out how to escape on their own.
Lake Red Rock is a great alternative place to visit in the meantime.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Indianola
- ReadyIowa.gov is a great resource to learn about the natural, weather, and manmade disaster potential in the state, including Indianola. You can sign up for Alert Iowa through the website. That will make sure emergency notifications go right to your mobile device.
- 511ia.org is the website for roads across Iowa. Here you can see ongoing construction projects, real-time traffic updates, and road conditions during and after storms.
- When you’re traveling on rural roads, you might come across farm equipment in front of you. This is normal and perfectly legal for farmers to do. It is annoying as a driver to be stuck behind a giant vehicle going so slow. Be sure to pass when the dotted lines are on the roadway and make sure there’s enough space to safely pass.
- Spring and summer bring a lot of road construction projects to the cities of Iowa. The winter can really tear them up and the freezing and thawing of water can cause major potholes. Check the City of Indianola website for road projects going on during your visit. This will help you set your GPS to detour around them.
- Over the past three years, there have been nearly 30 accidents involving cars and deer. The wild animals are plentiful in this area, so keep your eyes on the road and scan the sides of the road for any incoming deer. They can really sneak up on you quickly.
- If you spend time outdoors, you should do a full-body scan when you are in private to see if you have any ticks attached to you. There are several varieties of disease-carrying ticks here. They will only get larger in size if you don’t remove them right away as they suck your blood out. Be sure to disinfect the skin once you’ve pulled the tick out. Unless you have an allergic reaction, you don’t need to seek medical treatment.
- Starting in 2022, the police officers on duty will have body cameras that record every interaction with the public. If you have any questions about those cameras and how the video is used, contact the police department. Most departments do have this technology already, but Indianola just recently got approval from the city council.
- Anglers need a fishing license in Iowa. You have to get one through the Department of Natural Resources and can’t use a fishing license from your home state or country. They are easy to purchase online, so take care of that before your travels.
- The Summerset Trail is a 22-mile long path for hiking or bicycling in the warm months, and it turns into a great cross-country ski run in the winter. The trail runs from Indianola to Carlisle, and many people choose to start at the Indianola side because of a steep hill that feels like a mountain if you start at the other end. After 22 miles of anything but driving, a hill is going to be harder to tackle.
- It seems some people in Indianola lost their driving skills during the pandemic, as traffic accidents were up almost 20%. There is a law in Iowa that bans distracted driving, so stay focused while driving because you don’t always know what other drivers are going to do.
So... How Safe Is Indianola Really?
The crime data from Indianola makes it look like a somewhat gritty city, but researching it makes it look like a quaint small town.
There were 77 violent crimes in 2021, yet the overall number of crimes was down.
The national average for violent crime is 399 per 100,000 people.
In Indianola, it’s 486 per 100,000 people.
The city is also smaller, so a few crimes in either direction can have a larger impact on the “per 100,000 number.”
A theft was the largest crime category, with 238 reported.
That’s a risk of one in 66.
I’ve seen other Iowa small towns with numbers more like a risk of one in 29.
The theft rate here is 5% higher than the national average.
I’ve learned in my investigative research that usually 30% of thefts are car break-ins and another 25-30% are shoplifting.
Indianola is far from a city too dangerous to visit, and there are parts of the region where you won’t feel unsafe, even at night.
As long as you practice basic personal safety rules, you should enjoy your time in Indianola.
Just don’t forget to lock the car doors and bring all your personal belongings with you when you park.
How Does Indianola Compare?
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The process to get a U.S. Visa can take several months. Starting planning early. Four months should be more than enough time. You will have several steps to complete, including an in-person interview. The visa only has to be shown at Customs when you arrive at the airport. You don't need it to travel through Iowa's cities.
You can use a credit card anywhere in Indianola. There's little need to bring cash, but if you choose to, you'll need to exchange currency for U.S. Dollars.
Iowa enjoys all four seasons, so dress for cold winter weather and muggy summer weather. Fall and spring can have volatile temperature shifts, so just bring some layers of clothing. You'll want tennis shoes or hiking boots if you plan to hike in this area. You will need sunscreen in the summer. Bring bug spray too, because the mosquitos can be annoying.
Des Moines International Airport is less than 30 minutes away. The airport is on the south side of the city, so you don't need to go through the downtown area to get to the airport. That's really the only option unless you want to drive long distances. Des Moines International is big enough to get you wherever you want to go in one or two connections.
Travel insurance will give you peace of mind when visiting a place with so much extreme weather. Without more airport options, you are at the mercy of the weather and airlines rescheduling delayed or canceled flights. Travel insurance will help avoid losing money if that happens.
Indianola Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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