How Safe Is Iowa City for Travel?

Iowa City, United States
Safety Index:
82

If you aren’t a University of Iowa Hawkeye fan, it’s best not to mention it in the booming college town of Iowa City, Iowa.

This is a city where Game Day is the best day and the whole town gets involved in the celebrations.

There is more to this area than just Hawkeyes sporting events.

Iowa City is part of the Cedar Rapids statistical area, and the two are just 30 minutes apart with Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area and Coralville Lake in between them.

While Iowa City is more than 900 miles from any beach, you can still walk on an ocean floor in just a six-mile drive.

That’s just one of the amazing outdoor adventures that wait for you in eastern Iowa.

You can fish in the ice-covered lakes of winter or the cooling breeze of a summer day.

There are plenty of places to kayak or paddleboard.

A rainy or cold day won’t get you down in Iowa City with an abundance of museums and indoor attractions.

You can visit the museum of natural history or see some antique cars.

There’s also a museum designed for the kids.

Shopping awaits with everything from unique boutiques to traditional malls.

When the sun goes down, the town heats up.

The tourism site for Iowa City lists seven pages of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants to let your hair down.

Iowa City’s tourism brand is “A collection of curious communities” and, no matter what you’ve heard about Iowa, you definitely won’t get bored here.

Warnings & Dangers in Iowa City

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : LOW

There's low risk when visiting Iowa City. You can expect average crime rates in most categories, but most of them are a little lower than the national and state average. When you balance that out with the number of things to do here, it's worth your time to visit as long as you use basic safety techniques.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

If you download the Iowa City Transit app, you'll see all the bus schedules available to take you around town. You can even pay your fare there. Taxis and rideshares are readily available, so please use one of them if you've been drinking during your visit. All options come with low risk.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW

The theft risk here is one in 80. Pickpocket reports over the past five years range from nine to 12 incidents reported per year. That's not a lot in a city of 74,000 people. There's a low risk as long as you keep your wallet or purse secure and only carry things you need with you. Be especially careful at big festivals, crowded bars, or sporting events.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Iowa City has a bad history with severe weather. Two major floods have happened since 1993 and in 2006 there was an Easter weekend tornado outbreak that hit Iowa City hard. Winters also bring snowstorms and ice storms. You should be well educated on all kinds of severe weather when visiting Iowa because there's a medium risk throughout the year.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : LOW

The robbery rate is lower than the national average and there is a one in 3,118 chance of being a victim. This is a low risk for the whole area, but remember not to fight back if you are approached by a robber. You don't want to risk getting hurt to protect your personal stuff.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

There's a low risk of terrorist activity here. Iowa has a lot of corn and soybean fields with cattle farms in between. It's not big enough of a target for terror groups.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

The Iowa City Police Department tells me they get up to 30 scam reports a month, but they are generally the same scams that impact any city and are not directly targeted at tourists. As long as you don't try to buy scalped tickets to a game, you should be safe. If you notice a new scam attempt while you're there, call the police to report it.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW

There's a low risk of danger for women visiting here with a lot of upsides. Given the college nightlife vibe, you should really travel with a friend or use extra caution when someone buys you a drink or offers to walk you home. Don't go anywhere in private with someone you just met and don't walk around off the main roads at night, especially if you've been drinking.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

While the Iowa River is at high risk for potential pollution, the water treatment plants fix all the concerns. At least, that's according to the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report. No violations were issued and all testing met or exceeded the requirements.

Safest Places to Visit in Iowa City

One of the great parts of the ThinkIowaCity.com website is that you can search by different itineraries, from Game Day weekend to History Hunters to Adventurers.

You can’t come to Iowa City without visiting the Devonian Fossil Gorge.

You’ll get to walk on an ocean floor from 375 million years ago.

This archeological anomaly wasn’t even discovered until major flooding unearthed it in 1993 and then it was even more exposed by another flood in 2008.

You should download the brochure from the gorge website so you know what to look for when exploring.

You can also download the USACE Jr. Ranger app and search for Coralville Lake.

Downtown Iowa has a Pedestrian Mall where you won’t have to worry about cars zooming down the street.

This open-air downtown core has restaurants and shopping, as well as some public art and plenty of places to sit outside and enjoy a nice day.

The University of Iowa has several museums on its already beautiful campus.

The Museum of Natural History offers more than the traditional walk-through.

There’s 360° tour technology to make you feel fully immersed in the animals displayed.

This is a free attraction open to the public.

The Stanley Museum of Art is also on campus and is newly renovated (opens in August 2022).

There are indoor and outdoor art displays and the museum is free to the public.

Hickory Hill Park is so big it needs two entrances to make it easy for everyone to get access.

This is a natural area with trails woven through the landscape.

This isn’t one of those places with 100 different activities to do.

This is just a great place to be alone with nature.

If you want 100 different activities to do, thank you very much, you can visit Terry Trueblood Recreation Area on the other side of town.

If you want to get a great photo op, check out the giant wooden nickel on Dubuque Street on the north side of I-80.

This piece of art is actually a protest piece a resident designed in 2006, and it has stayed there ever since.

Do you ever hear about something and wonder “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Well, that holds true for the pie milkshake specialty in Iowa City.

Many tourists agree you have to stop by Hamburg Inn #2 in Iowa City and have the milkshake made with ice cream and whole pieces of pie blended in.

Placess to Avoid in Iowa City

The central part of the city has the highest crime rates, but that’s to be expected, as it’s also the most populated and busiest with the university nearby.

It’s still not a place you need to avoid.

If you don’t like crowds, you should avoid Iowa City on game day.

It’s an event for the whole region to celebrate and traffic will be busy and bars will be crowded.

Restaurants might have lines to get a table.

This could be a great time to explore some of the wilderness areas.

Before you head to any park in Iowa City or surrounding areas, call the Rain Out Line at (319)346-7080.

This will let you know if the extreme cold/heat, rain, snow, or ice is keeping parks closed for the day.

This should not be a replacement for checking the weather forecast or having a weather app.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Iowa City

  1. The Iowa City police encourage anyone with questions about safety or crime information to call them at (319)356-5275.
  2. On the police department’s website, you can use the interactive mapping tool to search for crimes in the area closer to your visit. There are a lot of different options, so you can get a map custom-tailored to your needs. There is also an “Arrest Blotter” section where you can see the most recent crimes in a list.
  3. Three stops along Highway 6 in Iowa City make the “10 Most Dangerous Intersections” list. Keep your eyes on the road and put down your mobile device. It’s illegal in Iowa to drive while distracted anyway.
  4. 317 people were arrested for public intoxication in 2021. This is somewhat of a party town, but don’t drink more than you can handle and drink a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages. Call rideshare to get back to your hotel if you’ve been drinking. Iowa has a minimum jail time rule for anyone caught drinking while intoxicated.
  5. 244 cars were broken into in 2021 throughout Iowa City, so don’t let a safe community make you slack off on personal protection. You should still lock all your car doors, roll up every window, and keep personal belongings out of plain sight when you park.
  6. You have to be 21 to go into a bar in Iowa City. There isn’t any allowance for those 18 to 21 to go in as long as they aren’t drinking. 162 people learned this the hard way in 2021 by getting a police citation.
  7. In winter you’ll need to check the road conditions before you travel. You can visit the website 511ia.org or call the hotline at 800-288-1047. If you are renting a vehicle, getting an all-wheel-drive option is a great idea.
  8. Most parking in Iowa City is free for the first hour and then $1 for every hour after. Be sure you check the meters or payment signs when you park to avoid getting a ticket. Oh, I also learned Iowa City uses Parking Ramps, and I had never heard that before. A parking ramp is the same thing as a parking garage, just with different terminology.
  9. When visiting the Devonian Fossil Gorge, you cannot take any fossils or damage the rock bed. If you do, there’s a hefty fine. If you see anyone else damaging or stealing fossils, call (319) 338-3543 ext. 6300.
  10. You’ll need a fishing license if you want to go to the river or any of the nearby lakes. The license from your home state or country won’t work here. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources offers the option to purchase options online or there are more than 700 retailers in Iowa that sell them.

So... How Safe Is Iowa City Really?

All of the crime categories in 2021 were at or just below the national average.

Violent crime is below the state average and property crime is just above the state average.

The Iowa Police Chief, Dustin Liston, offered this feedback in the 2021 Annual Police Report, “Our officers seized 131 firearms used in illegal activity in 2021, an increase from 67 the year before.

Through proactive efforts and successful investigations, shootings in Iowa City decreased from 57 in 2020 to 37 last year.”

The risk of being a victim of crime is as follows:

  • Violent Crime: 1 in 323 risk
  • Robbery: 1 in 3,118 risk
  • Theft: 1 in 80 risk

25% of the thefts reported were shoplifting.

There are varying reports as to how many homicides happened in 2021.

The official report shows two.

Yet a newspaper article from May of 2021 revealed there had been three homicides in the year already.

Most of the homicides involved people who knew each other in some way, including one connected to a dating app meeting.

Iowa City is a great place to visit, but it comes with an average amount of crime.

You shouldn’t worry about visiting here, but don’t let your guard down either.

How Does Iowa City Compare?

CitySafety Index
Iowa City82
Dallas64
Memphis54
Orlando64
Las Vegas62
Vienna (Austria)88
Hong Kong (China)70
Manama (Bahrain)54

Useful Information

  • Visas - The visa process can take up to four months for full processing, so don't wait until the last minute. Once you go through Customs at the airport, you won't need your visa until the return flight.
  • Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. There isn't a need to carry cash as all places to spend money come with mobile payment options or credit card machines.
  • Weather - Dress for the season. Winter will require heavy coats and sweaters, but there might be a mild spell during your visit, so bring some layers. Summers are hot and humid. Dress in light, loose clothing and bring comfortable walking shoes as there are a lot of places to explore on foot here.
  • Airports - The Cedar Rapids airport is the closest one and it's less than 20 miles north of Iowa City. Any other airport is going to be at least a 50-mile drive.
  • Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea because the extreme weather possible throughout the year can easily mess up flight paths and travel plans.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Iowa City Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -6° C
Feb -3° C
Mar 4° C
Apr 11° C
May 17° C
Jun 22° C
Jul 24° C
Aug 23° C
Sep 19° C
Oct 12° C
Nov 5° C
Dec -3° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
-12917232829282518102
Low
°C
-10-8-2411161817125-1-7
High
°F
303648637382848277645036
Low
°F
141828395261646354413019

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