Nebraska : Safety by City
- Grand Island
- La Vista
- Nebraska City
- North Platte
- South Sioux City
Kearney, Nebraska, is in the heart of the state, located right in the center along the busy I-80 interstate.
For those driving across the Cornhusker State, it’s also a perfect stopping point to stretch your legs, explore, and fuel up for the rest of the road trip.
Kearney (“CAR-knee”) is also known as the Sandhill Capital of the World for the annual migration of birds that brings 400,000 of them to Nebraska.
A giant arch over the interstate gives the first hint this is not just a gas-up-and-go kind of town.
While the pioneers expanded West, they made the same type of stop you will hear, and that history is memorialized and celebrated in many ways.
Surrounding Buffalo County has more historical and cultural attractions to be considered.
The historic downtown area of Kearney is also preserving history down to the cobblestone roads while offering a more modern twist on cuisine and culture to appeal to younger tourists and college students from the University of Nebraska Kearney (UNK).
Warnings & Dangers in Kearney
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk here, but it's not the simple-life safest town in the state. Crime rates are still well below national averages, and the number of tourist attractions offers safe places to explore.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
A trolley is available for special events and festivals. Rental cars are the best options, but rideshares and taxis are available too. Amtrak does stop in Holdrege, about 30 miles from Kearney
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
No pickpockets were reported in 2021, but it's always smart to keep your purse or wallet secured with as few items as possible. This is especially true for big events or sports venues.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The risk is medium here with a bunch of weather that can go wrong. Winter storms can be intense and shut down the interstate. Spring brings tornado season and strong storms. High winds can range from annoying to dangerous throughout the year. Wildfire potential is strong during droughts, and smoke from nearby states can wreck air quality.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
With just six robberies in 2021, the risk is low. It's good to keep aware of your surroundings at all times while still not walking around at night alone.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk. As a town of 34,000 people in the center of a rural state, there's no hard target nearby. Random domestic terrorism is possible anywhere in America, and gun crimes are on the rise, but that's not something you plan for other than being willing to report suspicious activity.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
In early 2023, a series of scams involving threatening messages stating a family member is being held at gunpoint. The scammers demand money to release the loved on. These threats can be through text, email, and social media pages. You can find the latest scams on the Kearney Police Department's social media pages. You should also report any potential scammer. The risk is low, but it helps to be aware of what's trending.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should feel safe here with low risk, but still use proper safety precautions.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Kearney's water quality is in full compliance with federal and state standards. Any issue that would come up during a trip would be issued on city social media pages. You can also get good guidance, like letting a faucet drip during freezing temperatures to prevent pipes from bursting.
Safest Places to Visit in Kearney
Visit Kearney and Downtown Kearney are the names of two websites dedicated to tourists in this city and hosted by the people who live here.
You can get a free travel guide without having to give personal information.
If you’re here to see the Sandhill Cranes, download the “Crane Watch Guide” from the Visit Kearney website.
Great Platte River Road Archway Monument spans across I-80 and is dedicated to the history of the Great Platte River Road.
“The Archway” features interactive exhibits and a collection of historic artifacts.
You’ll even walk in the same steps as those who took the Oregon Trail.
Fort Kearney State Historical Site and State Recreation Area are three miles apart and offer two different experiences.
The historical site features a reconstructed fort that played a significant role in westward expansion, while the recreation area offers camping, fishing, and hiking opportunities along the Platte River.
Trails & Rails Museum tells the story of the railroad’s expansion and importance in Nebraska, a critical service still rolling today (I can back that up for all the trains I hear from my Lincoln, Nebraska home!).
There’s now an extension of this museum called the Family History Center.
This is more than just a four-walled museum.
It’s an immersive experience with historic buildings to explore along the original Mormon Trail.
There are several other museums to explore in Kearney:
- G.W. Frank Museum of History & Culture
- Kearney Area Children’s Museum
- Classic Car Collection behind Cabela’s
- Nebraska Firefighters Museum
- Museum of Nebraska Art
If you need to get some work done while you’re here, there are “nest” areas available downtown, from tables to conference rooms.
More information is available on the Nest Space website.
“The Bricks” is the nightlife part of downtown, with traditional bars, arcades, and other trending attractions.
If there’s a University of Nebraska football or volleyball game on television, you’ll have a hard time finding a room.
If you truly want to fit in with the locals, say “Go Big Red” to anyone you pass.
That’s the battle cry for the Nebraska Cornhuskers sports teams.
I say this half joking and half seriously – Go Big Red or #GBR can also de-escalate any conflict with a Nebraskan.
Places to Avoid in Kearney
There’s not a part of town in Kearney that is too dangerous to visit, but if you’re somewhere you don’t have business being, don’t be surprised if someone asks you why you are there.
It’s always best to stay on main roads and interstates.
If you’re in rural areas, stay off of private property.
If you aren’t sure if it’s private or not, assume it is, and don’t stop there.
For anyone heading west from Kearney from late fall to early spring, you should know that big snow storms can shut down the entire I-80 interstate just west of Kearney.
Nebraska is a much bigger state than some realize.
I can attest that in the winter of 2023, there were days it was spring-like in Lincoln while a blizzard warning covered western Nebraska.
You do not want to be trapped on the interstate in a major snowstorm, no matter how well you believe you can drive in snow and ice.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Kearney
- As I mentioned, Kearney does have its own police department. Follow them on Facebook @KearneyPolice to get updated safety information, and email firstname.lastname@example.org with any specific questions.
- You also want to follow Buffalo County Emergency Management @BuffaloCoEMA to get updated weather information.
- Use the See It, Say It, Send It app to report any suspicious activity or other issues you see (like graffiti). You can also sign up for emergency alerts from weather to criminal activity.
- Check out Be Ready Nebraska’s website to get specific information about the seasonal weather risks. Most people don’t realize that tornadoes and severe weather can happen any time of year, with a secondary season in late fall.
- You might see “Fire Weather” alerts, and if you’re not from an area prone to wildfires, that might be scary or confusing. Commonly issued as Red Flag Warnings, this means a combination of dry conditions, low humidity, and high winds make fires likely to happen once ignited. This doesn’t mean a fire is happening. For example, during a Red Flag Warning, if a cigarette is thrown from a car window, it could spark a massive fire.
- If you have a lead foot or drive aggressively, you definitely want (stop doing that, first of all) to check out the Priority Traffic Enforcement Areas on the police department’s website. This will list the areas where cops are cracking down on speeders, red-light runners, and drunk drivers.
- You can text 911 here if you need to, but it should only be used when you can’t speak, such as in an active shooter or domestic situation. Don’t try to send photos or videos. Just simple text details as descriptive as possible.
- Kearney Police do use license plate readers for all vehicles in the community. Unless you’ve stolen a car and are on the run, there’s no reason to be concerned about this. You can read the Kearney Flock Transparency Portal to learn more if you have privacy concerns. However, you won’t be able to opt-out.
- There are plenty of Sandhill Crane viewing options, but some people choose to see the birds while driving around. You might even be on a different adventure when they cross your path (literally). Do not approach, feed, or mess with the birds. Always pull off the road to view them, and don’t trespass on private property to get a closer look.
- Fall visitors need to remember this is an agricultural community, and you could get stuck behind a massive combine or tractor at any time—even in the city. I once got stuck behind a combine in suburban Omaha during rush hour. You learn to accept it and not try to drive around them unless it’s safe. They will not “pull over” or slow down for you to pass.
So... How Safe Is Kearney Really?
Kearney is a historically safe city when it comes to the most violent crimes.
The roller coaster continued with the latest data available from 2021 but shows violent crime down 30% from 2020.
The city and surrounding Buffalo County are dealing with a national trend of juvenile crime.
In larger cities, juveniles are increasingly committing gun crimes.
Here the concern isn’t as deadly but is just as concerning with crimes involving juveniles reaching a record high of 300 cases of “uncontrollable youth.”
“Those aren’t considered crimes if you’re 18 and older, but if you’re 17 and younger, not following rules at home can be listed as an uncontrollable juvenile,” said Buffalo County Juvenile Services Administrator Doug Kramer.
“We had additional requests for those this year, above and beyond what we’ve normally had.”
Children as young as nine are involved in these crimes, so it’s worth noting that even if you see some kids playing in the street, it could be more dangerous than it looks.
Given that Kearney is right off a busy interstate, you should always be wary of transient traffic that could lead to car break-ins in hotels near the highway or scammers at gas stations along the exit routes.
As a woman who loves to road trip alone, I never stop at the closest gas station to an exit.
I like to go at least a mile or two into town to lessen the risk.
How Does Kearney Compare?
|Belize City (Belize)||37|
|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
A visa or visa waiver is required for every international visitor to get into the country, along with a passport that isn't within six months of expiring. 2023 brought new changes to expedite the process, so check the U.S. State Department website to get started now.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Exchange currency at home to get the best value from your own bank, and American banks can have additional requirements and delays.
I cannot stress enough how much the weather in this part of the country changes. It can be summer sunburn seeming one day and snowing the next. Bring layers, and be prepared for humidity from spring through fall.
Kearney has a regional airport with service to Denver. The Central Nebraska Regional Airport is 55 miles east, with flights to Minneapolis and Denver. One thing I'd recommend is that if you are going as far as Lincoln to use the airport, opt for Omaha instead. It's a short drive and a much bigger airport with better connecting options. I live in Lincoln and only use Omaha's Eppley Field as my airport.
Travel insurance goes into effect as soon as you purchase it, offering great coverage in case of last-minute emergencies or illnesses. You also don't want to risk losing money on your travel plans because of crazy Nebraska weather.
Kearney Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Nebraska - Safety by City
|South Sioux City||78|