Iowa : Safety by City
- Arnolds Park
- Cedar Falls
- Cedar Rapids
- Clear Lake
- Council Bluffs
- Des Moines
- Fort Dodge
- Fort Madison
- Iowa City
- Mason City
- North Liberty
- Pleasant Hill
- Polk City
- Sioux City
- Spirit Lake
- Storm Lake
- The Amana Colonies
- West Des Moines
Marshalltown, Iowa, hasn’t had the best of luck over the past few years.
Tragedy after tragedy literally rolled through Main Street time and time again.
Visiting Marshalltown might humble you a bit, but they could sure use the tourists.
This small town of 28,000 people isn’t about to let several natural disasters and criminal activities keep them from rebuilding.
Even a burger joint that was decimated by the 2018 tornado was recently rebuilt in a new location and won the “Best Burger in Iowa” contest in 2022.
How’s that for tenacity?
Between the tornado of 2018 and the devastating Derecho of 2020, followed by a series of arsons, there is still plenty to see in Marshalltown and you’re welcome to visit. In fact, the community can use all the support it can get.
Sculptures adorn the downtown area, where many festivals are held.
One is called “Echo” and Marshalltown resident Bruce Campbell sums up the meaning of this unique horseshoe-shaped sculpture, “Now the 13th Street District is becoming renewed in spirit.
Like an echo, this area’s voice and activity will again be heard.”
Marshalltown has its own speedway for those who like to live in the fast lane and plenty of outdoor recreation for those who want a slower pace during their visit.
Tourists have half a dozen options for hotels here and they are all on main roads, making for easy access around Marshalltown or the surrounding nature areas.
Warnings & Dangers in Marshalltown
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk in Marshalltown, but you'll have to excuse the construction. Many buildings are still being redone or demolished after the series of disasters. There has been an arsonist setting fires in abandoned buildings, but no places that would impact tourists' safety directly.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Marshalltown has a fixed-route bus service that runs Monday through Friday from 7 am - 6 pm. There isn't a service on weekends, so you'd need to rely on taxis or rideshares as they are available. Having a car of your own would be ideal here.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. Marshalltown isn't usually a big tourist city with easy-to-spot potential victims. You still need to practice good personal safety habits, like putting a wallet in the front pants pocket or inside the jacket pocket instead of the back pocket.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here but you'll see that for yourself when you visit with all the damage that happened. There's an incredible video on YouTube called "Marshalltown IA Tornado: In Their Own Words" that gives you a real feeling of what it was like to be in that tornado. It also punctuates the point that the skies can be a little cloudy and suddenly turn violent in seconds. There are winter storms that happen here too.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's less than one in 5,500 risks of being a robbery victim, so there's a low risk it will happen to you. Don't be complacent, however, you should still stay in well-lit areas while paying attention to your surroundings.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
The only terrorist here has been mother nature, but tornadoes are a risk every Midwestern realizes when they call a city home. There's a low risk of an outside terror group targeting this small town.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Several phone scams are going around residential neighborhoods. Tourists don't have to worry about being scammed. The only heads up I would give is this - if someone is asking for money to help with storm damage, make sure you know where the money is really going.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The sexual assault rate here is a little concerning and almost double the national average. The crime data doesn't detail which assaults were domestic or random, so err on the side of safety when walking around at night and consuming alcohol. Try to stay with a group if you can, or at least stay in well-lit areas.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Annual Water Quality Reports show no violations and all water meets or exceeds the required standards. You can call (614)753-7913 if you have any additional questions.
Safest Places to Visit in Marshalltown
If you happen to visit in July, you’ll probably cross paths with the Central Iowa Fair crowd and festivities.
The fair is held in Marshalltown every summer, and county fairs are a big deal in Iowa.
Main Street will take you from the downtown business district to the 13th Street District, each bringing unique food, dining, and sightseeing options.
There will likely be some construction or rebuilding still happening for years to come, but don’t let the construction keep you from visiting the places that are open.
Riverview Park is at the north end of town along the Iowa River.
This is a large park with activities on the water or off and a campground for those who want to spend a few nights outside.
Travel to the west side of town to see Grimes Farm & Conservation Center.
This was a family farm for decades before it was opened to the public for viewing of crops, forests, wetlands, and the famous Iowa prairie.
This area is open throughout the year, whether you want to hike or snowshoe.
Green Castle Recreation Area is a great place to ice fish in the winter, but it’s going to be a 20-minute drive south of Marshalltown.
One of the best ways to enjoy Marshalltown is to check the city and Chamber of Commerce events before your visit.
This is a community that is best enjoyed during a fish fry or farmer’s market.
The true charm of the community comes through in its festivals and events.
Places to Avoid in Marshalltown
Crime mapping technology shows us the northeast side of town has the highest crime rates, with relatively low crime rates elsewhere in the city.
If you come across a part of Main Street or any neighborhood that has empty buildings or demolition sites, try to walk to the other side of the street.
Between the tornado and Derecho, there was so much damage it wasn’t easy to clean up quickly.
There was a string of arsons in some of the empty buildings, which led to more emergency demolitions.
Don’t judge Marshalltown by the tragedies it has seen.
Judge it by the resilience of the community that rebuilt and restored the quality of life you’ll find in small-town Iowa.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Marshalltown
- Follow @MarshalltownPD, @CityofMarshalltown, and @13thstmtown on Facebook to get a feel for community events, road closures, construction, and updated safety advice closer to when you plan to visit.
- Download a good weather app, like the National Weather Service, to get storm alerts as they happen. During any season, severe weather is possible here. Don’t wait until the last minute to seek shelter or make a safety plan.
- The city website has an “Alert Center” that will address any park closures, crime emergencies, or pending weather events protocol. Review this daily to make sure you can safely plan your day. You can sign up for these alerts through the “Notify Me” section of the website. For more extensive alerts, sign up for the Alert Iowa notification system.
- The Iowa Department of Transportation is a rich website with great travel safety information. Bicycling is a big deal in Iowa, and you can see bicycle route interactive maps with safety details.
- If you are going to fish while you’re here, you’ll need a fishing license from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. You can purchase them online. While you’re there, read the restrictions and rules for activities like ice fishing. There is a requirement that the ice is a certain thickness before you can safely ice fish, for example.
- Urban bow hunters need to get approved by the DNR and get a Marshalltown city permit. There are educational classes you’ll need to take, so don’t wait until the last minute if this is an activity you’d like to take part in.
- The Iowa River is one of the top destinations in Marshalltown, and there’s a plan to expand the River’s Edge Trail to connect nearby small towns. This is for safety, tourism, and the environment. You can read about the trail plan on the city’s website, and if this is something that would make you more likely to visit Iowa, you should fill out the form of support for this struggling community.
- There is no tobacco allowed in any Marshalltown park or green space. This includes vaping and chewing tobacco. If you need a place where you can use tobacco, you’ll have to find a county or state park that allows it.
- If you have any information about a crime or notice something suspicious, you can report it anonymously to the Marshall County Crime Stoppers. The number is (641)753-1234 or you can text your tip to 274637. You could be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward if the tip leads to an arrest.
- For those who want to take public transportation in Marshalltown, you’ll need to get tickets from HyVee or City Hall. You can buy a 10-pack of tickets for $10. You can also just pay cash per ride, but you’ll need to have cash and can’t use a credit card.
So... How Safe Is Marshalltown Really?
If you were thinking of moving to Marshalltown, I’d probably be giving slightly different advice.
The violent crime rate here is higher than the national average and 35% higher than the state average.
The 17 sexual assaults are concerning.
The 23% increase in drug use is also a negative, but you can’t show me many communities in the U.S. that aren’t facing increased drug crimes.
Theft rates are below the national average, along with motor vehicle thefts.
Don’t let that make you careless when it comes to locking your car and leaving personal belongings out of plain sight.
In early June of 2022, two teenagers were arrested for a series of car thefts.
So a lower risk doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk.
Those alleged thieves were just 15 and 16 years old.
Marshalltown is a city that’s healing.
There have been criminals (or a criminal) burning down blighted buildings after the natural disasters here.
That doesn’t help.
What does help is people coming to visit, even lending a helping hand to the economic impact of recovery, and supporting the local activities.
How Does Marshalltown Compare?
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- Visas - Your visa will be used to get in and out of the country. You won't need it to travel between cities and states. The visa approval process can take up to four months, so start planning early.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. You should do currency exchange at the airport. You should carry only the cash you'll need on a certain day, but I do recommend having some cash for businesses that might not accept credit cards or for the bus.
- Weather - Winter can get very cold and there is snow sometimes. You should check the forecast for your trip to see if there's any risk of snow. If there is even a slight chance, bring snow boots. Summers are at the opposite end of the spectrum, being hot and humid. You'll sweat a lot here and ward off a lot of bugs if you don't bring bug spray. A citrus-scented perfume or cologne will help with that as well. Spring and fall will require layers of clothing because the temperatures can dramatically change throughout the day or week.
- Airports - The airports in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids are both less than 90 minutes away, but Des Moines is the bigger option if you have a choice.
- Travel Insurance - If you've understood the natural disasters that can happen here from the details in this article, you'll see why travel insurance is a great idea.
Marshalltown Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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