Kentucky : Safety by City
- Bowling Green
- Cave City
- Cumberland Falls
- Harlan Tri-Cities
- La Grange
- St. Matthews
Murray, Kentucky, wraps a lot into one small town.
It’s a college town, home to Murray State University.
It is a historical town with a certain friendliness you can only get in the South.
It’s also close to a premier outdoor destination in western Kentucky.
On the surface, Murray doesn’t jump off the page.
The city has a nearly 27% poverty rate, and the average income is $32,000.
That income is half the national average.
You might think with poverty comes more crime, but somehow Murray has bucked that trend.
When you look closer, you’ll see Murray is the high school home of supermodel Molly Sims.
It’s rich with history and creative food combinations without being a show-off about it.
This city definitely has the vibe of a college town with a country feel and outdoor adventures in all directions.
Murray is less than 30 minutes from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and offers traditional hotels as well as lakeside resorts.
It is also just eight miles from Tennessee.
While you won’t be overwhelmed with the number of things to do here, you’ll love the laid-back style and tight-knit community that earned Murray the distinct title of one of the “Friendliest Small Towns in the Country.”
Warnings & Dangers in Murray
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Murray has a low overall risk, according to 2020 FBI crime data. The theft rate is the only category higher than the national average, and 31% of those crimes were shoplifting, which isn't going to be a safety concern for a tourist.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There is a transit system called the Murray/Calloway Transit, but there isn't a map or schedule posted. The on-demand services are for specific resident needs only. Try calling (270) 753-9725 closer to your visit to see if fixed routes are set up. You can get a taxi or rideshare sparingly, but you'll really want to have your own car here anyway, especially for visiting the lakes.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There hasn't been a pickpocket or purse snatching here since 2017, so that's a low risk. You should still use basic safety steps to carry only what you need and leave valuables at home while walking around.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Severe weather can happen throughout the year here, as proven by the tornado that hit nearby in December of 2021. Flooding, severe thunderstorms, and large hail are also possible. Then there's the winter risk of blizzards and ice storms. An earthquake on the New Madrid Fault Line could also do damage here. Because of all that, it's a medium risk in Murray.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There were four robberies in 2020, and none were in a public place. You should still stay aware of your surroundings. You don't want a false sense of security to catch you off guard.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here in a rural area surrounded by wilderness. Terrorism attacks are generally targeted toward large population areas. Murray has just 17,000 residents.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most of the scams in this region are targeted at locals and aren't any different than scams happening nationwide. If you want to get scam alerts, you can text KYOAG Scam to GOV311 (468311). This will send you trending Kentucky scam alerts on your mobile device.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
41% of the violent crimes that happened here were against women, so they are in the minority. The sexual assault rate does average slightly higher than the national average. Given how small the population is, that means the eight sexual assaults equaled a 46 per 100,000 rate. The national average is 38 per 100,000. The overall risk is low in Murray and on the campus of Murray State, where two sexual assaults were reported in 2020.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
All of the water samples tested in 2021 met or exceeded the requirements for drinking water. Kentucky doesn't regulate PFAS, but the legislature is talking about the "forever chemical" standards, so there might be new standards by the time you visit.
Safest Places to Visit in Murray
You know you are in the Bible Belt when the tourism bureau starts describing downtown Murray with the New Life Christian book store that has been in business for three decades, even though the city was founded in 1822.
However, it’s not all religious fanfare here, as one of the popular restaurants is Mugsy’s Hideout.
From the corner of Main Street and North 5th Street, there are 12 stops on the self-guided walking tour.
Murray State University is a great college campus to explore, and several things bring tourists in.
The Clara M. Eagle Galley is an art display with an upper and lower section for art lovers.
You can stroll through nature’s art in the Arboretum.
Special attention is paid to the plants and flowers native to eastern Kentucky.
Central Park is the largest city park and home to the Playhouse in the Park, where community theater takes the stage several times a year.
There’s also a pool, sporting fields, and hiking trails in this park.
The entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is 30 minutes from Murray, and from there, you can drive for hours just exploring the whole region.
The first lake you’ll cross over is Kentucky Lake, and the far east lake is actually the Cumberland River, which stretches out for a brief time into Lake Barkley.
Aside from the fishing, boating, hiking, and wildlife viewing, I have a few recommendations spanning about 25 miles on the main north/south highway through the area, from Kentucky to Tennessee.
- Grand Rivers: A great place to start or end. A small town is the “last stop for amenities” before you head into the recreation area. I highly recommend a meal at Patti’s 1800 Settlement, where the pork chops are two inches thick, and the meringue on the pie stands eight inches tall.
- Lighthouse Landing Lighthouse: Despite the redundant name and the fact that this is right next to a resort, it’s always cool to see a lighthouse, whether on the beach or a lake.
- Welcome Station: Stop by the Welcome Station to ask questions and get a map. Be sure to ask about any cool wildlife sightings recently.
- Golden Pond: You can spend an afternoon on Golden Pond, about halfway through your drive on the scenic byway.
- Homeplace 1850s Working Farm: You must cross into Tennessee to get here. This is a real farm where the workers dress up in period costumes to make the vibe more real. You’ll be offered a chance to help with some chores and can tour several historic buildings and mementos from the pre-Civil War era.
- Great Western Iron Furnace: You’ll pass a picnic area on the bison range before you arrive at the historic site that was once a pig-iron maker from 1854 to 1856 when the slaves protested and left.
Places to Avoid in Murray
The northeast side of the city has the highest crime rates, but there’s not a part of town that is too dangerous to visit.
You should stay on main roads and surface streets and avoid going through neighborhoods.
The side streets here are rarely marked with street lines and don’t have sidewalks.
They can be pretty narrow, especially with resident cars parked on the streets.
In the middle of the Land Between the Lakes, you might hear of a place called Hotel California.
This is an abandoned two-story home that looks more like an abandoned concrete apartment.
Apparently, some travelers have an affinity for touring abandoned properties.
There is nothing safe about this area.
The vulgar graffiti covers the building, and you will walk around with broken beer bottles from decades of illegal partying.
It’s really nothing more than a dangerous, rundown building that’s only still standing because of the concrete layers.
There’s too much else to explore to waste your time with Hotel California, otherwise known as the Vampire Hotel.
That’s the PG Version.
In reality, the abandoned home was the ritual center for a group calling themselves The Vampire Clan in the 1990s.
They would party, do rituals, and take drugs at this creepy location.
The leader proclaimed himself to be a 500-year-old vampire.
In an effort to “rescue” a teenage girl in Florida and “turn” her into a vampire, he ended up brutally slaughtering her parents with a crowbar.
The killer will spend the rest of his “vampire years” in a Florida prison.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Murray
- If you believe yourself to be a vampire, keep your mouth shut about it. But seriously, I do a lot of research on social media sites to get information from locals when I research cities. I can’t tell you the number of threads and chats that have been closed because of the controversial language and written fights that develop online. This isn’t a city, or an area of Kentucky, where you should debate anything controversial – politics, religion, abortion, and certainly not the Civil War.
- For questions about road conditions in Kentucky and surrounding states, here are some phone numbers for you: Kentucky 1-800-459-7623 or 1-866-737-3767; Tennessee 1-800-342-3258; Illinois 1-800-452-4368; Missouri 1-800-222-6400.
- Another reason to avoid neighborhood streets is that residents over 16 years old can ride ATVs everywhere except on city streets. You should still keep an eye out for ATVs crossing over main roads.
- You need a reliable weather app here because the weather can quickly turn severe. Free apps are available from The Weather Channel or from a Paducah television station. If you are caught outdoors as a storm is approaching, get in your vehicle for safety UNLESS a tornado is coming. Plan ahead to know where the closest storm shelter is before you go into the wilderness. Never be on the lake or outside when there is lightning in the area.
- Anglers and hunters need a license from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife. You can get a dual license that covers both activities. There are many rules, regulations, and seasons to learn about before you purchase the license. You cannot use a license from your home state or city.
- We can never stress this enough – lock your car doors when you park there and leave no valuables inside the car. In April of 2022, a rash of car thefts happened on the north side of town, and all the impacted vehicles were left unlocked.
- To get information before you head out to the Land Between the Lakes, call 1-800-525-7077. If you see someone breaking a park rule or committing a crime, call 1-877-861-2457.
- If you visit after a major storm hits this area, watch out for scammers. The people of Kentucky are very generous, even when they don’t have much to give. Scammers prey on this and pose as charities trying to help storm victims. Always know exactly what organization your donation is going to and vet the organization before you donate.
- To avoid wandering around and looking for something to do, touch base with the Facebook Page for Downtown Murray and Visit Murray, Kentucky. You’ll get information about city-sanctioned community events that will be fun for all ages. On that note, there’s a Facebook page called “City of Murray Official,” only it’s not an official page. It’s all satire. And no, Murray wasn’t “.. ranked #1 for hoarding and crying like little babies about church!”
- If you are traveling around western Kentucky, you’re going to come across a “dry county.” This means alcohol sales aren’t allowed in that county. You can buy alcohol in Murray and Caldwell County, but just know as you go from location to location, you might run into a place where alcohol isn’t allowed or severely restricted. I once felt like I was conversing with an alien when I asked a store clerk in rural Illinois where the beer was; he said, “This is a dry county,” and I said, “So what TIME do you start selling beer?” He repeated, “This is a dry county.” I insisted he tell me if I could get beer at the grocery store instead. Can you guess what he said to me? That was my first experience with “dry counties.”
So... How Safe Is Murray Really?
Murray has a violent crime rate about half the national average and slightly below the state average.
The highest crime category is theft, and that’s 22% higher than the national average.
However, shoplifting accounts for 31% of that number, so technically, when you take out shoplifting, it’s just below the national average.
Here’s how the risks break down:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 455 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 4,327 risk
- Theft: 1 in 55 risk
While Murray is a working-class town, it’s also one of the friendliest places you’ll go (provided you talk about nothing controversial and avoid any words that sound like “Civil War.”)
There’s a college town vibe with a great outdoor area worth exploring as much as you can while you visit.
How Does Murray Compare?
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- Visas - You will need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa if you are visiting from outside the country, which is only needed at the airport. You won't need to show proof of your visa at the state line or between cities.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and you shouldn't carry around a lot of cash. Carry just what you need, and be sure to do any currency exchange at the airport before you get to Murray.
- Weather - As one local Redditor commented, "We had a tornado, blizzard, spring in three days in February." You'll need a variety of clothing layers here. Winter will require outerwear, especially if you're visiting the lakes. However, I stopped at the lakes one Christmas Day on a drive to St. Louis, and I was in a t-shirt and sweatpants. You just need to be prepared for anything. The only thing certain here is you won't need a winter coat in summer.
- Airports - Barkley Regional Airport near Paducah is about an hour north/northwest. Nashville's airport is about two and a half hours away.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance will help with various "things that can go wrong" on a trip. You can protect your stuff, flights, and health with just a small investment.
Murray Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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