Iowa : Safety by City
- Arnolds Park
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- The Amana Colonies
- West Des Moines
If someone knocked you out and you woke up in Pella, Iowa, you’d swear you were in the Netherlands.
Pella breaks that “small Midwestern cookie-cutter town” in all the right ways.
This city was founded by Dutch immigrants and so many of the staples brought from the homeland still exist today.
You’ll find it everywhere, from the Dutch windmills in town to the Dutch letter, a sweet treat made in local pastry shops.
If you say that’s a bunch of bologna, well, you’re right.
Bologna is another staple in this Dutch town, along with some of the tastiest cheeses.
If you want to try them, that’s a Gouda idea.
(Sorry, couldn’t resist a Gouda joke.)
Pella is perfectly positioned less than an hour from the big city of Des Moines and less than half an hour away from Lake Red Rock, an outdoor playground.
It’s also a great weekend getaway from Minneapolis, being just four hours south.
While this is far from the Wild West of Wyatt Earp’s days, he was actually born here and his childhood home is on display.
He clearly forgot his Midwestern manners later in life.
This is also the home of Pella Windows and Doors, a popular manufacturing company.
In fact, your research might actually end up taking you to a website to buy a window.
Now you know why.
Bicycling is a big deal in Iowa and Pella has plenty of bike trails with even more in the surrounding area.
In nearby Cordova Park, you can bicycle on the ground and then climb up one of the tallest observation towers in the Midwest, giving a 25-mile panoramic view on a clear day.
There are plenty of traditional hotels in Pella, but if you want an authentic experience, then The Amsterdam Hotel is the place for you and it’s right in the center of town.
Warnings & Dangers in Pella
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk in Pella. The city is home to 10,000 people and only 268 of them were arrested for crimes in 2021. There's also a lot to do here, so you won't get bored.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
There isn't a traditional public transportation bus system here. Taxis and rideshares can be found, but not as quickly as a tourist might like. Having a car here is really going to help you explore the whole region. If you are in Pella without a car, it's also a walkable town. However you choose to get around, it's a low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here. The theft rate is nearly three times lower than the national average. You might want to use extra caution during the Tulip Festival in May when the city is extra crowded.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
What sort of freaked me out about this is the day I am writing this is exactly one year from the day a tornado hit Pella and caused damage. Iowa gets all kinds of severe weather, so we have to give it a medium risk. There are tornadoes in the spring, summer, and fall. Severe thunderstorms can happen throughout the year with intense lightning, heavy rain, and large hail. Winters can lead to blizzards, extreme cold, and ice storms. A derecho in 2020 devasted a large portion of the state, causing $11 billion - that's BILLION with a "B" - in damage.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
There were no robberies reported in 2021, so there's as low of a risk as possible. However, crime trends can quickly change.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here since it's such a small town. The closest harder target would be Des Moines.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
A local businessman scamming people out of money in a Ponzi-type scheme is the biggest fraud being reported in Pella right now. There are also reports of a utility scam. None of that is going to impact tourists, so you have a low risk of being scammed.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should feel safe with low risk when visiting Pella. There were four sexual assaults reported in 2021, so you should still use personal safety tactics.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The City of Pella 2021 Annual Water Quality Report proudly states, "The City of Pella Water Department is proud to report that our system has not violated a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) or any other water quality standard." You can feel safe using tap water here with low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Pella
Pella has several great events throughout the year if you can time your travels for one of them.
- Resurrected Tin’s Bologna Nationals: A car show
- Pella’s Christmas Tour of Homes: Beautiful historic and modern homes decked out for the holiday season
- Tulip Festival: Celebrating the Dutch heritage with vibrant flowers and Dutch food novelties
The Pella Historical Village is the grand center of the city.
Instagram-worthy moments await at the Vermeer Windmill, which is five stories tall and you can tour the inside.
A self-guided audio tour takes you through Wyatt Earp’s early life in the historical village.
Visit the Klokkenspel (that’s a bell tower with musical performances throughout the day) or see a schoolhouse more than 150 years old.
The Volksweg Trail will take you from Pella to Lake Red Rock.
It’s 14 miles long and has rest spots along the way.
Bring your own water to stay hydrated.
You can rent a bike from Iowa Bike Company in downtown Pella.
The Karr Nature Trail at Cordova is a great hiking spot and it’s in the same location as the observation tower.
You also have nine nearby options if you want to camp instead of staying in a hotel.
Lake Red Rock is also a great spot for ice fishing in the winter.
In the summer, the North Overlook Park has a beach for sun lovers and swimmers.
Sunken Gardens Park in Pella is a great way to see the flowers in bloom throughout the warm seasons and then in winter it transforms into an ice-skating rink.
There are several designated sledding hills around Pella.
Places to Avoid in Pella
With such a low crime rate, there’s not a bad part of town in Pella.
You don’t have to worry about driving into a bad area or being stopped at a light with gangs rolling up next to you.
There are fast food and national restaurant chains here, but to support the local community and try something new, explore the many restaurants, bakeries, and delis providing authentic Dutch food.
If you haven’t tried a Dutch letter pastry, now is your chance.
You should also avoid planning a day outdoors if storms are in the forecast.
Severe weather season here is no joke and the locals are used to it, so they might not convey the seriousness of these storms.
These storms can develop quickly, become intense, cause damage, and lead to injuries if you aren’t careful about where you are when they form.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Pella
- The Pella Police Department has an annual report from July 2020 through June 2021. There is a lot of great information about safety, community policing, and crime. It is available on the police department’s website.
- You have two choices to get notifications in Pella. You can sign up for both. One is an emergency alert system through a program called “Regroup.” The other is a “Notify Me” bulletin about events and city news flashes.
- You will need an Iowa hunting or fishing license to do those activities here. There is also a combo license giving you the ability to do both. For hunting, you’ll need to take an Iowa certification course or have proof you took a similar one at home. You can learn more about the licensing procedures at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website.
- Pella has emergency sirens when the weather is dangerous. The sirens will go off if there is a tornado warning or a severe thunderstorm warning. The sirens sound for three minutes. There is not a siren when the danger is over, so be sure to follow the storm with a weather radio or on your mobile device. If you hear the sirens or get an alert about a warning, you should seek shelter immediately.
- Pella police offer the ability to text 911 if you can’t call. You should make every effort to call, but if you’re in a situation where speaking could put you in danger, then text to 911 and be as descriptive as possible about what is happening.
- For any incident that needs to be reported to the police but isn’t an emergency, call (641)628-4921.
- You can review the recent police call log through the police department’s website. It will take you to a site called “Public Safety Suite Pro.” I wanted you to know the name because at first when you click the link it looks like a spam site, but I checked it out for you and it’s legit.
- Do NOT pick the tulips in Pella. There is a fine of $100 per tulip picked. There are plenty of stores in town that sell flowers. It’s not worth vandalizing a beautiful display just to get a flower or two.
- The Knoxville Raceway is about 30 minutes from Pella, and it’s the home of Sprint car races. If you are going to a race while you visit Pella, you should check the social media sites for the Knoxville Raceway to see if there are any weather-related closures. While you’re there, the blockshower house by Turn 4 is the designated tornado shelter.
- If you are fishing while you’re here, check out the list of “fish consumption advisories” from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to make sure your fish is safe to eat.
So... How Safe Is Pella Really?
It’s incredibly safe and so safe I had to double source my information to make sure it was legit.
The city had nine violent crimes in 2021, and there weren’t any homicides or robberies on that list.
The highest crime category was theft, but that also includes shoplifting, which generally accounts for 20-30% of thefts in a city.
You should still lock your car here and roll up the windows when parking.
Don’t become so distracted by the sights that you leave your purse or backpack behind or on the ground unattended.
Drug crime was up as much as 86% in 2021, which is a problem in many Iowa small towns.
The Iowa Department of Health launched several initiatives.
In fact, I helped with one of them, to keep people aware of the dangers of fake prescription drug use.
You should only get prescription drugs from a legitimate pharmacy in Iowa.
How Does Pella Compare?
|Belize City (Belize)||37|
|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
Even someone from the Netherlands needs a visa to visit Pella, Iowa. This process can take up to four months, so plan ahead. Once you are in Iowa, you won't need to show a visa as you travel between the cities.
The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency allowed here. You should plan to bring a little bit of cash for vendors that are cash-only and you'll need quarters to go up in the observation tower in Cordova Park.
The weather can be extreme in all seasons. Winter can be bitterly cold, so layer up. The cold weather doesn't stop Iowans from going outside. Summers are going to be humid and it's not uncommon to get a heat advisory or excessive heat warning. You are going to sweat a lot, so bring a water bottle you can replenish. You'll need sunscreen too. Bring sturdy shoes or hiking boots for exploring the outdoors.
Des Moines International Airport (DSM) is about 50 minutes from Pella, and you shouldn't have to worry about traffic. That's the biggest and closest option to get direct flights.
You should get travel insurance because Iowa gets bad weather throughout the year and that can lead to flight cancellations. You might also get stuck in Iowa due to bad weather, so make sure you know how much your travel insurance covers for extra nights in the hotel.
Pella Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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