Missouri : Safety by City
- Blue Springs
- Cape Girardeau
- Creve Coeur
- Jefferson City
- Kansas City
- Lee’s Summit
- Maryland Heights
- New Madrid
- Poplar Bluff
- St. Charles
- St. Joseph
- St. Louis
- Ste. Genevieve
St. Charles, Missouri, is a charming city with a rich history across the Missouri River from St. Louis County.
It’s largely considered part of the Greater St. Louis area but is trying to avoid getting caught up in the crime-ridden stigma of that city.
One of the top reasons to visit St. Charles is the Historic Downtown.
The downtown area is a designated historic district with beautifully preserved 18th and 19th-century buildings.
Walking down Main Street, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
The brick-lined sidewalks, gas lamps, and horse-drawn carriages all add to the historic ambiance.
I grew up in St. Louis, and St. Charles’ historic district is where I take my friends now when we go back to visit.
Main Street has over 125 unique shops, galleries, and restaurants.
You can find everything from handcrafted jewelry to antique furniture to gourmet chocolates.
As much as this is a tourist attraction, it’s not cheesy or gaudy.
St. Charles also offers a variety of outdoor activities.
You can take a stroll through Frontier Park, which offers scenic views of the Missouri River.
The park also features a Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center, where you can learn about the famous explorers who passed through the area.
Near the Missouri River, you have some casino options on both sides of the river.
Enjoy Las Vegas-style gambling, food, and nightlife without having to fly to the desert.
If you’re a wine enthusiast, you won’t want to miss the wineries in the surrounding area.
Missouri is the 2nd largest wine-producing state in the US, and the wineries near St. Charles offer some of the best wine in the state.
I can tell you the drive to a winery in the fall is downright stunning.
It’s not just fun to visit St. Charles.
More than 15,000 people moved to the city between 2010 and 2020, and 45,000 moved to the county during that time.
St. Charles is a city and a county.
We’ll be clear about which one we’re referring to as we go through this.
I also might call it “St. Chuck,” as locals are known to do.
Warnings & Dangers in St. Charles
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk in this growing area that offers a lot to do for all interests. Whether you want a family vacation or a bachelorette party to let loose, you can do those things safely here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Visitors love the Ride Saint Charles trolley when it's available from May through December. The free rides stop at nearly a dozen of the most popular places in town. You can also use taxis or rideshares to get around, and rental cars are available. There isn't direct access to the St. Louis Metro system, but you can review the transportation section of the city's website to see how you can make it work, though that is the least desirable option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Even I was surprised to learn that just four pickpockets a year happened on average over the past five years. That's a low risk, but it's likely due to smart safety techniques and not a lack of would-be thieves.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Flooding has always been an issue in St. Charles, even with impressive efforts to keep the river within its banks. Even the county's website notes, "Located at the confluence between 2 major rivers, St. Charles County faces a double threat, ranging from seasonal "minor" floods to major floods of historic proportions, such as the Great Midwest Flood of 1993 when an estimated 40% of the county flooded." Oh, you also have to worry about tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in the warmer months and winter storms. But you can review the emergency operations plan to get ahead of any risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery risk itself is far below the national average and then add on top of that, over the past 5 years, just 14% of robberies happened against strangers. This is a low risk, but not low enough to let your guard down.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk simply because this is a massive metro area covering a lot of lands. While downtown St. Louis would be the most likely target, there's still plenty of reason to report anything suspicious you see. With increased mass shootings in America, no community is immune, and vigilance from residents and visitors helps incredibly.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Most scams here involve phone, email, or text messages that lure in unsuspecting victims. You can review the St. Charles County fraud and identify theft protection information on the county's website to be better armed against these predators.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Solo travelers, elderly travelers, single moms, and girlfriend getaways with love so much about St. Charles. It really is a place where you can feel comfortable walking around, but you should still use all those smart safety precautions you'd use anywhere else.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
You can review detailed information about Water Quality, where private wells vs public wells are located on the county's website. The 2021 Water Quality Report for public water service shows full compliance and no violations. We do need to discuss some river and lake quality water concerns a little later on.
Safest Places to Visit in St. Charles
Discover St. Charles is the website you should use to see the attractions here, as it’s a secure website and the official tourism site for the city.
To supplement, view Explore St. Louis to see what you want to do there if your trip includes the whole metro area.
There is a free visitor’s magazine you can request, but the site does require you to enter personal information.
I won’t do that because I’m freaky protective of my personal information as a travel safety journalist, but you are welcome to do so.
Main Street in St. Charles city is just one block from the river, and it spans 15 blocks of cobblestone road so authentic it feels weird to see cars on it and not horse-drawn carriages.
There’s an interactive map on the tourism website, so you can see the place before you go, but since you’re just walking down one street, I recommend you take it all in when you arrive.
You can also get spooked taking the St. Charles Haunted History Trail, which is self-guided.
A much less creepy Halloween festival takes over the streets when Scarecrow Glen comes to life.
Frenchtown is just north of downtown, and it’s the artist district of St. Chuck.
You’ll find more antiques than souvenirs here and be able to roam local art galleries.
Learn more at Frenchtownstcharles.org.
When you’re looking at historical attractions on the tourism website, please note that not all the locations are in St. Charles city.
The ones that are include:
- Frenchtown Heritage Museum
- Lewis & Clark Boathouse Museum
- Play Street Museum
Frontier Park runs along the river downtown, and it’s where you’ll find festivals throughout the year.
It’s also an entrance to the 200 miles of the Katy Trail that spans the state.
You’ll pass through the historic Katy Depot, and if you’re there during the holidays, this is where you’ll find Santa.
The Ameristar Casino Resort Spa is just south of downtown, with all the amenities of Las Vegas along the Missouri River.
There’s even a large nightclub to stay up late and dance the night away.
One of the newer entertainment districts is the Streets of St. Louis, just across I-70 from the casino.
Places to Avoid in St. Charles
Everything a tourist wants to see is along the river, and the rest of the community is suburban and residential.
There isn’t a bad part of town, but there’s also no reason to go outside the tourist corridor unless you are visiting someone.
You are also safe to cross into St. Louis County, and Creve Coeur Park is one of the most popular local spots with six miles of trails, a lake, and the Dripping Springs waterfall.
Dangerous neighborhoods start popping up if you go east of the airport on I-70, so get gas or food before you reach that milestone.
Stay out of the Missouri River if you’re tempted to swim.
If you need to punctuate that point, read the Water Quality section of the county’s website to see a list of contaminants that flow into it, especially after heavy rain.
Safety Tips for Traveling to St. Charles
- St. Charles City and County have their own law enforcement agencies. The city police department is on Facebook @scpdmo, and the sheriff is @Saint-Charles-County-Sheriffs-Department. You do not want to visit the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, as that is in Louisiana.
- Use the interactive crime mapping tool on the police department’s website to get a better look at recent crime activity. You control the search, so you’ll select the type of crime, date range, and radius. For example, how many car break-ins happened within a half mile of your hotel?
- You can call the Crime Stoppers hotline at (636)949-3333 to anonymously report any suspicious activity. This isn’t a replacement for 911, which should be used in emergencies or crimes in progress. You would use Crime Stoppers if you, for example, overheard someone talking about a robbery they committed or see vandal spraying graffiti.
- St. Charles Police does have an LGBTQIA+ Liaison Officer if you have questions about safe places to visit or LGBTQ-owned businesses.
- Unless otherwise noted, parking is free in downtown St. Charles. Some signs will list time limits, but most of the parking lots are unlimited free parking.
- If you’re visiting during an event, like the Saint Charles Christmas Traditions festival, most of Main Street will be blocked off by cars for the safety of pedestrians.
- Always confirm a vehicle sees you before you cross a street, even in a crosswalk. Generally, the driver will “wave” you on, but not every driver will be nice or pay enough attention to stop. It doesn’t matter if you had the right of way if you end up going to the hospital. Use that advice if you’re driving too. You don’t want to ruin a vacation by spending a night in jail for hitting someone in a crosswalk due to being distracted or in a hurry.
- Fishing licenses are required in Missouri, and those can be obtained online through the Missouri Department of Conservation. This is a huge sporting state, and people will hold you accountable.
- During the hot summer months, you want to watch any lake or pond for blue-green algae floating on top of the water. If you see it, stay away from it. Don’t go swimming, and don’t let pets near the water. The toxins will likely just make a human sick but can kill a dog in just a few hours.
- Don’t ever cross a flooded roadway, no matter how low you think the water is. “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” is the mantra you’ll hear, and there are too many locations in this flood-prone area that could sweep your car away. Don’t walk through floodwaters either because it’s dirty and polluted.
So... How Safe Is St. Charles Really?
St. Charles is feeling a little bit of guilt by association for being so close to St. Louis, which has a bad reputation as being one of the most dangerous in the country yet is a safe community all its own.
This is happening at a time when the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is being put back under state control due to the out-of-control crime rates.
“The reputation has hurt us because people who don’t live here don’t understand it’s not everywhere,” St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said.
“What’s happening, I think, is people are crossing St. Louis off their list, which means they’ll never find out about St. Charles.”
While there’s no large-scale pushback to stop the state from taking the reins in St. Louis, the city is not very happy they’re taking the brunt of the blame in the big picture.
That’s especially true when it comes to drug crimes that can fuel more violent offenses.
“Substance abuse has no borders; we know there are many people coming from St. Charles County, St. Louis County, even the Metro East that are coming into St. Louis and fueling the drug market, so that’s a regional issue,” Dan Isom, Public Safety Director for the city of St. Louis said.
What you’re probably wondering is – “Is St. Charles as dangerous as St. Louis,” and it’s not.
Not by a long shot.
That’s even with impressive growth and expansion as a desirable location for new residents.
Every violent crime category was down in 2022, with an overall drop of 23% from 2021.
The crime rate is also getting much closer to the pre-pandemic levels as the city saw an uptick in 2020.
Evan car thefts, which are plaguing the west side of St. Louis County in 2022 and into 2023, went down 11% in St. Charles.
Larceny was also down 16%.
Even drug crimes were down more than 4%, with marijuana being the top offense.
What do you need to worry about in St. Charles?
Having your car broken into.
How do you fix that?
Roll up the windows.
Don’t leave personal items inside.
For the love of everything that is holy — don’t leave the keys inside or leave it running to warm up.
Now you’re much safer.
Also, don’t drink and drive.
About 4–5 people a week were busted in 2022.
How Does St. Charles Compare?
|Belize City (Belize)||37|
|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
International travelers need to plan well in advance to see if they need to go through the arduous visa process or can get a visa waiver. Don't forget your passport, and make sure it's not within six months of expiring on your arrival or departure date.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. You can exchange currency at the airport if you are a U.S. Bank customer. The casinos will offer currency exchange, but you'll likely pay a much higher fee.
You're going to get a muggy summer visit here, especially being this close to the river. Bring bug spray and breathable clothing. Comfortable walking shoes are important, especially on the cobblestone streets of the historic area. Spring and fall have fluctuating temperatures, so bring layering options. Winter will require a coat 80% of the time, so bring one just in case.
St. Charles is on the same interstate as St. Louis Lambert International Airport and is just 10 miles away. That road is prone to a lot of rush hour traffic, so check the traffic before you go and give yourself plenty of time.
Travel insurance protects you from unexpected weather delays or emergency cancelations and helps you get healthcare when you'd otherwise pay out of pocket. It's worth the cost to get peace of mind.
St. Charles Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Missouri - Safety by City