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
Just to the northwest of Des Moines, sits a suburban oasis of parks, unique amenities, and a spaceship-looking house.
Urbandale, Iowa is an upscale community with excellent access to highways to get around the metro area.
Farming, fashion, and food intertwine in this Midwestern suburb, with growth and innovation happening while the community holds on to its old-fashioned value of treating people with kindness.
This is a place where all tourists are going to be welcomed, and possibly have their ears talked off by the nice people who live here.
A tourist will find plenty of hotels in Urbandale and a few more might open by the time I’m done writing this article.
Urbandale is growing quickly and the retail and residential additions are only going to make it that much more of a great spot to visit.
There’s a one-of-a-kind movie theater here, the only one where a full microbrewery is blended into a first-run movie theatre.
Breaking the tradition of just a movie theater snack bar is the kind of innovation you’ll find here.
Even an outdated mall is being transformed into a retail and sports venue to stop the somber old mall blight that curses many other American cities.
Iowa is a bicyclist’s dream with many trails that lead to all the major attractions and also away from any kind of civilization to just enjoy the fresh air.
Warnings & Dangers in Urbandale
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk in Urbandale, as crime rates are low compared to state and national levels. There's a lot to do in the city and nearby, easy access to roads and trails, and plenty of safe places to sleep at night.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) is the public bus transportation here. A whole line is dedicated to the Urbandale area, but you can also take express buses to get to other parts of the Des Moines metro area. There are also bicycle routes available, as mentioned above. Taxis and rideshares are readily available. Rental cars are available too. Any option is a low-risk option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of being pickpocketed here, but you'll want to use extra caution when you're in the retail districts or at a hockey game just because the crowds are larger. Iowa is a place where people are more likely to tell you that your wallet fell out of your pocket than try to take it from you.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This is the biggest concern in Iowa. The state gets really severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, winter storms, ice storms, hail storms, and flooding. The weather also impacts the crops, so a prolonged drought could put farmers on the brink of bankruptcy. If you go to YouTube and search for "Derecho," you'll see the intense weather event that unfolded in 2020. The video is so insane that I started this article last night but got wrapped in the Derecho videos well past my bedtime. There's a medium risk here throughout the year and take all weather advisories, watches, and warnings seriously.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here as well. In 2021, there were 10 robberies in the city. That's a rate almost half the national average.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here only because it's part of a major metropolitan area. Although, even Des Moines probably isn't the best target for a terrorist group to consider. The Midwestern cities of St. Louis, Chicago, and Minneapolis would likely be higher priorities.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The city does have a warning about gift card scams. You should know there's never a fine or charge that will require you to purchase gift cards to give as a form of payment. While this is a nationwide trend, it holds true here. There's really a low risk you'll face this kind of scam, or any other kind of scam, in Urbandale, but #TheMoreYouKnow, right?
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should feel safe traveling here with a low risk provided they follow the common-sense rules of don't walk around at night alone and don't meet a stranger in a private place. Iowa can almost make you feel TOO safe, so it's smart to always keep your guard up.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
I love that Iowa is so organized that most of its cities already have the 2022 Water Quality Report posted. Nearly 200 tests are done each day to make sure the water quality is safe for consumption, and this kind of dedication is what gives it a low risk. Residents and visitors are encouraged to "Think Downstream" about how their actions can impact water treatment.
Safest Places to Visit in Urbandale
TravelIowa.com is a great resource for visitors.
You can even plot a day of sightseeing on a map through the website.
Living History Farms is an amusement park of sorts but one that takes you through the history of Native Americans, explorers, and modern-day farmers as they sowed the soil of the Midwest.
There are four farm areas and you’ll find people dressed in era-appropriate clothing telling you the story of that slice of history.
You tour at your own pace, but with plenty of these experts along the way.
The farm tours are open from May 1 through October 30 each year.
Check the Urbandale Historical Society on Facebook to see upcoming events in the historic homes in the area and possible tours or guides available at that time.
There is also a seasonal newsletter to help you plan ahead.
The Merle Hay Mall is the retail hub of Urbandale, but there’s a lot more than just shopping.
This is where the movie theater, Flix Brewhouse, is located.
There’s a Selfie World with endless opportunities to make social media posts with unique backgrounds.
There’s a SmashRoom where you can just break stuff for fun and a Virtual Reality arcade, in addition to a traditional arcade.
During the hockey season, the Des Moines Buccaneers play.
The team is moving to a location at the Merle Hay Mall, but until construction is done they’ll play at their facility in West Des Moines.
The Metro Sports facility includes an ice rink where there are hours for public skates.
Urbandale also has an outdoor ice skating rink when the weather is cold enough.
Urbandale also has a figure skating school, so check the city schedule to see if any performances are happening during your visit.
Places to Avoid in Urbandale
There are no neighborhoods or sides of town to avoid in Urbandale.
This is a wealthy community with an average income near six figures and homes that average around $230,000.
There’s a great sense of community here with residents helping with community policing and being vigilant about keeping their neighborhoods safe.
Just south of Douglas Parkway on 142nd Street, there’s a house on the west side of the roadway that is shaped like a spaceship.
This “Spaceship House” is owned by a prominent businessman.
It’s a popular spot to drive by, so you don’t need to avoid it, but you cannot go inside and should stay off the private property of the home.
Avoid being unprepared for Iowa winters.
I grew up near Iowa and some of the coldest winters I’ve ever lived through happened in the Midwest, and I’ve even lived in the mountains.
One of my best friends is from Iowa and was training for a marathon over the Christmas break.
I said “You aren’t going to run outside in Iowa in winter, are you??” and she thought I was nuts.
She said “Of course I am!
If you dress appropriately, it’s not that cold.”
That’s Iowa people for you – they don’t let the weather stop them from enjoying all the beautiful outdoor spaces.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Urbandale
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts through the Emergency Management section of the city’s website. You can never underestimate Iowa’s weather. I currently live in Nebraska, near the Iowa border, and we get the storms that build up to hit Iowa harder. You must have reliable emergency weather alerts here. Your life could depend on it, and I say that as someone who chases storms part-time.
- The Urbandale Police Department has its 2021 Annual Report posted on its website. This is a great way to review the crimes that have been trending during the previous year and the activities police did to make the area safer. If you have any questions for the police department, call (515)278-3938.
- You can do interactive crime mapping through the police department’s website. You are able to search certain areas and select the kinds of crime that happened in that area. You can even search for a specific range of dates. This is the best way to stay on top of current trends.
- There is a drug problem in Iowa, as well as many other states in the nation as they battle the opioid crisis. In 2021, Urbandale police arrested 188 people for drug crimes and confiscated nearly 18,000 grams of methamphetamine alone. If you have any suspicions of drug activity during your visit, call the Urbandale Police.
- If you want to go fishing or hunting during your time in Iowa, you’re going to need licenses from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Hunters should prepare in advance as you won’t get a license unless you pass a safety exam.
- Urbandale city warns of the presence of coyotes in the area. You are encouraged to take part in “Coyote Hazing” to get the animal to go away. This doesn’t mean hurting the animal but instead focuses on making loud noises, flailing your arms, and throwing things near (not directly hitting) the coyote. If you see a sick or hurt coyote, call Urbandale Parks & Recreation at (515)278-3963.
- When you first visit the Urbandale city website, you’ll be prompted to subscribe to the city’s newsletter. It’s a good idea to sign up so you can learn about the growth and opportunities during your visit. You can also sign up for notifications from the city ranging from events to road construction updates.
- See Click Fix is a program the city uses for reports of issues in the community. It might be a pothole, graffiti, or a dead animal. Using this tool is important to help keep a community safe and the city informed. I use this in my community quite often. It’s a good idea to sign up for an account ahead of time, so you don’t get bogged down trying to enroll when you spot a gnarly pothole.
- Urbandale has several intersections where there are roundabouts instead of traffic lights. If you’ve never used a roundabout, you should review the proper steps to take when you approach one. When everyone is following the roundabout rules, traffic flows smoothly. When people are confused, it can be a mess.
- For how popular bicycling is in Iowa, it’s strange to me that there isn’t a helmet law. Even children aren’t required to wear a helmet. You should know that riding a bicycle on public roads comes with all the same laws as if you were driving a car. You can’t roll through stop signs or ignore red lights even when traffic is clear.
So... How Safe Is Urbandale Really?
The chance of being a victim of a violent crime in Urbandale is one in 876, one of the lowest I’ve seen in a city with nearly 50,000 people.
The theft rate is half the national average, as is the robbery rate.
One thing to note is that these risks change dramatically when you enter Des Moines.
While Urbandale had no homicides in 2021, and one homicide in 2020, Des Moines had 21 homicides in 2020 and hit an all-time high in 2017 with 25 homicides.
You still need to secure your car with locked doors and rolled-up windows when you park.
Don’t leave any personal belongings in plain sight.
Carry only what you need in public with you, and stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
You don’t need to be paranoid, but be prepared.
We have a detailed list of Des Moines, West Des Moines, and other metro area cities on our website, so you can explore all the places to visit here and know the exact safety information.
An educated tourist is a safer tourist.
How Does Urbandale Compare?
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The visa process is very in-depth for visiting the United States, so start planning three to four months ahead of time. Be aware you'll need to give a lot of personal information, like social media sites from the past five years, even if you don't use them anymore. Once you are in Iowa, you can travel freely from city to city without showing your visa.
The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency allowed here. Some of the attractions here can be booked ahead of time with full payment, so it's preferred to keep from pulling your wallet out. If you need to exchange currency, do that at the airport before you leave and organize your wallet in a safe place like a bathroom stall.
Stay weather aware while you're here. Thick, warm winter clothing is a necessity. Layers of clothing are helpful for spring and fall, as Iowa can be freezing in the morning and in the 60s by afternoon. Summers will be humid and you'll need light clothing that can breathe easier when you're sweating. Always bring sturdy walking shoes while you're here, as there's a lot of ground to cover.
Urbandale is about 20 minutes from the Des Moines airport and you're on a major interstate to get there the whole time, so you shouldn't have to deal with too much traffic or any traffic signals once you hit the interstate.
Travel insurance is a great idea for a place that can get so much severe weather. You really don't have a great backup airport in Iowa, but look at Omaha's Eppley Field as a backup, which is about two hours west.
Urbandale Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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