Nebraska : Safety by City
- Grand Island
- La Vista
- Nebraska City
- North Platte
- South Sioux City
I wish I could tell you there’s a great love story behind the name of Valentine, Nebraska, but there isn’t.
It was named after a politician that never even set foot in the city.
However, there’s still plenty to love about the namesake, and the tourism bureau has taken the literal Valentine name to the extreme.
This is a small town of fewer than 5,000 people just south of the South Dakota border in the extreme northern central end of the state.
Valentine and surrounding Cherry County are in the Nebraska Sandhills, which is a region of grass-covered sand dunes spanning 19,000 miles.
Yes, it’s a sand dune in the middle of a landlocked state.
The sand came in from the mountains during the Ice Age, settled, and then had grass grow on top of it.
The unique ecosystems and wildlife species here make this a unique experience in the middle of a state known for being “so flat.”
You won’t believe the number of wilderness areas just waiting for you—waterfalls, bison ranges, fishing, hunting, birdwatching, stargazing, bridge views, and floating on the Niobrara River.
This is also one of the places where steak lovers can get some of the best cuts of beef in the world.
There’s pride in farming, manufacturing, and cooking everything from small mignon to ribeyes the side of your head.
It’s easy to miss Valentine on a Nebraska trip, but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
Anywhere you see a bunch of locks on a bridge or fence is a place where people have “locked” their love on trips.
Warnings & Dangers in Valentine
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk in Valentine. You have plenty of hotels in town if you don't want to camp or stay in the rural areas, but you will have to leave town to find the best adventures.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll need a car to get around as this town is too remote and too small to have public transportation or rideshares. Heck, you'll have better luck finding a horse than a taxi.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The risk is low, but since you'll be packing a lot of the road, don't leave your valuables in the car unattended. Pack the trunk and always lock the doors. If you can get a car with an alarm, that's ideal.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The weather is by far the biggest risk here, with serious threats in each season. Even a wind warning can ruin a day with air quality issues, challenging driving conditions, and blinding dust or smoke. Tornadoes, winter storms, severe thunderstorms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures plague this region. If you stay weather aware, you'll be fine. All risks come with plenty of warnings and safety guidelines if you're looking for them.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery risk is low, with just three reported over the past decade.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is another low risk, as it's too rural and far from anything but protected wilderness areas to create any hard targets.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Several scams have been reported over the past few years, mostly dealing with threats against residents. One was threatening arrest for missing jury duty if the person didn't pay up immediately. Another was a scammer posing as a local hospital worker trying to get social security numbers. There's a low risk a tourist would get scammed, but it's always best to book attractions and reservations through the vendor's website, not a third-party option.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
I'm a single woman who plans to visit the next Star Party outside Valentine, and I have no qualms about going alone. Honestly, I'm more worried about meeting the angry end of a bison than anything since my dogs try to make friends with every animal. You do need wilderness and storm survival skills here, plus a healthy dose of personal safety tactics and common sense.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The City of Valentine Water Department hasn't posted a Water Quality Report that we can find after extensive searching. You can call the department at (402)376-2615 to ask specific questions, but there's nothing that indicates there's a water concern in any research. If there's an issue with water quality due to water main breaks or flooding, that would be posted on the city's social media sites.
Safest Places to Visit in Valentine
VisitValentine.org is the official tourism site for the city, and that’s also going to cover Cherry County.
Sign up for the Explore Valentine magazine or download the most recent edition without having to give any personal information.
There’s not much to do in the town of Valentine aside from great steak places like the Peppermill Restaurant or local favorite Somethin’ Else Cafe for breakfast.
That does remind me of one point—ordering a steak any more cooked than “medium rare” will get you some side-eye in Nebraska, as cooking it more is said to dry the meat and lose the flavor.
Even the Peppermill begs, “Order a steak and keep it as close to medium rare as your soul will allow.”
Sure, they’ll cook it well done if you ask, but they’ll judge you silently.
I’ll give you a fair warning that you really need to like the outdoors to enjoy Valentine and Cherry County, but to get the best history and intrigue of the land, check out the museums first.
Centennial Hall Museum and Cherry County Historical Society Museum explain the rugged settlers who chose this unwelcoming land and made a home against all odds.
Find out why sod homes, mostly underground, were common and so many more interesting facts about the Sandhill part of Nebraska.
While it’s not quite the Dutton Ranch of Yellowstone fame, the Arthur Bowring Ranch State Historical Park is all that and then some as you learn the life of a working ranch.
This living museum also includes a tour of one of those sod houses.
While you’re in town, stop by the Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor’s Center.
As part of the National Park Service, you’ll get vetted information and safety details before you head out.
Pick up brooches about float trips in the warmer months because you have a lot of options for where to start and end.
The river has nearly 80 miles of protected water.
Use a local guide for the safest and more immersive experience.
Take the Cowboy Trail using the new bike rental program in Valentine.
You can download a map on the Nebraska Outdoors app.
The Valentine Bridge on Cowboy Trail is the closest and more popular, spanning 150 feet above the river on an old railroad line.
Other outdoor options include:
- Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuse
- Merritt Reservoir
- Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest
- Smith Falls State Park
- Snake River Falls (must see!)
- Valentine National Wildlife Refuge
Golden Prairie Bison Tours are a fun, smart, and safe way to see the majestic animals that roam the land.
Niobrara River Ranch has cabins and campgrounds with hiking, canoeing, hunting, and fishing options.
Each outdoor option has activities in each season, including the dead of winter, but review all safety guides and park alert before you go.
Places to Avoid in Valentine
If there were a dangerous part of Valentine to avoid, you’d have a hard time doing so in a town this small.
Luckily, the whole town is safe.
If you cross into South Dakota, you’ll be on Rosebud Sioux Tribe land.
It’s perfectly legal to drive on the highways of tribal land, but you shouldn’t go down dirt roads or private streets.
Roads will be clearly marked.
Also, tribal police will likely respond first to any incidents, but the highway patrol could also have jurisdiction on certain highways.
While going to Valentine on Valentine’s Day is a popular idea, that’s right in the middle of tough Nebraska winters.
Check the forecast, and don’t try to navigate roadways if they are under winter storms or blizzard warnings.
Plan a buffer around those travel days in case you get stuck.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Valentine
- Valentine has its own police department with support from the surrounding Cherry County Sheriff’s Office. You can follow both on Facebook @ValentinePoliceDept and @cherrycountysheriffne.
- There isn’t an emergency notification system directly through the government here, but Weather Emergency Alerts (WEA) are part of every modern mobile phone system. Look through your setting to confirm the alerts are enabled, and that location tracking is on.
- If you’ll be outside of Valentine on the roads, check the NOAA Weather Radio office to find the frequency of the AM channels for severe weather. You’d be surprised how fast that storm on the horizon can catch up on you.
- For winter weather especially, the 511 Nebraska app is a great tool to check road conditions, watch live snow plow activity, and see which roads are closed. Of course, it’s useful throughout the year during a wildfire, storm, and construction season too.
- Any fishing in Nebraska requires a license, and you can download the Outdoor Nebraska app to purchase a license and find fishing holes near you. All state parks, trails, and management areas are mapped out on the app as well.
- We’re going to take advice from our friends at Yellowstone National Park for this one—bison can weigh up to 2000 pounds and sprint three times faster than you. An angry bison can literally hit you like a compact car going 30 miles per hour. Google “Bison Selfie Accident” and see how many people made the dangerous mistake of not giving the bison a safe distance. Since the range here is filled with these animals, stay in your car if you want a photo op.
- You cannot collect any flowers, plants, rocks, or fossils from any of the protected lands. If you see others doing so, report it to the park ranger.
- Given the limited mobile service in this region, you’ll find many attractions and wilderness areas giving an address and GPS coordinates. Save both of those because GPS might be your saving grace when you’re lost in the Nebraska outdoors.
- Never light a campfire if you haven’t gotten express permission from a park to do so. Any fires can spread quickly in the Nebraska winds. Even an improperly extinguished cigarette left on the ground can cause a massive wildfire. Check the Nebraska Emergency Response Wildland Fire Resources page for a list of active fires, or check the 511 Nebraska app.
- The skies outside Valentine offer some of the best stargazing opportunities in the state, and the Nebraska Star Party is held every July nearby. If you’re going to look at the stars, bring a flashlight with a red filter, so you can still see where you’re walking but won’t expose your eyes to too much light. Merritt Reservoir is the best viewing location as a certified International Dark Sky Association location.
So... How Safe Is Valentine Really?
If you take the raw crime data and turn it into “per 100,000 people,” as the FBI does to get comparison averages for all cities, then Valentine is almost twice the national violent crime rate.
However, in cities this small, the numbers are easily skewed, with a few crimes in one direction or the other.
The reality is that the crimes that do happen here are among people who know each other 99% of the time and are usually aggravated assaults.
The Valentine Police Department’s social media pages show more lost dogs and vandalism than serious crimes.
They do a great job of updating common scam reports in the area.
One post even helped someone find their lost mobile phone that fell from their pickup truck.
That’s not to say there isn’t a crime in Valentine, but with nine violent crimes and 18 robberies in 2021, there is hardly a risk to public safety.
In fact, nearly 70% of thefts were shoplifting losses of $50.
“We’re like any other city — the same crime, same drugs, just on a smaller scale, and we have fewer resources to deal with it.
Our officers do everything — respond, investigate, and collect evidence — from start to finish.
The good thing is you get to see what happens in the end, and you see that you can make a difference,” Police Chief Dana Miller said.
How Does Valentine Compare?
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
- Visas - International visitors will go through Customs and Border Patrol at the arrival airport and must have a passport and visa or visa waiver. There's a Visa Wizard module on the State Department's website to get started on the right visa path.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and all currency exchange should happen before getting to this small town. Using a credit card is preferable to track fraudulent activity.
- Weather - Nebraska gets very moody weather patterns, and winter or severe storms can be mighty. Packing is a skill because you need enough layers to stay warm in case of a cold spell but plenty of warm weather options. Weather patterns here can cause springtime temperatures on a Tuesday and bring below-freezing temperatures the next. The tourism site has a great "packing list" you can review.
- Airports - The closest commercial airport is in Rapid City, South Dakota (and you get to drive through the Badlands National Park!), but that's at least a three-hour drive. You will change time zones during this drive, so if you're heading to Rapid City, you'll gain an hour or time, but you'll move an hour of head driving from Rapid City to Valentine. Omaha is a five-hour drive.
- Travel Insurance - With so many highway miles to get to Valentine, comprehensive travel insurance is your best option to cover flights, rental cars, accidents, delays, dangerous weather, and closures.
Valentine Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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