Minnesota : Safety by City
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- Two Harbors
Winona, Minnesota, sits on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in the far southeastern state section.
Across the way is Wisconsin, with the Iowa border just 50 miles south.
In early 2023, Winona was named the #5 Cutest Town in America, and it’s not hard to see why.
The revitalized downtown district holds onto history while offering modern needs and a future plan for growth without minimizing the historical significance.
“I just like it because it’s artsy, hippie-dippy.
It’s very quirky,” Grace Irwin, owner, and operator of the Carriage House Bed Breakfast said.
Then you get to the great outdoors, and even more adventures unfold.
One of the hallmarks of Winona is the Sugar Loaf Bluff adding elevation to this northern plains.
“There are 27 parks that the City of Winona owns.
There are a ton of outdoor sports in Winona.
Anything ranging from canoeing, kayaking, ice climbing in the wintertime, and cross-country skiing.
We have disc golf right here on the lake,” said Alicia Alano, Outdoor Recreation Coordinator with Winona Parks and Recreation.
Hollywood star Winona Ryder was named after the city of Winona, where she lived until she was seven.
Another superstar of the community is the ornate stained glass that is created here and adorns the windows of many buildings.
Winona manages to capture the essence of a small town, the vibrancy of a college community, and the natural wonders that make Minnesota so desirable in the first place.
Warnings & Dangers in Winona
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk here with low crime rates and plenty of things to see and do. Visitors need certain weather and wilderness awareness, but there really is something for everyone in this small but mighty town.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Winona has a small transit service that is more for locals needing rides to the store or doctor's office, but you can look at the schedule on the city's website to learn more. Taxis and rideshares won't be plentiful, but you'll be able to call for a ride. Having your own rental car here is ideal.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Despite a higher-than-average theft risk, the pickpocket risk is low, with none reported in 2021 and just two reported in the previous five years. Car break-ins and shoplifting are the two biggest theft risks.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Winona's main districts have a lake on one side, and a river on the other, meaning flooding is always a risk. Spring and summer can bring dangerous thunderstorms and tornadoes. Winters can be blustery, with heavy snow, low wind chills, blizzards, and ice storms. All risks come with plenty of warning but lower the risk by staying weather aware.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Winona hasn't seen a year with more than eight robberies since at least 2011, and in 2021 there were four. Robberies against people are the least likely, with home and business robberies being the biggest threat. The risk is low, but don't let your guard down.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk since the town is remote and small. Bigger cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul would be more likely targets.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The common scams are the most reported, with a niche scam against the elderly. While locals are generally the target, it's a good idea to look at the police department's social media sites to see the latest scams. You can also view the Better Business Bureau website for regional scam trends.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
While women are statistically 14% more likely to be victims of violent crime, the majority of those crimes are domestic. There's a low risk, but basic safety skills and common sense are needed.
TAP WATER RISK: MEDIUM
Winona has long battled an issue of high radium levels in the water. In 2021, another violation occurred. The naturally occurring substance can cause cancer when a person is exposed to high levels over many years. The city added a new treatment to tackle the ongoing trouble, but you should check the latest report on the city's website before you visit. The Water Quality Reports must be issued each year by June 1. The water isn't too unhealthy to drink, but if you're concerned about radium, use bottled water for cooking and consumption.
Safest Places to Visit in Winona
Visit Winona is the official website for the city, and it has a great section of Travel Tools to help you get started.
There’s even an “Ask a Local” section where you can specifically address any topic, and a person who has lived there for decades will respond.
An updated annual travel guide is also available for download.
Starting on the Mississippi River, you can take a guided river cruise that covers history, wildlife, and wonders of the water.
Winona is also a stop on several cruise lines that ride the Mississippi River.
Houseboat rentals and fishing charters are also available on the waterfront.
Self-guided walking tours are available through the tourism bureau.
Stop by the Winona County History Center to learn about the rich industrial background and then walk the streets to see the influences still standing.
No matter what religion you are, peek into the churches to see some amazing windows with custom stained glass.
Other historical stops and museums include:
- Watkins Heritage Museum & Gift Shop
- Polish Cultural Museum
- Castlerock Museum
- National Eagle Center
- Rollingstone Luxembourg Heritage Museum
One of the biggest draws in Winona is the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.
The museum has galleries and interactive exhibits that celebrate art inspired by waterways.
The museum spans seven acres and includes events throughout the year for adults, teenagers, and toddlers.
Along the Mississippi River, you can walk the trail through downtown Winona or take the longer trek between Winona and Minnesota City (8 miles each way).
Along Lake Winona, you can explore the Sugar Loaf (and ice park in the winter) and Bluffside park.
The lake also has parks and green space along the shoreline, with paddling rentals available seasonally.
Another popular trail and park are on the north of the city at Prairie Island.
The city is known for its festivals, including the Great River Shakespeare Festival, Boats & Bluegrass Festival, and Frozen River Film Festival.
Winona Main Street has its own website where you can see the shopping, lodging, and dining options in the historically-preserved district that also hosts a vibrant art community.
Places to Avoid in Winona
Even if Winona were big enough to have “bad neighborhoods,” you still wouldn’t find any here.
The city is laid on a slender north/south path, and it’s rather hard to get lost.
You should avoid doing any activity beyond your skillset.
Looking at Sugar Loaf, it’s easy to get the itch to do some rock climbing, but that’s a monster of a climb, and if you aren’t trained, you could get hurt.
Use the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) website to learn about ice safety, as there is “no such thing as 100% safe ice.”
Ice-covered lakes and rivers can show a false sense of safety but result in water rescues.
You can’t rely on the Mississippi River being the best attraction here.
The drought of 2022 is ongoing into 2023, and it has caused dangerous low levels that can cancel boat tours and leave barges dredged.
The low levels can also encourage more people to get in the water, who then risk pollution or dangerous mud pits.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Winona
- Winona has its own police department, and outside the city, law enforcement comes from the Winona County Sheriff’s Office. The Facebook page is @winonamnpolicedept, and it’s regularly updated with crime and safety information.
- The city has parking rules between November 15 and March 15 that determines what side of the street you can park on based on the even/odd day of the week. Please review the rules on the city’s website because parking on the wrong side of the street can get you a $25 ticket.
- Generally, you should avoid any lake or river up to 48 hours after a storm or major rainfall. This is because storm runoff can pick up chemicals and toxins along the way to the water and impact water quality. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will release weekly water quality reports for all lakes and rivers.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the DNR to fish here legally, and you should review the different stamps and permits if you want to get a particular fish. Minnesota and Wisconsin do have reciprocity agreements in place allowing a license holder from one state to fish boundary waters.
- Before you eat any fish you catch, check the DNR’s Safe Fish Eating Guide to see how many safe servings of a particular fish species are allowed. The risk can change yearly based on contaminants, water levels, and weather.
- The Winona Ice Park is one of the most popular winter destinations, but you should review the rules and guidelines before you even think about climbing a massive sheet of vertical ice. Crampons are required, and if you don’t know what that means, you probably shouldn’t be climbing. You’ll also need a helmet. If you aren’t skilled at ice climbing, some local vendors will do guided climbs to match your abilities.
- Don’t go on any icy lake, river, or pond without knowing the ice depth. If an area is marked off, don’t cross the boundary, no matter how cold it is or how sturdy the ice looks.
- You should review the safety tips from the DNR for black bears, moose, and coyotes, as all three can be found in this region. With any Minnesota wildlife, you should never feed it or bait it into approaching. Don’t touch any birds or bird nests, as people can easily spread the Avian Flu to different areas. If one bird in a flock gets sick, the whole flock will be destroyed.
- Anyone exploring the outdoors should bring a NOAA All-Hazard Radio. This device will work even if mobile phone service and electricity go out. The Emergency Management Department of Winona has a listing of the correct programming frequencies.
- It’s the law in Minnesota to clean off your entire vehicle after a snowfall or frost accumulation. The full windshield, all windows, and license plate must be visible at all times when driving. Remove the snow from the top of the vehicle and the hood, so it doesn’t blow off and blind you or another driver. It’s also against the law to leave a car warming up unattended.
So... How Safe Is Winona Really?
Winona’s Police Department posts more photos of found or missing dogs than it does of actual criminals, which matches the crime rates in the region.
While the nationwide violent crime average is 396 violent crimes per 100,000 people, in Winona, that rate is 285 per 100,000.
The city has seen just five homicides since 2011.
The biggest concern statistically is that violent crime has gone up 300% in Winona since 2014.
Should that rate continue, it won’t be long before the city is at or above the national average.
The positive note for visitors is that just 6% of violent crimes happen against strangers, and 76% happen in private homes.
The Winona Post newspaper does release a list of daily police blotter activity, so you can check crime trends closer to your visit.
Thefts are 70% higher than the national average, but 37% of those are shoplifting cases, while another 24% are car break-ins or car accessory thefts.
Winona is a place where a little common sense and safety steps go a long way.
Don’t leave a car unlocked or with the windows cracked, especially overnight or on a remote trail.
Never leave valuables in plain sight inside a vehicle.
Use resources like 511 MN to check road conditions before you head out, as the app includes construction, accidents, traffic delays, and road conditions.
If you’re traveling into Wisconsin, use 511 WI.
Using all these smart safety tactics will truly make you appreciate this “cute” town with an abundance of things to do.
How Does Winona Compare?
|Santiago de Chile (Chile)||71|
|Hong Kong (China)||70|
International visitors won't get through Customs without a passport and visa (or visa waiver). The U.S. State Department revised some of the rules at the start of 2023 to expedite the process without sacrificing safety.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. If you exchange currency in your home country, you'll save on bank fees. You can also use most U.S. banks to sell back unused currency before you leave.
You'll need warm, insulated winter clothing with a waterproof outer layer. Comfortable and well-worn hiking or snot boots are needed. You'll want layers of clothing in fall and spring as temperatures can fluctuate. Summer will be warm, with some hot periods and plenty of humidity. Bug spray will be needed for the outdoors.
Winona is an hour east of Rochester, Minnesota - home to the Mayo Clinic. This means the airport in Rochester has more big city flights than most mid-sized cities. For those flying out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the drive is about two hours.
Travel insurance is a wise investment, and it goes into effect as soon as you purchase it. Consider supplemental rental car insurance to protect against accidents or weather damage.
Winona Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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Minnesota - Safety by City