Joplin, Missouri, sits in the far southwestern section of the state known as the Four State Region, with Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas sharing a nearby border.
With a population of over 50,000, it is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the state and home to Missouri Southern University, giving it a college-town vibe.
Joplin also draws a more nostalgic crowd down the famed Route 66 corridor.
It also holds history as a hideout for the infamous outlaws Bonnie & Clyde.
Joplin has a rich history, having been founded in the late 1800s as a mining town.
The Joplin History & Mineral Museum showcases the city’s mining heritage and features a wide range of minerals and fossils from the region.
The museum is housed in a beautiful historic building, making it a great spot for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike.
The downtown area is being revitalized and has many shops and restaurants to enjoy.
It’s touted by the tourism bureau as an “up-and-coming town,” but there’s still plenty of work to be done.
Part of the progress was lost in 2011 when a massive EF-5 tornado swept through the city.
161 people died, and more than 9,000 homes were destroyed.
Look up the phrase “Butterfly People of Joplin” to learn about how children—from different parts of town, with different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses—shared a comforting “butterfly angel” during the catastrophe.
You’ll notice that the butterfly spirit still lives on today.
The city is also referred to as JoMo and has more than 200 restaurants while offering a nice central location between Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Fayetteville.
Warnings & Dangers in Joplin
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Joplin has a medium risk due to high crime rates, especially for a city that isn’t a major urban area. The risk doesn’t impact tourists as much since most crimes are targeted at people known to the offender. However, there’s enough random crime to warrant a heads-up about the crime here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There isn’t a public transportation system here, and even the small community-based system for residents couldn’t stay staffed and had to be shut down. You’ll need a car, or else you’ll be limited to expensive taxi and rideshare costs to get around, as this isn’t a walkable city outside the college campus.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
The city has averaged about 20 pickpockets each year for the past decade. While the raw number isn’t concerning, it’s definitely higher than most towns of this size in the Midwest. Treat it with a medium risk, and you’ll lower your own risk.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
2011 showed just how dangerous tornadoes can be here, and while that was a worst-case scenario, tornadoes are still very possible here. Severe thunderstorms with straight-line winds can also cause major damage. Winter can bring snow and ice storms too. This is definitely part of America where you need to check the forecast daily and be hyper-attuned to severe weather risks.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Robberies have almost been cut in half since 2019, but the risk is still average compared to national numbers. 25% of robberies happened in public outdoor spaces, but it’s nothing that common sense and situational awareness can’t override.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is a low risk since it’s not a major metro area, and there are no hard targets nearby. Drug trafficking and related crimes are a concern because of the location on the major Interstate 44.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most scams here target residents, so it’s a low risk against tourists. Just be clear if you’re approached by someone asking for money that you aren’t going to donate, and use common sense if a deal seems too good to be true.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The caution I’d given women here is not to walk around alone or even with someone. You can easily go a block or two outside of downtown and be in a bad neighborhood.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
In Missouri, American Water invested $430 million in 2022 to upgrade the water quality treatment system and pipelines. The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. The main concern is if you stay in a home with lead pipes, which falls outside the water utility’s purview.
Safest Places to Visit in Joplin
VisitJoplinMO.com is the official tourism site for the city, and I’ll tell you that they paint a really great picture of this city.
The website shows the city for its rich history, its natural attractions, and the potential of what it is becoming.
It’s not misleading; it’s just very decorated and doesn’t reflect some of the safety holes we’ll discuss.
There is a tourism guide, but you have to give personal information to get access to it, a move that doesn’t make sense to this writer, especially when the city was the victim of a ransomware attack a few years ago.
DowntownJoplin.com covers the central part of the city in more detail.
You’ll love the drive down Main Street, which is the historic Route 66 highway.
A quick stop along the way is Route 66 Mural Park.
JoplinArtsDistrict.com offers details about the 56-block section of town dedicated to artists and art lovers.
To see residential history, head to the Murphysburg District, where stately trees line the roads in front of homes more than a century old.
Each home has a historical marker in front of it, and this is one of the safer parts of the city to walk and enjoy the sights.
Grand Falls is a waterfall that should definitely be on your list.
It’s on the other side of I-44, and the roads weave you back behind Shoal Creek to a place of beauty and natural wonder.
It’s a two-step waterfall that brings the action to an otherwise calm body of water.
Cunningham Park is another must-see location, as it’s one of the places leveled by the 2011 tornado.
I remember watching the storm on The Weather Channel and knowing too much about severe weather, I could tell right away this was one of those catastrophic storms.
Massive trees were torn apart with just sticks coming out of the crowd.
The hospital was badly damaged. Cunningham Park was flattened.
This part has a home frame surrounding a Butterfly Garden where people go to pay respects, learn about grief, honor the people who died, and celebrate the volunteers who saved lives.
Places to Avoid in Joplin
Most of Joplin from Main Street west to Meridian Lane is a less desirable part of town, and north of 27th can have some sketchy areas too.
You’ll be able to tell on sight if you’re in a rundown part of town.
The risk here doesn’t mean you’ll be in “big trouble” if you turn down a certain street, but there’s no reason to be in this neighborhood unless you know someone here.
Most of the hotels are grouped in the much safer part of town to the southeast near I-44 and Ridgeline Road.
You’ll also have big box shopping and national chain restaurants there.
Since Joplin has more than 200 restaurants and could use all the support it can get, try to find local restaurants to visit during your time.
Avoid asking people about the tornado unless they bring it up.
5% of the people here lost their homes, and many lost their jobs, so it’s not as fascinating to them as it might be to a tourist.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Joplin
- Joplin does have its own police department, and they offer a lot of great crime information. You can read the annual report with traffic and crime data or check out the Facebook posts about weekly crime reports on their page @JoplinPD.
- If you notice any problems while you’re there, like a big pothole or graffiti, report it on the See. Click. Fix. section of the city’s website. Don’t assume someone else has already reported it.
- You can look up the address of the Bonnie & Clyde Garage Hideaway (ok, you twisted my arm; it’s 215 W. 34th Street). You can even drive by it. Since it’s now private property and someone lives there, don’t walk on the property or knock on the door. Visit the Joplin History & Mineral Museum to learn more about their time here and see the photos left behind in their camera. They were in too much of a rush to grab it.
- Joplin has a rich mining history, but there aren’t any mines to explore. No tourist mines exist either. All mines have been flooded by groundwater. The museum mentioned above has some artifacts from that era. If you drive an hour south, you can visit Dwellers Cave in Noel, Missouri.
- JPD has a great list of safety tips and crime awareness on its website under the “Information” heading. Tips cover ATM safety, walking tips to avoid crime, and gang awareness information.
- Look at the Joplin Schools website to find a list of community tornado shelters that will open to everyone if the tornado warnings sound. There are more than a dozen options. Jasper County Emergency Management also has a list of county-wide shelters.
- Use the MoDOT website to track road conditions, construction, and traffic troubles on all Missouri roads. For neighboring states, look for the state name and 511 to find the right website or app.
- If you’re heading west into Oklahoma, you should know that I-44 becomes a toll road at the state line. The Pikepass website can give you all the details about how and when to pay tolls. If you’d like a quick detour before you cross the state line, you can exit at Highway 166/400 to get to the Tri-State marker, when you can be in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas at the same time.
- In December, Joplin saw a rash of wallets snatched from purses left unattended in shopping carts. For most people, it’s natural to leave a purse in the child seat part of the cart, but that makes it easy for someone passing by to grab it. I like to use the child safety straps to lock my purse in, but I rarely feel safe enough to do that and opt to carry my purse at all times.
- Download the What 3 Words app to help make it easier to find you if you have an emergency and call 911 from a mobile phone. This is a great tool for tourists who might not be able to explain where they are in an emergency.
So… How Safe Is Joplin Really?
Joplin’s crime rate was down 6% in 2022, but there’s still plenty of room to go before it can be considered a low-risk city.
One of the more surprising statistics was the 10 people killed in 2022, double the number from 2021.
With the average homicide rate per 100,000 in America being 7, Joplin is at 19 homicides per 100,000 people.
In one of the most tragic events of 2022, two officers were killed by a suspect who fled from police.
Gunshots rang out across the community.
While there was no ongoing threat to the community after the suspect was shot and killed, during the rampage, the suspect was firing in public places.
Theft rates here are three times the national average, and that’s with a 10% decrease in 2022.
30% of those thefts were car break-ins or car accessory thefts, like a stolen catalytic converter.
46% of thefts happened at commercial businesses, and 18% happened on roads, in parking lots, or at local parks.
The problem with Joplin isn’t so much that you are at risk of being a victim of crime but that there is crime all around you.
Many people visit the city and don’t notice anything.
Some people have lived here for decades and lament, “It’s nowhere near as dangerous as St. Louis!”
The real shocker is that you don’t expect a medium-sized city in the Bible Belt to have so much crime.
You can lower your risk with standard safety practices and avoid looking for trouble, like a place to party or trying to find drugs.
While that last part won’t impact many of you, it’s worth noting just in case.
How Does Joplin Compare?
- Visas – International visitors to America, no matter where the destination, need a passport and visa to get through Customs and Border Patrol. There’s a long list of Visa Waiver-eligible countries on the U.S. State Department website. Start there before you apply.
- Currency – You can only use the U.S. Dollar in all four states in this region. Don’t use an ATM to exchange currency or get cash. Always go into a bank. Better yet, exchange it before you arrive in America to get the lowest fees.
- Weather – Winter will be cold, and summer will be suffocatingly hot and humid. Those are the only two guarantees in Joplin, with the rest of the year bringing wide swings in temperatures, generally connected to those storm systems that sweep across the Plains. Pack layers of clothing and be casual – this isn’t a dressy town.
- Airports – Joplin Regional Airport is six miles north of the city. Unless you want to drive three hours to Kansas City, that’s the best option, as other regional airports nearby won’t have much better flight options.
- Travel Insurance – Travel insurance is an important part of visiting areas prone to severe weather. From flight cancelations to road closures, you don’t want to lose your travel investment because of circumstances you can’t control.
Joplin Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Jan 1° C
Feb 4° C
Mar 9° C
Apr 15° C
May 20° C
Jun 25° C
Jul 27° C
Aug 26° C
Sep 22° C
Oct 16° C
Nov 9° C
Dec 3° C
Average High/Low Temperature
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