California : Safety by City
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- Union City
- West Covina
Riverside, California, is part of the Inland Empire section of Southern California.
It’s perfectly positioned between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, each about an hour away, and the beach and desert.
This is a largely Hispanic/Latino community with culture at every turn.
The historic downtown was designed to be easily walkable.
The location is perfect for touring because you get shopping, museums, restaurants, and hotels all in one easy-to-navigate section of town.
The Santa Ana River runs along the city’s east side, making for great green spaces, golf courses, and water activities.
Riverside city and county each have amazing mountains and canyons to hike with breathtaking views of the Inland Empire and beyond.
You also don’t have to trek all the way to Disneyland if you want to visit a theme park because Castle Park is located in Riverside.
For hotel bookings, the most famous location is Mission Inn Hill & Spa, and the Spanish architecture is as impressive as the amenities offered to guests.
Getting in and out of the city is easy, too, with major highways heading in each direction.
This is a great central location for a trip to Southern California.
Warnings & Dangers in Riverside
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
The risk in Riverside balances between low and medium, with higher than average crime rates, but safer areas in the places tourists are most likely to go. You'll need street smarts, common sense, and situational awareness, but the affordability and convenience of this area will make it worth it.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
RTA is the bus system around Riverside. You can use MetroLink to get to Los Angeles. Taxis, rideshares, and rental cars are widely available. There's low risk with any option, but always use extra safety at bus stops and when riding public systems.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The theft rate is 70% higher than the national average, but the police department doesn't offer statistics about pickpockets. If you're in a crowded area or at a crowded local event, use an abundance of caution. Don't carry a wallet in your back pocket and keep purse sizes small, and only bring what you need.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Wildfires and extreme heat are, by and large, the biggest concerns here. Flooding is another possibility. If there is any wildfire burning nearby, you need to get updates throughout the day about air quality, possible evacuations, and road closures.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
The robbery risk here is above the national average, with no real context given about who the victims are in the robberies. There's a real lack of specific data available to help answer this. To lower any risk, avoid walking around at night - even if you are with someone else. Don't bring attention to yourself with valuable jewelry or devices.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
The whole Los Angeles metro area, including San Bernardino and Riverside County, is at a medium risk due to the large population, military presence, and rich potential targets.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Most of the scams here target locals, such as utility scams or fake warrant calls. There have been reports of people selling fake gold on the streets, claiming it's valuable. Don't fall for sob stories of people who claim they lost everything and need help. Unfortunately, scammers prey on your compassion.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should be careful if they are out at night drinking or dancing. Don't let anyone buy you a drink to avoid any drugs being slipped in. Avoid local house parties if you don't know the people there. For those who want to explore the outdoors, it's best to go hiking with someone. If you are going solo, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows all standards were met or surpassed, and no violations were found. Being that this is an agricultural area, you should check the water quality after heavy rains or flooding. Stormwater runoff can have chemicals in it.
Safest Places to Visit in Riverside
Riversidecvb.com is the official tourism website in this area.
Riverside is a popular name, and you need to be very specific when using search engines.
Even Riverside County, California – which includes the city of Riverside – is 200 miles long and goes all the way to the Arizona border, crossing Joshua Tree National Forest and Palm Springs along the way.
Riversidedowntown.org is the site for the city’s core.
Here you’ll find a walkable and charming hub of activity with Spanish-mission-style architecture.
Download a historic walk guide so you don’t miss any of the impressive places in between the shops and restaurants.
There is also an updated Dining Guide to review on that same website.
Even if you aren’t staying at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa downtown, it’s worth walking through the elegant hallways and beautiful gardens.
There’s also one of the top-rated spas in the United States inside with a lap of luxurious relaxation waiting for you.
California Citrus State Historic Park is a short drive from downtown but still in Riverside (the city).
You can learn about the history of agriculture and the booming citrus industry here while soaking in that warm Southern California weather!
Tours are held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on a first-come, first-served basis.
If fruits are in season, you might even get to pick your own sample.
TIP: Ask about the Tag Hunt for this park and you can use your mobile device to scan QR codes while going on a scavenger hunt.
Castle Park is the most popular family-friendly attraction in the Inland Empire.
It’s an amusement park and water park rolled into one with plenty of restaurant options for a full day of fun without leaving the park.
Don’t miss the Magic Show!
Mt. Rubidoux takes you up a remote hill bearing a pristine cross giving great views of the valley below.
You’ll have to hike or bike to get to the top, but it’s worth it to see the sunrise or sunset from this amazing vantage point.
The park is closed after dark and there are no lights on the trails.
Only go during twilight or daylight hours.
The Santa Ana River Trails runs for 110 miles and provides a safe path for biking or walking.
The trail is always expanding, so be sure to check the park’s website to see what sections are still under construction before you go.
Places to Avoid in Riverside
The most dangerous parts of the city will be found in the different neighborhoods, which aren’t places tourists are likely to visit anyway.
Casa Blanca and Eastside are two of the more dangerous neighborhoods.
There are gangs in Riverside and across Southern California, so you should stick to main roads and well-lit tourist areas.
You just want to avoid driving around randomly and risk ending up in a dangerous neighborhood.
That said, Riverside is one of the safer cities as a whole in the Inland Empire.
When booking your trip here, don’t think a good hotel price is worth it because it’s “close to L.A.”
It’s a long drive and a longer commute to the city, especially during rush hours.
You could face a two-hour or more commute each way.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Riverside
- The Riverside Police Department has its own app. Download it to get crime data, a way to report criminal activity, police department leaders’ phone numbers, and much more.
- Riverside 311 is an app that connects you to city services. You can ask questions about parking, report potholes, or look up curfew hours – pretty much any city rule, issue, or guidance should go through this app.
- One more app for you – AlertRivCo is the emergency alert app for Riverside County. You can sign up for alerts about weather or safety issues and those messages will be emailed or texted to you. It’s important you know about wildfires, excessive heat, flooding risks, and water quality concerns.
- Downtown has parking options in garages or on the streets. To learn about meter processes and payment methods, download the Park Mobile app. For those who need to keep track of parking receipts, you can also use MyParkingReceipts.com to get those emailed to you. It’s a smarter way to avoid losing a paper receipt.
- CalTrans will be your best friend when traveling around this area. The website shows interactive live traffic maps, with construction projects, accidents, and delays cleared marked. You can also learn about road closures due to wildfires or other issues.
- Like many American cities, Riverside is dealing with an opioid crisis and a new trend in illicit drugs looks just like candy. These multi-colored pills are really Fentynyl, which is a powerful painkiller. The potency is much higher than other painkillers and it’s also incredibly dangerous. Think of a packet of sugar you might put in your coffee – just 1/3 of that packet in a Fentanyl dose can kill the average person. Do not buy or take drugs from strangers.
- The California Fish & Wildlife Department requires all anglers to have a fishing license. There are saltwater and freshwater licenses, plus resident and non-resident options. Be sure to purchase your license ahead of time and review all your options on the department’s website.
- A scam going around Southern Califonia, especially in diverse communities, is known as a lottery scam. This is when a person approaches you with a lottery ticket. They claim they won a big prize, but since they aren’t a U.S. citizen they can’t cash it in. They ask you to give them money – usually less than the lottery prize – in exchange for the ticket. These tickets are always fakes. Don’t fall for this.
- Prepare for the heat here. This is especially important if you are heading to the desert east of Riverside. It can get into the triple digits easily with intense sun. Sunburn can happen within 15 minutes and dehydration can set in within an hour. Drink plenty of water and mix in some Gatorade or drink packets like Liquid IV to supplement the lost electrolytes. You won’t sweat as much in this dry climate, since sweat evaporates before you notice it. By the time you are thirsty, you are already in a stage of dehydration.
- One of the great things about Riverside is the local events and festivals. You can search the tourism website for the bigger events, but checking the city’s Facebook page will also give you some of the smaller or newer events. The Facebook page handle is @CityofRiverside.
So... How Safe Is Riverside Really?
Riverside didn’t give crime statistics for 2021, so we have to go off of the 2020 numbers to answer this question.
The police department does have a crime statistics section, but it literally lists all crimes for the past five years in a no-so-easy-to-navigate way.
Since downtown is usually crowded, you want to use common sense and situational awareness.
Don’t carry a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry.
Always lock your car door.
Don’t walk around areas that aren’t well-lit at night and be sure to travel with a buddy.
If you are traveling solo, use taxis or rideshares to get around.
Traveling around at night if you have a car should come with extra caution.
The gangs in this area are more active at night.
It’s less likely you’ll be targeted but could end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When you’re spending time in the wilderness, check your mobile provider’s coverage maps to see where you’ll lose service.
Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
Check-in on social media along the way to help spot your last known location before you lose service.
What’s App is a great text tool to use when there isn’t cellular service.
How Does Riverside Compare?
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You'll need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa to get into the country through Customs. The process starts by reviewing the details on the U.S. State Department website. Plan for a three-month process just to be safe. You will need a visa or visa waiver plus a passport to get through Customs.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and throughout California. Carrying cash isn't recommended, as most purchases can be made via credit card. If you choose to carry cash, don't use a public ATM unless there is no other option, and use caution when operating an ATM alone, so nobody can see your PIN or cash dispensed.
You'll get nice weather here throughout the year, so leave the winter coat at home. It can get very hot in the summer, so dress in loose, light-colored clothing and bring good walking shoes. You'll need sunscreen year-round.
Ontario International Airport (ONT) and San Bernardino International Airport are the closest commercial locations to Riverside. LAX is going to be about a two-hour drive through some pretty intense traffic.
We recommend travel insurance for your flights, your belongings, rental car, and supplemental health insurance if you aren't covered in the U.S.
Riverside Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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