Nevada : Safety by City
- Battle Mountain
- Blue Diamond
- Boulder City
- Burning Man in Black Rock City
- Carson City
- Incline Village
- Las Vegas
- Moapa Valley
- Mount Charleston
- North Las Vegas
- Virginia City
- West Wendover
Sparks, Nevada, is a suburb of Reno, historically known as “Rail City,” for the railroad boom of the early 1900s.
Little by little, Sparks earned a reputation as a place to live, work, and play, with or without nearby Reno.
As someone who used to live in Reno and spent time in Sparks, the saying used to be, “Reno is so close to hell that you can see Sparks,” but it’s more of a self-deprecating love of these towns than an insult.
This suburb has grown 20% since 2010, thanks to the mass expansion of neighborhoods to the north.
Reno has also grown 17% during that timeframe.
Sparks tourism officials now want you to know “It’s Happening Here.”
The events bring people from around the world, whether it’s tasting the best BBQ in the West or the popular regional activity of Hot August Nights.
The city still holds onto its historic roots, with the downtown area living up to the name Victorian Square.
A marina keeps attracting people, and shopping options grow every year.
Even if you’re choosing between Reno and Spark, you can’t go wrong with either one.
Warnings & Dangers in Sparks
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk but some above-average crime rates we'll discuss. With the number of things to do, there are plenty of safe activities to explore.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
RTC is the public bus system in the region, covering Reno, Sparks, and surrounding Washoe County with express routes to Carson City. Taxis and rideshares are abundant, and rental cars are the best choice if you want to explore the nearby mountains or Lake Tahoe.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
There were 15 pickpockets or purse snatchings in 2022, so I'd treat this as a medium risk. That's mostly because the potential to get pickpocketed or have a purse snatched is there, with thieves more aggressively assuming there's cash in the wallet because of the casino industry here.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Winter storms can be intense, but the worst part will be when the mountains get hit hard and all the interstates shut down. People in Reno/Sparks love "fresh powder," so a snowstorm will rarely shut down the city. Wildfires are another concern, and they pop up often in spring and summer. The majority can be controlled or left to burn themselves out, but always check with emergency management if you see a plume of smoke on the horizon. Severe thunderstorms can happen, but a tornado is rare. Earthquakes are another potential risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery risk is slightly above the national average, but just 12% of those happened in public places. The majority happened in private homes. Treat it with a low risk, but keep your guard up at night.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with nearby NAS Fallon being the only potential nearby target. However, the base that trains the Top Gun Fighters is also heavily guarded. You have as much risk as protection here.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Fake calls from police, utility companies, and the IRS are the main scams here, which only focus on residents. You'll likely be panhandled while you're here, but just keep walking.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk, but also a lot of alcohol that flows through the casinos and bars of this city. Always keep your drink covered, and be very suspicious of anyone showing interest in you. Sex trafficking is an issue here, mostly targeting teenagers or young adults. Stay in public places, and don't go to private homes or hotel rooms with someone you just met.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The Truckee Meadows Water Authority has a map on its website with sections of the city displayed. You can click on the area where you're staying and see the latest water quality reports. This is so much better than relying on an outdated Water Quality Report. The water here comes from the already clean Lake Tahoe, and the 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no drinking water violations.
Safest Places to Visit in Sparks
VisitRenoTahoe.com is the official tourism website for this region.
You can also use the Travel Nevada website for a broader view.
The city of Sparks website also has some tourism information.
Victorian Square (vssparks.com) is the center of activity for Sparks.
Look for The Nugget on the skyline, and you’ll find the square just on the other side of the highway.
This is an entertainment district with theaters, hotels, restaurants, and weekly activities.
Marina Park is the central outdoor gathering place in Sparks.
Plenty of walking trails surround the lake, and there’s a dog park with access to the water.
I know when I lived there, the marina had a terrible goose feces problem, and based on recent reviews, that’s still an issue.
I wouldn’t swim in that water if I were you.
The marina is right next door to The Outlets at Legends, a massive outlet mall with discounts galore set in an open-air mall.
A relatively new movie theater is there with IMAX shows.
It also connects to some big box stores like Target and Petco.
There’s a newly expanded trail that rides the edge of the river, which is great for a walk or bicycle ride.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can take the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail from the start to the end of the Truckee River (it’s 114 miles).
Wild Island Family Adventure Park has everything from waterslides (seasonally) to go-karts to neon bowling to laser tag.
The XD Adventure Theater makes you part of the immersive experience.
You can also explore the Lazy 5 Regional Park or Golden Eagle Regional Park.
I highly recommend one of these at sunrise or sunset.
Golfers can enjoy Red Hawk Golf Resort, Wildcreek Golf Course, and D’Andrea Golf Club.
Gamblers have several options here, including the famous Nugget Casino Resort, Rail City Casino, and the new Legends Bay Casino.
Places to Avoid in Sparks
Aside from the regional parks, everything to do in Sparks is right along the I-80 corridor.
There’s plenty of free parking for all locations, but I’d try to get a spot in a parking garage if you can.
Stay away from the railroad tracks, which isn’t a place you’re likely to end up anyway.
If you head north in Sparks, you’ll just end up in suburban neighborhood after neighborhood.
You won’t find bad parts of town here, but the oldest neighborhoods are closest to Victorian Square, and homes get newer as you span out.
I would definitely avoid walking around alone at night here.
There’s no imminent risk but enough homeless people around that it can make you feel uncomfortable.
It’s also not the best-lit part of the region at night.
If you’re visiting for a big event like Hot August Nights or the rib cook-off, please check the city’s social media pages for road closures.
Everything your GPS will try to tell you is wrong.
Since the city’s core is so compact, it’s hard to navigate if you’re new to the area during these closures.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Sparks
- Sparks does have its own police department. You can find them on Twitter @SparksPolice. Follow @RenoPolice and @WashoeSheriff while you’re there.
- Sign up for CodeRED notifications through the Washoe County website. Between winter storms, flooding, and wildfire risks, you can’t afford to miss this information.
- It can flood on a perfectly blue-skied day in Sparks. That’s because the Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. When the mountain snow melts, and rain falls on top of it, that’s a lot of water rushing down the Truckee. At one point, I worked at a TV station in Reno, and we were literally sandbagged into the station as we waited for the flood to come.
- Earthquakes can happen in this area. I was at a red light once near the airport, and I thought my car was breaking down because it was shaking like engine trouble. By the time I got home, I was alerted to the magnitude 4.0 earthquake that just happened. UNR has a seismology lab, and you can learn more about quakes there or call (775)784-4975.
- If you’re staying at a place with a wood-burning stove or fireplace, you need to know the Burn Code for the day. Most television stations will air this, but you can also find it on the Washoe County Health District sites. This is when pollutants get trapped by cold air inversion, and additional burning of wood impacts the air quality.
- If you plan on going to California, bring tire chains with you in the winter. There will be times chains are required to go over Donner Pass. If you don’t know how to put them on, there will be workers there to do it for a fee.
- Gamblers should know that any casino win over $1200 in one lump sum, like if you hit a $1500 jackpot on a slot machine, will come with a required tax form, and you’ll need to provide your ID. Gamblers must be 21 years old. That’s also the drinking age in Nevada.
- Pyramid Lake is one of the top recreation areas near Sparks, but just know it is on tribal lands. There’s a visitors center and exhibit to show you the history of the region, and the public is welcome in most places around the park. This location is its own sovereign nation, meaning they handle the law enforcement and rules for fishing.
- Use Inciweb to track wildfires in this area. You will get updated information from the fire lines. Never assume a fire won’t come toward you or that you can outrun a fire. Shifting winds and dry lightning can cause fires to spread quickly and erratically. If you are ever evacuated from a hotel or trail, do not hesitate.
- I had a friend of mine who lived in the outer limits of Sparks, and he lost two cats to coyotes. If you are traveling with a small pet, keep them on a leash and never let them run free. There are most certainly hungry coyotes active in this area. They generally won’t mess with people, but they will consider a small dog or cat.
So... How Safe Is Sparks Really?
Violent crime rates have been pretty static over the past five years, with the rate coming in just over the national average.
Is Sparks safer than Reno?
Historically, Sparks has been seen as the “other side” of the tracks (not necessarily the bad side, just… the other side) and got a reputation for being more on the seedy side.
As time went on, economic woes hit Reno hard, and Sparks kept growing into a more residential community while still holding onto its historic roots.
Without going down a rabbit hole, taking a snapshot of 2022 shows that Reno has a violent crime rate 30% higher than Sparks.
The real eye-opener is the 38% of thefts that come from car break-ins or accessory thefts, like the pricey catalytic converters.
In Reno, that risk is nearly 40%.
Never leave your car unlocked or any objects in plain sight here.
I’d recommend always asking for a security escort out of a casino, especially if you won money.
Take it from someone who lived in this area twice for a total of six years — you’ll know when you’re in a seedy part of either town.
Common sense and situational awareness go a long way here.
How Does Sparks Compare?
|Belize City (Belize)||37|
|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
You'll need a passport with a visa or visa waiver to get through Customs and Border Patrol at the airport. Once you're here, you can cross the state lines without having to show proof of ID. You will be stopped if you head into California for a produce check, as you can't so much as bring a banana across state lines for agricultural safety reasons.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and casinos will require you to use cash for the slot machines. Table games use chips, which you'll buy at the table or casino cage with cash. I'd avoid exchanging any currency or using the ATM at the casino since the fees are so high.
You get a robust four seasons here, but it's not uncommon to get snow in early fall or late spring. I remember one Memorial Day, it was snowing when I lived here. Bring layers of clothing, but you don't need to dress up here. You'll also want sunscreen and sunglasses because the rays are intense any time of year.
The Reno Tahoe International Airport is just four miles from Sparks, with easy highway access.
Comprehensive travel insurance is a great investment to cover your flights, rental car, and belongings.
Sparks Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Nevada - Safety by City
|Burning Man in Black Rock City||70|
|North Las Vegas||54|