With a population of over 300,000, the city plays host to a diverse cross-section of people and has a rich history. Located approximately 55 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, Riverside is a center for higher education, with one community college, a large state university, and two private universities. Along with its twin city San Bernardino, it is a hub of regional commerce and transportation, it is a city with an intriguing past and a promising future, and is worth a visit. Stop by sometime!
Riverside has a very dry and a somewhat arid climate. In August, the hottest month, daytime highs average 95(F) degrees; and some days may reach over 100(F) degrees. Nighttime lows average 62(F) degrees. In December, the coldest month, daytime highs average 67(F) degrees, and nighttime lows average 42(F) degrees. Some winter nights will have temperatures in the 30s(F) as well. Winter and spring are the wettest seasons.
Any city that is sunny, warm, dry, and has a large number of motor vehicles will have air quality issues. Such is the case with Riverside. The city must not only deal with the smog it generates, but also must deal with the pollutants that are blown in from the Los Angeles area. Smog is often a problem in Riverside, and it has to endure more smog than it actually creates.
Riverside is located in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Travelers looking to come into Riverside, or the Inland Empire in general, should consider Los Angeles/Ontario International Airport  located in the city of Ontario. This medium-sized airport has nonstop flights to many American cities (and to Mexico), an uncrowded terminal, and generally easy freeway access. Flying into the other Los Angeles-area airports to reach Riverside is certainly possible. But LAX, Burbank Airport, Long Beach Airport, and Orange County's John Wayne Airport are all about an hour's drive away; and that's without traffic congestion, which isn't likely. If you have your own aircraft, Riverside Municipal Airport is centrally located and offers easy access to the city. No commercial passenger flights currently serve this airport.
After arriving at the Ontario Airport, you can use Southern California's infamous freeway system to get to Riverside. Follow the signs for Interstate 10 East, then get on the I-15 South, and get on the CA-60 East. You will spend only about 2 miles on the I-15, so stay in the two right-hand lanes. After that interchange, you're only about 15 miles outside of the city.
It is possible to take public transport from Ontario International to Riverside. However, it is not the most convienent. For non-drivers or frugal travelers, here's the information: Take the airport shuttle around to the Omnitrans  bus stop on Airport Dr, and wait for the Omnitrans 61 bound for Ontario/Fontana. This will cost you $1.15, exact change only. If it is during commute hours on weekdays, get off at the Ontario Mills transit center, near the mall. Board a red Riverside Transit Agency  route 204 bus headed towards "Riverside". It will cost you $3.00 and take about half an hour. If it is not during commute hours on the weekdays, buy an Omnitrans day pass ($3.50) on the #61 and ride it to Fontana Metrolink. From there, board either the #10 or #14 to San Bernardino, and get off downtown. Cross the street and board the #215 to Riverside. Either will eventually drop you off at the Downtown Riverside Bus Terminal.
Riverside has a Greyhound  bus terminal located between Mission Inn and University Avenues in Downtown. This is a full-service terminal with routes to most domestic destinations, ticketing, and a restroom that they will let transit customers use, as the Greyhound terminal is across the street from the main city bus terminal.
Due to the diligent work of community activists, Riverside's Greyhound terminal will remain open until it is moved to the future multi-modal transit center. Please disregard any rumors about its closure.
Riverside is a hub of the Metrolink  commuter rail system, served by the Riverside, 91 and Inland Empire-Orange County lines on weekdays, and by the San Bernardino and Inland Empire-Orange County lines on weekends. The Metrolink station is about a mile outside of the city center, with ample parking. The only facilities available are public telephones and ticket machines- no restrooms. The station is served by RTA 1, 16, and CommuterLink 208, 210 and 212.
There is a second Metrolink station, Riverside-La Sierra, in the south of the city. It is served by the 91 and Inland Empire-Orange County lines on weekdays, and the Inland Empire-Orange County line only on weekends. It has the same facilities, and is served by RTA 12 and 15. Interesting to note is the city utility has installed solar generating arrays over much of the parking lot.
Amtrak  serves the Downtown station with one trip per day on the long-distance Southwest Chief. Arrival from Los Angeles/Departure to Chicago is at 8:03PM each evening, and arrival from Chicago/Departure to Los Angeles is at 5:48AM each morning. Traveling to Riverside from out-of-area by rail is not convenient or cheap, but it can be done. Note that no Amtrak personnel are available at Riverside station- if you are boarding the train in Riverside you MUST have advance reservations. (For spontaneous trips, this is as simple as a call to 1-800-USA-RAIL.) You may pick up your ticket from the Metrolink kiosks at the station, or from the staffed stations in Fullerton, Anaheim, and Los Angeles.
Amtrak California also runs four buses each day to the Riverside Downtown station, which connect to the San Joaquins in Bakersfield for train journeys to/from points north.
Most of the time, getting around in Riverside will involve some form of car, and traffic congestion can ruin your day, and the aggressive driving habits of some other drivers may be intimidating
The CA-60/I-215 runs along the north side of the city. (Confusingly, the two freeways merge at the Riverside 60/91/215 interchange and then split again at the Moreno Valley Interchange, which is still actually within the city limits.) The Market Street exit provides access to Downtown, the 3rd/Blaine and University exits allow easy entry into the University neighborhood, and the Martin Luther King exit will allow you run of the mostly-residential Canyon Crest area. Note that if you proceed on the CA-60 just past the interchange, get off at Day Street and you'll arrive at one of two area malls, the Moreno Valley Mall. It isn't in Riverside proper, but many people shop there rather than brave city traffic to go to the Galleria at Tyler.
The CA-91 runs from it's origins at the 60/215/91 interchange in the north of the city, and runs the length of Riverside, eventually extending into Corona, Orange County and terminating in Long Beach. Notable exits include University Ave., which borders Downtown, Central Ave., which is near the new, upscale Riverside Plaza, Tyler St., immediately next to the Galleria at Tyler mall, and La Sierra Ave., which is near the city's second Metrolink station, and Castle Park.
The major crosstown arteries are Arlington and Magnolia Avenues. Congestion on these streets is interminable, and travelers would be well-advised to use other routes. Jurupa Ave. largely parallels Arlington, and Indiana and Victoria avenues parallel Magnolia. Victoria avenue is lightly-used, and is quite scenic. If you're willing to drive slightly out of your way, it's well worth the extra distance to cruise among the city's old orange groves.
While the vast majority of people in the city do use automobiles, there is public transit available in Riverside. The Riverside Transit Agency  provides fixed-route bus service on around 15 routes in the city, as well as three express commuter services and a few new community-based trolley-bus routes. Trips up and down Magnolia Ave. on route 1, on University Ave on route 16, and on route 15 along Arlington Ave are relatively frequent, with 20, 30, and 40 minute headways, respectively. Weekends and other routes can cause more delay. But a note of warning -the entire Riverside city bus service essentially stops running at 8:00pm; with a few routes running through 10:00pm. There is simply no service at night. So if you're planning to be out late, make sure you have a way home.
One notable exception to the early evening shut-down of the transit system is the RTA 53- Bear Runner. This line tends to have students returning home from campus late at night, but of course it is open to anyone to ride. The service runs Monday-Thursday nights from 6:00pm to 12:30am, but during the school year only (late September-early June). The loop serves the University and Canyon Crest neighborhoods every half hour, and can be somewhat useful in returning home from a night of revelry at local eateries and drinking establishments -so long as you're staying near its route.
The Riverside bus system has two main hubs -the Downtown Terminal, and the Galleria at Tyler in the south of the city. Chances are you will have to travel to one of these transfer points to get anywhere in the city. Commuter express routes 204 and 216 stop at the Downtown Terminal with destinations of Montclair/Ontario and Orange County, and 216 and OCTA  794 stop at the Galleria, both headed towards Orange County. Local routes serve all surrounding areas.
Taxis have been known to congregate on Fairmount Ave. between the Greyhound and city bus terminals. This is helpful if you end up caught by the sudden unavailability of public transport at night. Trip planning is available on the web site, on Google Maps, and by calling 1-800-800-7821 between 7:00am and 7:00pm M-F, and 8:00am and 5:00pm weekends.
Taxi services are available in the city at the following telephone numbers:
Riverside has many activities to occupy your time. The local amusement park, Castle Park , is located just off the 91 freeway at La Sierra and a short walk from the 1 and 15 buses. It has a small roller coaster, as well as numerous carnival-like rides, a log flume ride, an arcade, and miniature golf. An unlimited ride wristband will run adults $20 and children around $14, depending on height.
Hiking and biking are available in the Box Springs Mountain Preserve, a large open space to the north of the city. Trailheads are accessible at the end of Big Springs St. and Blaine St. (an easy walk from the terminus of the #10 bus) as well as off of Central Ave and Chicago Ave (accessible from the #20 and #22 bus). Parking is free, but trail information is scarce. A popular pastime of local college students is hiking to the large, concrete "C" on the side of Box Springs Mountain. What they do while at said location is their own business.
While in Riverside, you might want to take in a movie at one of the two operating drive-in movie theatres in the Riverside area. The first, the Van Buren Cinema 3 is on Van Buren Blvd. just off of the 91 freeway in the south of the city. The price of admission is $6 for adults, with children 9 and under free. Double features are common.
Local concerts are often held in various venues around the city. The college's independent FM radio station, KUCR  88.3, has a reasonably good listing of cultural events in the area.
There are a few night clubs around the city, most notably Club Sevilla off the 91 at University, near the Metrolink station (and routes 1 and 16), El Castillo off of Chicago and University Avenues (1, 16, 22 and 25), and Incahoots, a few blocks south of the Galleria at Tyler on Magnolia (1 and 15).
The City of Riverside Parks and Recreation  department maintains a number of park facilities around the city, with the crown jewel being Fairmount Park. Fairmount, just off the 60 freeway at Market St. and served by the 25 and 29 buses, was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the architect of New York's Central Park. Other facilities, including skate parks, pools, and sports areas, dot the city.
If all else fails, the Riverside Public Library  has the third-largest collection in the southwestern United States, after Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Just visiting the Main Library in Downtown Riverside (near the downtown bus terminal) is an architectural treat.
The city has a few major shopping venues.
The Downtown area, centered around the Downtown Pedestrian Mall, consists mainly of upscale and specialty shops. It is an entertaining walk, but in most cases serious shopping is better left to one of the local malls. This area is just a short walk from the Downtown bus terminal (routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 22, 29, 49, Omni 215, CommuterLink 204, 208, 210, 212, 215), and can be accessed via the Market exit off of the 60 freeway, and the University exit off of the 91. It is also served by the Red line trolley, route 50, running around the downtown area for only $0.25.
The new Riverside Plaza  is a small collection of mostly upscale shops and restaurants just off the 91 freeway at Central Ave. It is anchored by Forever 21, Vons, Borders and a 16-screen cinema. It is served by bus routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 20.
The Galleria at Tyler is the largest shopping center in the area, a two-story mall with nearly every store one can think of, as well as large commercial developments for three blocks in all directions. Parking is free, but crowded. It's just off the 91 freeway at Tyler street, and served by bus routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 21, 27, 216 and OCTA 794. Be aware that on Friday nights and weekends this area will be extremely congested with both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
While not technically in the city of Riverside, the Moreno Valley Mall and it's surrounding development has provided an attractive alternative to the residents of the city's northern areas, especially those attending the University of California. This two-story mall is equipped with all the usual amenities, and is usually significantly less crowded than the Galleria. It is accessible via the 60 freeway off the Day Street and Frederick exits, and is served from Riverside by bus route 16 and CommuterLink 208 and 210. (Bus routes 11, 18, 19, and 36 also serve the mall, but travel from neighboring Moreno Valley.)
Fortunately Riverside has -or is cursed with, depending on your point of view- the major chain restaurant fare around major establishments. Applebee's is near the train station, TGI Fridays at the Galleria, and Denny's, IHOP, and CoCo's share a corner at Iowa and University near the University of California-Riverside.
There is some local fare to be proud of as well. No trip to Riverside ought to be complete without a greasy hamburger at The Lucky Greek. Located on Magnolia and Merrill, nearest to the 91 at Central and short walk from the #1 and #10 buses, the Lucky Greek has been serving up their signature greaseballs and pastrami for over 20 years. Expect to pay around $5.50 for a burger, fries and a coke. The decor hasn't been updated since they opened, but the food will make you forget about it shortly. (951) 686-2621
Mi Tortilla! on Mission Inn Ave. just east of the 91 freeway and two blocks north of the Downtown train station, serves excellent Mexican food at a decent price. The atmosphere, a Mexican village motif, is a little overdone, but the salsa is excellent and the price will not disappoint. Expect to pay around $7 a plate. (951) 341-5979
For more Mexican food, The Tortilla Grille is located at the corner of Canyon Crest Ave. and Central Ave. The atmosphere is warm, modern and inviting, and a full bar with sports on two flat-screen TV's is also included. Come on Tuesday or Saturday nights for $0.99 tacos, or any other night for reasonably priced, fresh Mexican fare. $7/plate, off of routes 16 and 51. (951) 680-9870
Of course, the best Mexican food in the area is at Templo Del Sol- a run-down looking establishment on University between Iowa and Cranford. The service is friendly but excruciatingly slow, but the food is inexpensive, authentic and excellent. Happy hour specials Monday through Thursday include $2 beer and $1 tacos. $5-7/plate, routes 1, 14, 16, and 51.
Downtown, Canyon Crest, Mission Grove and Riverside Plaza each have restaurants which are worth visiting.
Riverside is situated about a 30 minutes drive to the nearest mountains, and an hour's drive to the beaches of Orange and Los Angeles counties, and to the desert. The Orange County beaches are accessible by taking the 91, then 55 freeways; and the Los Angeles County beaches can be reached by taking the 60 or 91 freeways. Beaches have modest day use fees.
Taking the 91 north to the I-215, then following signs for CA-30 and mountain resorts, will have you in the San Bernardino mountains in no time. Big Bear and it's surroundings are a winter playground unparalleled in much of the Southwest. For summer fun, continue up the I-215 all the way until it hits CA-138, head west, and then turn left at CA-2 to go up into the Angeles National Forest. Multitudes of picnic areas and campgrounds dot this winding road between the high desert and Los Angeles. If you turn east at CA-138, you'll run into Silverwood Lake, a large reservoir with swimming and boating facilities.