MEDIAN HOME price $176,300
HOMETOWN HERO Jim Litchfield, who established Reno's whitewater park and runs the Reno River Festival, one of the country's largest.
THE LIVING: Reno still conjures images of cowboy/gambling kitsch at its worst. But it shouldn't, at least not entirely. In the past 20 years, public and private investors have sunk hundreds of millions into downtown, building a pedestrian district around the new $50 million baseball stadium and revamping the neglected Truckee River with parks and a performing-arts center. Firms ranging from outdoorsy (Patagonia and Sportif) to techy (Microsoft and AT&T) have all set up big branches in Reno, giving its increasingly young and educated populace reason to stay—especially with housing prices down a whopping 52 percent since 2006.
THE PADDLING: With 11 pool drops, year-round flow, and a prime location (right downtown, surrounded by green space and an amphitheater), Reno has one of the country's best whitewater parks. Not to be outdone, last year the neighboring community of Sparks, just ten minutes down the road, unveiled its own, even more beginner-friendly park. But the real reason so many pro kayakers call Reno home is its proximity to some of the sweetest western white-water—from Class V hair-boating on South Silver Creek to rafting and canoeing on stretches of the Truckee.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Just south of downtown, and only a few blocks from the whitewater park, Cal Ave has renovatedcentury-old Victorians, locally owned coffee shops, and most of Reno's hipsters.