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Photograph: Courtesy Kaity O’Keefe

Here’s what you can and can’t do outside in L.A. right now

Confused by all of the government orders? We clear up what you can and can’t do outside.

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Whether it’s the warmer weather, the bioluminescent waves or just some general relief for our mostly-indoor lives, we know that plenty of Angelenos are itching to be outside right now.

But we also know that trying to comprehend the trio of “safer at home” orders from California, Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles can be an impenetrable chore. So we’ve taken the state’s recent list of permitted outdoor activities and compared them to both the county and city orders to more plainly sort out what you can (and can't) do outside in L.A. The important thing to remember: If there’s ever a difference between orders, you must comply with the stricter one.

We’ll keep updating this info (and our list of closed venues) as conditions change, too; California Governor Gavin Newsom has already laid out the state’s reopening framework, and L.A. has also begun to relax some restrictions in its “safer at home” order.

In L.A., you can…

Be outside in general

This seems like an obvious one, but in the early days of the stay-at-home order, some people thought it literally meant that you were unable to leave your house. All levels of government, however, say that residents are still encouraged to go outside as long as they're practicing safe social distancing measures (keeping at least six feet away from others is the big one to keep in mind).

But you can’t engage in an indoor or outdoor public or private gathering (with the exception of religious services and public demonstrations), except with members of your own stay-at-home household.

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Walk, jog or run (and walk your dog)

And if there’s not a suitable place in your neighborhood to so, the city says you and your household are permitted to go for a drive to someplace outside. You don’t specifically need to wear a mask while running, but if you’re going to be in a crowded area you should definitely bring one along. As for fido, both the city and county parks agencies list dog parks as being open, but with the caveat that they’re subject to closures.

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Hike

On Saturday, May 9 all trails in both L.A. County and the City of Los Angeles were allowed to reopen (with the exception of Runyon Canyon, which has since reopened). Long Beach and Pasadena, which both have their own health departments, have also reopened trails, including the popular Rose Bowl loop.

But you must wear a mask in the trailhead parking lot, as well as on crowded stretches of the trail. Also, though all of the trails in the county can open, many are handled by different jurisdictions that may choose to keep certain trails closed or open with some restrictions; for example, Malibu Creek and Will Rogers have reduced parking. We suggest keeping up with the county’s reopening alerts to see precisely which parks and trails are open (and be prepared for temporary closures, as was the case with Eaton Canyon).

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Surf, swim, walk, bike and relax along the beach

On May 13, beaches all over the county reopened for active recreation, and on June 12, leisure activities were added, as well. That means you can surf, swim, walk or run up and down the coastline, as well as sit, sunbathe and picnic with members of your own household (however, only county-run beaches have allowed this, so these rules may still vary from city to city). The state also suggests exploring rock pools or kitesurfing, which would be in line with the county’s rules. In addition, piers, boardwalks and bike paths can open.

But sports like volleyball are still not permitted, and parking has been limited to reduce overcrowding. In addition, you’ll need to keep six feet away from others, and face coverings are required outside of the water.

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Cycle or skateboard

Bicycles, roller skates, scooters, skateboards and BMX bikes are all totally fine by the city (though the state reminds us not to do them in groups), and the state has added quads into the mix, as well (finding a spot to take them out locally would be a challenge, though).

But city skate parks are closed. The Venice skate park was notably covered in sand.

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Go to the local park (and some botanical gardens)

Most city and county parks have remained open, including fishing lakes, boat launches and even a few botanical gardens, the L.A. County Arboretum, South Coast Botanic Garden and now Descanso Gardens (all require reservations). On May 15, community gardens and model airplane areas were also allowed to reopen.

The state lists having a picnic with your household members as a permitted activity, but the local government orders and parks agencies have frowned upon (but have not necessarily enforced a ban on) picnicking. The latest amendments to the beach guidelines—that picnics are alright with members of your household—seem to nudge this into the “okay to do” column, at least for beaches (parks have yet to budge).

But you can’t access playgrounds or indoor facilities. You also may find that restrooms are closed, or that parks may close entirely on certain holidays (this was the case for Easter, and Grand Park has already announced it’ll be closed on the Fourth of July).

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Play a sport—but mostly solo or in your own backyard

The state guidelines are full of all sorts of safe, sporty recreational activities that you can do—though we’ll admit most are the equivalent of throwing a ball up in the air. Here’s what the state suggests: throwing a baseball or football, kicking around a soccer ball (but not having a group game), singles badminton, solo canoeing, golf (sans cart or caddy), no-contact martial arts (as long as it’s not in a group), singles table tennis and singles volleyball. On May 9, golf courses in L.A. reopened (but pro shops will need to stay closed, and restaurants and concession stands there will only be able to offer takeout). And then on May 15, tennis and pickleball courts reopened for singles play (face coverings required, but not during play), as well as archery, skeet, trap and shooting ranges (face coverings required at all times).

But in L.A., most sports facilities are closed and leagues canceled, while group sports are explicitly prohibited. Specifically, all baseball fields, aquatic facilities, soccer fields and basketball courts are closed. So, yes, you can technically kick a soccer ball, but not on a field and not with a group of people.

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Go for a drive

The county’s public health department has consistently said that going out for a drive is totally fine, whether it’s to get groceries, to head somewhere else outdoors or simply to take a scenic drive (but remember that more miles means more unnecessary gas station visits).

But some spots along the way may be closed. You can cruise along Mulholland Drive or PCH, but many indoor facilities remain closed.

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Do a bunch of wholesome activities

California’s long list of permissible recreational activities includes a bunch of ideas that are mostly obvious, but we still applaud the positivity. This includes meditation, yoga, photography and gardening (though not in a group—which we never realized was a thing), as well as some adorably quirky entries like trampolining and tree climbing. It also includes horseback riding, and while equestrian centers are allowed to reopen, the pony rides in Griffith Park are closed.

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What about public demonstrations?

The county health department recognizes Angelenos’ right to political expression and has therefore put together guidance for staying safe during a public demonstration. Some of the recommendations, like staying six feet away from others and avoiding congested areas, simply aren’t feasible at many demonstrations. But some other recommendations are much easier to follow: wear a face covering at all times, arrive only with members of your own household and bring your own food, water and hand sanitizer (which you should use often). The county also suggests that if you’ve been in close contact (within six feet for more than 15 minutes) with someone who wasn’t wearing a mask and isn’t part of your household, you should stay at home for two weeks and monitor yourself and consider scheduling a free test

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