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Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/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.

By
Michael Juliano
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As the rest of the country braces for something called a change of seasons, we here in Los Angeles welcome an eventual return to slightly cooler temperatures because it means actually spending more time outside.

But we also know that spending time outdoors isn’t always simple; 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 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 sector reopenings and closed venues) as L.A. slowly works its way through the state’s four-tier reopening plan.

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. By now, though, it should be clear that all levels of government encourage residents to go outside as long as they’re practicing safe social distancing measures (keeping at least six feet away from others and wearing a cloth face covering are the big ones to keep in mind).

But you can’t partake in an outdoor gathering that contains more that three different households (with the exception of religious services and public demonstrations). In regards to that three-household part, the state and county have released rules about how to stay safe when gathering with others outside of your own household (the short version: wear masks, distance and try to limit contact to the same bubble of households). Indoor gatherings of any size are still not permitted, with the exception of 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. Remember that you need to wear a mask whenever you’re out in public and around people. So if you’re running in an isolated area, you don’t need to wear your face covering—but you should still have one on you and be ready to put it on if other people approach.. 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

Since early May, all trails in both L.A. County and the City of Los Angeles have been allowed to reopen. Long Beach and Pasadena, which both have their own health departments, 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 opened with reduced parking, Runyon Canyon limited its capacity and Eaton Canyon required reservations. 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, especially during fire season).

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

Beaches all over the county reopened for active recreation in May, and in June 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, the City of Los Angeles still insists that its city-run beaches are for active recreation only). 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 (the Venice Beach Boardwalk is technically only open for going to and from businesses, but good luck finding anyone adhering to that).

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 in the spring until regulars removed it.

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Go to the local park (and most botanical gardens)

Most city and county parks have remained open, including fishing lakes and boat launches. Most major botanical gardens are open, as well, though all require reservations (same goes for the L.A. Zoo). In May, community gardens and model airplane areas were also allowed to reopen.

In late September, the county allowed playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment to reopen—however, whether or not they open is ultimately up to each individual city or county parks department. In any case, use should be limited to no more than 30 minutes.

With this fall’s addition of the three-household gathering rule, picnics are also back on the table again—as long as you’re doing so with no more than two other households and wearing a face covering, distancing and using single-serve disposable containers.

But indoor facilities remain closed. Bathrooms, thankfully, remain open.

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Access typically-indoor services outside 

After this summer’s reopening rollbacks and gradual relaxations, L.A. has tried to move as many business operations outside as possible. So for now, restaurants, bars that serve food, breweries, wineries and gyms are all limited to outdoor operations only. Hair salons, barbershops and nail salons can operate indoors at 25%, but you may still find places offering haircuts outdoors to make up for the reduced capacity. And with movie theaters still closed, you’ll be limited to drive-in theaters as well as some outdoor screenings.

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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. And if you’re heading into Angeles National Forest, make sure to follow the latest road closures due to the Bobcat Fire.

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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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