As the rest of the country eagerly awaits spring weather, we here in Los Angeles have the privilege of basking in mostly pleasant weather all year round.
But we also know that spending time outdoors isn’t always simple; trying to comprehend competing orders from California, Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles can be an impenetrable chore—even with the county’s move into the red tier. We started putting together this primer last year based on the state’s list of permitted outdoor activities—which we compared to both the county and city orders to more plainly sort out what you can (and can’t) do outside in L.A.—and have been updating it ever sense. The important thing to remember: If there’s ever a difference between orders, you must comply with the stricter one.
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 only gather outdoor with up to two other households for a total of no more than 15 people, with the exception of outdoor church service and protests.
Walk, jog or run (and walk your dog)
And if there’s not a suitable place in your neighborhood to so, 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.
Since early May 2020, 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).
Surf, swim, walk, bike and relax along the beach
Beaches all over the county reopened for active recreation in May 2020, and the next month 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’s rules still technically insist that its city-run beaches are for active recreation only). 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 many sports are still not permitted, and parking may be limited to reduce overcrowding. In the red tier, the county’s guidelines allow volleyball to resume, but you may find the nets still down at many beaches. In addition, you’ll need to keep six feet away from others, and face coverings are required outside of the water.
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).
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. In May 2020, community gardens and model airplane areas were also allowed to reopen.
With last 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 some indoor facilities may still be closed. Bathrooms, thankfully, remain open, and playgrounds are again allowed to be open (though their actual status differs from park to park).
Play a sport—but mostly solo or in your own backyard
In May 2020, golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts reopened, as well as archery, skeet, trap and shooting ranges. Then in late February 2021, youth and adult recreational sports leagues were allowed to resume largely distanced sports. Once L.A. entered the red tier, that expanded to things like baseball, softball and volleyball.
The state’s original outdoor guidelines were 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 suggested: 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.
But many sports facilities are still closed, while high-contact sports are explicitly prohibited. Specifically, basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and water polo are all restricted until we hit the orange tier. So, yes, you can technically kick a soccer ball, but not on a field and not with a group of people.
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 you should stay within 120 miles and know that some spots along the way may be closed. You can cruise along Mulholland Drive or PCH, but some indoor facilities remain closed. And if you’re heading into Angeles National Forest, make sure to follow the latest road closures due to weather or damage from the Bobcat Fire.
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.
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.