What parks are open in Orange County, California? As of December 9, 2020, the California Department of Public Health issued guidelines for playgrounds to open.
The official wording is: “Playgrounds may remain open to facilitate physically distanced personal health and wellness through outdoor exercise. Playgrounds located on schools that remain open for in-person instruction, and not accessible by the general public, may remain open and must follow guidance for schools and school-based programs (PDF)..“
This post is meant as a resource to link you to official sources to find out whether parks near your home are open. Please do not mistake any of my advice/opinions for official guidelines. Here is the info you will find in this post:
- General intro and context for playground safety
- Personal Checklist to Protect Myself & Others
- What to Bring to the Park
- Resources to Find Out If Parks Are Officially Open
- California Outdoor Spaces
- County Parks
- City Parks
- Cities with Virtual Recreation Resources
I try to update this post regularly, but it’s not guaranteed to have the latest information because things change so quickly.
California introduced Regional Stay at Home orders in December where the About Covid-19 restrictions states: “Members of the same household are encouraged to maintain physical and mental health by safely going to a park, a beach, hike, walk, or bike ride with members of their own household. Californians are also encouraged to keep connected with loved ones virtually.”
Further, it says: “To prevent further spread of COVID-19, Californians should not travel significant distances and should stay close to home as much as possible. See the California Department of Public Health’s Travel Advisory for more info. Stay in your county if you can. Don’t drive more than 2-3 hours.“
I want to let you know that I’m very aware of how distress-filled this whole thing has been for families on soooooo many different levels. I applaud you for doing the best you can.
The Washington Post ran an article about playground safety tips (a little DC-centric, but still good tips).
Here is the flyer (or some version of it) that you are likely to see posted at parks.
About the Masks (Yes, I’m going there!)
I’ve seen a lot of chatter about masks and it hasn’t been very nice. Here’s the deal, let’s agree to be nice to each other no matter what. Wearing a mask is a common sense precaution which can help prevent the spread of Covid.
Wearing a mask protects you AND it protects me. I care about you and I have high risk individuals in my family, so I may have to end up skipping the playground if no one is wearing a mask. Sucks, but that’s how it will play out for me.
Even when there is no one else around, there are some benefits because you are less likely to get respiratory droplets on the equipment when you talk or sneeze. Keeping equipment as sanitized as possible is just a nice, neighborly thing to do during these times.
In general, just stay away from crowded playgrounds and go at off-times. You probably have a system in place that works for your family.
Be kind. Shaming someone for not wearing a face covering is not kind (just shrug it off and go somewhere else). Ridiculing someone who is wearing a mask is not kind either (better not to say anything at all and go somewhere else). Let’s be good role models for our children. This is just a new addition to our list of unspoken playground etiquette.
Kids Need Play
If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know I believe that after breathe, eat, sleep, and love – kids NEED play. Luckily, they can still get play. Kids are inventive and can find play everywhere.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t missing our favorite playgrounds and ALL the social, emotional and physical benefits we get from playing there together.
However, they also say: “Through this pandemic, local parks, trails and open spaces have become even more of a haven and place of respite from the stresses of daily life and the uncertainty we face. We know the physical and mental health benefits that these spaces provide and urge them to remain open wherever possible.”
In case playgrounds close again, just keep in mind the terminology used — parks don’t necessarily equal playgrounds and vice versa. For instance, a park could be open with closed playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment areas. Or the entire park may be closed.
No matter what, I “get it” that the kids don’t understand the subtle differences and some families will give up before they start (trying to keep kids off the playground while at the park is HARD).
Personal Checklist to Protect Myself & Others
Here is my personal common sense checklist that I consider before I go out. Feel free to come up with your own.
- Am I following CDC Guidelines for Visiting Parks and Recreational Facilities ? Includes specific playground info.
- Am I following all California guidelines and orders? (For instance, am I staying close to home?)
- Am I following guidance provided by OC Health Care Agency (December 17th Revised Order)?
- Am I researching and respecting Orange County and/or city guidelines and rules? (See below for links.)
What to Bring to the Park
Although I have not ventured far to parks, I will make sure I bring:
- My kindness and patience
- A cloth face-covering to wear (See definition in most recent OC Health Officer Order dated December 17th, 2020)
- Soap for washing or hand sanitizer for when water is not available
- Water for drinking
- All my normal sun protection and personal items
- A plan for restroom use — because many may still be closed
- A few alternate activities in mind for if the park I choose is too crowded for my personal comfort and safety. One of these options to consider is turning around and going home some days.
Here are a few more helpful tips from RecreateResponsibly.org
Resources to Find Out If Parks are Open
Here are some OFFICIAL SOURCES you can consult to find out the state of parks in your area. Keep in mind, this is a snapshot in time and things can change.You will need to click the links below — and even call your city in some cases — to find out if your playgrounds are open. This information should never take the place of OFFICIAL orders and recommendations.
California Outdoor Spaces
California Public Recreation – this is the web page which has links to state recreation areas. Even though some campgrounds are open, this page states: “Follow the State’s stay home order by staying in your own community for recreation. Take part in outdoor activities only with members of your household.”
Playgrounds are open at OCParks.com parks. The Orange County Board of Supervisors makes decisions regarding the status of Orange County regional parks, beaches, wilderness areas and historic sites. Their latest update as of December 8, 2020 was their Modified Operations press release from December 8, 2020. When you are looking for more info about county-run facilities, go to the OCParks.com Latest Special Alerts page.
You can also click on the navigation buttons (E-News Signup, Parks & Trails, Beaches, Historic Sites, Zoo) for a list of the individual locations which will have more specific info.
If you are not finding the info you are seeking, don’t be shy about calling and asking. Better to know before you go and many of the individual pages list contact info for the specific location.
Finally, just a note to be extra respectful of park rangers and rules. This is not easy for any of us.
I am going to try to keep these links updated to make sure they are still relevant. Latest update: December 23, 2020.
Please email me at play [at] funorangecountyparks [dot] com if you find a better source of official information — or if you are a source of official information and want to correct/edit a link. If I note that playgrounds are open — they are usually with specified guidelines (about distancing, gatherings, birthday party limits, etc.). So make sure you read ALL guidelines before you plan an event or visit.
Aliso Viejo Parks – Playgrounds open. The Aliso Viejo Community Association has been posting updates to their home page along with event cancellations.
Anaheim Parks – Playgrounds open. Anaheim has a special page with park, library, and community center guidelines. Get updates about golf courses, hiking trails, Anaheim Cove, sports courts, Walnut Canyon Reservoir trail, parks and playgrounds, as well as splash pads.
Brea Parks – Playgrounds open. Only drinking fountains and picnic shelters are off-limits.
Buena Park Parks – Playgrounds open. They have a page called City Facility Status which lists parks. There is an Open Facilities graphic at the bottom of this page which is very informative for park-goers (last updated September 29, 2020). Buena Park is one of the few cities in the county with a “Virtual Recreation Center” that I’ve listed below.
Costa Mesa Parks – Playgrounds open. There is a Status of City Services page with park information listed under the Parks & Community Services tab.
Cypress Parks – Playgrounds open (noted on city’s Instagram account). Cypress has a Facility & Park Locations page with info about playgrounds, parks, and sports courts. The top of the page lists the restrictions under the red heading, but they haven’t updated the website to reflect the parks opening.
Dana Point Parks – No up-to-date online info available. Info on parks is buried deep in email updates on their Coronavirus information page. So deep, that I never found any exact information. Call for information. Dana Point also has a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Fountain Valley Parks – No up-to-date online info available. The city is listing closures on their Recreation and Community Services page which is convenient because there is also contact information on that page in case you need to call for further information. The dates in their latest notice are from the Community Services Director is June 3, 2020.
Fullerton Parks – Playgrounds open. The Parks and Recreation page has a Parks & Recreation Covid-19 Update – December 14 listed under their What’s Happening banner. It links to a very comprehensive PDF about what’s open and what’s not when it comes to parks and recreation. Read all the updates under the What’s Happening banner to find out the latest news.
Garden Grove Parks – Playgrounds “use at your own risk.” The city has an Facility Closures and Cancellations page updated December 8th with park information. They are also one of the cities with a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Huntington Beach Parks – No up-to-date online info available. You will find info on HBReady.com and they also promote a Call Center line to get your questions answered on weekdays. Huntington Beach has a Virtual Recreation Center with some classes offered in an online format.
Irvine Parks – Playgrounds open with modifications. The city has a special page with Covid-19 resources. Note that they have an Ombudsman Hotline “for non-medical COVID-19 questions that pertain to Irvine.” So you can always get your park questions answered by calling. Otherwise, you will find all the park closure info under the link to a City Facility Closures page. They also have a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
La Habra Parks – Playgrounds not mentioned on Covid-19 closures page. The city has closures listed on a Covid-19 information page. It used to specifically mention parks under City Facilities, but I can’t find mention anymore.
La Palma Parks – Playgrounds reopened. The City’s Response to COVID-19 page lists information about city facilities.
Laguna Beach Parks – Parks open, playgrounds closed. Laguna Beach has a page called “What’s Open in Laguna Beach?” which includes parks.
Laguna Hills Parks – No up-to-date online info available. The Laguna Hills Community Center website says it’s closed through September 10, 2020 with all classes and programs cancelled, too. The website has a Novel Coronavirus update page which has headings for “What’s Open?” and “What’s Closed?” but it refers back to state and county orders. Call for info about parks.
Laguna Niguel Parks – Website still says parks closed. The Parks & Recreation page has a notice at the top of the page about closures. The Covid-19 page no longer has a link to City Playgrounds and Sports Facilities Updates.
Lake Forest Parks: – Playgrounds open. The city has a page called City Park Restrictions which explains closures. Lake Forest also has a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Los Alamitos Parks – No up-to-date online info available. The city has an update page with all the latest info on closures. They do have a Virtual Community Center listed below.
Mission Viejo Parks – Playgrounds open with restrictions. News announcement mentioning parks from December 3rd. Comments on this post say they are sanitizing weekly and cleaning monthly. They also have a Virtual Activities MV website page set up.
Newport Beach Parks – Parks open, playgrounds not mentioned. The Recreation & Senior Services page has a notice in italics at the top of the page with closure information and a phone number for questions. Latest updated December 7th.
City of Orange Parks – Playgrounds open. Go to the city’s Parks and Public Landscape page for more information.
Rancho Santa Margarita Parks – No up-to-date online info available. The city has a Coronavirus page with a link to a PDF of City Hall Modified Services Schedule (see the graphic on the right of that Coronavirus page).
San Clemente Parks – Playgrounds open with modifications and safety measures. You can find out about parks on the Parks & Ball Fields page. The city does have a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Santa Ana Parks – Playgrounds open. Visit the Parks and Facilities page for up-to-date information.
Seal Beach Parks – I couldn’t find specific mentions of the parks. Call for park info.
Tustin Parks – Playgrounds open. You can find info on the regular Parks Information page. There are bullet points in ALL CAPS at the top of the page. Tustin has a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Westminster Parks – No up-to-date online info available. The home page has the most up-to-date information relating to closures, but I couldn’t find anything specific to parks. In fact, the park page is nonexistent and says: “This page is not active.” I recommend calling and asking before you go.
Yorba Linda Parks – Playgrounds open. The city has a Coronavirus Main Page with park information located by scrolling down to the “Status of City Facilities and Programs” section.
Cities with Virtual Recreation Center Resources
Buena Park Virtual Recreation – Links for Arts, Education, Health & Fitness, Kids Zone, Senior Services
Costa Mesa Virtual Community Center – Links for Arts & Crafts, Fitness, Language & Literature, STEM, Virtual Tours, Zoo Cams
Dana Point Virtual Recreation – Links for Outdoor Activities, Virtual Recreation classes and more.
Garden Grove Virtual Recreation Center – Links for Health & Fitness, Arts/Music/Culture, STEM & Education, Teen Resources, Nature & Virtual Travel, Nutrition, Senior Resources, Adaptive Recreation, Family Resource Center, and Virtual Contract Classes.
Huntington Beach Virtual Recreation Center – Listing of online classes available.
Irvine Virtual Recreation Center – Links by age group.
Lake Forest Virtual Recreation Center – Let’s Celebrate Calendar, Youth Programs, Adult Programs, Zoos/Aquariums/Museums, The Virtual Clubhouse Senior Center, Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest Virtually, Lake Forest Sports Park Virtually, and Special Needs Resources.
Los Alamitos Virtual Community Center – Links to Information, Enrichment, Entertainment, Exercise/Fitness.
(Mission Viejo) Virtual Activities MV – Fitness, Arts & Crafts, Cooking for Fun, Indoor/Outdoor Games, Mad Science, Educate and Explore, Library and Arts, and Teen Activities.
San Clemente Virtual Recreation Center – Links to Stay Connected, Stay Active, and Stay Engaged.
Tustin Virtual Recreation Center – Lists of Indoor Activities, Outdoor Activities, Stay Connected, Exercise Your Brain, For the Kids (or Kids at Heart), Be in the Know, and Be Well.
Westminster Virtual Recreation Center – Links by ages and grade levels, plus resources available in Spanish.