What parks are open? That’s the question of the moment here in Orange County, California.
I called the Covid-19 Health Referral Line on the morning of June 12, 2020. (You can, too — if you are ever wondering what is open!) The answer I got is to “call your city and ask.” Most cities are still stating on their websites that their playgrounds are closed.
California remains under stay at home orders where the Stay Home Q&A states: “It’s okay to go outside to go for a walk, to exercise, and participate in healthy activities as long as you maintain a safe physical distance of six feet and gather only with members of your household. Parks may be closed to help slow the spread of the virus. Check with local officials about park closures in your area. Californians should not travel significant distances for recreation and should stay close to home.”
Further, it says: “Californians should not travel significant distances for pleasure or recreation and should stay close to home. If you do travel, take steps to keep everyone safe like wearing a face cloth covering, keeping 6 feet of physical distance from those not in your household, and washing your hands frequently.”
In the July 3rd OC Health Officer’s Orders & Recommendations FAQ, it states:
“Q: What businesses are not permitted to re-open?”
One of the bullet points in answer to that question reads:
- “Indoor playgrounds such as bounce centers, ball pits and laser tag”
So that answers the question for indoor playgrounds.
There is no mention of, either under permitted to re-open or NOT permitted to re-open, “Community centers, public pools (even in private neighborhoods), playgrounds, and picnic areas” was in a previous May 28th order — except for the pools which can re-open with specific procedures as of June 12th. When I called the OC Health Care Agency Covid-19 Health Line and asked if playgrounds are open (on June 12th, 2020), they said to check with your city.
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.
I want to let you know that I’m very aware of how distress-filled this whole thing is for families on soooooo many different levels. I applaud you for doing the best you can.
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.”
Many parks remain open with restrictions in place. Some cities are keeping their parks completely closed.
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 (July 3rd)?
- 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, as we move towards loosened restrictions I will make sure I bring:
- My kindness and patience
- A cloth face-covering to wear (As ordered by OC Health Officer Order dated July 3, 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.”
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 July 2, 2020 was their Modified Operations press release from July 2, 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 weekly to make sure they are still relevant. Latest update: July 4, 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.
Aliso Viejo Parks – the Aliso Viejo Community Association has been posting updates to their home page along with summer event cancellations.
Anaheim Parks – Anaheim has a special page with updates that are broken down into different sections. Look for “Parks” to 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 – Their park closure info is at the top of their Parks page. There is also a Business Re-Opening plan that mentions playgrounds (latest update from July 1, 2020).
Buena Park Parks – They have a new page called City Facility Status which lists parks. There is a new Open Facilities graphic at the bottom of this page which is very informative for park-goers. Buena Park is one of the few cities in the county with a “Virtual Recreation Center” that I’ve listed below.
Costa Mesa Parks – Their information doesn’t seem very up-to-date, but they have a Community Resources status page and “Are City parks open?” is in the blue Frequently Asked Questions box as a link. However, it links to a news story about park closures from April 28, 2020. In the same publication by the city is a news story from July 2, 2020 about skate parks remaining closed but other amenities opening. You may want to call the City to get the information.
Cypress Parks – 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.
Dana Point Parks – Info on parks is buried deep in email updates on their Coronavirus information page. So deep, that I never found any exact information. However, they are fairly clear with updated beach information except it’s not updated for the 4th of July weekend. Dana Point also has a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Fountain Valley Parks – 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 – The Parks and Recreation page has a Parks & Recreation Covid-19 Update – June 15th 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 – The city has an Facility Closures and Cancellations page with park information. They are also one of the cities with a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Huntington Beach Parks – HB closure information is on a separate website from the official city website. 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 – 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 – 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 – The City’s Response to COVID-19 page lists information about city facilities.
Laguna Beach Parks – Laguna Beach has a page called “What’s Open in Laguna Beach?” which includes parks.
Laguna Hills Parks – The Laguna Hills Community Center is 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?” with mentions of playgrounds and parks.
Laguna Niguel Parks – The Parks & Recreation page has a notice at the top of the page about closures. If you go to the Covid-19 page and click on City Playgrounds and Sports Facilities Updates you will get a BIG graphic notice about what is open/closed.
Lake Forest Parks: – 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 – The city has an update page with all the latest info on closures. You have to dig a bit for park closures by going to the Covid-19 Update page and the City of Los Alamitos Update dated March 26, 2020. They do have a Virtual Community Center listed below.
Mission Viejo Parks – Go to the Recreation page to see updates in the slideshow on that page and then call with further questions. They do, however, have a Virtual Activities MV website page set up.
Newport Beach Parks – 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.
Rancho Santa Margarita Parks – 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 – You can find out about park closures on the main classes and programs page which lists Park & Amenity Closures and Parking Lot Closures relating to parks. They also have a Covid-19 page with alerts and some relate to parks. The city does have a Virtual Recreation Center listed below.
Santa Ana Parks – The city’s Information about COVID-19 page has park information listed under the Understanding the Reopening Roadmap heading in the blue dropdown menu under the “Using City of Santa Ana parks” section.
Seal Beach Parks – The city has red stripes at the top of their home page with different updates. The “Beach in Motion Phase Three Gum Grove Park Phase Two Reopening ” could be relevant, as well as the 4th of July Weekend Closures press release.
Tustin Parks – 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 – 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 – 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.
More Safer-at-Home Activities
- 39 Stay-at-Home Activities for Parents Who Need a Break
- Make Playing Outside a Habit in 30 Days
- Places for Babies to Play: A 1970s Visual Guide