It’s football season, which usually has me home Saturdays watching my college team and following the sport in general. This year, I have one more reason to be excited thanks to the County of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks: my son is playing flag football. It’s the first time he’s played a team sport with uniforms and all, and I’m hopeful he’ll take to it. But if he doesn’t I know he’ll have many sports options from which to choose through the Parks & Recreation department.

The LA County Department of Recreation and Parks’ mission is to provide “quality recreational opportunities that promote a healthy lifestyle and strengthen the community through diverse physical, educational, and cultural programming, and enhances the community environment by acquiring, developing, and maintaining County Parks, gardens, golf courses, trails, and open space areas.” They deliver on the mission with hundreds of parks, golf courses, trails and open areas, as well as activities that are fun for the entire family.

Belvedere Park in Los Angeles (credit: parks.lacounty.gov)

Parks, Gardens and Trails

The Department of Recreation and Parks has nearly 150 parks, gardens and trails under its jurisdiction, offering a wide range of outdoor options to Angelenos and visitors. There’s a park in virtually every L.A. neighborhood: they range from sprawling parks with lakes, sports fields, swimming pools, playgrounds and picnic areas to smaller playgrounds. There are so many that it’s impossible to feature them here but you can use the Department’s Park Finder to search for parks by location, amenities and programs available.

Exposition Park Community Center (credit: openspacedistrict.lacounty.info)

Activities

The activities made available from the Department of Recreation and Parks range widely and are meant to serve the needs of the entire community.

Adults:

Activities including everything from computer classes to violence prevention programs, as well as co-ed sports.

Seniors:

Activities including Bingo and movie days, as well as fitness activities such as golf and aerobics.

Youth:

The full spectrum of youth sports and classes for kids of all ages and at a variety of skill levels.

All:

The Department of Recreation and Parks also sponsors a number of special events that help to bring the community together. These range from fairs to seasonal activities. More information about these events is available at the department’s web site, as well as at your local park.

Ultimately, the department’s programs are focused on building “community” at the local level. The cost to participate in these activities is quite affordable – if not free – and varies according to the activity.

Picnic Area (credit: parks.lacounty.gov)

Personal Events

Los Angeles residents can take advantage of the park spaces to hold their special events. Personally, I’ve held birthday parties for my son at three different local parks with pretty good results. With the wide variety of spaces available, you can hold all kinds of events, ranging from casual picnics to elaborate weddings. Once you find the park where you want to hold your event using the Department’s online park finder, call the number listed on its web page to make a reservation and secure any necessary permits. They will also provide you with approved vendors for equipment (e.g., bouncers) you can bring on site.

Woodley Lakes Golf Course (credit: golf.lacity.org)

Golf Courses

I’ve always wanted to learn to play golf and, given the affordable courses available through the Department, I have no good excuse for the fact that I haven’t. The Department of Recreation and Parks operates nineteen 18- and 9-hole golf courses at 17 different locations across the county. The fees to play are affordable, and the department offers discount programs for seniors and students. Just use the Department’s park-finder to locate the golf course you’d like to visit; all the information you need about the course and to reserve tee times is available there. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area (devils-punchbowl.com)

Historic Sites & Places of Interest

As if all that isn’t enough, the Department also has a number of interesting and historic sites that range from gardens like Descanso Gardens in La Cañada to entertainment venues like the Hollywood Bowl and theme parks like Raging Waters in San Dimas. Information about each of them is available Right Here

Find It Online

There’s plenty of information available online about the department and its offerings, and many locations give you the option to register for classes and sports right from the web. Visit the Department’s Website

The department also has a number of social media sites where you can get information updates, as well as get a good feel for its offerings.

Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/lacountyparks
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/parks.lacounty.gov
Photo stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lacountyparks
YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/lacountyparks

Let’s get outside and play, L.A.!

Jennifer Vides blogs at JenniferVides.com