15 Great Barbecue Grills and Pits in LA Parks for Cooking Out with Family

Nothing says “summer” like barbecue. Many of our local parks are standing by with grills and pits to satisfy that craving for charred food. And the beauty of life in Southern California is that "summer" can be practically any time of year; the 15 parks below have year-round, mostly free barbecue facilities, ready for birthday parties, holiday celebrations, spontaneous picnics, or family dinners al fresco.

Anthony C. Beilenson Park at Lake Balboa - Van Nuys
Lake Balboa is a 27-acre, artificial lake filled with water from the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. Surrounded by a scenic 1.3-mile jogging path and populated by ducks, this is a great place to spend an entire day. Kids will enjoy the playground, and parents will appreciate the ample parking. Barbecue grills scattered throughout the park are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, there are four covered pavilions with grills and picnic tables that must be reserved 30 days in advance, for a fee. 818-756-9743

Brookside Park - Pasadena
The 61-acre Brookside Park is in the central section of the Arroyo Seco near the Rose Bowl. Park amenities include numerous sports fields, a fitness trail, and playgrounds. There are many picnic areas, and most have barbecue pits. 626-744-7311

Clover Park has loads of sports options and ample picnic space. Photo courtesy of the City of Santa Monica

Clover Park - Santa Monica
Clover Park has a toddler playground, a more challenging playground for big kids, multiple athletic fields, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball, a 15-station par fitness course, and 16 barbecue pits. Bring a blanket or reserve a picnic table. Or, better yet, take a seat on the bench opposite the Santa Monica Airport and watch the planes. Reservations are required for BBQ areas (for a fee). Parking is free. 310-458-3800

Del Rey Lagoon - Playa del Rey
Bird watch while you barbecue. The park, a tiny, beach-adjacent oasis, has barbecues available on a first-come, first-served basis. Though small, this spot has a great playground, complete with a climbing wall and a free parking lot. 310-396-1615

Dockweiler State Beach - Playa del Rey
Who needs a grill when you have a fire pit? Bonfires at Dockweiler are an age-old tradition. While grills are not permitted on the beach, skewered food can be prepared right over the flames. Parking fees vary. They don't take reservations. 310-823-3744

Westwood Recreation Center - Los Angeles
At Westwood Recreation Center, barbecues are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and there's no charge to use them. The park is home to Aidan’s Place, a fully accessible playground for kids with disabilities. Additionally, the park features an indoor swimming pool, community room, basketball courts, tennis courts, grassy areas for picnicking, and a baseball diamond. 310-473-3610

Echo Park Lake - Los Angeles
Celebrate the return of the lotus blossoms with a lakeside barbecue, where grills are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Echo Park Lake reopened in 2013 after a two-year makeover that refurbished the lake and restored the historic lotus blossoms to their former glory. Blooming begins in June and continues throughout summer. Additional barbecue facilities are available across the street at the Echo Park Recreation Center, where it is possible to reserve space in advance. After your BBQ, you can stroll around the lake or rent a pedal boat to experience the blossoms up-close. 213-250-3578

Young chefs get into the grilling action. Photo by woodleywonderworks via flickr

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area - Los Angeles
This is where urban Angelenos find the rustics within. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area offers multiple landscapes in one verdant setting: hiking trails, areas of native coastal sage scrub, even a fishing lake. Barbecue pits are available at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis, or they can be reserved in advance for a fee. 323-298-3660

Holmby Park - Los Angeles
A charming pocket park surrounded by elegant homes, Holmby features a playground, lawn bowling, and ample free parking. Barbecues are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. No pets or bounce houses are permitted. 310-276-1604

Griffith Park - Los Angeles
The extremely popular Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with an urban wilderness area in the U.S. The park's five picnic areas—Crystal Springs, Mineral Wells, Old Zoo, Park Center, and Pecan Grove—all have barbecue pits that are available free of charge. At the Old Zoo area, visitors can picnic alongside the ruins of the original Los Angeles Zoo, and Park Center features a playground and a Merry-Go-Round that's been an attraction since 1937. 323-644-2050

You can reserve space at a barbecue area with picnic tables at Valley Park in Hermosa Beach. Photo by Urban Outbacker/CC BY 2.0

Valley Park - Hermosa Beach
Nestled in the Valley of Hermosa, this neighborhood park is a short walk to the beach, with a small amphitheater and a playground with a universally accessible swing set. There are multiple barbecues, mostly available on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, two reservations are accepted per day for a barbecue area that includes four picnic tables (for a fee; reservations available for Hermosa Beach residents only). 310-318-0280

Heritage Park - Cerritos
Heritage Park has six barbecue shelters, serving parties of 20 to 100 people. Advance reservations are available to residents of the City of Cerritos, but starting Thursday, non-residents can book grills that are still open for the weekend. There's a fee plus an additional deposit, which is returned two weeks after the event. The park has fields, ducks, and a semi-indoor playground set in a re-creation of Paul Revere’s Boston. There's also a super-cool pirate ship. Kind of like Disneyland, minus the entrance fee. 562-916-8570

El Dorado East Regional Park - Long Beach
This sprawling park offers much more than a place to picnic. There's a stocked lake, pedal boat rentals, archery center, model aircraft flying area and model sailboat area, train rides on selected days and times, and more. Picnic areas and barbecue grills are first-come, first-served; picnic shelters may be reserved in limited numbers. Parking fee varies and is cash only. 562-570-1771

Mile Square Regional Park - Fountain Valley
Its name gives away its size, and its popularity reveals what a great place it is for a cookout. There are wide swaths of open natural spaces, playgrounds, two lakes, paddle boat and bicycle rentals, three regulation golf courses, and plenty of sports fields. Numerous picnic areas with barbecue grills are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking fees vary; check website or call for details. 714-973-6600

Laguna Niguel Regional Park - Laguna Niguel
The scenic hills and lake area provide a beautiful setting for a day of outdoor cooking at the park. There are playgrounds, bike and hiking trails, horseshoe pits, and a beautiful 44-acre stocked lake. Numerous picnic areas, some in remote areas, with barbecue grills are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking fees vary; check website or call for details. 949-923-2240

Originally published April 2014; updated July 2017

Top photo via Bigstock

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