Huntington Central Park: HB’s Best Local Park

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Huntington Central Park is an expansive, 350-acre park located at 18000 Goldenwest St in Huntington Beach. This dog-friendly park features Talbert Lake, a library, cafe, gardens, and an abundance of wildlife. It’s the largest city-owned park in all of Orange County, with plenty of space for recreational activities such as bird watching and bike riding.

 

Huntington Central Park Map

 

Looking for more FUN things to do in OC? Check out these hikes!

Huntington Central Park East

Split in half by Goldenwest St, Huntington Central Park East side is arguably the most popular. Due to all the attractions, I’m not at all surprised! Let’s take a walk together while I share a bit more about the aforementioned key features.

 

Key Features

  • Central Library
  • Secret Garden
  • Thomas Ridley Bandstand
  • Park Bench Cafe
  • Talbert Lake

Central Library

Let’s begin at the Huntington Beach Central Library where the primary parking lot is located.

There are 4 parking lots, one on each side of the park, but this one is by far the largest.

There’s also a sports complex across from the parking lot which you can see in the drone shot below.

FUN FACT: The Central Library has the largest children’s library to the west of the Mississippi!

The beautiful and large library is very spacious, has a 300-seat theatre for rent, and indoor fountains.

The hours of operation are:

  • Tues-Thurs: 9 AM to 9 PM
  • Fri-Sat: 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Sun: 12 to 5 PM
  • Mon: 1 to 9 PM

 

We began our walk through the park by heading left when facing the library and down a short dirt path that connects with the walkway.

The largest section of Talbert Lake can be found on the lefthand side of the library.  It’s less murky than other more stagnant sections and adds to the beautiful scenery.

You can expect plenty of ducks swimming around and lots of photographers taking snapshots of the lake.

 

Secret Garden

Our next stop is the Secret Garden located immediately to the right of the lake and north of the library.

Not sure why they call it the Secret Garden because it’s not much of a secret.

However, it’s definitely a pretty garden with a walkthrough area showcasing lots of beautiful plants and squirrels roaming about.

The abundance of colorful plants and trees that attract many of the animals make it the perfect location for taking pictures and birdwatching.

Fun Fact: This garden was built to show off many drought-tolerant plants!

 

Thomas Ridley Bandstand

After exploring the Secret Garden, we hopped back on the walkway and made our way towards the Thomas Ridley Bandstand, which is popularly known for hosting annual summer concerts for the community.

Join the fun from late June to early September on Sunday afternoons for a free concert.

You can enjoy a wide variety of music and live performances such as jazz, swing, show tunes, and more!

The concerts are perfect for families and people of all ages. So, be sure to mark your calendars for next year’s summer concerts!

To the left of the stage, you’ll find a large field ideal for soccer matches or playing catch with your pet.

 

Amphitheatre

Accross from the stage, you’ll find a shady and almost hidden amphitheater.

The wooden benches seat around 200 people.

The amphitheatre is reserved for special events and activities ONLY. Unfortunately, it can’t be rented by the public or used for social gatherings.

 

Strolling Through the Rest of the Park

Continuing with the walk, you’ll find lots of wooden benches to the right and another large field, perfect for family gatherings

I’ve seen many people throw birthday parties and other events in this area.

If you enjoy bike riding or are teaching your kids how to ride a bike, you should consider this park. The walkway at the park is wide and flat.

Heading towards the northeast section of the park, you’ll run into trees showing off their beautiful fall colors.

The red, brown, and orange leaves add the perfect touch to an otherwise sea of green grass and trees.

Here’s an arial view of the fall trees.

(Can you spot Catalina Island in the distance?)

Passing the trees, you’ll come to a small garden section that’s off to the left of the walkway where cement curbs line the path.

This area is blooming with colorful plants and butterflies during the spring months.

To the right, there’s a small pond with lots of ducks. The American Coons like to hang out here in large groups.

We caught a friendly squirrel that kept following us. It probably wanted food and is definitely used to humans.

There are lots of squirrels that will come up to you hoping for a snack. Please do not feed the animals.

*This squirrel was a paid actor*

Restrooms and a playground are located in the north side of the park as well as a small parking lot to the right of the restrooms (not shown) along Slater Ave.

From the restrooms, the walkway follows a creek and parallels Goldenwest Ave.

 

Park Bench Cafe

This neat little restaurant is open from Wed-Thurs. During open hours, they set up tables and umbrellas on the lawn for the public. The best part is it’s dog-friendly. They even include a doggie menu!

It’s the best place to enjoy a delicious breakfast or brunch meal with your family and furry friend!

As we got close to completing the loop around the park, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the lake where we first began, and a scene that is superb to most local parks.

And… that was the loop around the east side of the park!

HB Central Park West

HB Central Park West side is the second half of the park. Although it doesn’t attract as many visitors as the East side, it still includes a wide variety of unique attractions.

 

Key Features

  • HB Central Park Equestrain Center
  • Disc Golf Course
  • Kathy May’s Lakeview Cafe
  • Lake Huntington
  • Senior Center
  • Gated Dog Park
  • Shipley’s Nature Center

Let’s take a stroll through the park and take a closer look at all the attractions.

 

HB Central Park West Map

 

We began our walk here, at the parking lot off of Goldenwest. However, you can find an additional parking lot on the opposite side of the park by the cafe and another off of Edwards.

 

Shirley’s Nature Center

Immdiately upon entering the park, you’ll notice the 18 acre Shipley’s Nature Center.

Much like an arboretum, Shipley’s Nature Center is organized by native habitats including oak woodlands, meadows, Torrey Pines (native to only Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego), and fresh water wetlands with sycamores and willows.

They are currently open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 am – 1 am. If you would like to donate or learn more about Shipley Nature Center, click the link here.

The park is also home to multiple large open fields ideal for sports. The field below is located right in front of the Shipley Nature Center.

We visited this park the weekend after the Santa Ana winds, so we got to witness the awesome power of mother nature.

 

Kathy May’s Lakeview Cafe

A few minutes later we reached the city famous Kathy May’s Lakeview Cafe.

They’re open 7 days a week from 8 am to 3 pm.

Kathy May's Lakeview Cafe

They boast an outdoor patio under red canopies surrounded by a white picket fence.

However, they have an additional patio adjacent to the the first which is even closer to the lake and provides the best views. Here is a view of the opposite side of the cafe with the lake in the background.

To get to the south side of the lake we walked along the side walk located to the right of the cafe.

The people who live in these lakefront houses must be have the best sunset views in the neighborhood.

Here’s another beautiful view of the cafe from across the lake.

This section of the park, which is located off of Edwards St, offers a kids playground, restrooms, and the famous dog park.

 

HB Central Dog Park

The gated dog park is the perfect place to train your pups or simply let them run around. Tennis balls litter the area, and the city has been nice enough to install a drinking station.

If the park alone wasn’t impressive enough, the park boasts a self serve dog wash for either a quick rinse or a complete shampoo and air dry session. You can find more info here.

 

HB Central Equestrian Center

To the right of the dog park is a large, 25-acre equestrian center. Who knew you could get a little taste of the countryside just two miles away from the beach?

You can spot horses in their stables or catch students and trainers galloping around on these amazing animals.

If you’re interested, they offer lesssons for beginners to advanced riders.

 

Playground Coming Soon

As we completed the loop around the lake, we came across a massive kids’ playground currently in construction as of Nov 29, 2021 and a small pier.

Fishing is allowed at the park. However, everyone over the age of 16 is required to have a fishing license. Unfortunately for me, the ducks called dibs on the pier.

The adventurous playground looks more like an obstacle course than a playground. It was supposed to be completed by the end of Nov 2021. However, it seems like they may need a few more days or weeks.

 

Disc Golf Course

Adjacent to the playground is the disc golf course, which takes up a considerable amount of space in the park.

2 fields located up the hill from the lake are designated for disc golf.

I highly recommend HB Central Park for everyone. For children’s safety, homeless people are not allowed to setup shelters in the park. The park is exceptionally clean and the people are friendly.

If you want to check out more fun things to do outside, such as hikes in Orange County, be sure to check out the recommendations shown below!

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I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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