Whether you are always on the go or just looking to kick back and relax, you’ll find an activity that fits your interests — from hiking and biking to bird-watching and golf.
PRACTICE YOUR SWING
The county offers a range of options for youth and adults looking to improve their arms — golf, baseball and volleyball included — whether it’s to prepare for an upcoming sport season or just to have a few laughs.
Tennis buffs can practice their swings at the Columbia Association’s three outdoor tennis clubs and 10 indoor tennis courts (ColumbiaAssociation.org/tennis), or at one of numerous courts at the county’s parks or private tennis facilities.
One area Howard County can certainly boast about is its vibrant arts scene, with an abundance of choices that include theater, music and dance companies, as well as free outdoor concerts at downtown Columbia’s Lakefront on Lake Kittamaqundi, Centennial Park and Columbia’s village centers.
Bicycling clubs and events abound, giving residents the chance to pull the bike out of the garage. The Howard County Cycling Club organizes weekly road rides, and the Princeton Sports and Race Pace bicycle shops also organize group rides.
For runners of all ages, the Howard County Striders organize weekly races of 1 mile to 15 kilometers. The group’s Women’s Distance Festival, celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer, is one of the nation’s largest women-only races. This year, the Downtown Columbia Partnership and Rip It Events are partnering to host the annual Clyde’s American 10K race in the spring. Speciality shop Charm City Run offers weekly pub runs. And, for fitness-oriented moms, Fit4Mom offers workouts incorporating strollers into activities.
Cycle2Health (sponsored by county’s Office on Aging and Independence)
Do you ever find yourself saying you have nowhere to go or nothing to do? Not this year. Whether you like the arts or something more active, Howard County will host a year full of events that are sure to get you out of the house.
Each Monday night, Arti Sardesai drives to the Miller Library in Ellicott City and immerses herself in learning Korean. At 49, it’s not easy mastering a foreign tongue, but Sardesai believes it will benefit her work as an occupational therapist in the area.
Nearby Baltimore is home to the 2013 Super Bowl champion Ravens football team, and to baseball’s Orioles, who fielded a playoff team in 2016. Three nearby minor-league baseball squads — the Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys and Aberdeen IronBirds — serve as farm teams for the Orioles.
Major Arena Soccer League’s Baltimore Blast and the Annapolis-based Chesapeake Bayhawks, a professional lacrosse team, also call the area home.
Washington boasts the 2015 NFC East champion Redskins (football), the 2016 and 2017 Metropolitan Division-winning Capitals (hockey), the Wizards and Mystics (basketball), D.C. United (outdoor soccer) and the 2017 National League East champion Nationals (baseball).
Among area colleges and universities, the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland are national powers in lacrosse, while Maryland and the U.S. Naval Academy play top-rated football schedules. Maryland also consistently hosts ranked men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Howard Community College fields teams at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III level in several sports.
Meanwhile, Howard County public high school teams often win state championships.
Football, soccer, swimming — the area’s youth leagues encourage activity, competition and growing skills. Clubs and organizations throughout the county offer baseball, tennis, softball, basketball, gymnastics, wrestling, rugby, cross country, ice hockey, figure skating, track and field, volleyball, football, cheerleading and lacrosse.
Other youth organizations offer group fitness classes or gym facilities for kids.
Atholton Youth Recreation Association (baseball and softball)
Clippers Swim Team
Columbia Horse Center (riding lessons for children and adults, along with summer day camps and shows)
(301-776-5850, columbiahorsecenter.com )
Columbia Neighborhood Swim League
Columbia Ravens (football and cheerleading)
Elkridge Youth Organization (basketball, soccer, baseball and softball)
Howard County Lacrosse Program
Howard County Recreation & Parks
Howard County Youth Program (basketball, baseball and softball)
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Kangaroo Kids Precision Jump Rope Team
Maryland Sharks (tryout basketball team)
Savage Boys and Girls Club (basketball, flag football, baseball and softball)
Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County
Western Howard County Soccer
Western Howard County Youth Baseball & Softball League
Western Howard County Warhawks (football and cheerleading)
The Y of Central Maryland in Ellicott City Dancel Family Center
For adults, the competition can be as serious as the athlete, and the variety of league sports — many sponsored by the county’s Department of Recreation & Parks (howardcountymd.gov/rap) — include golf, tennis, bowling, basketball, softball, kickball, badminton, cricket and ultimate disc.
FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
The Special Olympics of Howard County involves around 800 athletes with intellectual and related developmental disabilities who compete in 20 sports, including soccer, tennis, swimming, golf, powerlifting and bocce. 410-740-0500 or somdhc.org.
Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services offers integrated sports and arts programs, social groups, summer support camps and community outings for those with mental or physical disabilities. 410-313-4628 or howardcountymd.gov/therapeutic-rec.
Many of the Columbia Association’s facilities are ADA accessible. (columbiaassociation.org/ada)
The Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks maintains more than 40 regional and neighborhood parks with trails, courts, sports fields, pavilions, fishing and boating. Visit howardcountymd.gov/rap for a park directory, or call 410-313-4700. To rent a pavilion, call 410-313-4682.
Maryland Park Service (800-830-3974 or dnr.maryland.gov) operates two state parks with portions in Howard County. Both offer hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing and horseback riding trails. (Patapsco Valley State Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 410-461-5005; Patuxent River State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301-924-2127)
In 1950, Howard County was a primarily rural, predominately white farming community of around 23,000. Since then, the population has grown more than tenfold and diversified. We use Census Bureau data to examine the growth of Howard's largest minority groups.
The Columbia Association offers 23 outdoor pools, two mini water parks and indoor pools at five locations: Columbia Athletic Club (410-730-6744), Columbia Gym (410-531-0800), Columbia Swim Center (410-730-7000), Haven on the Lake (410-715-3020) and Supreme Sports Club (410-381-5355). A number of private gyms and clubs also offer pools.
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A 95-mile pathway system honeycombs Columbia, and there are miles of hiking trails in Patapsco Valley State Park and in Patuxent River State Park. It’s 1.9 miles around Lake Elkhorn, 1.4 miles around Wilde Lake, 2.6 miles around Centennial Lake and 1.5 mile around Lake Kittamaqundi. The county’s Department of Recreation & Parks also maintains dozens of regional and neighborhood parks with trails.