Whether you are the active outdoors type or looking for a more laid-back way to spend an afternoon, you’ll likely find an activity that fits your interests — from hiking and biking to bird-watching and golf.
Enjoy the outdoors
The county offers a range of options for youths and adults to enjoy, golf, baseball, volleyball and more.
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.
Lots of bicycling clubs and events give residents the chance to hit the road. 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 is one of the nation’s largest women-only races. This year, the Downtown Columbia Partnership and Rip It Events partnered to host the annual Clyde’s American 10K race in September.
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.
Nearby 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 improving 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)
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 and Parks (howardcountymd.gov/rap) — includes 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.
The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks maintains more than 40 regional and neighborhood parks with trails, courts, sports fields, pavilions, and areas for fishing and boating. Visit howardcountymd.gov/rap for a park directory, or call 410-313-4700.
Maryland Park Service (877-620-8367 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).
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.
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 miles around Lake Kittamaqundi. The county’s Department of Recreation and Parks also maintains dozens of regional and neighborhood parks with trails.