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, nine indoor tennis courts and numerous courts at the county’s parks or private tennis facilities.
Other sports facilities include:
Columbia SportsPark Miniature golf, batting cages,in-line skating, skateboarding 410-715-3054, columbiasportspark.org
Volleyball House and Indoor Soccer Arena 410-579-1007, vbhouse.com
RUNNING AND CYCLING
Bicycling clubs and events abound. Whether it’s the Howard County Cycling Club’s weekly road rides or Explore Columbia’s family-oriented spins, a number of cycling organizations offer residents the chance to pull the bike out of the garage. Local businesses Princeton Sports and Race Pace bicycle shops also organize group rides.
For runners of all ages, the Howard County Striders (striders.net) organize weekly races of 2 miles to 15 kilometers. The group hosts one of the nation’s largest women-only races each summer and Clyde’s American 10K in the spring. And, for fitness-oriented moms, Fit4Mom offers workouts incorporating strollers into activities.
The Columbia Triathlon, held in May, is one of the country’s best three-sport competitive challenges with a 1.5K swim, a 41K bike ride and a 10K run at Centennial Park (ulmanfund.org/event/columbia-triathlon). The Iron Girl women’s triathlon is held in August (irongirl.com).
Baltimore is home to the 2013 Super Bowl champion Ravens football team and the 2014 American League East Division champion Orioles baseball team. 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), Capitals (hockey), Wizards (basketball), Mystics (women’s basketball), D.C. United (outdoor soccer) and the Nationals (baseball).
Three nearby minor-league baseball squads — the Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys and Aberdeen IronBirds — serve as farm teams for the Orioles.
Among area colleges and universities, 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, after its recent move into the Big Ten conference, a powerhouse in Division I sports.
Howard Community College fields teams at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III level in several sports.
At the high school level, Howard County has produced state champions in 20 sports.
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 877-297-2421, ayra.com
The Y of Central Maryland Dancel Family Center 410-465-4334, ymaryland.org
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, cricket and ultimate disc.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS HOWARD COUNTY
More than 500 athletes with intellectual and related developmental disabilities compete in 18 sports, including soccer, tennis, swimming, golf, powerlifting and bocce. 410-740-0500 or somdhc.org.
Other activities for active Howard County residents include bowling at one of two facilities, climbing an indoor rock wall at Earth Treks and hopping on a horse at private riding stables or the Columbia Horse Center.
Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks maintains 38 regional and neighborhood with trails, courts, sports fields and pavilions. 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 dnr2.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
Columbia Association offers 23 outdoor pools, two mini water parks and indoor pools at three gyms: Supreme Sports Club (410-381-5355), Columbia Gym (410-531-0800) and Columbia Swim Center (410-730-7000). A number of private gyms and clubs also offer pools.
A 93.5-mile pathway system (which officials are planning to expand) honeycombs Columbia, and there are miles of hiking trails in Patapsco Valley State Park and in Patuxent River State Park. It’s 2 miles around Lake Elkhorn, 1.4 miles around Wilde Lake, 2.5 miles around Centennial Lake and 1 mile around Lake Kittamaqundi. The county’s Department of Recreation & Parks also maintains dozens of regional and neighborhood parks with trails.