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:
Miniature golf, batting cages, in-line skating, skateboarding
Rocky Gorge Golf Fairway
Practice range, batting cages, mini-golf
Indoor turf fields
The Reaper's Den
Indoor sports training
and Indoor Soccer Arena
CYCLING AND RUNNING
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 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 .93-mile swim, a 25-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run at Centennial Park. The IronGirl Triathlon Columbia competition for women takes place in August. Information about both events can be found at trimaryland.com.
Howard County Cycling Club
(sponsored by county's Office on Aging)
Howard County Striders
Mid-Maryland Triathlon Club
SKATING AND MOUNTAIN BIKING
For those want to do more than walk, the county offers a few places for residents to roll or glide their way to fun.
Columbia Ice Rink
Supreme Sports Club
Skate Spot at Centennial Park
Outdoor skate park
Mountain bike course
Alpha Ridge Park in Marriottsville
Archery range and regulation-size outdoor hockey rink
Cattail Creek Country Club
Fairway Hills Golf Course
Hobbit's Glen Golf Club
The Club at Turf Valley
The Timbers at Troy Golf Course
Waverly Woods Golf Club
Willow Springs Golf Course
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 Metropolitan Division-winning Capitals (hockey), the Wizards and Mystics (basketball), D.C. United (outdoor soccer) and the 2016 National League East champion Nationals (baseball).
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.
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 won six state championships in the 2015-16 school year.
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)
Columbia Clippers Swim Team
Columbia Ravens (football and cheerleading)
Elkridge Youth Organization
(basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball and softball)
Howard County Recreation & Parks
Howard County Lacrosse Program
Howard County Youth Program (basketball, baseball and softball)
Kangaroo Kids Precision Jump Rope Team
Savage Boys and Girls Club
(basketball, flag football, soccer, baseball and softball)
Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County
Western Howard County Soccer
Western Howard County Youth Baseball and Softball
Western Howard County Warhawks (football and cheerleading)
The Y of Central Maryland
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, cricket and ultimate disc.
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SPECIAL OLYMPICS OF 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.
Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks maintains 40 regional and neighborhood parks 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.
Columbia Association pools
Roger Carter Community Center
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.