When it comes to resources for the physically active, not all US cities are created equal. Some have more parks and bicycle lanes than others. Some are blessed with perfect climates. Some are situated next to national parks. And some simply have a lot of gyms. But what they all have in common are attributes that encourage people to get outside and stay active.
Click ahead to see some of the cities that are havens for physically active Americans.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 21 June 2011
Seattle has many resources for the physically active. Discovery Park has miles of hiking trails over its 500 acres, and Lake Union is a popular destination for swimmers and water skiers. Alki Beach is accessible by a water taxi, and its appeal isn’t limited just to swimmers. It's a popular destination for bike riders, inline skaters, joggers and even garden-variety pedestrians.
In the winter months, Snoqualmie Pass offers some of the area’s best skiing. It’s one of many Sno-Parks located less than an hour from the city. If you need equipment for any of these pursuits, you’re in luck. The flagship location of sporting goods store REI is located in downtown Seattle.
Denver, Colorado is one of the most active cities in the United States. The bike-friendly city offers 850 miles of trails to cyclists, in addition to 100 free public tennis courts and 200 parks. Like Seattle, Denver is home to one of REI’s two flagship stores, so anyone who forgets their hiking gear or bicycle helmet can easily rent or buy replacements.
Opportunities to be active don't stop at the city limits. The Rocky Mountains are right in Denver’s backyard and offer such pursuits as skiing and hiking, and it's close enough that you can spend all day on the mountain and still get home in time for American Idol.
Boulder is more than just the city where Mork from Ork's egg-shaped spaceship landed. The city, which is home to the Ultimate Frisbee Players Association, is a popular destination for people interested in such outdoor sports as hiking, skiing and snowboarding, and with more than 38,000 acres of park there's a lot of room for tourists and residents to do it in.
Boulder has 200 miles of biking paths and hiking trails, and the mountains situated in full view of the city are irresistible to climbers. Boulder Reservoir is a popular fishing area populated with catfish, largemouth bass and walleye, and those with a flair for the dramatic can go glider flying after taking lessons at Mile High Gliding, which offers lessons and rentals 365 days a year.
With more than 70 parks, year-round moderate weather and a steep landscape that offers a workout from a simple trip to the corner store, San Francisco makes it easy to stay active. Some of its steepest inclines have been mentioned on the website Stairways of San Francisco, which highlights areas like Telegraph Hill, an ascent so precipitous that a 377-step staircase was built into it to make it accessible to pedestrians.
San Francisco offers its fair share of health clubs, tennis courts, golf courses and bicycle paths. However, it's situated in the heart of the Bay Area, which offers a wealth of destinations for the physically active tourist. Santa Rosa, situated in the area's wine region, connects with Annadel State Park and Santa Cruz is located between Monterey Bay and the Redwood Forest, making it convenient for hiking or kayaking.
At over 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe is the highest state capital in the US. However, once you get used to the altitude, the city has a wide range of activities to enjoy. Fishing enthusiasts have the bass, perch and salmon of the Abiquiu and Cochiti lakes. Tennis players have more than 40 public courts to choose from. And less than 20 miles northeast of the city is Ski Santa Fe, a skiing facility located on Tesque Peak.
Hikers have 1,000 miles of trails in the adjacent wilderness areas, which include Jemez Mountain National Recreation Area and Pecos Wilderness. Cyclists have the rugged bike paths of Caja del Rio west of the city. And those looking for something more laid back --- a lot more laid back --- can go to Mellow Velo Bikes and rent reproductions of 1950s-model bicycles, complete with baskets on the front.
Portland, Oregon is more hospitable to residents without cars than many other major US cities. It’s walkable, and its miles of bicycle paths make it a great place for cyclists. Portland offers public golf courses with reasonable rates for 18 holes, and hikers who don’t want to leave the city only have to go to Forest Park to get lost in its 70 miles of wooded trails.
Kayaking tours can be found through the Portland River Company. Located in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, it offers 2 ½ hour tours for less than $50. Those wishing to get out of the city only need to travel south to Medford, whose proximity to Rogue River make it an ideal destination for fishing, kayaking and tubing.
San Diego’s climate is close to perfect. Boasting sunny skies and mild temperatures year-round, it’s a popular place for outdoor activities. In fact, no less an authority than Bicycling magazine named it "one of the top 10 cities in the U.S. to bicycle," based on the bike paths lining Mission Bay and the Bayshore Bikeway.
The city has low-cost public tennis courts in various locations, and hikers have Cabrillo National Monument, Mission Trails Regional Park and Torrey Pines State Reserve to choose from. However, if all you want to do is just go for a walk, there are many beaches to stroll on, including Coronado, La Jolla Shores, Mission Beach and Torrey Pines.
Any place plagued with the nickname "The Windy City" seems like it wouldn't be much of a destination for active pursuits. However, Chicago has a lot going for it, cruel winters notwithstanding. It has 160 parks and miles of public beaches, with North Avenue Beach the most popular. This is due in part to its outdoor gym area, which has become something of a singles scene of late.
The city is also great for cyclists, thanks to efforts by cycling enthusiast and former mayor Richard M. Daley to promote bike lanes on major thoroughfares. Naturally, a city that gets as much cold weather as Chicago will also take its winter sports seriously, and as such it has multiple rinks for ice skating, most notably the McCormick-Tribune Ice Rink.
New York is one of the most walkable cities in the United States. Fully 8.4% of its residents use nothing more than their own two legs to get them to and from work every day, but even those who rely on the subway twice a day have plenty of space to exercise simply by using Central Park.
The Central Park Drive is a 6-mile road that's closed to traffic on weekends and is very popular with pedestrians. Joggers are drawn to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which is circled by a 1.5-mile jogging track that's one of the world's most famous. French president Nicholas Sarkozy couldn't resist doing a loop around it during a visit to the city in 2009.
The nation’s capital may not be the first place that springs to mind when the words “physical activity” are uttered, but Washington, DC offers plenty of resources for the physically active. It may not have a lot of natural recreation areas, but the Mall alone offers a great environment for walking, jogging, skating or cycling.
The Washington DC metro area has more than 100 parks to its credit, most of which are free of the tourists who crowd the Mall. One of the most famous parks is Rock Creek Park, which has an 11-mile bicycle route stretching from the Lincoln Memorial into the state of Maryland, as well as 20 miles of hiking trails.