Outdoor Workout? Yes! Parcourse, fitness & obstacle courses & trails for travelers
At Athletic-Minded Traveler, we value “freebies” (Are you on our eNews list?) and that frugality extends to our workouts. Outdoor fitness facilities are a budget-minded, active traveler’s best friend. To help those in our athletic-minded traveling community who prefer the outdoors, we have compiled a list of alternative venues to the traditional indoor gym.
We selected each listing based on location, (near other Athletic-Minded Traveler recommendations), distinctive features (tire runs, climbing walls, gymnastics rings, handicap-friendly stations, etc.), and effectiveness of the equipment offered. We also favored venues that accommodate for multiple levels of difficulty and that are located near major cities. However, this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you are visiting a city that isn’t included below, we recommend searching online or asking around for a nearby venue.
Bottom line is that with the right resources, exercising outside can be just as effective as an indoor routine.
San Francisco, CA: Marina Green Fitness Court
This fitness court offers a variety of equipment for squats, dips, push-ups, pull-ups, destabilized body lifts, jumping, stretching, even a hopscotch course. The emphasis here is bodyweight exercise, and all of the equipment utilizes YOUR resource. There are no equipment guides at this location, which can be a challenge for new users.
The court is located near north beach, two miles north of the Laurel Inn.
Eagan, MN: Core Valley Fitness Area/Obstacle Course
Next to the Eagan Community Center, just south of downtown Minneapolis and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, sits an outdoor facility with a unique array of fitness-friendly structures. Logs are placed at different angles and heights to assist with jumps, hurdles, lunges, stability exercises, incline push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. The obstacles can accommodate users of all ability levels, from beginners working on balance and cardio, to advanced users who might utilize the pull-up bars and hurdles. The venue is free to the public, and visitors may also purchase guest passes at the community center’s indoor fitness facility for $10 per day. This rate gets you access to a variety of cardio and strength equipment, workout classes, an indoor track, three basketball courts and a locker room with showers.
Columbus, OH: Scioto Audubon Metro Park Obstacle Course
This military-style obstacle course features 9 "stations" including a tunnel crawl, belly crawl, cargo climb, balance beam, monkey bars, over/under bars, and a climbing wall. In addition, the course includes tires for flipping and leg work. Be sure to bring your own gear if you intend to use the climbing wall. The park does not provide any equipment. The difficulty level here is intermediate to advanced, as most of the stations require a substantial amount of flexibility.
The park is a 1.6-mile jog from the Sheraton Columbus, beside the scenic Scioto River, and also has its own running/biking path. To get there, take I-71 to the Greenlawn Avenue exit and head east. Turn left on South Front Street and the park will be on your left. Plenty of parking is available.
Atlanta, GA: Piedmont Park, Parcourse
At Piedmont Park, guests have access to stations for leg raises, sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, dips and stability. Written instructions are provided at each piece of equipment to demonstrate each exercise, making this park ideal for beginners. However, advanced users can take advantage of the equipment as well. After your workout, finish strong with a run through the Atlanta Botanical Garden or head to the "Active Oval."
The park sits three miles to the northeast of downtown Atlanta and 1.2 miles east of the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown. From the hotel, go north on Peachtree Street and turn right when you reach 10th Street. The park will be to your left. Parking is scarce, but visitors may use the SAGE Parking Facility at the prices listed on the Piedmont Park website.
New York, NY: Roosevelt Island Octagon Field Parcourse
Equipment includes uneven bars, pull-up bars, a sit-up bench, self-weighted rower, back extension station, Tai Chi spinners and bounding bars. While there are no posted instructions here, the equipment is straightforward and easy to use. Beginners are encouraged to take advantage of the rower and Tai Chi spinners, while advanced users can exercise their muscles using equipment for pull-ups, leg lifts and sit-ups.
This fitness area is adjacent to the Octagon soccer field, across the river from Manhattan. To get there from Manhattan, take the F-line to Roosevelt Island and head north on Main Street for .7 miles. The soccer field will be to your immediate left, and the fitness stations will be on the other side of the turf.
Boston, MA: Charles River Esplanade Fitness Course
If you’re visiting Boston, we recommend the Charles River Esplanade for a post-run ab and upper body workout with a beautiful view of the Charles River. This park features a four-series collection of workouts for stretching and abdominal, upper, and lower body strengthening. Exercises include chin-ups, body curls, sit-ups, incline push-ups, log hops, vault bar and bench dips. The park is handicap-accessible and has posted instructions on equipment usage for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility. Users of all activity levels are encouraged to visit.
San Diego, CA: De Anza Cove Parcourse
Enjoy an outdoor workout with a fantastic view of the water at De Anza Cove in Mission Bay. This facility has posted instructions to assist new users with navigating the equipment. Possible exercises include log hops, leg lifts, incline push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. Exercisers can also take advantage of a nearby running path, bathrooms, and drinking fountains.
The park is located beside the San Diego Freeway. Take the Garnet exit and turn left on Mission Bay Drive. The park will be to your right and parking is plentiful.
Note: hours for all of these venues vary by location and season.
Staying active while traveling doesn’t need to be expensive. Taking advantage of these free resources cuts the costs of day passes at fitness clubs and allows travelers to explore new cities organically. These venues provide convenience and indisputable value, and can be found in most cities throughout the U.S. (as well as many other countries). Whether you need a running destination to motivate you to move, flexibility to work with a busy schedule, or a budget-friendly alternative to costly gym fees, outdoor venues offer all of these things and more.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece was contributed by our former editorial intern, Katie Young, who is now a full-time writer based out of Kansas City. She especially enjoys writing about fitness and travel. Katie is an avid runner who spends her free time exploring new places and staying active.