Wondering if you should make room for running shoes in your carry-on? It may depend on where you’re headed—some cities are hotbeds for running enthusiasts with picturesque paths, competitive races and close-to-perfect climates. Of course, the perennial favorites (New York, Chicago) made the cut, but we’ve stumbled upon a few other metropolises that make a morning jog that much more enjoyable for visitors and locals alike. We have to admit, exploring a new city is one thing, but running through it is an entirely new way to see what the destination has to offer. Through all of our travels, we’ve come up with a list of five locales that will have you lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement.
Once the weather warms up a bit, the Windy City is a haven for runners. The 18-mile path along Lake Michigan serves up flat terrain, plenty of water stops and stunning views of the famous skyline. If you’re one for a little competition, Chicago has that, too: different races are held on back-to-back days on weekends during prime running season (spring through fall), and training clubs, local running stores (including Fleet Feet Sports) and the Chicago Area Runners Association all hit the lakefront path for runs of various lengths. And we can’t forget about the famous Bank of America Chicago Marathon each fall (this year, the sold-out event starts at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 12), which guides runners — many of which are first-timers — through 29 of the city’s unique neighborhoods.
Stay here: The Peninsula Chicago is just a few blocks from the lakefront path, so you don’t have to battle the stop-and-go traffic for long. The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel even offers water and towels in the lobby to cool off with after working up a sweat. You can book a relaxing massage in the Four-Star spa and then refuel with a delicious meal at Four-Star Shanghai Terrace.
Summers may be hot, but that doesn’t stop joggers from getting a waterfront workout in. At any given time, on just about every day of the week, the 10-mile Town Lake trail (officially named the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail) is packed with runners pacing along the gravel path. With water jugs strategically placed throughout the loop, you can stay hydrated—even in the infamous Texas heat. In the winter, the capital city fills with marathoners and half-marathoners for its annual Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, which just so happens to be one of the toughest races we’ve experienced. They don’t call it Hill Country for nothing; throughout the route, there are several seemingly endless inclines that will challenge you to the very end. Race time and date: 7 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2015
Stay here: Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Austin sits right on Town Lake, offering easy access to the running trail. And as great as the location is for the active travelers, it’s just as fantastic for sightseeing, too: You’re within a few blocks of all that Austin has to offer, including the famous Mexican free-tailed bat colony under Congress Avenue Bridge. Be sure to hit the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star spa for a soothing treatment before or after your run.
This is one of those places that we were talking about when we said you see the city in a whole new way when you run through it. Of course, you can run around the National Mall for a patriotic jog (and perhaps take a break to brush up on your American history); but we suggest experiencing some of the varied terrain. There are numerous parks around Washington, D.C. and just over the Maryland and Virginia borders. Rock Creek Park is hilly and wooded, if you prefer a bit of trail running, while the popular Capital Crescent Trail is an 11-mile, tree-lined path that connects Georgetown to Silver Spring, Md. One of the most popular marathons also calls D.C. home: October’s Marine Corps Marathon consistently sells out, and with such an awesome course—starting near the Pentagon and finishing at the Marine Corps War Memorial—it’s no surprise that around 30,000 runners compete each year. Race time and date: 7:55 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2014
Stay here: Located between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River, Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, D.C. is in a prime spot for runners. You’re a quick jaunt away from the Capital Crescent Trail and just a quarter-mile from Rock Creek Park. To reward yourself for your cardio efforts, hit the shops in Georgetown.
New York City
Claiming one of the world’s largest marathons as its own, it’s far from shocking that New York City is on our list. But even if you don’t want to commit to the grueling 26.2 miles (though it is a rather spectacular way to see parts of the city you otherwise may not visit), there are plenty of areas where you can run without battling the crowded sidewalks. The obvious choice may be Central Park, which is a huge draw with its scenic six-mile loop. Another great option is the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 32-mile biking and running path that’s divided into three main parts: Hudson River Greenway, East River Greenway and Harlem River Greenway. Each has its own appeal (lots of water stops, plenty of breeze, scenic) and unique vantage points. Race time and date: 9:10 a.m. on Nov. 2, 2014
Stay here: Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, New York may be one of the most modern hotels in the Big Apple, but it’s also one of the most relaxing. Unwind with a treatment at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star spa after a run through Central Park, which just so happens to be at your doorstep.
You may be thinking we’re crazy — San Francisco is known for its steep inclines, after all — but it really is a welcoming city for runners, a breed that’s often up for a challenge anyway. Nothing feels better than working up a serious sweat during a tough run, and this is something on which the California city will not disappoint. But for those looking for a casual (read: not as hilly) jog, there are several options. Scenic routes include striding across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and through Sausalito (bring your iPhone to snap a photo during a water break), running along Baker Beach or through Golden Gate Park. Aside from the near-perfect year-round running weather, there are some fantastic races in San Francisco; Bay to Breakers is always a blast and the Nike Women’s Half Marathon (it’s open to guys, too) is a popular one. Race time and date for Bay to Breakers: 8 a.m. on May 17, 2015; Race time and date for Nike Women’s Half Marathon: 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2014
Stay here: You may have to walk from The St. Regis San Francisco if you want to hit any of the flat routes, but consider it a warm-up. The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel sits in the shopping, financial and museum districts, so you have plenty at your fingertips beyond running. And if you play your cards right, the house car (a Bentley) may just pick you up after your workout.