Biking, Jogging & Walking -- By far the most popular jogging and walking track is in Memorial Park. This is a large and beautiful park clothed in pine trees along Buffalo Bayou west of downtown. It's easy to reach; take Memorial Drive, which follows the north bank of Buffalo Bayou, from downtown to the park. It can be very crowded. There is a lovely hike-and-bike trail along the banks of Buffalo Bayou from North Shepherd to downtown. It runs along both banks of the bayou for 1.5 miles, so you can run a 3-mile loop. It offers lovely vistas of the downtown skyline and is decorated with numerous sculptures that can be both fun and interesting (and it takes you right into the Theater District). During the day it's fine, but I wouldn't advise venturing along the bayou at night. To rent a bike in this area, see West End Bicycles at 5427 Blossom (tel. 713/861-2271; www.westendbikes.com). They can set you up and give you information about good rides.
A 10-mile hike-and-bike trail runs along the banks of Brays Bayou from Hermann Park through the Medical Center, where it goes under South Main Street and then heads southwest almost all the way to Beltway 8.
Golf -- The easiest way to make it out onto the links is to contact Golf Guys (tel. 800/470-9634; www.golfguys.net) before you come to town. These people will consult with you about the local courses, help you choose one, and reserve a tee time for no more than it would cost you to do it yourself.
Houston proper has public golf courses at most of the city's biggest parks, but with the exception of the Memorial Park Golf Course, the best public courses are outside the city. Probably the best public course (and one of the most difficult) in the area is the Tournament Players Course at the Woodlands, located 25 miles north of Houston in the Woodlands (tel. 281/364-6440). Greens fees range from $95 to $125; tee times must be made at least 3 days in advance. One of the loveliest and best-regarded courses in the area is the Longwood Golf Club (tel. 281/373-4100; www.longwoodgc.com), 13300 Longwood Trace in Cypress, at the northwest edge of Houston; to get there, take Tex. 290 (45 min. from downtown). Fees are $39 to $79 and include cart; tee times should be reserved 7 days in advance. Another course that a lot of people talk about is Tour 18 Houston (tel. 281/540-1818; www.tour18golf.com), which copies 18 of the greatest holes in golf. The course is at 3102 FM 1960 East in Humble, about 12 miles north of Houston and about 35 minutes from downtown. Greens fees are $40 to $80; reservations can be made 30 days in advance.
In town are some municipal courses that are cheap, but somewhat tricky to get tee times for. The Memorial Park Golf Course (tel. 713/862-4033 or www.memorialparkgolf.com to reserve a tee time) is the most enjoyable. Greens fees are $40 to $55. Hermann Park's golf course (tel. 713/526-0077) is centrally located, with greens fees ranging from $40 to $48. At both the Memorial Park and Hermann Park courses, there is an extra $15 fee for reservations more than 3 days in advance.
Tennis -- Of course, the best strategy to get some tennis in is to stay at a hotel with courts. Memorial Park has some of the best of the public courses; make reservations well in advance by calling tel. 713/867-0440.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.