My commitment to a healthy lifestyle starts by going to the gym every morning, but when I feel like I’m in a rut or need to shake up my routine, I head outdoors for a healthy dose of urban exercise. With 86 parks and 916 acres of park space, McAllen is a mecca for free fitness. So take a break from the overcrowded weight room and turn the city into your gym at these outdoor alternatives to fitness.
Bill Schupp Park – 1300 Zinnia St.
If you’ve fallen off your fitness routine, a good place to get back on the wagon is Bill Schupp Park. The 19-acre park is the city’s most popular social recreation spot, featuring 3 sand volleyball courts and a well-appointed running trail with more than a dozen recently upgraded exercise stations. It’s the perfect way to add strength training along with conditioning without the added cost of a gym membership, so you can pocket the extra dough for a post-workout beer or two.
Did you know? Bill Schupp Park is named after longtime McAllen City Manager William L. Schupp who held the position from 1946-1974.
McAllen Nature Center – 4101 W. Business Hwy 83
City-dwellers can connect with nature and get some much-needed fresh air at this hidden gem. The McAllen Nature Center has undergone a dramatic transformation, and its free fitness programs have given the park new life. Channel your inner yogi at its most popular offering, Yoga Under the Oaks, which draws 1,700 participants annually. It takes place Saturdays from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, and it’s BYOM so make sure you bring your own mat and water. Find your balance at Tai Chi in the Park or try your hand at Pilates, both programs are offered free of charge. The 20-acre nature center also boasts a 3/4-mile trail loop where you can get a healthy dose of heart pumping hiking at Friday Night Hikes, or Power Walk with a Naturalist where nature-lovers can break a sweat while learning about native plants and animals that call the nature center home. All programs are free, but donations are welcomed. Connect with the McAllen Nature Center on Facebook to see a full list of wallet-friendly fitness offerings.
Hike & Bike Trails
McAllen’s Hike & Bike Trails offer 15 miles of paved pathways where cardio-lovers can bike, jog or walk through beautifully maintained and preserved landscapes. Whether you’re a lone wolf or you run with the pack, this non-gym conditioning is excellent for all levels of fitness. The Bicentennial Hike & Bike Trail is a 6.1-mile tree-lined trail that starts downtown and heads north, while the 2nd Street Hike & Bike trail weaves its 8.3-mile trail through more residential areas of the city. From pre-dawn to late night, the trails offer joggers a free alternative to breaking a sweat.
Pro tip: The distance between each major intersection along the hike and bike trails is ½ mile, making it easy to measure distance.
Town Lake at Firemen’s Park – 201 N. 1st Street
Put your people watching skills to the test at Firemen’s Park. This hidden away health-minded hangout features a 4-acre man made lake where water lovers can rent kayaks and pedal boats or challenge friends to a game of sand volleyball. New to the park, yoga classes are offered on Saturday mornings, as well as runner’s yoga on Wednesday evenings. Both classes are $5. My favorite feature of Firemen’s Park is the paved running loop surrounding Town Lake, which measures exactly a half-mile around. Its uneven path is perfect for interval workouts, answering all your treadmill woes.
McAllen is one of six cities in Texas with the B-Cycle bike share program, joining the ranks of major metropolitan cities like San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Houston and Fort Worth. There are 8 stations and 80 bicycles throughout the city, and riders use them for daily transportation as well as recreation. In less than one year (the program started 10/20/15), users have taken 8,744 trips and burned 2,351,466 calories, which theoretically equals to 672 pounds shed. Its most popular station is at the McAllen Convention Center. Recreational riders tour the convention center district, and the loop around Oval Park is an excellent backdrop for an active date night. The second most active station is at Firemen’s Park, which gives riders easy access to cruise around Town Lake or journey down the 2nd Street Hike & Bike Trails. The safe, car-free walkways make it ideal for family outings. Visit the McAllen B-Cycle website for all the deets.
Fun Fact: McAllen B-Cycle riders have tallied 58,998 miles, which equals two trips around the world. Bon voyage!
Daffodil Disc Golf Park – 4200 Daffodil St.
McAllen is known for repurposing old buildings and parks, and Daffodil Park is a prime example of this. Locals rarely used the often-overlooked green space before the Parks Department converted the underutilized park into a 9-hole, recreational disc golf course. After rapidly gaining fan fare, extra parking was added and landscaping features were enhanced. The par-3 course is fitting for both seasoned disc throwers refining their technique or first-timers trying to upgrade their hipster cred. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and tournaments are often held on weekends. Once you’ve mastered your Frisbee-heaving skills, try your hand at McAllen’s 18-hole championship-level Green Jay Disc Golf Course, located across the street from the Palm View Golf Course. Its challenging fairways feature water hazards and obstacles along with plenty of distance, so bring water and plan to get in that non-gym conditioning you’re looking for.
Did you know? The Green Jay is McAllen’s official city bird.
Morris Park – 1701 Auburn Ave.
Morris Park is the city’s first outdoor recreational space specifically designed for special needs children. The ADA-minded workout zone features nine fitness stations designed to use a person’s body weight as resistance. Three stations are specifically crafted for users in wheelchairs who are looking to burn off some extra calories outdoors.
Bonus: The Sensory Playground at Morris Park has interactive music instruments, fine tuned to keep your kids active.
The next time you need to work off a weekend of overindulgence or you want to find a way off the fitness plateau, take your gym routine outside and burn those unwanted calories at one of the many fitness-friendly, verdant park spaces the city has to offer.