Tips for Running in a New City

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this weekend was my first time to California.  I managed to squeeze in two long(ish) runs while in San Francisco and Napa Valley – two locations I had never been to before.  Running in a new city is a fun, exciting way to see so many sites that you may not otherwise be able to see. Several people emailed or commented and asked me for some tips on how I find routes in new towns/cities so I figured I’d share them on here.

Just because you are in a new location for a few days does not mean that you are stuck to running on the treadmill.  If you take some precautions and do a bit of planning, you can set yourself up to have a wonderful run.

– Reach out to active friends/acquaintances who live in the area.  Nobody will have better information for you than someone who lives where you are going – and better yet, someone who is active and knows the roads.  I had looked at a map of the town I was staying in while in Napa and found what I thought was a good road to run on – however, one of my IG friends cautioned me about the road (tractor trailer trucks and a 55 mph speed limit) and so I found a different road to complete my 10 miles.

– Do a recon.  I almost always do this as I’m coming into a new town (especially if I intend to run on that road).  When we drove to the welcome party on Friday night in Napa, I was subconsciously looking at the roads and shoulders on the ~1 mile drive.  Based on what I saw, I decided to use that road as my primary route for Saturday morning. I try to pay special attention to things like (especially as close to the time of day I hope to run):

  • Sidewalks and/or shoulders:  are they there? Are they crowded with pedestrians? 
  • Posted Speed Limits
  • Neighborhood: Busy, built up, desolate?
  • Traffic on streets


– Have a general plan for your route. I don’t have an exact route when I run but more of a general idea of where I want to go and how I think I could get there.  I base this off of either word of mouth or google maps. Things I look for in a good running route:

  • Enough traffic where it’s not totally desolate
  • Either sidewalks or shoulders to run (I prefer running in the street, against traffic, as opposed to sidewalks because I feel like cars can’t see you all the time if you are on the sidewalk).
  • Other runners/walkers/bikers
  • Good lighting (if I am going to be running when it’s dark – which I don’t recommend doing in a new location)
  • Minimal traffic lights

– Be flexible.  Roads often look much different on a map on your phone than they do in person.  There may be construction or a road closure.  The shoulder may disappear for a stretch.  Be willing to change your plan.  Don’t let that disrupt your entire run.

– Familiarize yourself with the streets surrounding your hotel.  This is helpful for me on my return trip.

– Minimize the turns. I try to make as few turns as possible to avoid getting lost or disoriented.  Like I said earlier, my goal is always to find one main road to run on.  Then I try to find the easiest way to get to that main road.

– Stick to out and back or one big loop.  This also helps me avoid getting lost.


Route in SF was down Washington Street to the Embarcardo, then along the Embarcardo until I reached Fort Mason Green, then to Marina Blvd and the GG Promenade. Only a few minor turns!

– Run with your phone. This is non-negotiable for me when I am alone and in a new place.  Safety always comes first.  You never know what could happen.  I also keep a google maps tab open with the hotel already programmed in – just in case I get lost and need some directions back.

Carry money and credit card with you. I feel safer when I have this in case of the rare instance where I may need water or something to eat OR if I twist my ankle or pull something and can’t run home.  Always better to be prepared.

– Share your route. I always tell my husband my general route in case of an emergency (on Friday, I told him I was running to the bay and then heading north to the GG Bridge).  If you are traveling with other people, let them know how far you are planning to run and when they should expect you back.

– Trust your instincts. If you are headed into an area and your gut is telling you it’s too dangerous or maybe too deserted, don’t second guess yourself.  There’s no reason you should run scared when you are in a new area, so just turn around and head back to your hotel.  My plan on Saturday was to run out and back 10 miles (so 5 miles one way).  Just as I was about to hit 4 miles, I made the decision to turn around.  There was a pretty steep curved decline that I was approaching and the shoulder went from being about 5 feet wide to less than 18 inches.  Cars were flying around the curve and were a bit too close to the shoulder for my liking, so I stopped and did the extra two miles by doing an out and back loop closer to the hotel (on one of the side streets).

Any other tips you use when you are in a new city?

What is your favorite city/town to run in (not including your home)?

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    24 thoughts on “Tips for Running in a New City

    1. Such good tips. I need these as I usually just go out without a plan and then find myself somewhere random. Oops. Next time you’re here we WILL run together. Or, wait, maybe I should just come to you. Seriously. Can I invite myself like that?
      STUFT Mama recently posted..A Random Mess of Quick ConfessionsMy Profile

    2. Great tips! I have another for you. I use RunKeeper on my phone when I go out for runs. My family actually has my user name and password, so if anything happens they can pull it up and see where I started my run and so on! Haven’t had to use it yet though, thank golly!

    3. Such great tips! I usually scope out the area and city on Google maps before I leave and definitely pay attention when I first arrive as to how the roads look. If I don’t personally know someone in the area, I usually search for running groups or clubs. Sometimes they have routes posted or I’ll look at Runner’s World at their travel section. I love running in a new city and exploring it on foot. One summer, my husband and I ran through different cities in Europe. It was the best because we were up early in the morning and it wasn’t crowded or anything. Loved it.
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Turning CartwheelsMy Profile

    4. Good tips and very timely! I love getting to run in a new city but I am not the best about being adventurous. Fortunately on our upcoming trip my sister will be there too and she is training for Chicago so I will have a running buddy. She even found a local 5K to run in!

      I guess one tip might be- look up any local race and register for it. You don’t necessarily have to be all out racing but it will be a safer setting with traffic mostly controlled and other runners. When I went out to CA last summer I found a 10K. With my warm-up and cool-down I was able to get in over 10 miles. It wasn’t by any means my fastest 10K but it was a great workout and fun to race in a new place.
      Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom recently posted..go! Mile Race Report- "One Lap, One Mile, One Fast Little Race!"My Profile

    5. Great tips, although I will admit to never carrying my phone and not really sharing my route with anyone (I am bad at the safety factor). I also scope out race schedules in an area where I’m visiting b/c I love running races in new areas as well. Oh, and calling ahead to local running stores to see if there are any group runs is always fun, too–meet new people, run new routes, etc.

      Glad you got away to such an awesome spot. I remember running in Napa and loving it!
      misszippy1 recently posted..MAF test #2–wow!My Profile

    6. Great tips! I love to run when I travel for work or on vacation. When I’m on a business trip, I try to go early in the morning; otherwise, there’s a good chance I won’t have time later. When I’m in a foreign country, I often take my passport with me, especially if I’m running in an area I’m not familiar with. Some of my most memorable runs have been while traveling. It’s also a good idea to always let someone know when & where you’re running.
      Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..Survival Tips for Flying with ChildrenMy Profile

    7. I also find that talking to the front desk of the hotel where I am staying is useful. For example, a few weeks ago I was in Chicago and wanted to run on the lakefront path. There were many ways to get there, but it turns out that the most direct route had a tunnel, not something I was interested in running through by myself relatively early in the morning. By talking to the front desk, they recommended other ways to go.

    8. Thanks for the tips! I do some of these things already but will def remember this post for my August beach vacation :)
      Karen recently posted..WTF?! WednesdayMy Profile