1. Cape Cod
The 25-mile long Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) might get all the acclaim, but Cape Cod is blessed with a handful of other family-friendly trails. Stretching from South Dennis to Wellfleet, the CCRT was one of the first bike trails to be converted from a former railroad line, and thus, there's very little grade. The ride takes you through the interior of the Cape -- never far from the ponds of Brewster or Eastham -- for a refreshing dip if the kids get too hot.
In Eastham, you can take a slight detour off the CCRT to the Cape Cod National Seashore's Visitors Center. Here, you'll find another bike trail that rolls up and down through the marsh and forest to the glorious dunes of Coast Guard and Nauset Light Beaches. If you'd prefer a ride with ups and downs, then you have to check out the eight-mile long Provincelands Bike Trail at the tip of the Cape. This undulating route dips in and out of sand dunes, twisting through scrub-pine forests and along beaches in one of the most unique bike paths you'll ever venture on. Additional bike trails on the Cape include the Shining Sea Bikeway from Falmouth to Woods Hole, and the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, a bike path under the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges along the canal.
Recommended Hotel: Wequassett Resort and Golf Club
Wequassett Resort and Golf Club
Biking through Manhattan might bring to mind the image of suicidal bike messengers weaving in and out of the taxis and buses. But remember that Manhattan is an island ringed by rivers and a bike trail that almost completely surrounds the city. This is especially true of the West Side, where you can bike the entire length of the island on a trail along the Hudson River.
Cruise under the vast span of the George Washington Bridge, past the USS Intrepid in Midtown, and then reach Battery Park City, where you can see the Statue of Liberty. What an exhilarating feeling to see the skyscrapers and iconic sites of Manhattan on two wheels! This continues as you bike along the Lower East Side on the East River and pedal under the Brooklyn Bridge. Another fun ride is to simply bike the six-mile loop around Central Park.
Recommended Hotel: The Pearl Hotel
The Pearl Hotel
Montreal was the first city to implement a bike-sharing program in North America, bringing 5,000 bikes to Quebec's largest city. Following in the footsteps of its sister city, Paris, biking on the streets of Montreal has become commonplace. Young families, however, should bike along the Lachine Canal.
You'll pass working locks and historic mills that line the waterway, but the sweetest reward for both parents and children is the chance to stop at Marche Atwater, a public market that offers a tantalizing selection of Quebecois breads, cheeses, fruit, and dessert. Sample the soft Pied de Vent cheese from the Magdalen Islands, the juicy blackberries, and, of course, the pain au chocolat, warm and buttery, just out of the oven. This should give the kids enough energy to bike back to town.
Recommended Hotel: Le Square Phillips Hotel and Suites
Le Square Phillips Hotel and Suites
Similar to Manhattan, Chicago is another city where you peer in awe at the skyline that dwarfs you and spew expletives of joy. Rent bikes at Navy Pier and head south on a bike trail along the Lake Michigan shoreline. You'll soon pass the flowing waters of Buckingham Fountain, the Shedd Aquarium, and Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears.
It's the jaw-dropping vista of the skyscrapers on the return trip that will have you reaching for the camera, though -- you look up at a wall of spectacular buildings. If you want to continue past Navy Pier and head north, you'll reach Oak Street Beach, the first of many beaches that are open to the public, a perfect place to lounge and get a much needed rest.
Recommended Hotel: The James Chicago
The James Chicago
No other city in America can boast that its urban trail system is a National Scenic Byway. Minneapolis's Grand Rounds features more than 50 miles of paved trails around a dozen lakes and the mighty Mississippi River. One of the finest sections of the Byway is the 13.3-mile loop around the Chain of Lakes. The five lakes you'll circle each have their own distinct atmosphere. Brownie, Cedar and Lake of the Isles tend to be more peaceful than Calhoun and Harriet, the two bigger lakes to the south.
Another worthwhile part of the Byway is the 2-mile loop downtown along the Mississippi River, where you'll cross the historic Stone Arch Bridge and view the churning water of St. Anthony Falls. Be sure to head across the street to visit the Mill City Museum. Rising like yeast from the ruins of what was once the world's largest flour mill, the museum gives families the opportunity to see how flour fortified this Midwestern city.
Recommended Hotel: Hilton Minneapolis/Bloomington
6. San Antonio
San Antonio recently joined the ranks of other cities like Chicago, Boston, and Montreal, who have introduced a bike-sharing program. Simply pay the $10 daily rental fee at any number of B-share stations in the city and bike from one station to the next. Head north from downtown to the emerging Pearl Brewery neighborhood and grab a yummy salmon sandwich at The Sandbar. Or jump on South Alamo Street, which offers a bike lane, and you'll pass the grand estates of the King William neighborhood. Close by is the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and the Blue Star Brewing Company, where you can sit outside on their patio and have burgers washed down with root beer or King William Ale.
Blue Star is also the start of the city's best bike ride: the 10-mile long Mission Reach. It's not uncommon to find herons, egrets, families of ducks, and turtles lounging in the waters, and colorful wildflowers in full bloom. When the trail ends at Mission Road, you can turn right to visit Mission Concepcion or left to visit Mission San Jose. These early 18th-century Spanish colonial missions are now part of a national historic park. At its height, the missions would hold up to 300 people, working as a church, farm, and ranch. Both churches are still in operation. In fact, if you bike here on Sunday morning, you'll catch the popular Mariachi Mass at Mission San Jose.
Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa
7. San Diego
With its perfect weather and glorious ocean setting, you would expect San Diego to have one of the finest boardwalks in America. The 1-mile Embarcadero, an ideal ride for younger families, lines San Diego harbor offering exquisite views of Navy ships as they cruise under rainbow-shaped Coronado Bridge. You'll pass the small shops at Seaport Village, the tuna boats docked at Tunamen's Harbor, and the massive aircraft carrier, the USS Midway.
Older families will want to continue their bike ride on the island of Coronado. Take the 15-minute ferry across the bay and get ready to do some serious riding on San Diego's longest continuous trail, the 8.5-mile (one-way) Silver Strand. The route takes you through Coronado on Glorietta Boulevard and then south along the shores of San Diego Bay. Glorietta Bay Park and Silver Strand State Beach are two of the better places to rest and gaze at the San Diego skyline.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado
8. San Francisco
One of the finest city rides in America is across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito, though we only recommend it to families with children ages 13 and up -- it's about 8 miles one-way. Rent bikes from Bay City Bike Rentals and Tours at Fisherman's Wharf and head east along the bay to the fountains and impressive architecture found at Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.
You'll cross the marshes of Crissy Field on a bike trail before reaching Fort Point, directly under the massive bridge. A wide bike lane leads you atop Golden Gate for stunning views of San Francisco Bay -- just don't stop until you reach the lookout area midway down the bridge, as the bike lane gets highly congested, often with professional cyclists. After that, coast two miles downhill into the seaside village of Sausilito, where you can grab lunch, stroll through boutique shops, watch street entertainers (look for the guy who blows giant bubbles) and simply relax.
Tip: You'll want to ride the ferry back to San Francisco, and can bring your bikes with you. Grab ferry fare and tokens -- which allow you to get to the front of the ferry line -- as soon as you reach Sausalito. This will ensure shorter wait times -- which can be rather long and brutal at the end of an extremely active day -- on the ride back to San Francisco.
Recommended Hotel: Argonaut Hotel
Known as the BG, Seattle's 14-mile (one-way) Burke-Gilman Trail is the top destination for cyclists in a city that's usually pegged by biking magazines as the best metropolitan area to ride in the nation. Skirting the blue waters of Lake Washington, the BG slices through residential neighborhoods just outside of downtown.
The trail begins in the Fremont section of town. At Gas Works Park, you can spot the Space Needle towering over the Seattle skyline. Heading into the University of Washington at Seattle campus, make a pitstop at Essential Baking Caf? (1604 N. 34th Street) to purchase some sandwiches and fresh baked goodies. The ideal picnic spot is Matthews Beach Park, Seattle's largest swimming beach. On a clear day, you can get a glimpse of Mt. Rainer in the distance.
Recommended Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
A highlight of any trip to Vancouver is the opportunity to bike the 9-km ride around the Seawall of Stanley Park. Stanley Park is home to a number of family-friendly sites, like the world-class aquarium's beluga whales and mesmerizing jellyfish. There's also the selection of totem poles and arguably the best restaurant in town, Teahouse, serving a tasty selection of sandwiches, salads, fish, and desserts for lunch.
But the real joy of biking around Stanley Park is the spectacular ocean views as you pedal under towering Douglas-fir trees along the rocky shoreline. You'll spend the bulk of your time looking at massive ocean liners cruising in and out of the bay and the West Vancouver hills that rise opposite the span of Lions Gate Bridge. Don't avert your glance from the shoreline though. Seals lounge atop the boulders and otters are often found dining on crabs. Indeed, it's almost ironic to visit an aquarium when you have this much sealife just outside its premises in the wild.
Recommended Hotel: Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
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