1. Cape Cod
The 25-mile long Cape Cod Rail Trail might get all the acclaim, but Cape Cod is blessed with a handful of other family fun 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 to get 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. Other bike trails on the Cape include the Shining Sea Bikeway from Falmouth to Woods Hole and then beyond to North Falmouth, 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
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. There are numerous bike rental locales throughout the city.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Elysee
3. San Antonio
San Antonio recently joined the ranks of other cities like Chicago, Boston, and Montreal that 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 Mission Reach.
This 10.2-mile bike trail is expected to be completed by November 2013. Yet, you can already try this gem of a trail alongside San Antonio River. 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: Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center
4. Acadia National Park
When Congress created Acadia National Park in 1919, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., donated 43 miles of bridle paths, narrow hard-packed gravel trails that he used for horseback riding. Today, these same trails, which line the entire eastern half of the island, entice families who bike.
Rent bikes in Bar Harbor, Mt. Desert Island's main town, and head to the shores of Eagle Lake. Circle this large body of water as you ride under towering firs and century-old stone bridges, with Cadillac Mountain standing tall in the backdrop. If you want to bike at an off-the-beaten-path destination, try the Amphitheater Loop which offers glimpses of the ever-present Atlantic. The four-plus mile loop is an exhilarating up and down run through the dense woods, pedaling over the Amphitheater Bridge, the longest of Rockefeller's original crossings.
Recommended Hotel: Seacroft Inn
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 my favorite 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 are 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. Yet, don't avert your glance from the shoreline. 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: The Westin Bayshore Vancouver
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 their sister city, Paris, biking on the streets of Montreal has become commonplace. Young families, however, should bike along the Lachaine 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
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.
Yet, it's the jaw-dropping vista of the skyscrapers on the return trip that will have you reaching for the camera; 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
East coast snobs like to think of Frederick Law Olmsted as their own adopted son, having designed New York's Central Park and Boston's Emerald Necklace. However, the acclaimed landscape designer had arguably the greatest influence on the city of Louisville, where he had a hand in creating 18 parks and 6 parkways. What an incredible wealth of parkland, more green space than Baltimore, Boston, and Pittsburgh combined.
You can bike along rivers on rolling hills where car traffic is at a minimum. Next up for Louisville is the creation of the Parklands, the addition of 4,000 acres of park in the southern and eastern part of the city along Floyd Fort Creek. 100 miles of new trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding will open in phases, beginning in 2013, with the entire system scheduled to be complete by 2015. The Parklands will be part of the Louisville Loop, a 100-mile shared-use path that will encircle the entire city. So far, 25 miles of the loop has been completed, so what are you waiting for?
Recommended Hotel: Embassy Suites Hotel Louisville
9. San Francisco
One of the finest city rides in America is across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito. 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. Coast two miles downhill into the seaside village of Sausilito, where you can grab lunch and go boutique shopping. Then simply ferry across the bay back to the starting point to conclude the eight-mile ride. Or bike back to double the effort.
Recommended Hotel: Argonaut Hotel
With a mind-boggling 360 miles of trail, Calgary lays claim to the most extensive biking network on the continent. One of the finest rides is along the Bow River, from Prince's Island Park to Edworthy Park. Rent bikes at the Eau Claire Market and you'll soon pass men in waders fishing for trout on the fly, gaze at rafters going down the swift-moving river, and view hummingbirds flying in and out of the thick fir forest lining the bike trail.
At Edworthy Park, cross the river that's colored a glacial green before making a pit stop at Angel's Cafe for a scoop of ice cream. The sugar high will have you back at the Eau Claire Market in no time, completing this one- to two-hour loop. Bikers who want to get away from it all can also visit Fish Creek Provincial Park in the southern part of Calgary, the only national park found in a metro area in Canada.
Recommended Hotel: Sheraton Cavalier Calgary Hotel
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