Eco-inspired families are trading in their rental cars for the chance to tour their vacation destinations from the seat of a bike. This energy savvy transportation mode not only saves dollars but adds a healthy fitness component to any holiday outing.
Here are 15 places where you can cruise with confidence:
Portland, Ore –
This super-bike friendly city is widely recognized as being a two- wheel trend setter. Get to know the City of Roses by taking advantage of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco’s Carless Vacation package. You’ll arrive from the airport via free light rail passes and then embark on an historic city tour led by Pedal Bicycle Tours. The Green Seal certified hotel offers complimentary bikes. Contact: 1-503- 222-0001; www.monaco-portland.com.
San Diego, CA –
Cruise along the flat and car-free pathways of Mission Beach or take in the scenic views on Coronado Island, along San Diego Bay or in the Gaslamp District. Whether you have young children or older kids looking for a mountain bike adventure, this seaside SoCal destination is a biker’s paradise. Contact: 1-866-425-2925; www.hikebikekayak.com.
Lake Placid, NY-
Enjoy wooded trails and scenic byways between villages in the Adirondack region of northern New York State. With a treasure trove of outdoor recreational opportunities and stunning mountain vistas, you and your family will enjoy the views from the seat of your bikes. Choose a rugged mountain bike, a road bike or tandems and be sure to bring plenty of water. Contact: www.PlacidPlanetBicycles.com; 518-523-4128
Chicago, IL –
Get off the tourist beat and on to the quiet neighborhood streets, city parks and beautiful beaches that keep Windy City residents happy and eager to become the nation’s most bike friendly city by 2015. Or hop on a cruiser for tours that include a glimpse of Oprah’s house, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Old Town Historic District and the Lakefront. There are wheel-based options for family members of all ages and fitness levels. Contact: 1-312- 915-0995; www.bobbysbikehike.com
Tallahassee, FL -
Follow the abandoned rail bed of the historic Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad to the town of St. Marks and the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers. The Florida State Park Service maintains the 19-mile paved trail, deemed accessible for family members of all ages and abilities. Contact: 1-850-224-7461; www.greatbicycle.com.
Summer Remix. Keystone, CO.
This Rocky Mountain resort offers guests year round fun. During the spring and early summer, get ready for mountain biking, along with snow tubing, a terrain park for snowboarders and skiers, and an open rail jam event. Families can also look forward to snow cones, face painting and family-style dining in River Run. Or, head to higher ground and enjoy a meal at 11,640 feet where the Summit House offers a full menu. From Memorial Day through the summer, weather permitting. Contact: 877-204-7889; www.keystoneresort.com.
River Dance Lodge. Coeur d'Alene, ID
With the cozy River Dance Lodge as your base camp, hop on disc-brake Marin bikes and explore miles of national forest where you’ll find pathways suitable for every age group and skill level. Experienced riders may choose to take on the Coolwater Ridge Trail. Get ready for a thrill ride during which you’ll descend 1500 feet in just seven miles. Later float the nearby river or spend the afternoon hiking the hillsides. Ask about summer specials. Contact: 208-765-0841 ;www.riverdancelodge.com/Summer-Idaho-Vacations
Finger Lakes. Central New York.
Spin aside the crystal clear water, that, along with the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario, provide for outdoor adventure and breathtaking views. Named for the eleven pristine lakes that spread like fingers across central New York, the Finger Lakes provide 9,000 square miles of outdoor adventure where bike paths are plentiful. Don’t miss Letchworth State Park, known as the “the Grand Canyon of the east.” There the Taughannock Falls features a breathtaking 215 foot drop, making it larger than Niagara Falls. Biking maps and suggested itineraries are available. Contact: www.fingerlakes.org/things-to-do/outdoor-fun/hike-and-bike.
The Homestead Resort. Hot Springs, Virginia.
Active families looking for a getaway will enjoy the Unlimited Activities package at this iconic resort. In addition to mountain biking, expend energy kayaking, canoeing, gorge hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing and skeet shooting in the beautiful countryside.
NorthstarResort. Near the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.
Choose from among more than 100 miles of trails for downhill and cross-country mountain bikers providing great views of the surrounding mountain vistas. Cycling fans might want to plan their getaway to enjoy the annual Tour de Nez. Modeled after legendary European Kermesse races, which incorporate professional cycling into 100-year-old festivals, the spectator-friendly Tour de Nez has grown to be an important stop on the professional cycling circuit and a fan favorite. Check the web site for dates. Contact: www.NorthstarAtTahoe.com.
Brac Reef Resort. Cayman Brac.
Take a break from your dive holiday at this all-inclusive resort and explore the island on two wheels. You’ll see herons and other exotic sea birds, have the chance to explore caves or stop to check out the amazing sunsets, or other sandy beach spots. Bike rentals are complimentary. Contact: www.BracReef.com.
Block Island, Rhode Island.
Relish ocean views that rival Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket but enjoy the laid back vibe of this scenic wonder that somehow stays under the radar as a tourism destination. Mostly flat, smooth, paved roads make it possible for two-wheeling tourists to enjoy this wonderland the Nature Conservancy deems one of the “Last Great Places” in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll also enjoy fresh seafood, walking on crescent beaches and learning about the local history. Contact: (877) 545-1864; www.GreatFreedomAdventures.com
Join the growing number of active families choosing international, self-guided bike trips. Itineraries include cruising the coast of Turkey or checking out the castles of the Loire Valley. A good choice for clans interested in a less scripted and lower-priced adventure, travelers can still expect luggage transfers, lodging and some meals to be included in the trip price. The Colorado-based, family-owned company offers global cycling tours in more than 20 countries on five continents. Ask about discounts and specific trip recommendations for children. Contact: 1-800-685-4565; www.ExperiencePlus.com.
Go with a guide or chart your own course as you explore the rail-trails of eastern Washington, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and on to the Montana border. Level, paved and pristine pathways make for stress-free but scenic family cycling. Up the adventure quotient by mixing in a day kayaking, rafting or fishing on local rivers. Stop by a hot spring or consider a side hike. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.silverbiketours.com; www.VisitIdaho.org.
Tuscan Family Biking.
Meet a four-legged truffle detective. Savor gelato in San Gimignano. Look forward to olive oil, fine wine and feasting on homemade pizza as you pedal through Tuscany with your family. Cruise past vineyards, cypress trees and iconic landmarks that make working your way up to the scenic hill towns worth every rotation. Savor a gourmet picnic on a working farm. Visit charming villages, take watercolor lessons and steep yourselves in Italian art history. This is how memories are made. Contact: 800-462-2848; www.Backroads.com
Resource: Reserve quality, family-friendly bikes and accessories in more than dozens of North American cities through www.Rentabikenow.com.
This page is brought to you by Pride of Maui offering fun-filled, action-packed snorkeling/sailing trips to Maui's Molokini.
Snorkeling is a great way to explore the beauty of our underwater world.
Here are six places the family can learn about coral reefs, colorful fish and more:
Every day should be Earth Day celebration. Here are some special ways we can honor our beautiful planet. Take part!
Enjoy a Farm Stay.
Get close to the land by planning a farm stay. You’ll wake to a rooster call or the sounds of other barnyard animals welcoming in the day. Share in the chores or simply observe a lifestyle that is likely quite different from your own. Enjoy farm fresh eggs for breakfast before pitching in to help with the day’s chores. Depending on the farm you choose, you can relax on a hammock, go for a horseback ride, pick berries, fish the local stream or read a book under a shade tree. Animals and activities vary by farm. Contact: www.vtfarms.org; www.pafarmstay.com.
Kids to Parks.
Join your children in a grassroots movement to celebrate our country’s local, state and national parks The following day, grown-ups are encouraged to take their children and grandchildren to one of thousands of treasured parks across the country. Kids can tweet about their participation or send photos that will be posted on a national map. Check the site for park activities and other family-friendly suggestions. Contact: www.BuddyBison.org.; www.ParkTrust.org.
Be an Eco-traveler.
Costa Rica was an early leader in the ecotourism movement. Visit Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the country’s Osa Peninsula, for an intense wildlife and biologically diverse experience. Choose to embark on this Tropical Adventure and you’ll find your family on the “Twigs, Pigs and Garbage Sustainability Tour”, joining wild cat researchers in their efforts to conserve jaguar and pumas and exploring nearby tide pools. Contact: 800-345-4453; www.Wildland.com; www.laparios.com.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center. Monona, Wisconsin.
Visit the nature center inspired by Wisconsin naturalist and author Aldo Leopold for outdoor activities designed with the busy family in mind. Explore walking trails supported by season specific backpacks, offering exploration guides and an activity kit. Visit the Leopold Interpretive Trail and the special “touch table” that encourages young children to get a feel for nature items like feathers, bones, fur and rocks. Ask about spring break and summer camp programs just for kids. Contact: (608) 221-0404; www.naturenet.com/alnc/dropinprogs.htm
Every day should be an Earth Daycelebration.
Here are some special ways we can honor our beautiful planet. Take part!
Enjoy a Farm Stay.
Get close to the land by planning a farm stay. You’ll wake to a rooster call or the sounds of other barnyard animals welcoming in the day. Share in the chores or simply observe a lifestyle that is likely quite different from your own. Enjoy farm fresh eggs for breakfast before pitching in to help with the day’s chores. Depending on the farm you choose, you can relax on a hammock, go for a horseback ride, pick berries, fish the local stream or read a book under a shade tree. Animals and activities vary by farm.
National Kids to Parks Program.
Join your children in a grassroots movement to celebrate our country’s local, state and national parks. Grown-ups are encouraged to take their children and grandchildren to one of thousands of treasured parks across the country. Kids can tweet about their participation or send photos that will be posted on a national map. Check the site for park activities and other family-friendly suggestions.
Be an Eco-traveler.
Costa Rica was an early leader in the ecotourism movement. Visit Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the country’s Osa Peninsula, for an intense wildlife and biologically diverse experience. Choose to embark on this Tropical Adventure and you’ll find your family on the “Twigs, Pigs and Garbage Sustainability Tour”, joining wild cat researchers in their efforts to conserve jaguar and pumas and exploring nearby tide pools. Contact: www.Wildland.com; www.laparios.com.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center. Monona, Wisconsin.
Visit the nature center inspired by Wisconsin naturalist and author Aldo Leopold for outdoor activities designed with the busy family in mind. Explore walking trails supported by season specific backpacks, offering exploration guides and an activity kit. Visit the Leopold Interpretive Trail and the special “touch table” that encourages young children to get a feel for nature items like feathers, bones, fur and rocks. Ask about spring break and summer camp programs just for kids.
Contact: (608) 221-0404; www.naturenet.com/alnc/dropinprogs.htm
Equal parts adrenaline rush and eco-tour, adding a zip line experience into your vacation itinerary can satisfy the adventure quotient for every member of the family.
The take-off is amazing. But, it’s the sound that stays with you, I’d been told. Still, I couldn’t imagine the impending glory of the moment.
I was too cold.
This was my first visit to Willcox, Ariz., for the town’s annual celebration of the sandhill cranes’ migration to their southern Arizona winter home.
Wings Over Willcox Sand Hill Crane Convention
The sandhills’ stop in the Southwest is perhaps their most famous performance. Scouting for a suitable mate, the birds spend nearly a month entertaining avid birders and the casually curious. The crane population peaks around St Patrick’s Day, before they depart en masse for the Arctic, where a demanding breeding season ensues.
I had heard about Wings Over Willcox and had been eager to introduce the birding extravaganza to my sons.
My own interest in the cranes began when I first read A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University, 1970) in my 20s. Aldo Leopold, the late Wisconsin naturalist, wrote of his fondness for the sandhills in his 1949 classic.
Each year this farming community in Cochise County, roughly 80 miles east of Tucson, welcomes winter visitors of multiple species. Plenty of heat-seeking humans show up from places like Vancouver and Kansas. And as many as 30,000 sandhill cranes find their way to a 60-sq.-mile roosting site near Willcox. The Arizona Game and Fish Department owns the land where the birds roost and makes sure it is flooded each year to create the six-inch deep pool the cranes find so appealing.
In an era when social media and sporting events are mainstays for the modern teen, it is not easy to arouse enthusiasm for a weekend spent in a small Arizona town, where the adventure’s highlight is a predawn excursion to see a mass of long-necked, pointy-billed, spindly-legged birds take flight.
I am fortunate to have raised nature lovers. When journalist and youth advocate Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2005), sparked a national discussion about the lack of time children spend in the natural world, I have felt grateful my sons have grown up exposed to desert wild flowers, the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and now, the dance of the sandhill cranes.
There is much to be learned from these ancient birds that live long lives, up to 25 years, despite an arduous lifestyle; some are known to commute as far as Siberia. The cranes also are monogamous, have several offspring and even dance for their mates. They will mightily defend their loved ones and their territory. Their young even go through voice changes, just as humans do, says Michael Forsberg, a nature photographer and expert on crane migration and social behaviors.
National Geographic considers this avian traveling show one of the continents two greatest wildlife events, sharing honors with the great caribou migration. The residents of Willcox must be proud.
So it was that we found ourselves in the cold, dark Arizona morning, swaddled in warm layers to ward off the chill, waiting for lift off.
Then we heard it. As the rising sun spewed light on the shallows, a jarring whoosh filled the air and washed over us like a wave over sand. In that moment, thousands of birds, with five- to six-foot wingspans, and weighing as much as 14 pounds, took flight. They were embarking on a day that would include lollygagging in nearby cornfields and flying in V formation to the delight of mesmerized onlookers. Later they would return, to roost once again, in this Sulphur Springs Valley sanctuary.
Thankfully, the rising sun, and the somehow haunting ritual, warmed us as well.
As we settled into a welcome breakfast of eggs over easy and piles of pancakes, we spoke of the birds’ flight.
And of the sound.
The amazing sound of the sandhill cranes, in unison, breaking the sacred silence of morning.
If You Go
Every winter, tens of thousands of sandhill cranes come to roost around the town of Willcox, 83 miles east of Tucson off I-10. For several years now, the town has decided to celebrate this event by staging a major festival during the third weekend of January, with birding tours and field trips to Willcox Playa, Cochise lake and the Apache Station Wildlife Area (the main habitats of the famous cranes). Other excursions take visitors to see raptors, sparrows and waterfowl wintering in the mild Southern Arizona climate. Inquire about tour dates and prices. Seminars and presentations on local wildlife are free. Due to limited seating, registration is required for all tours.
For more information, visit www.wingsoverwillcox.com;