We don’t know about you, but when we travel to a new city we want to get a fully immersive experience. We don’t want to sit on a tour bus and watch the city pass by – we want to be a part of it!
However, being a part of the city with kids… well it can be tricky. No doubt you have a lot of different places you want to go – different sites you want to see, restaurants you want to eat at, and pictures you want to take. And while you could drive your car around all day, well it’s just not the same as walking amongst the locals. But kids are notoriously terrible at walking around all day. So what’s a parent to do? We’ve got two words for you: BIKE TOURS.
Bike tours are guided (or sometimes self-guided) tours of cities that let you be a part of the city, learn the history, and bring the kids along without tiring their little tootsies. Most bike tour companies offer kids’ sized bikes, tag-a-long bikes, bike trailers, and child bike seats so every member of the family can come along. And rather than simply passing by beautiful sites in a car, or hopping off a bus to take a picture in front of a historical monument, a bike tour allows you to become a part of the city.
While there are seemingly limitless options for your bike tour needs, we’ve narrowed them down to a list of the top 10 family-friendly tours in the U.S. and Canada.
New York, New York is a wonderful town… but it’s not exactly the first place you’d think, “Hey, what a great place to tour by bike with my kids!” Think again! Central Park is car-traffic-free, and a quintessential NYC landmark to explore by bike. Columbus Circle, the Bethesda Fountain, The Great Lawn, and Belvedere Castle are just a few of the famous spots you’ll pass (and can stop for photos)!
If you’re open to a little traffic, you can try out the Brooklyn Bridge Tour for stunning views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. You get to ride over the bridge and along the waterfront in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Don’t worry – your littlest ones won’t be navigating the traffic alone – they’ll be connected to the parents by child bike seat, tag-along-bike, or trailer.
LENGTH/DURATION: 2 hours
BIKES AVAILABLE: Bikes, bike trailers, child bikes seats, tag-a-long bikes, bike rentals without tour
Chicago should be on your U.S. City Bucket List, and the summertime is the perfect time to visit. It’s one of those underrated cities that will make you think… “Why have I never been here before??”
From its extensive lakefront trail, free summer movies and concerts in Millenium Park, and sandy beaches on the shore of Lake Michigan, to Miracle Mile shopping, Chicago deep dish (Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s… you decide) and Chicago dogs at Wrigley Field, Chicagoland is a summer paradise. It’s that big city energy with plenty of ways to get “outdoors”.
So after you enjoy a morning at the beach, hop on those bikes and explore more of the city! Bobby’s Bike Hike has a tour everyday at 2:30 that’s completely catered to kids. The 4.5 mile Bobby’s Tike Hike will take your family along the shore and into the fabulous neighborhood of Lincoln Park. You’ll even get to check out the (free!) Lincoln Park Zoo.
If you prefer something that will better appeal to older kids as well, Bobby’s “Greatest Hits” tour is 6 miles and takes you more extensively down the Lakefront – Navy Pier, Millennial Park, Buckingham Fountain, and several of Chicago’s famous museums.
LENGTH/DURATION: 4.5 miles, 2 hours; 6 miles, 2.5 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, bike trailers, child bikes seats, tag-a-long bikes, bike rentals without tour
Beautiful Vancouver is a travel lover’s dream come true. This picturesque Pacific Northwest city has it all: three stunning mountains, the majestic Pacific coastline with the Stanley Park seawall, and a bustling city with quaint neighborhoods like the Gastown. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Grouse Mountain are quite possibly two of our favorite travel adventures ever!
In such a fantastic city, it’s hard to name a single highlight, but if forced we’d have to say it’s Stanley Park- named by Trip Advisor as the #1 park in the world. Yes, you read that right, the world. We’ve been and we can vouch for it 100%!
Now don’t be fooled by the name. Stanley Park isn’t like any park you’ve ever been to. This 1,000 acre area is a Pacific coastal rainforest that is surrounded by beaches and filled with hiking trails. And while there are plenty of outdoor adventures to have there, you can also find an aquarium, golf course, amphitheater, and even restaurants within the park. Stanley Park is so large that you could quite literally spend your entire Vancouver vacation there and not see it all.
This is where a bike tour comes in handy! Cycle Vancouver has multiple bike tours available to help you see and experience the city in just a few short hours, including a tour of Stanley Park. Your tour guide will take you along a five mile route of kid-friendly bike paths and trails as you travel in and around the park. Not only will you get to ride along the seawall and amongst rainforest trees, you’ll also get to see breathtaking views of the North Shore, downtown Vancouver, the Lion’s Gate Bridge, and more.
If your kids are under 10 and you’re worried your they won’t be able to keep up (3 hours could be a little long for small ones), Cycle Vancouver recommends a private tour instead. Call them if you’re unsure!
BEST TOURS: Stanley Park Tour
LENGTH/DURATION: 5 miles, 3 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, e-bikes, tandem bikes, child bikes, trail-a-bikes, bike trailers, child bikes seats, and bike rentals without tour
OTHER TOURS AVAILABLE: The Grand Tour, Epic Electric Tour, Craft Beer Tour, Private Tours
If you’re looking for a summer vacation that will entertain, educate, and increase your kids’ patriotism, Washington D.C. is where it’s at! Washington D.C. is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the U.S. While it’s rich in American history, it still manages to be a completely hands-on, kid-friendly experience.
Your kids will be awed by the Air and Space Museum (free!), love watching the animals at the Smithsonian Zoo (also free!), laugh as they take a ride on the Smithsonian Carousel (just shy of free), and enjoy soaking their feet in the World War II Monument water fountain (free again!). While Washington D.C. is full of history, it’s also full of fun!
One of the highlights of any trip to Washington D.C.– besides a meal at the historic Old Ebbitt’s Grill– is touring the National Mall. With kids however, this can be daunting. We’ve done it with our own kids (several times!) and only made it from the Lincoln Monument to the Washington Monument before the kids pooped out. The Mall is long- almost 2 miles one way. And while the metro system in D.C. is fantastic, it doesn’t have stops near any of the National Mall monuments.
So what’s a D.C.-bound family to do? I’m sure you know the answer by now- take a bike tour! Over the course of three hours, Bike and Roll Washington D.C. will take you on a leisurely tour of all 8 monuments that border the National Mall, including outliers like the FDR and Jefferson Monuments that aren’t included in other tours and are more difficult to get to. And if you don’t fancy riding your bikes in the hot sun (D.C. summers can be brutal!), Bike and Roll offers both daytime and evening tours.
LENGTH/DURATION: 4 miles, 3 hours; 4 miles, 3 hours; 4 miles, 2 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, bike trailers, tandem bikes, tag-a-long bikes, bike rentals without tour
So you’ve been talking to your kids about how wonderful it would be to visit Boston. Paul Revere! The Boston Tea Party! Fenway Park!! Well, we know your little secret- what you really want is to take the New Kids on the Block Tour and we don’t blame you. It’s on our bucket list too!!
A trip to Boston is a fantastic idea for any family. This city on the harbor is packed with kid-friendly activities and something to interest everyone in the family. Historians will get their fill of American Revolution lore as they walk the Freedom Trail and visit the USS Constitution. Sports fans will delight in a visit to Fenway Park (and in the hopes of running into Tom Brady at the grocery store!). Scholars will be happy to roam the halls of both the Harvard and MIT campuses. The kids will love taking a ride on the Boston Common swan boats. And Boston Cream Pie, anyone??
But with so much to see it can be a bit daunting to know where to start. Luckily, Urban Adventours- a locally owned bike tour company- has a family-friendly tour to help you see the sights of Boston from the comfort of a bike.
Sticking to mostly bike trails along the Charles River, this tour is a great introduction to Boston. You’ll get a feel for the city as you ride along the Esplanade, visit the USS Constitution, and see breathtaking views of Boston and Cambridge. And if you just can’t fit a bike tour in during the day, Urban Adventours has a sunset version of their tour just for you!
LENGTH/DURATION: Under 10 miles, 2.5 hours; 5-7 miles, 2 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, child bikes seats, tag-a-long bikes, e-bikes, bike rentals without tour
6. Hilton Head
Hilton Head Island is a fantastic combination of southern charm and outdoor adventure. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can spend your days resting at Coligny Beach and visiting the Honey Horn Plantation; or you can get an adrenaline rush from ocean wakeboarding or riding the Hilton Head zipline. But the first thing you’ll probably notice once you cross the bridge onto the island is that it seems like everyone is on a bicycle.
And if you’re the kind of family that loves to have solo adventures, Hilton Head Island has the bike tour for you. In fact, it’s not even technically a bike tour; it’s a figure-it-out-using-their-maps kind of tour. The folks at Bicycle Billy’s not only offer you bike rentals but can help you figure out the best route for your family ride.
They’ve got maps to help you find your way around the Shipyard Plantation, Palmetto Dunes, the Sea Pines Resort (which has the famous lighthouse!), or to travel along Coligny, Folly Field or Burke’s Beaches. You’ve got tons of options and choose the tour that’s best for your family!
BEST TOURS: Pick your favorite from the maps here!
LENGTH/DURATION: As long as you want!
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, bike trailers, tag-a-long bikes
If you’ve ever longed to go back in time, Mackinac Island may be your best bet. This Victorian-style village is unique in many ways, the most striking of which is its lack of motor vehicles. You won’t hear car horns honking, or see taxis careening through traffic…. because there aren’t any! On this island, all motor vehicles are illegal, which leaves you with three travel options: your own two feet, riding a bike, or using a horse and buggy (don’t forget yours at home!).
And while that may not seem like the most convenient way to live, it is a fantastic way to vacation. Rather than hustling from one activity to another, Mackinac Island forces you to slow down and enjoy the (bike) ride. You’ll find that there’s plenty of time for a family kayaking trip, a morning of fishing the Straits of Mackinac, a sunset sailing cruise around the island, or even a parasailing adventure on Lake Huron.
You’ll also find that this is the perfect place for a bike tour. With absolutely no worry about road traffic, this is one place that families with even the youngest riders can safely take a bike tour. Mackinac Bike Tours offers families the opportunity to do two self-guided tours which are perfect for those who want to go at their own pace. Pick between the Attractions Tour that will take you to different hotspots on the island, or do the M-185 Perimeter tour and circle the entire island. Either way, you’re guaranteed a fantastic family adventure on the safest bike-riding island around!
LENGTH/DURATION: 3 miles, 2.5 hours; 8 miles, 1.5 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, bike trailers, and tag-a-long bikes (from Mackinac Bikes: tandem, adult trike, fat bike)
OTHER TOURS AVAILABLE: Customized self-guided tours available, rent a bike and just ride on your own
If you’ve ever watched National Treasure, then you know that Philadelphia is packed with history (and action, if your name is Benjamin Franklin Gates!). Just like Nicolas Cage you can get up close and personal with the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Old Pine Street Church, the Christ Church Burial Ground, and even the same Urban Outfitters where Nic and Diane Kruger chatted in the dressing rooms. Yes, history and Hollywood have finally collided.
And if all of that doesn’t sound fun enough, then let us tell you about the awesome folks at Wheel Fun Rentals. These people have taken bike tours to the next level. Not only can you do one of their self-guided tours by bike, you can also choose to travel by pedal-powered surrey, deuce coupe, or adult tricycle. Imagine the fantastic pictures you can get of Dad and the kids pedaling their surrey down Ben Franklin Blvd, past old colonial houses, and Independence Hall. Your Instagram feed will be next level, my friend.
And if you’re worried about getting lost without a tour guide, the folks at Wheel Fun provide you with a detailed map with turn-by-turn directions. You and your pedal-powered vehicles will have no trouble getting around the City of Brotherly Love. Oh, and don’t forget to take a break for some Philly Cheesesteak. (Pro tip: Pat’s is hands-down the King of Steaks.)
BEST TOURS: Philadelphia’s Center City Bike Tour
LENGTH/DURATION: 12 miles (or shorter if you like!), 3-4 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, tandem bikes, surrey, deuce coupe, chopper, quad sport, bike rentals without tour
OTHER TOURS AVAILABLE: Fairmount Park Bike Tour
9. Key West
Sometimes you just need to spend a week (or five) at the beach. And while families with young kids might first think of California or Hawaii for their vacation plans, Key West is actually a fantastic option for your spring break plans.
Key West has endless options for family adventures! You can spend the day behind a boat water skiing or parasailing. You can dive deep and discover sea life while snorkeling or snuba diving (no we didn’t spell that wrong!). You can have a totally unique adventure while clear kayaking or swimming with dolphins. No matter what you choose to do, your kids will love that each day brings a brand new adventure.
But with all of that adventuring, sometimes you just need a little rest from the water play. For one of those days, we would highly suggest that you take a family bike tour with Key Lime Bike Tours. Their tour guides will take you into the heart of the city, helping you get a feel for this beautiful and historic town. You’ll find yourself at locations like Ernest Hemingway’s house, the breathtaking Key West seaport, and the southernmost point of the continental United States.
Oh, and at the end of the tour, you’ll also find yourself eating a slice of key lime pie (sign me up!). And if you happen to be stopping by Key West on a Disney Cruise, Key Lime Bike Tours is Disney’s official Key West bike tour company. You know if Mickey trusts them, they must be good!
BEST TOURS: Key Lime Historical Tour
LENGTH/DURATION: 6 miles, 2.5 – 3 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, kids bikes
10. San Francisco
If you’re looking to escape the summer heat, a trip to San Francisco might be right up your alley. This beautiful California city somehow manages to stay below 70 degrees, even in August!
Besides being a haven from the heat, San Francisco is also a fantastically kid-friendly city (having regularly visited with three kids under the age of five, we know what we’re talking about!!). There are truly so many places to go and so much to see, you’ll never run out of things to do!
Your kids will love the winding drive down Lombard Street, taking a tour of the Ghirardelli factory, and riding on the famous San Francisco cable cars. Yet with all of the many things you can do in San Francisco, there are two things that you truly cannot miss- the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz!
Now if you’re like us and you happened to arrive in San Francisco without Alcatraz tour tickets, you might start kicking yourself because (dang it!) those things sell out months in advance. Well, luckily the folks at Blazing Saddles have your back.
Not only can they take you on an amazing guided tour from Fisherman’s Wharf, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and into beautiful Sausalito (just in time for lunch!); but they can also help you get tickets to Alcatraz as well. While they don’t run the Alcatraz tours, they can help you coordinate tickets so that once your bike tour is over you can head back to the city, park your bike at Pier 33, and head to the creepiest and coolest island around. This will be one packed day, but your kids are going to think you’re a pretty awesome parent!
LENGTH/DURATION: 8 miles, 3 hours (not including time at Alcatraz); 8 miles, 3 hours
RENTALS AVAILABLE: Bikes, kids bikes, tag-a-long bikes, bike trailers, child bike seats, tandem bikes, e-bikes, rentals without a tour
Tips for Biking with Kids
We spoke with Jeremy Lewno, the founder and owner of Bobby’s Bike Hike in Chicago. His tour is the only one we could find specifically geared towards kids, and after 14 years of running that tour, he’s definitely an expert on bike touring with young ones. Here are a few pro tips he helped us with to ensure a family biking experience that’s epic and melt-down free.
1. Be realistic about time and distance. If you don’t regularly ride bikes with your kids, you probably don’t know how long they can last on a bike. Luckily on bike tours you generally make several stops to interact with your guide and to take pictures. But even with these breaks, it’s probably best to keep a ride with kids under 2.5 hours.
2. Call ahead of time. Let your tour group know you’re coming and help them understand your family situation. Even if they don’t have a tour specifically aimed at kids, there may be certain times or guides that are better suited for little ones.
3. Arrive early. A good tour group will take the time to properly fit bikes and helmets to each adult and child rider. They’ll also be able to determine if your little one is better off on a tag-a-long bike, in a child bike seat, or in a bike trailer. Evaluating rider ability before the start of a ride is essential! Even if your child can ride a bike, they might be better off on a tour with a tag-a-long or tandem bike. The tour group should also set up all of the equipment for you and give you the opportunity to ride around and get comfortable before the tour starts.