Half the fun of traveling is seeing something off of the beaten path, the sites and smells of a city a Duck Boat tour can’t show you. I say skip Uber, park that rental car, and hop on a bike instead! Biking is a great way to experience a city!
In the past few months, we vacationed in Charleston, Chicago, and Napa Valley. In each city, we rented bikes for a few hours and pedaled around seeing the sights. Dorky-looking or not, we always take the helmet and wear it. Biking is fantastic exercise (think: thighs and butt) and a terrific way to see the city on a budget.
Charleston, S.C. is an excellent example of a bike-friendly town. Charleston was recently named by Conde Nast’s the No. 2 small city in the world after being named the No. 1 tourist city in the US four straight years! There are so many little side streets and nooks and crannies near the Battery that you can’t see if you are in a car or on a horse and buggy tour.
A little secret about Charleston – it’s humid, very humid – so bring plenty of water. We like The Bicycle Shoppe on Meeting Street. They open at 9 am, are super friendly, and it costs $7 an hour to rent a bike. They also give you a lock, a helmet, and a map. The guys who work there love their city, so ask them anything – they will give you some great suggestions on routes. It’s ok to ride up and down the same street a few times to soak it all in.
Hit the Battery: ride down by the water and walk through Battery Park. After stopping for a snack at the food truck on Glebe Street, go sit under the oak trees draped in Spanish moss on the College of Charleston campus. A gorgeous campus, it’s where the movie, The Notebook, was filmed. Ride through the streets off the Battery and by Rainbow Row. The history there will leave you speechless!
In case you haven’t guessed, we love Charleston. A couple years ago, my man and I flew his two adult sons out to Charleston for their first visit to the Holy City. One of their favorite memories was riding bikes around the Battery (and Poe’s pimento cheeseburgers). It was summer, so they all sweat like they were riding in an oven, but they loved it!
Chicago is another great city we saw on a bike. A number of places in the city rent good quality bikes for $20-30 for a few hours. We found a place with free parking near the place we rented from in the Lakeview Area. We rode down Diversey, past Duffy’s, and the Market Place; and then stopped to take a few snaps outside of my first post-collegiate apartment on Hampden Court. We rode through Lincoln Park, past the zoo, and then pedaled along Lake Michigan to downtown. Don’t ride with your eyes closed on that path – there are so many people walking, skateboarding, biking, etc. Pay Attention! When we stopped to take a picture, we met a young couple from Germany who were in town just for the weekend to explore. They too were on bikes!
After we rode by my husband’s company, CDW, we pedaled on the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave.), and all the way back down to Wrigley Field, just in time to watch all the Cubbies going in for a home game. We are Cardinals fans so we had our fingers crossed they would leave with an L flag flying (wait, they only fly the W flag!) We ate a delicious bar-b-que lunch at the Old Crow Smokehouse in Wrigleyville. My husband enjoyed my memory lane tour that took us all over the Windy City. It was fun to reminisce about the time I spent in Chicago when I was in my 20s.
We also rented bikes a couple times while in Napa Valley this summer. I don’t have the stamina to ride bikes up in the mountains! One day we rode bikes in and around Calistoga and the next day in Saint Helena. There were miles and miles of vines along the winding country roads. Leaving Saint Helena and going south, we pedaled on the Silverado Trail down to Rutherford. On the way, we stopped and tasted olive oil at Round Pond. It was so good I HAD to buy 3 bottles! We also stopped at the Honig Winery for a private tasting. They have one of the most amazing Napa Cabs and it’s only $45 a bottle!
Each city we visited, we rode for a few hours in safe conditions. We saw so much more than we would see if we were in a car or walking. In one place, we soaked in a lot of history (Charleston). On another bike ride, we spent time talking about my own personal history (Chicago). On the third tour, we soaked in the beauty of one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world (Napa).
Not to belabor the point, but I wrote this blog to remind you of that time when you were a child, riding your bike with the playing cards stuck in the spokes. The experience of riding bikes as an adult captures that childlike thrill of exploration and adventure! Next time you are out of town, hop on a bike, and get pedaling. That is – if you haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike!