Even for bike-loving kids, motivating them to go for family bike rides can sometimes be a challenge. Rather than just planning a 10-mile bike ride, plan a 10-mile bike that hits up a swimming hole and an ice cream shop. Yes, it takes more time AND more effort, but it is this kind of “destination” riding that keeps cycling fun for kids. Here are fifteen tried-and-true ideas for your next family bike ride.
The most noble purpose of a bicycle is to be able to replace trips you might normally make in a car. While it can be tough for kids to do long trips by bike (although there are plenty of families that go entirely car-free), families usually live pretty close to the school their children go to. Begin by biking to/from school or daycare one day a week and see if you can work up to doing it everyday!
A tradition our family has gotten into is biking to dinner on Friday evenings. Even in the winter, unless there is a LOT of new snow, we will bundle up and make the trek. We go somewhere different each week, sometimes close by sometimes further away. It is something our son has come to expect and enjoy, so we rarely get an argument.
Biking to your favorite playground is usually an easy way to motivate kids to get out for a bike ride. You don’t need a ton of gear to go to the park, although you could bring a picnic lunch or snack along as well if you’d like. We’ve even picked up the neighbor kids a couple of times to come along.
#4: Ice Cream
There is a gelato shop not too far from our house, and the only way that we go is by bike. So it is a treat that has become associated with biking. This is a particularly good destination for hot summer rides.
#5: Swimming pool or beach
Pack up your swimming suits, towels, and sunscreen in a backpack and head to a swimming pool, lake, river, or beach. If you have mountain bikes, you might even be able to get to a private spot a bit off the beaten path.
The library is a great destination whatever the season. Take a backpack (or trailer or cargo bike) to carry some books home. The nice thing about the library is that there are usually nice bike racks, and sometimes other special accommodation for cyclists.
#7: Nature Trail
If you live somewhere near a nature or hiking trail, bike there, lock up the bikes and then go adventure. Bring along binoculars, a notebook, or a magnifying glass to explore and document the experience.
Museum parking lots are notorious for being crowded, so leave the car at home and bike to the museum instead.
The very idea of taking your children to the grocery store might make you cringe (it does for me), but if you are willing to brave it–try grocery shopping by bicycle. If you have a cargo bike or trailer, take that to haul the groceries. If you don’t, take along a big backpack and you can at least pick up the essentials or ingredients for dinner.
#11: Pumpkin patch or Christmas tree lot
Most families take part in these seasonal activities, but have never thought to do them by bicycle. Instead of driving to your local pumpkin patch, bike there instead. We’ve been impressed to see families on social media even picking up their Christmas trees by bike.
#12: Coffee/Hot Chocolate
Try a raining day bike ride to your favorite coffee shop for a cup of something hot. This can be a good motivator on a day with less than perfect weather, and is a great excuse to cuddle up somewhere warm and read a book.
Similar to our dinner idea, our family often likes to bike to breakfast–usually when our son suggests it. In fact, one morning last winter, we woke up to a good 6″ of new snow and our little boy exclaimed: “Yes! Let’s bike to breakfast!” So, of course we did.
#14: Farmer’s Market
The farmer’s market is a super bike friendly destination. At our local farmer’s market they even have a free bike corral for bicycle parking, that keeps you from having to circle for a parking spot for half an hour. Pick up some fresh veggies to make for dinner, or some fruit for a cobbler.
#15: Local tourist attraction
Whatever your local tourist attraction may be, try biking there for a totally new experience. We live in Utah where there are a lot of National Parks, and we refuse to drive in them–such a pain in the butt! By biking instead, we get to really experience the park, skip crowded parking lots, and see attractions that we might have to skip otherwise.
Before You Go
If you’re not an experience cyclist, OR you are new to biking with kids, take a few moments to make sure you are prepared before taking off on your next family bike ride. Check out these blog posts for more info on preparing your family and making sure that you are safe: