It's got to be pretty cool, being Santa and all, to have the chance to gaze at the holiday lights from your perch atop your sled as it's pulled by reindeer across the night sky. In theory, that seems a whole lot cooler than loading the family into the car and slowly driving from neighborhood to neighborhood for a street-level view of lights and displays. But what if we told you there’s a third option?
In many communities, opportunities exist for holiday light viewing that falls somewhere on the fun spectrum between Santa's sleigh and the backseat of an SUV. In many places – you guessed it – bike rides have been set up as healthy, fun, and safe ways to take in the holiday light displays.
Called "Tour de Lights" in a few cities (hey there, Knoxville, TN!), holiday bike rides are growing in popularity as Americans spend more each year on holiday lights and decorations. In the next few weeks, as entire cities seemingly morph into shining, twinkling homages to Clark Griswold, get the family out for an evening bike ride and soak in the wonderment of holiday light displays.
Here are a just few places we found that encourage biking at night, taking in the holiday lights, and starting a new tradition!
As you probably expect, the best places to enjoy a festive, holiday bike ride are where the weather is decidedly not wintry. At least not usually.
Besides Knoxville, TN, where cyclists dress up in costume and decorate their bikes with LED lights, cities like San Diego, CA, (where they award prizes to the best-decorated bikes) have events designed for the whole family to enjoy.
Tampa, FL, where snow is not ever going to be an issue, plays host to the Winter Wonder Ride on Dec. 10.
In Arlington, VA, there's a fun and festive 5-mile ride on the schedule this year. And the fun doesn't end on Christmas, either. In Virginia Beach, VA, there's a Holiday Family Bike Night scheduled for Jan. 1 on the boardwalk.
Even in places that can be colder, organized holiday lights bike rides are popular. Check out Columbus, OH, for instance, which has a 10-mile ride through the heart of downtown scheduled for Dec. 11 this year. Longmont, CO, just outside of Boulder, usually has a lighted bike parade to celebrate the holiday season.
Or, if you're heading overseas for the holidays, know that London has guided bike rides of holiday lights. And in Amsterdam, perhaps the best city in the world to ride a bike in, every night of the holiday season can be a festive, jaw-dropping experience.
If you live in a place without a series of organized bike rides to take in the splendor of holiday lights, there is always the "Do It Yourself" option. If there's not a lot of snow on the ground and temperatures are bearable, make a plan to head out on your own. Consider decorating your bike with holiday lights. Wear bright colors. Make sure your bike has working lights. Use bike paths and bike lanes when and where you can. And take your time.
Using your bike as a way to enjoy the splendor of the holiday lights can be a pretty magical experience. Perhaps it's not as magical as seeing them from a reindeer-drawn sled, but we bet you'll want to make it a holiday tradition for years to come.