Looking for something different to do on a crisp, clear December day? Hop on a bike and cruise leisurely along the banks of the canals that crisscross metro Phoenix, bringing vital water to the urban desert.
A perfectly flat stretch of packed dirt from Scottsdale to Phoenix is flanked by eateries, art, shops ― and, of course, the flowing canals (which will be drained in January for annual maintenance, so go now). Sure, you could walk, but pedaling allows you to cover more turf ― and if you attach a basket to the bike, you can bring home treasures to put under the tree.
Arizona Canal is most easily accessible via north-south cross streets. To follow our suggested route, start at Goldwater Boulevard and Fifth Avenue in downtown Scottsdale, where there is abundant free street parking adjacent to the canal.
Pull your dusty cruiser out of the garage ― or rent from a local shop. We like Bicycle Haus ($25 half-day, $35 full day, includes helmet, lock, and map; 10-6 Mon-Fri, 10-4 Sat, 12-4 Sun; 7025 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale; 480/994-4287) because it's right across the street from the canal.
Things to do
Arizona Canal ― from Goldwater Boulevard to 24th Street and back: Pedal 14 miles round-trip for glimpses of Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. Pull over at 56th Street for a stroll through Arizona Falls, a public-art display and hydroelectric plant; at 48th Street, learn the history of Arizona's irrigation. Between 40th and 32nd Streets, dip through Paradise Valley, past desert plants and cool architecture.
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa: Bell staff will happily secure your bikes while you explore the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired hotel and browse the lobby-level shops for Lilly Pulitzer sportswear ― or lotions from the spa to soothe your taxed muscles later. Info: Historical hotel tours $10, 10 a.m. Tue, Thu, Sat; 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix; www.arizonabiltmore.com or 800/950-0086.
Chelsea's Kitchen: On your way back, hydrate with fresh-squeezed lemonade or a nice Syrah on the restaurant's shady canal-bank patio. Info: $$; lunch Mon-Fri, dinner daily; 5040 N. 40th St., Phoenix; 602/957-2555.