Now that our seemingly never-ending Indian summer has finally ended and winter has descended upon the Valley, we can all proclaim that Christmastime Is Here and get in that holiday spirit. Nothing gets the Cycle offices more amped for the holidays than the glittering of hundreds upon thousands of little lights adorning houses throughout the greater Phoenix area.
So as we dodge the rather delightful rainfalls, it's time to bundle up, fill the bottles with warm cider (or whatever), make sure the bike light batteries are fully charged and head out on the 3rd Annual Cycle Tour de Lights. This year's three-stage routes cover long established Valley neighborhoods along super-safe roads to some of the very best displays in town.
Find more Bike Ride in Tempe, AZ Stage 1: Tempe and Zoo Lights via College Avenue
Ever since the City of Tempe added extra-wide bike lanes and traffic calming medians to College Avenue between Southern Avenue and Apache Boulevard, this road has become the most enjoyable casual ride boulevard in town. So why not take in some of Tempe's sparkling domiciles along this stretch en route to the glittering Mill Avenue, through the pitch black Papago Park to the old Canal Park neighborhood and Zoo Lights?
Start Stage 1, the longest of the three stages at just over 14 miles, near Mill Avenue and Southern. There's ample parking in the strip mall lot on the northeast corner near a Dutch Bros. Coffee. Cut through the Broadmor neighborhood to College and meander up and down the streets for quaint displays on the very quiet streets as you make your way north towards ASU.
Cut through the campus to avoid heavy traffic and get over to Mill which is now teeming with lights and a large tree on the west side of Mill at 7th Street. Head across the bridge and through Papago Park via the Crosscut Canal Path. At the top of the climb, be prepared for one of the best light shows in the Valley as the view looks out across Downtown Tempe, Sky Harbor, South Mountain, Downtown Phoenix and Arcadia, complete with a backside gander at the Phoenix Zoo and Zoo Lights.
Make your way down the path to College Avenue/68th Street and begin meandering up and down the streets of the old North Tempe Canal Park neighborhood. The highlight house for this ride sits on the southwest corner of Papago Drive and Van Ness Avenue with a home and lot that has its every square inch covered by holiday inflatables of every type. Be sure to see all sides to get them all.
Return back through the park, making a trip to Zoo Lights if you choose, and cut through the historic Maple Ash neighborhood for a few additional smaller displays. If you need to stop for a refreshment, Cartel Coffee, The Handlebar and Casey Moore's are all along the route.
Find more Bike Ride in Glendale, AZ Stage 2: Glendale via 55th Avenue
Stage 2 offers a nice recovery with a short five mile route, starting and finishing in the heart of Downtown Glendale, home of the famous Glendale Glitters displays. Several blocks of the municipal and shopping area, including historic Caitlin Court, have their halls decked in brilliant lights to give the area a wonderful glow.
After cruising through downtown, move east to 55th Avenue and turn north for a long and rather uneventful mile and a half ride to two of the best home light displays across the Valley. Both featured among Jackalope Ranch's 10 Favorite DIY Holiday Light Displays, these spots make the rest of the dim trek worth it.
The first home is the display created by Jim and Linda Largo, the fourth ranked favorite home display on the JR list. The Largo's have one of the most awesome display elements anywhere, including Zoo Lights, with a music-synched, ever-changing curved light tree towering high on top of their roof. This light tower alone makes Stage 2 a must-ride, but the rest of their home is adorned with awe-inspiring displays as well.
Just around the corner at 54th Avenue and Alice Avenue is a group of well-lit homes anchored by the residence of Allen and Beth Coughenour, number 7 on the Favorite 10 list. The Coughenour's get things back to an old school Griswold display, just lighting the heck of the whole yard, fence and roof with an assortment of favorite holiday cartoon characters thrown in for good measure.
Return back to Downtown via 55th Avenue.
Find more Bike Ride in Scottsdale, AZ Stage 3: Scottsdale via Granite Reef Road/86th Street
This year's third and final stage crosses through one of Scottsdale's most established areas, looping through Park Scottsdale and Scottsdale Highland Estates neighborhoods. The key to light bike touring on this route is to freely break from the prescribed route and wander up and down the streets to enjoy the many, many decorated houses along the way.
Start Stage 3 by parking near the Buzzberry Café on the southeast corner of McDonald and Granite Reef and cut over along McDonald to 86th to head south. Several homes will begin popping up with interesting displays, especially at Pecos Lane and Sage Drive, just south of Jackrabbit Road.
Follow the general path of 86th south to Heatherbrae Avenue and zag over 87th Street, which turns into 87th Place on the south side of Indian School. After wandering through this area, head back to Granite Reef for the return home. Look for displays down streets such as Highland Street, midway between Camelback Road and Chaparral Road.
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The coup de gras of Stage 3 and this year's edition of Tour de Lights is also number 2 on the Favorite Displays list. Before packing it in, take Granite Reef north across McDonald to Valley Vista Drive. There you will encounter the amazing Winter Wonderland theatrical holiday display of Chris Birkett. Across what appears to be three residences including some back yards, this multi-media production has everything from lasers to snow blowers and may just be the single greatest over-the-top holiday lights display in town.
Happy riding everybody!