Save the date: Homestead

 

Homestead makes for a fun date -- and you don't even have to like palm tree farms.

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The only time you're allowed to be full of hot air on a date. Photo: excitations.com
 

By Nikki Novo

Lately, your romantic weekends have consisted of Chinese takeout, another lame tear-jerker (you let her pick) and a $7 bottle of wine you found on special while pumping gas. Your excuse? The thought of leaving your apartment to fight off the South Beach crowds makes a weekend watching Matthew McConaughey less painful (the cheap wine helps, too). Perhaps a spontaneous getaway to the south can help put some spice back into your relationship. No, we're not talking Key West - grab your cowboy hats, we're headed to Homestead.

Start the day early at Winds Aloft Aviation for a sunrise hot air balloon ride. The adventure begins an hour before sunrise at the meeting point just off Quail Roost Drive. While soaring above Homestead, enjoy unbelievable views of the Downtown Miami skyline, Atlantic ocean, Everglades and sometimes even the Keys. After landing, a picnic of fresh fruits, crackers, tea and champagne awaits.

Winds Aloft Aviation, 11501 Quail Roost Dr (meeting point); 305-860-5830

After such great heights, enjoy the windows-down drive south to the Redland, where you'll find the southernmost winery in the U.S., Schnebly Redland's Winery. In true Miami style, expect to find wines not made of grapes but of exotic fruits like lychee, passionfruit, carambola (star fruit), guava and, of course, mango. After spending the past three years offering wine tastings from a trailer, owner Peter Schnebly has upgraded to a spectacular southern plantation-style venue -- designed and constructed by locals -- that will truly make you feel like you've left Miami. Take the guided tour featuring passionfruit vineyards, serene waterfalls, 15,000 square feet of manmade tiki and an inside look on how the wine is made. End the tour in the tasting room for sampling along the dark wood bar surrounded by wine barrels.

Next, soak up that wine with a traditional Mexican meal at El Toro Taco. The family-owned restaurant offers all your favorite Mexican dishes at a great price. Start with the crunchy nachos for two then make your way to the main course: chicken enchiladas made with homemade corn tortillas stuffed with chicken and smothered in their special sauce and cheese is a good choice. If you're really hungry, there's the endless burrito. El Toro Taco is BYOB, so feel free to bring a cooler of Coronas or, if you're feeling really ambitious, a Thermos of margaritas.

Make sure you save room for dessert, because you don't want to miss the treats you'll find at Robert is Here. The outdoor fruit stand is an area landmark, and once you visit you'll see why. An eclectic mix of exotic fruits, fresh produce, jellies, marmalades, dried fruits, cinnamon-covered nuts, local coco frio, Florida memorabilia and even a small petting zoo (the owner's pets) in the back is what makes this place so special. Not to mention the to-die-for milkshakes made from fresh fruit and soft-serve ice cream. Try the strawberry key lime shake for a perfect combination of sweet and tart.

Published: 4/08

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