Shame on any traveler who makes it this far south and doesn’t carve out at least a little time to wander through Everglades National Park, the largest natural subtropical park in the country. Spanning 1.5 million acres, it’s not the easiest national park to tackle, but the wildlife alone—think Florida panthers, alligators and bald eagles—makes this a fascinating side trip for anyone with a penchant for getting lost in the deep, jungle-y wilderness for a few hours. The laid-back town of Homestead, which is an easy 45-minute drive from Miami, acts as a portal to the Everglades; and while Homestead offers several affordable hotel options, hardcore naturalists will want to make use of the park’s 48 designated backcountry campsites.
In case you didn’t get your fill of Cuban food back in Miami, the family-style restaurant Mario’s is a top pick for its generous portions of churrasco steak, Cubano sandwiches and, of course, empanadas.
With a reputation for fermenting unconventional fruits—think mangos and avocados—into wine, lush estate Schnebly Redland's Winery & Brewery welcomes visitors to take tours of the property, followed by a tasting at the bar.
Just outside Homestead, near the entrance to Everglades National Park, visitors can sign up for a rollicking airboat tour at Alligator Farm, where you’ll skim the surface of waters that alligators and turtles call home.
Keep things simple at Best Western Gateway to the Keys, a breezy budget inn, which offers an outdoor pool, air conditioning (necessary during the blistering summer), and a free breakfast every morning.
If you do just one thing...
Drive out to the world-famous Homestead-Miami Speedway, which sits just outside the town, and hosts the annual NASCAR Championship. Not in a rush to get back? The event, which draws thousands of racing fans, allows camping and RV parking during the high-speed event.