Valentine's adventures in Florida
Hot Air Ballooning
Big Red Balloon Tampa (bigredballoon.com)
Big Red Balloon offers a sweetheart package for couples. Owner Dave Gardner says he has seen many marriage proposals aboard the balloons, not just on the sweetheart flights but also on trips where there was a group. "We've had them done in our large balloons with three other couples onboard, too, and it was great," he says.
All aboard: Small balloons carry four passengers while the larger ones can accommodate up to 10.
Wallaby Ranch / Malcolm Jones Davenport (wallaby.com)
Tampa native Malcolm Jones started his hanggliding operation on Wallaby Ranch 22 years ago after traveling the world scouting locations ideal for hang gliding. "Hang gliding used to take place in the mountains, but then the gliders evolved, so I thought I could open a place here," Jones says. "The ability to aerotow (bringing up the gliders by plane instead of from a running start) makes Florida a more practical place to do it." The 500- acre facility is open seven days a week. Flying begins everyday at 8 a.m., weather permitting. No appointment is necessary.
Valentine's Day is popular for gift certificates, especially for the sweetheart tow. Two gliders ascend 2,000 feet and fly together.
$175. DVDs of your flight are available for $60.
A ride lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.
The Flying Trapeze School Miami (theflyingtrapeze.net)
The Flying Trapeze School has hosted adventurous types as young as 6 and as old as 82. "We've had students who have turned professional," says manager L.J. Mintz, a 20-year pro. "Trapeze schools are starting to pop up around the country, but we've been here for eight years now." Customers can try out a single swing or enroll in classes, which take place Wednesdays through Sundays from 7-9 p.m. with additional sessions on Saturdays and Sundays from 4-6 p.m.
$10 registration fee; $20 for a one-time "try n' fly;" classes range from $50 for a single session to $800 for the 20-class package with various options in between.
If your Valentine isn't game:
"We host corporate groups, too," Mintz says. "There's something for everybody here."
$500 for sweetheart package; $185 per person for a shared ride with other passengers
Approximately 3½ hours
The sweetheart package:
Couples are guaranteed to be the only two onboard the flight that morning. They get involved in the inflation of the balloon, which takes about 20 minutes. The flight itself is about an hour. "We do a traditional champagne toast and history about ballooning."
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