Just south of downtown Miami lies beautiful Coral Gables, or simply "The Gables" as it's known to natives. This planned section of town is an oasis of quiet stately homes and upscale shopping and restaurants in the heart of Miami. If you're tired of South Beach and the downtown scene and are looking for some classy fun, take a trip to the Gables.
Architectural Style of Coral Gables
Coral Gables is built in the Mediterranean Revival style thanks to the work of James Deering on his estate, Villa Vizcaya. Deering built Vizcaya in 1914 using only authentic materials from Italy and Spain, as well as incorporating large pieces of real European castles that were dissembled, shipped here by boat and reassembled on site. Many of these large murals, ceilings, and tapestries from Europe remain at Deering to be seen today. Inspired by Vizcaya, George Merrick wanted to bring the images and architecture of Spain to more of the area.
His vast land holdings gave him room to work, but he wanted to be known for more than his wealth; he wanted to create a special suburb of Miami that brought to light the Spanish influence of the area. Along with other master craftsmen, landscape artists, and city planners, Coral Gables began to take shape. Within four years of its conception, Coral Gables was incorporated in 1925.
The Biltmore Hotel
Perhaps the greatest monument to the Mediterranean Revival style stands today- the Biltmore Hotel. Inspired by the Cathedral of Seville in Spain, it's tower today stands as a recognizable symbol to all Miamians. The hotel was erected in 10 short months and has not changed even its exterior color to this day. As a world-class hotel, it brings visitors from the world over; natives flock to the Biltmore to enjoy its spa offerings and beautiful coral pool.
As the recession slowed building and real estate development, so The Gables stopped its growth in its prime. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean Style never regained its full strength and beauty. In the 1950s, Miracle Mile sprang up, a brick-paved section of road on Coral Way between LeJeune Road and Douglas Road. With its upscale boutiques and specialty stores it brought heightened commerce to the area and inspired more of the same kinds of shops to open their doors soon after. Today, special incentives are offered to builders and designers who design with the Mediterranean Revival style in mind.
The Beautiful City of Coral Gables
Coral Gables offers plenty to do within short driving distance of downtown Miami. From art and architecture to fine dining and shopping, make a day or weekend of Coral Gables and you won't be disappointed.
If you're interested in the Mediterranean architecture, make sure to visit Vizcaya. Built in the early 1900s, it stands today much as it did when it was built. Tours are offered daily. The Biltmore is also an unchanged tribute to Merrick's vision. While you can't visit the rooms, the grand lobby is truly impressive. Coral Gables City Hall is the city's most important publicly-owned building; make sure to stop in to see its distinctive portico and beautiful interior wall murals.
One sport is associated with Coral Gables: golf! The Biltmore Golf Course is world famous and home to several PGA Tour events. This public golf course has the beautiful backdrop of the Biltmore, little water, a liberal walking policy, reasonable greens fees and is challenging enough for pros while being playable for beginners. The Grenada Golf Course is a 9-hole golf course with no water hazards; it's not as challenging as the Biltmore, but this par 36 course is a more relaxing round and an exceptional value.
The Venetian Pool draws visitors from all over the world. Built in 1923 from a coral rock quarry, it is spring-fed and is surrounded by grottos, two waterfalls, and coral caves. Fairchild Tropical Garden is a beautiful day-long (at least!) retreat from reality. With its collection of tropical plants and flowers, palms, ferns and flowering vines, trails around lakes and through groves, mangrove forests, rainforest display and orchid display (among much else!) you'll have little time left for the shows, educational programs, bookstore and special events displays.
Make sure you bring walking shoes and plenty of water!
The shopping and dining can't be missed. Miracle Mile and the Village of Merrick Park offer world-class boutiques, antiques, galleries and 5-star dining. The world's best restaurants can be found here in The Gables, including The Palm (Steakhouse & Seafood), Caffe Abbracci (Northern Italian), Pascal's on Ponce (New French), Miss Saigon Bistro (Vietnamese), and Norman's (New World).
As you can see, there is plenty for everyone to do in Coral Gables. If you are visiting Miami, make sure you leave time to see the beauty and tranquility of Coral Gables. If you live here, take advantage of all this area has to offer!