Coral Gables is the leafy suburb of Miami that will remind you of one thing: Golden Girls. Yes, this was the likely backdrop of Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia’s adventures in the beloved sitcom, although their exact location is never expressly stated.
All of the houses look like the house the four women shared, ranch style and marvelous with palms and monstera and banana leaves everywhere. But, Coral Gables is more than a very affluent suburb. It is where the University of Miami Hurricanes (the U) are located and surprisingly, a lot of cultural gems. It’s also the home of del Monte and Bacardi.
traveled down the road and back again…
Quite close to MIA, ~20 minutes, drive down to city hall, where on winter weekends you’ll find a well attended farmer’s market. Aside from veggies and fruits, there’s vendors selling paella, conch fritters (this is how you know you’re in FL), churrasco and jugos of every kind.
If you’re in the city and you’re thinking, wow this is a very nicely designed community, then you’re right on the mark because it was one of America’s first and most successful planned communities, dreamed up by a gentleman named George Merrick. His statue sits right in front of city hall, which is a small little building whose washroom facilities are open on farmer’s markets days (clutch! that’s how you know the city is planned well).
Across the street is the Miracle Mile way, which houses many cafes, restaurants and bridal boutiques. Driving along the main arteries of Ponce de Leon (who came to Florida to seek the Fountain of Youth, remember this from 5th grade history?) or 42nd street will take you on a scenic tour of the entire city.
The villages of Coral Gables are something very distinct and unique about this community. George Merrick didn’t just want to plan a cookie cutter community. No, he wanted to infuse different worldly aspects within his city. French country, French city, Dutch South African, Chinese, Italian, French Normandy, and Pioneer Greek are all neighborhoods that feature homes with architectural elements from those areas.
There are also artery-like canals that traverse the city, allowing for some pretty stunning waterfront properties. The Old Cutler (not named after former Miami Dolphins QB Jay) Trail is a great hiking/bike path that will take you up close to these homes. Watch out for the insidious gigantaur iguanas though, they’re everywhere.
Right smack dab in the middle of this city is the grand Biltmore hotel, see the first photo of this post above.
This hotel has had many lives as a luxurious getaway for FDR, a place where Johnny Weissmuller (aka Tarzan) taught swimming, and even as the campus for the University of Miami medical school and VA hospital during WWII. Today, its renaissance halls and courtyard hosts lots of weddings and events.
Across from this swanky hotel is the adorable little Coral Gables Congregration Church which is Spanish mission architecture at its best. If you drive along the perimeter of the city, you’ll see its original gates to the city, which make it seem like a little fortress and maybe it was like that, keeping all the refuse out. You’ll also probably run into the main street of Granada, where the nicest homes are, in my opinion.
At the edge of Granada and Sevilla (Spanish influence much?), you’ll find a large plaza with an imposing fountain in the center of its roundabout. This is a famous landmark in CG, the De Soto fountain, so named after Hernando de Soto, who led the first expedition to the states way back in the 1500s.
Adjacent to this intersection is another iconic landmark, the Venetian Pool. This is a public swimming area that was fashioned after Venice (obvs). It’s kind of very cool to have an oasis in the middle of your city that everyone can enjoy for a nominal fee.
And if gardens and foliage are your thing, the streets are lined with gorgeous oak and banyan trees providing much needed umbrage from the blistering sun. These natural canopies are their own tourist attraction, as you will find many an Instagram shot capturing their stately beauty.
Last stop was to neighboring Coconut Grove, where Vizcaya Gardens is located. Taking the scenic route along Bayshore Drive will take you along Biscayne Bay until you reach the former home of James Deering, an agricultural and mechanics heir. This guy was John Singer Sargent-was-commissioned-to-do-a-painting-of-him rich. That’s really rich.
The historic gardens and home are Italian renaissance style, which apparently they really love here, and is open to the public for a fee. Coral Gables and the surrounding areas is a great gateway to Miami. A nice slow and steady start before you hit the town running.