In an effort to get to know our new surroundings in South Florida, Chet and I have been setting off on a new adventure each weekend. Exploring Coral Gables was near the top of our list for a couple reasons. 1. Bourdain recommends doing so in the Miami episode of The Layover. 2. We live super close to this little hamlet! We spent the afternoon driving and walking around and taking in all the sites “the city beautiful” had to offer us. And we ended up not spending a dime! A welcome situation because SPOILER ALERT: moving and setting up a new home is expensive! It struck me that others may want to check out Coral Gables (or “the gables” as the locals refer to it) on a similar budget. So, here are a few ways you could spend your afternoon…
1. Take a drive under the canopied arches of the Banyan trees. This is the activity recommended by Bourdain and I’ll echo his suggestion. You’ll feel like you’re on a magical amusement park ride underneath the shade of these natural tree tunnels. The way the knobby trunks grow all twisted together is a site to behold. You may even want to climb out of your car at one of the center medians and get a closer look (or have a photo shoot…perfect Insta-worthy moment). But the real reason you’re going to love driving these scenic roads is the HOUSES! There are tons of stunning Mediterranean Revival homes with grand entryways, palatial courtyards, and spectacular fountains.
2. Pretend you belong at the Biltmore. Coral Gables has been home to this luxury hotel since 1926. It’s had a pretty notable history since then, including being used as a hospital during World War II. The Wikipedia page is worth a read as you wander around the circumference of the vast grounds. Perhaps pretending along the way that you’re staying in one of their suites for the weekend and only popped out to get a bit of fresh air. Maybe if you’re feeling bold you can zip on into the lobby and have a poke around there, too!
3. Walk the Miracle Mile. The Miracle Mile is a stretch of road that bifurcates the city center. It was designed in order to make all the businesses in the downtown commercial district no more than a two-block walk from each other. The result? An extremely pedestrian friendly city! You can amble up and down the stretch, popping in and out of quaint boutiques along the way, and check out the cool architectural details on some of the more historic buildings.
4. Enjoy a free film at the Miracle Theater. Along the Miracle Mile you’ll find the Miracle Theater which comes complete with an old school marquis and a vintage vibe. Amazingly, the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theater sponsors a free film series! Check the calendar and plan your trip accordingly. They do a showing about once a month usually with a Saturday evening time and a Sunday matinee.
5. Do a little wedding window shopping. Not sure why but there are a TON of bridal and wedding shops in Coral Gables. As someone who is newly engaged, I didn’t mind at all! You could definitely find a few dream dresses while taking in all the different window displays. You can also find some ensembles you wouldn’t be caught dead in…and a particularly horrid few shops that feature crazy looking bridesmaid gowns and Mother of the Bride atrocities. And if weddings aren’t your thing…try home decor or records or art prints. There’s something for everyone!
Bonus: Sick of walking? The Gables also provides a FREE trolley service, with a trolley running a continuous circuit up and down Ponce de Leon Boulevard throughout the day.