The Biltmore is a Coral Gables icon.
The Biltmore is a Coral Gables icon.
Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com

The Ten Best Things to Do in Coral Gables

Nicknamed the "City Beautiful," Coral Gables is one of South Florida's oldest and most historic areas. Designed with Mediterranean influences, the city, incorporated in 1925, features lush, tree-lined avenues; mighty, opulent buildings; winding roadways; and lots of green space. George Merrick, the founder of Coral Gables, set out to create one of South Florida's most beautiful and expansive cities, offering everything from museums and playhouses to dining destinations and outdoor hangouts. 

Today, Coral Gables remains one of Miami's most sought-after destinations. It's home to the first art museum in South Florida, along with Venetian Pool, Actors' Playhouse, and the iconic Biltmore Hotel. The city also boasts the flagship of South Florida's beloved bookseller, Books & Books, which features hundreds of author events throughout the year. As for dining, hundreds of eateries offer a range of cuisine and experiences, from fine dining to New American and fast-casual.

Restaurant Brasserie Central is located inside the Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Gables.
Restaurant Brasserie Central is located inside the Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Gables.

10. Shop and dine at the Shops at Merrick Park.
Every city needs a shopping center. But instead of the traditional strip malls found in most South Florida neighborhoods, Coral Gables boasts an open-air retail destination. The Shops at Merrick Park feature high-end brands from around the world, including Burberry, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, and Tiffany & Co. There are fitness spots too, such as the indoor boutique cycling studio SoulCycle and the full-service gym Equinox. Chef-driven eateries like Brasserie Central and Piripi, as well as popular chains such as Yard House and Teavana, round out the culinary offerings. The luxury center is Coral Gables' go-to spot for a workout, a new outfit, and a quick meal, all in one place. The only downside: This is one of the area's most expensive destinations. 

The Ten Best Things to Do in Coral Gables
Courtesy of Lowe Art Museum

9. Visit the Lowe Art Museum. 
What began in three small classrooms in 1950 quickly grew into South Florida's first official art museum. Founded in 1952, the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami features more than 17,000 objects, with collections of Renaissance and Baroque pieces, plus American, Native American, and Asian art. The free-standing museum is used as a teaching resource for the university but encourages locals and tourists to explore its grounds as well. While you're at it, stop by the university bookstore to pick up some Canes gear. 

The Ten Best Things to Do in Coral Gables
Courtesy of Books & Books

8. Read at Books & Books.
Contrary to the popular belief that "print is dead," Books & Books brings paper back to life. As the Gables' resident bookstore, founded in 1982, the independent shop is the city's main spot for literature, offering everything from new releases to classics, along with a myriad of author events. The shop hosts a different happening nearly every day, bringing authors from near and far to present their works, discuss timely topics, and chat about all things literary. There's also a café inside the store, offering farm-to-table eats for hungry readers, along with monthly gatherings for philosophy buffs and poetry aficionados. Whether you're in the mood to browse, catch a glimpse of your favorite writer, or have a bite to eat, Books & Books covers it.

It may be "old," but it's nothing short of beautiful.EXPAND
It may be "old," but it's nothing short of beautiful.
Wikipedia Commons, Averette

7. Walk or bike the Old Cutler Trail.
Journey under canopies of large, lush trees and through some of the most historic green areas of Coral Gables. The trail, which is mostly shaded, is perfect for an afternoon bike ride or early-evening jog. Begin at the northern end of Old Cutler, located at the intersection of Old Cutler Road, Sunset Road, and LeJune Road in Coral Gables, and travel south to its end, which then connects to the 2.7-mile Biscayne Trail. The course stretches 11 miles, journeying beyond the Gables' city limit.

Find different plays all year round.
Find different plays all year round.
Photo by Alberto Romeu

6. See a play at Actors' Playhouse.
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre produces both main-stage and children's theater, along with educational activities and community service events. Founded in 1988, the company spent its first seven years of existence in a converted Kendall movie theater. In 1995, the playhouse partnered with the City of Coral Gables to renovate the historic Miracle Theatre. The art deco space was transformed into the company's new home thanks to an $8 million renovation. With plays year-round, Actors' Playhouse offers a diverse and extensive lineup of everything from intense dramas to musical theater and comedies.

5. Swim at Venetian Pool
Created in 1923 from a coral rock quarry, Venetian Pool draws thousands of tourists each year to its 820,000-gallon aqua-blue swimming hole. Its grottos and waterfalls, which reflect Mediterranean influence, were designed by real-estate developer George Merrick. Inside the pool, spring water is pumped in from an underground aquifer, making the water clear as day. The pool area, which is open to the public, also features two historic lookout towers.

The Ten Best Things to Do in Coral Gables
Courtesy of Coral Gables Museum

4. Explore the Coral Gables Museum
Once used as the city's first court, the Coral Gables Museum has held multiple roles before it eventually opened to the public as a museum in 2011. The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features 3,000 square feet of gallery space, along with a 5,000-square-foot plaza that hosts everything from street fairs to canine costume contests. With ongoing exhibits throughout the year, find guided tours every Sunday, as well as professional workshops and family days.

Moscow mule and lavender daiquiri at Copper 29.EXPAND
Moscow mule and lavender daiquiri at Copper 29.
Photo by Paula Echevarria

3. Eat and bar-hop on Miracle Mile.
Cool down with an ice-cold beer and a few plates of food along Miracle Mile. Downtown Coral Gables features dozens of restaurants offering a range of cuisines and ambiances, from gourmet to casual. Snag craft cocktails at Copper 29; pizza, pasta, and wine at Cibo; or Caribbean fusion at the local mainstay Ortanique on the Mile.

The Ten Best Things to Do in Coral Gables
Coral Gables Art Cinema via Facebook

2. See a movie at the Coral Gables Art Cinema. 
One of Miami's newest movie spaces, the Coral Gables Art Cinema is the city's destination for independent and international films, classic movies, and film festivals. Though the space has only one screen, the theater offers a bevy of flicks that often change nightly. The seating is comfortable, the screen is large, the sound is crisp, and the design is swank, so many local moviegoers consider this theater before other conventional or mainstream options.

The Biltmore is a Coral Gables icon.
The Biltmore is a Coral Gables icon.
Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com

1. Visit the Biltmore and stay for brunch.
The Biltmore is a Coral Gables icon. The 1926 landmark dates back to the days of Prohibition-era glamor, exuding luxury and opulence. In the early '20s and '30s, the Biltmore was frequented by celebrities, socialites, royalty, and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But glitz and glamor aside, the building has a spooky past thanks to the murder of gangster Thomas "Fatty" Walsh and the temporary repurposing of the Biltmore as a military hospital during World War II. Despite its rumored ghosts, the hotel is still one of the most sought-after destinations in South Florida. Every Sunday, the lavish courtyard hosts one of the finest brunches in town. But if creepy stories are more your thing, the Biltmore also offers walking tours that touch on its mysterious past.

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