My colleagues argue that the Beaches, both North and South, are the best neighborhoods in Miami-Dade. Which is fine, I suppose, if you're the kind of person who wants to drag sand into your tiny apartment every afternoon and whatever boozy hookup you picked up every night. It's a fun life for awhile, but most serious people who want to establish a life in Miami-Dade dream of calling only one city home: Coral Gables.
It's "the City Beautiful," after all, and here are ten reasons it's the city best.
1. Coral Gables knows what it is and stays that way.
Half of the other areas in Miami change identities more quickly than Charlie Crist flip-flops on political positions. South Beach has been an ever-changing hot spot for mafiosi, poor old people, criminals, gays, boozy Europeans, NYC expats, and rich old people at various points in its history. Some neighborhoods go from Puerto Rican enclaves to artsy gallery drags to (eventually) gaudy outdoor megamalls.
Not Coral Gables. Now just a few years shy of it's 90th birthday, the Gables is still exactly what it originally set out to be. Laugh all you want at its strict zoning laws, but Coral Gables is still the same it always was -- well, with a few more pickup trucks recently.
2. All the benefits of having a major college, few of the downsides.
It was the founders of Coral Gables who first envisioned plans for the University of Miami (so, you're welcome, rest of Miami), and the city enjoys all the perks of hosting a Top 50 university and few of the downsides. See, UM students may love to party, but it's not much of a party campus. The Gables gets them during the day when they're bright and studious, and then they head to the Grove or the Beach to party. It's a perfect harmony.
Yes, living right near a beach is nice, but Coral Gables has one of America's most unique public pools. Plus, admission is discounted for Gables residents. Built on an old rock quarry, the waterfall-adorned pool features fresh water directly from Florida's aquifers.
4. It's hospitable to drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.
Yes, there are a few major roadways that wind through the Gables, but for the most part traffic is relatively sane. That cuts down on driver stress and leaves plenty of friendly areas for bikers and pedestrians to roam.
5. Banyan trees!
Everywhere banyan trees! Big, beautiful banyans along almost every street. How can you not love banyans?
The city's main business district may be slight by design, but it packs a cultural punch. You've got the main location of Books & Books, unarguably the best bookstore in Miami and a frequent stop for touring authors; Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre; and Coral Gables Art Cinema. Not to mention everything else.
The city is no slouch when it comes to green space. There are plenty of parks within its borders, but the unequivocal botanical jewel is Fairchild. This place has just about every plant you'd care to see that grows in South Florida. It's frequent collaborations with well-known artists make it more of a treasure.
8. The restaurants
Coral Gables doesn't play around. It noticed other parts of the county were enjoying something of a culinary renaissance, and it caught up quickly. With exciting new restaurants such as Eating House and Swine Southern Table & Bar, and old favorites like Palme D'Or and Ortanique, the Gables has places to please any diner.
9. Its downtown is youth-friendly.
Coral Gables has a reputation as being suitable for college students, families, and retired folks, with not much room for those who have their degrees but not their wedding rings. Not true! The downtown area just north of Miracle Mile features tons of quaint apartments and newer buildings with rents comparable to other youthful hot spots in the county. I still weep when I think about how I gave up my beautiful apartment on Galiano with its hardwood floors, arched doorways, and backyard garden.
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10. Location! Location! Location!
The Gables is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to being in a quiet, more suburban setting while still being close to the center of the county. Yeah, traffic into town can get pretty bad during rush hour, but a drive to the Arsht Center or a night out on South Beach doesn't take too long.