As I’ve mentioned in some of my other posts, such as The Keys House, I grew up in South Florida. Specifically, I grew up in Miami. Even more specifically, I spent the first 14 years of my life in Coral Gables, Florida—home of the U (That is the University of Miami, for all of you who live under a rock). Coral Gables is where my mother’s family is from—several generations back—and where I spent my college years. Coral Gables is home.
Some of you reading my blog may not know this, but Coral Gables is an actual city surrounded by Miami. It is not a suburb or neighborhood, like Coconut Grove, but it is a real, independent city with a police force, a mayor, city council, its own laws, etc… This was not a section of Miami that broke off at some point, as some of the suburbs outside of Atlanta are doing right now, but Coral Gables started as its own Spanish-style resort town, and Miami grew up around it.
Speaking of laws unique to the city of Coral Gables, have you ever heard of the pickup truck ban? At one point in Coral Gables history, there was a famous law that prohibited residents from parking pickup trucks in their driveways overnight. I grew up under this ban, and yet, I always longed for a Ford F-150 as a young teen (I guess I do have a rebellious streak). Apparently, the law was overturned last November after much fuss throughout the years. I wonder how some of the old-timers feel about that. It was such a unique part of living in the Gables.
Coral Gables is a beautiful city, much prettier than most parts of the Miami area. I’m sure that when you think of Miami, you think about South Beach, Bal Harbour, Coconut Grove, and Key Biscayne. I would argue, with a few exceptions, that the Gables takes the cake for aesthetics in Miami-Dade county. Imagine tree canopy-lined streets, old Spanish style homes sprinkled in between historic, white-columned colonial homes, like many of those found in the deep South. If you drive through the Gables, you will find neighborhoods like Gables by the Sea, which is on the water; Gables Estates, which boasts some of the biggest homes in the area; the Old Cutler neighborhood, which has some of the most incredible full coverage, tree-lined streets; Santa Maria and the Riviera Country Club golf course neighborhoods, where some of the first colonial houses were built during the early 20th century; and of course, the downtown Coral Gables and Miracle Mile area, where you can find gorgeous, brand-new condo buildings.
One of my favorite downtown Coral Gables landmarks is the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. I mentioned this theatre in my post, Let Them Make Art, as the first place where I took an acting class as a kid. This little theatre can boast some of the best live performances in all of South Florida. If you are ever in the area, I suggest you check the calendar to see which show is playing during your stay. The Miracle Theatre is famous for its main stage musicals, including some of your favorites like Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. I am being honest when I say that some of the best talent in the country performs regularly at Actors’ Playhouse. You won’t be disappointed.
I would be remiss to write this endearing post about my hometown without mentioning the Biltmore Hotel. Is there a more beautiful hotel in the world? I don’t think so. If you have never seen this historic luxury resort in the middle of a world-class city, complete with a golf course, spas, its own performing arts threatre, tennis courts, at one point, the largest swimming pool in the country, and even its own Culinary Academy, then you must make it a destination point on your next trip to South Florida. The hotel itself is even haunted, they say, with a fully functional thirteenth floor. When I was a kid, you could take a ghost tour through the more sinister parts of the hotel.
As one of the oldest buildings in the city, the Biltmore hotel has seen many uses throughout the years, including: a hospital during WWII; a meeting place for gangsters such as Al Capone; and a destination for Hollywood’s finest and many past U.S. Presidents such as F.D.R and Bill Clinton, who used the hotel as a second home on their many trips to South Florida–both official and personal. At night, the building can appear secretive and daunting on the outside; towering magnificently above the much smaller homes and churches that surround it, sticking out like a lit middle finger to all the airplanes with pale-skin tourists coming into approach at MIA. The Biltmore was always a symbol to me that my hometown was better than your hometown–both in beauty and history.
As a graduate of the University of Miami, which sits proudly in the center of Coral Gables, I could spend hours and hours telling you how alluring the campus is to everyone who is lucky enough to visit it. I could sit here and describe to you how it looks like a resort, and how the most attractive and intelligent college students in the country attend that school. However, all of that may be a topic for another day, as I could write forever about the most incredible school in the world (BOLD statement, but true).
There is much more about the City Beautiful that I could tell you today, but I will leave some stories for future posts—such as the history of Coral Gables, and the role that my family played in the building of the city. I hope that if you are not familiar with the area, you make a choice to check it out, stay at the Biltmore, catch a show at the Miracle Theatre, take a driving tour of the city, and visit the U.