Coral Gables is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County, though because of the county’s peculiar incorporating system, it is actually its own city. It lies about 12 miles southwest of downtown Miami, and is home to the University of Miami and its on-campus event venue, the BankUnited Center, and the Lowe Art Museum.
The city is best known for its Mediterranean-style architecture and planning, which includes numerous canals originally intended to evoke Venice. This can be credited to the city’s founder, George Merrick, who first developed Coral Gables in the 1920s with the hopes of marketing it to elite northerners. Originally, the many canals throughout the city served as waterways on which gondolas rowed visitors to the beach.
These days, Coral Gables’ tree-lined streets and well-kept neighborhoods are favored by wealthy families, mostly white and white Hispanic, for its high property values and well-rated public and private schools. Coral Gables also offers a relatively easy commute to downtown Miami as compared to other county suburbs. That commuting may not be necessary at all in some cases. Downtown Coral Gables is also popular for Miami-area headquarters of several major international companies, mostly Latin American, including Bacardi and Del Monte Produce.
Coral Gables also offers many activities for visitors, including several outdoor attractions. Golf, for instance, can be found at both the sprawling Biltmore Hotel — which could make a day’s visit in itself for its spa, pool, and restaurants — as well as at the Riviera Country Club. The lush Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is within Coral Gables city limits, and next door is an inlet beach at Mattheson Hammock Park. Closer to the city’s downtown strip is the Venetian Pool, a 1920s artifact cut into coral rock and complete with bridges, waterfalls, and faux grottos.
The main drag of Coral Gables lies along Miracle Mile, a historic main street packed with shops and restaurants. Most of the shopping here centers around jewelry, bridal supplies, and formal wear, though these are interspersed equally with casual cafes and upscale restaurants. The surrounding streets are also packed with more restaurants, from upscale ethnic eaters to fine dining fusion fare.
Downtown Coral Gables is also the home of the original location of Books and Books, the city’s independent bookstore mini-chain, which boasts its own cafe. Across the street is the Coral Gables Art Cinema, and back on Miracle Mile, Actors Playhouse mounts relatively large-budget productions of both new plays and old musical favorites. These mainly round out the p.m. options for the city — though there are several neighborhood bars around, the city’s late-night entertainment is virtually nonexistent by design.
As for shopping, on the super-upscale end is the Village of Merrick Park, where you’ll find names like Diane von Furstenburg, Etro, and Jimmy Choo along with department store Nordstrom’s and a handful of restaurants. More accessible is Sunset Place, which sits just across the Coral Gables border in downtown South Miami. The outdoor entertainment-style mall features a Barnes & Noble, an upscale bowling alley, and a multiplex movie theater along with restaurants and stores like Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, and the like.
Coral Gables is one of the more centrally located suburbs in Miami-Dade County, but it’s still best reached by car. Reaching Coral Gables by public transportation is possible, though from South Beach, the journey involves at least one bus to the elevated Metro-Rail train, and then another bus after the Metro-Rail.
From downtown, you can take the Metro-rail from the Government Center stop to any of the three stops serving the Coral Gables area: Douglas Road, University Station, and South Miami Station. The Douglas Road station is closest to the Village of Merrick Park mall and nearby neighborhood Coconut Grove, and a free Coral Gables trolley departs from the station to downtown Coral Gables via Ponce de Leon Avenue.
The University Station serves the University of Miami (including its on-campus event venue and arena, the BankUnited Center). Finally, the South Miami station is the closest to Sunset Place, which straddles the Coral Gables-South Miami border, and the rest of nearby downtown South Miami.
By car, Coral Gables can be reached from the north via I-95 south and then US-1 south, or from the east and west via SR-112, SR-836, or SR-826.
Coral Gables is home to several fine arts galleries, mostly those specializing in Latin American art, and the city hosts its own open gallery night on the first Friday of every month. Up-to-date details about it and other special city events can be found on the city’s Gables Home Page.
Major Coral Gables Attractions
Books and Books
Coral Gables Art Cinema
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Lowe Art Museum
Mattheson Hammock Park
Riviera Country Club Golf Course
The Shops at Sunset Place
University of Miami
Village of Merrick Park
View Coral Gables (Miami-Dade County) in a larger map