South Florida has many faces — beautiful beaches, acres of farmland, a bustling international center for business, and even a canvas for world-renowned graffiti artist. In recent years, the cultural, culinary and artistic landscape has really expanded and evolved, stretching far beyond South Beach.
As summer winds down and the temperature begins to cool, sign up for one of these specialized tours to discover — or rediscover — all there is to see.
When George Merrick set forth to build his Spanish Mediterranean style village in the 1920s, he probably never imagined Coral Gables would become one of South Florida’s thriving business districts and coveted places to live.
“Tours have increased in Coral Gables,” said Caroline Parker Santiago, director of programs at the Coral Gables Museum. “People are becoming aware there is more to Miami and Dade County beyond the beach.”
Learn about the area’s history and architecture on a walking tour with stops at the Hotel St. Michel, the Café Demetrio, and the site where Merrick once sold parcels of land (now the Westin Colonnade Hotel). The tour departs from The Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave., every Saturday at 11 a.m. Cost is $10 per person.
While you’re there, don’t miss the museum’s one-of-a-kind mini golf course designed by some of Miami’s leading architects and contractor, available through Sept. 30. Cost is museum admission ($7 for adults/$5 for kids) plus a $3 greens fee. For details, visit www.coralgablesmuseum.org.
Also in Coral Gables, the historic Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., offers a free tour of its grounds, including anecdotes about famous movie stars who lounged by the pool, infamous mobsters and ghost stories. Don’t miss a look at the Al Capone Suite (when not occupied), located in the hotel’s tower, where legend says the ghost of Capone’s bodyguard still roams.
Little Havana is finally getting the respect it deserves. A rising artistic community and mix of eateries have transformed this Cuban barrio into a must-visit hotspot. These days, double-decker buses and hotel shuttles make regular stops in front of famed Domino Park. Foodies flock here too for the local flavor, from the classic El Exquisito to the trendy 2B Asian Bistro and Azucar ice cream shop.
Miami Culinary Tours, one of Miami’s pioneering culinary tour companies, also helped put Little Havana on the map. The tour combines history and food tastings along historic Calle Ocho, with stops in art galleries, cigar shops, fruit stands, restaurants, and more. The tour is available Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. Cost is $55 per person (includes food and beverages). They also offer tours in South Beach. For details, visit www.miamiculinarytours.com.
Viernes Culturales is a great deal. The monthly street festival, on the last Friday of every month, does not charge admission and features live music, dancing, art, and street vendors in the heart of Little Havana. One of the best parts is a free walking tour led by historian and Miami Dade College professor Paul George, who takes the group to important landmarks and down residential streets with a bullhorn in hand. The group meets in front of the Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth St. The next Viernes Culturales tour will take place at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27. For details, visit www.viernesculturales.org.