Miami: Coral Gables
SEE The Biltmore Hotel
1200 Anastasia Ave., 305/445-1926, biltmorehotel.com
Enormous landmark modeled after the same Seville cathedral as the Freedom Tower. It looks like a movie set, with 25-foot-high frescoed walls, vaulted ceilings, and immense fireplaces. A one-time celebrity hangout for the likes of Judy Garland and Al Capone, it's now a mainstream hotel, though the huge pool still oozes glam. Free tours of the premises every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
SEE International Villages
Coral Gables was built in the 1920s as a planned city and intended as a livable, beautiful alternative to then-grimy Miami. The developers cleverly incorporated points of interest around town, including clusters of buildings designed to ape exotic overseas lands; these hamlets were nicknamed the International Villages. The most photo-worthy? The Chinese Village, with brightly colored roofs and ornately carved balconies (on Sansovino and Castania aves.); and the French Normandy Village, which looks thoroughly Renaissance thanks to its thick, chocolate-brown stucco facade and red-tile roofs (400 block of Viscaya Ave. at Le Jeune Rd.).
SEE Venetian Pool
2701 De Soto Blvd., 305/460-5356, venetianpool.com
A coral rock quarry that was dug in 1923, while the city was being constructed, and then turned into a public pool. Surrounded by shaded porticos, wrought-iron railings, and Venetian-style bridges, the water winds its way through coral rock caves and spills over two waterfalls. There's even a man-made beach for sunbathers. $6.25-$9.50, depending on season.
EAT Burger Bob's
2001 Granada Blvd., 305/567-3100
A homey café in the clubhouse of the public Granada Golf Course. Expect green Formica chairs, white plastic tables, yellow mustard bottles, and first-rate chili.
EAT Estate Wines
92 Miracle Mile, 305/442-9915
Wine store-café specializing in hot and cold sandwiches (the gooey ham-and-cheese is a standout) and house-baked pastries. Sit at the communal table and meet the locals.
EAT Les Halles
>2415 Ponce de Leon Blvd., 305/461-1099, leshalles.net
Cozy, mid-priced French bistro that serves classics such as steak tartare and mussels and fries in an authentic atmosphere.
SPLURGE Ortanique on the Mile
278 Miracle Mile, 305/446-7710
Understated foodie favorite that couldn't be more different than the faddish hotspots in South Beach. Serving innovative, adventurous, tropical fusion in a lush setting, it's the ideal place for an anniversary dinner or a first date. (Save room for the passion fruit sabayon.)
253 Miracle Mile, 305/445-3777, johnmartins.com
A friendly Irish bar where you can drink a pint of Guinness amid wood-paneled veneer. Free live music starts around 8:30 p.m. every Fri. and Sat.
DRINK Titanic Brewery & Restaurant
5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd., 305/667-2537, titanicbrewery.com
Captain Smith's Rye Ale and other top-notch beers are made on the premises. A Wed.-Sun. lineup of live pop/rock bands is another draw for frat boys and students from the nearby University of Miami. The free shows start at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.
SHOP Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave., 305/442-4408, booksandbooks.com
Lovingly stocked independent bookstore with browsable shelves featuring an impressive selection of travel and local-interest titles. There's also an on-site café with seating in the enclosed courtyard. Free jazz starts at 7 p.m. on Fri.
SPLURGE Rene Ruiz Couture
262 Miracle Mile, 305/445-2352
A local fashion legend, red-carpet staple Ruiz is known for his stretchy chiffon-and-lace gowns and sequined accessories-all at couture prices.
PLAY Actors' Playhouse
280 Miracle Mile, 305/444-9293, actorsplayhouse.org
Restored 600-seat art deco movie theater that's now home to many excellent Broadway projects, like Little Shop of Horrors. Tickets from $30.
1200 Anastasia Ave., 305/445-1119, gablestage.org
Florida premieres of off-Broadway hits set against the stunning Biltmore backdrop. Worth checking out even if you're not a diehard theater fan. From $35.
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