Coral Gables For Families

venetian pool

Take a dip at Venetian Pool

Actors Playhouse

Miracle Mile Theater

Matheson Hammock

SUP at Matheson Hammock

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By: Laura Albittron

Drive past Spanish Mediterranean Revival-style mansions tucked away off streets crawling with tropical foliage, named for cities in Spain (Seville, Malaga, Valencia), and you’ll understand why Coral Gables is known as The City Beautiful. Established in 1922 by visionary planner George Merrick, this lovely neighborhood is celebrated for its beautiful homes, European-style plazas, picturesque canals and Royal Poinciana trees bursting with orange-red blossoms. “The Gables,” as locals call it, lures travelers with fantastic boutiques, enchanting tropical gardens and iconic swimming venues perfect for families.

Venetian Pool
Take a dip at the Venetian Pool

Not-So-Ordinary Swimming Holes

One of the most kid-friendly attractions in Coral Gables is the glorious Venetian Pool. This 820,000-gallon swimming hole was created in 1924 out of a coral rock quarry. The atmosphere is rather magical, with Italian-style loggias and porticos, caves, waterfalls and a romantic bridge. Fed by a natural spring, the clear, chilly water feels best on a hot Miami day. A separate shallow pool is ideal for young swimmers, while lifeguards are stationed throughout the complex.

On Biscayne Bay in the southern section of Coral Gables, you’ll discover another ideal family destination, Matheson Hammock Park. “Hammock” in this case does not refer to the mesh sling you hook up between two trees, but to tropical hardwood forests, which have been preserved within the boundaries of this special park. The protected, calm waters of its manmade atoll make it ideal for taking a dip with babies and toddlers. Older kids can learn to windsurf or paddleboard with child-sized equipment at the Adventure Sports Miami concession.

Coral Gables Museum
Check out Family Day at the Coral Gables Museum

Culture with Kids

Why not see real, live entertainment during your Miami vacation? The Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre presents musicals and plays perfect for children throughout the year. Previous productions include “Peter Rabbit and the Garden of Doom,” “Cinderella” and “A Christmas Carol.” Check the website for upcoming shows and to purchase tickets.

The Coral Gables Museum, housed in the city’s original police and fire station buildings, features exhibitions designed to appeal to adults and children, with a focus on local history, design and architecture. On the second Saturday of each month, check out the free Family Day on Aragon when kids can make crafts, listen to music, hear stories and watch films.

Next door to the Coral Gables Museum, don’t skip the original outpost of Miami’s best loved local bookstore, Books & Books, which has an excellent kids’ section and a garden café perfect for a bite to eat.

If your children are new to art museums, the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami will give them an accessible introduction with its manageable size and range of works. Its permanent collection includes a Monet painting and a fourth-century Greek krater (mixing bowl). The Asian section ranges from a Chinese Tang Dynasty horse to Korean Lion-Dog sculptures. The Lowe’s galleries also display art of the Americas, Africa and the Pacific Islands.

Fairchild Botanical Garden
Explore the lush grounds of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

A Botanical Paradise

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden showcases a huge lush, tropical landscape with various exhibits: Windows to the Tropics, Wings of the Tropics butterfly conservatory, a palmetum, a rainforest, arboretum, succulent section and Keys coastal habitat. The narrated tram tour is a must. You’ll learn many entertaining facts, such as why the peeling gumbo limbo is called the “tourist tree” and which plant is endearingly known as “Mr. Stinky.” Plus, taking the tram keeps little feet from getting too tired. The gardens also contain the Glasshouse Café, a great place for a healthy family lunch, along with an alluring gift shop.

Miracle Mile
Window shop along Miracle Mile

Shopping à la Gables

Miracle Mile, Coral Gables’ main strip for dining and shopping, dates back to the city’s origins in 1922. Families enjoy spending leisurely afternoons strolling the Mile. At the western end of Miracle Mile, you’ll spot City Hall with a large statue of George Merrick. High-end children’s stores like Bellini, Sweet Amor Baby and Baby Tots’ Den will appeal to parents looking for beautiful furniture and clothing. Grownups wishing to indulge will find everything from exquisite jewelry to bathing suits.

Restaurant options range from casual chain restaurants to the more exotic, like Ortanique on the Mile's Caribbean fusion.

More fabulous shopping possibilities await at the upscale Shops at Merrick Park, a three-story plaza built around a spectacular outdoor courtyard with palm trees and tropical greenery. Toddlers and little ones looking to burn off some steam can play a game of tag around the central fountain before enjoying a cool frozen yogurt.

Department stores Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom anchor the development. Children’s shops include Janie and Jack and Pottery Barn Kids. Adults may want to stop by Anthropologie, L’Occitane or Hugo Boss. When it’s time to eat, you’ll find plenty of choices ranging from sushi to Italian. The Bazille bistro inside Nordstrom serves scrumptious meals like a Niçoise salmon salad and steak frites and its kids’ menu proves perennially popular with young ones.

Whether you and your children want to shop ‘til you drop, explore a natural beach or experience art, Coral Gables entices visitors and locals alike with its irresistible, historic style.

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