The Venetian Pool
A Coral Gables landmark, included in the National Register of Historic Places, this 820,000 gallon swimming pool was built 1923 from a coral rock quarry. The pool is fed with cool spring water, which is returned to the aquifer and changed every week, and is surrounded by two waterfalls, coral caves and grottos. Also bordering the Venetian Pool are buildings of Venetian-style architecture, designed by Denman Fink, uncle of George Merrick
The Venetian Pool is open every day except Mondays (seven days during the summer) and is available after closing for private parties, weddings, banquets and special events. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba and water aerobics are offered for those who want to pursue firmness in a spectacular setting. The Venetian Pool is located at 2701 DeSoto Boulevard in Coral Gables, (305) 460-5356.
Granada Golf Course
The City of Coral Gables operates Granada Golf Course, the oldest 9-hole course in Florida. If you don't have the time or ability to take on the Biltmore, or if you are just looking for a relaxing round of golf, Granada is the prefect spot.
Generous fairways, newly remodeled greens, minimal bunkering and water hazards make Granada extremely playable for golfers of all abilities. However, Granada is not just pitch and putt: its par 36 layout plays to a respectable 3001 yards from the back tees. Granada is also an exceptional value: $12 to walk, $20.50 to ride, and a twilight walking rate of only $9!
Located in the heart of Coral Gables, Granada is surrounded by some of the most historic homes in the city (don't worry; they're a safe distance from the fairways). Club rental is available through the pro shop and there is a restaurant on the premises. Granada Golf Course is located at 2001 Granada Boulevard in Coral Gables, (305) 460-5367.
The Biltmore Golf Course
The Biltmore Golf Course is truly a special asset to Coral Gables' residents and visitors. It is quite rare to find a city-owned golf course that is challenging for the better golfer, playable for the novice, well-run and maintained and above all, affordable. Add the historic Biltmore Hotel as a backdrop and you've got something unique.
Opened in 1926 and renovated in 1992 and 1997, the Biltmore is a classic Donald Ross design that hosted a PGA Tour event from the 1930's into the 1960's. Each December the world's top junior players gather at the Biltmore for the Junior Orange Bowl Championships, one of the premiere international events for golfers under 18.
What makes the Biltmore even more special is what it doesn't have. Unlike most Florida golf courses, the Biltmore is not overrun with the two major enemies of all golfers: water and houses. Water comes into play on only 6 holes- just enough to keep you on your toes. The few homes that line the perimeter of the course are some of the most beautiful in the city and are in danger from only the wildest of shots.
Golf purists will also appreciate the Biltmore's liberal walking policy: walkers are permitted anytime except early on the weekend morning. Green fees run $37 to $82 (with cart) depending on the season, with a special walking rate of $15.
Amenities include a fully-stocked Pro Shop with club rental and repair, driving range, two putting greens, an extensive chipping area, and a restaurant. Professional instruction is also available from the PGA accredited staff. The Biltmore Golf Course is located at 1210 Anastasia Avenue (305) 460-5364.
Salvadore Park & The William Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center
The City of Coral Gables operates two outstanding public tennis facilities. The Salvadore Park Tennis Center has 13 lighted courts - 8 clay and 5 hard- and 4 practice walls. The William Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center has 10 hard courts (all lighted) and a large practice wall. Both facilities have fully-equipped pro shops, locker rooms, ball machine rental and helpful staffs. Private lessons and group clinics are available for players of all abilities. For young players there are after school programs, Saturday classes and summer and holiday camps. Both centers also host league play and weekly round-robin tournaments. Night play costs $4.75 for residents and $6.25 for non-residents. Both Centers are open 7 days a week. The Salvadore Park Tennis Center is located at 1120 Andalusia Avenue in Coral Gables, (305) 460-5333. The William Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center is located 1150 Anastasia Avenue, (305) 460-4360.
War Memorial Youth Center
After a 10 million dollar renovation, the War Memorial Youth Center is both an after school playground and a sports Mecca. The completely redesigned sports fields are home to organized (and not-so-organized) games of football, baseball, softball and soccer. The new Youth Center really shines. The new facilities include a full-sized gymnasium, a dance room, a fitness center, and gymnastics room. There are also specialized classrooms for the numerous programs in arts & crafts, ceramics, drama and cooking-just to name a few. The Youth Center isn't just for youths: classes in aerobics and dance are offered for adults, and there are special programs just for seniors.
Add indoor and outdoor toddler playgrounds, a concession stand, and the War Memorial Youth Center has the whole family covered. War Memorial Youth Center is located at 400 Anastasia Ave in Coral Gables, (305) 460-5339.
Known worldwide for its beautiful flora and fauna, South Florida has been attracting naturalists and outdoorsmen alike since the start of the Miami tourist boom. Nowhere in South Florida is there a better example of the legendary beauty they have been seeking than at the Matheson Hammock Park located on Biscayne Bay.
Donated to Dade County in 1930 by Commodore W.H. Matheson, a wealthy chemical and dye manufacturer from New York, the original 85 acres were pristine strands of South Florida hardwood hammock and mangrove wilderness he wanted to preserve. The park was later enlarged to 600 acres, 350 of which were natural areas for the public to enjoy. Matheson Hammock is an excellent example of a mangrove swamp, an essential part of the South Florida ecological system.
Among its many facilities, Matheson Hammock has a new, well marked 45-minute nature trail where you will be sure to encounter many species of native vegetation and wildlife. Nature lovers will peruse the hammock as well as 15 native hardwood trees such as the Gumbo Limbo affectionately known as a "tourist tree" because of its trademark red, peeling back; Jamaica Dogwood, whose leaves and bark can be used to stun fish; West Indian cherry with almond scented leaves when crushed; Stoppers, one of the rarest trees in the United States used in medicinal capacities by early South Florida settlers; Live Oak; Wild Coffee and a wide variety of flowering shrubs and vines.
Some of the mammals to be spotted on our nature hike are Southern flying squirrels, gray Everglades foxes, red foxes, turtles, opossums, spotted skunks, shrews and, of course, raccoons. Colorful butterflies of a wide variety of species are attracted to the sunny part of the hardwood forest.
Other major components of the park include scenic picnic areas, a marina and boat ramps, a bait & tackle fuel facility, a food stand and wading beach on the Southeast end of the park popular with sun worshippers and naturalists who explore the shallows in search of exotic plant and wildlife. Another popular draw of the park is its atoll pool, a man made facility with soft sand. Staffed by lifefuards it's a good place for a refreshing dip after a long walk. Matheson Hammock Park is located at 9601 Old Cutler Road, (305) 665-5475.
Fairchild Tropical Garden
Designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillips in 1938, Fairchild Tropical Gardens is an 83-acre natural preserve on the edge of Coral Gables.
The Gardens have something for everyone. children's classes and educational programs, earth day celebrations, shows and much more. There are guided walking tours, tram shows and special events. There are over a dozen flower shows each year coordinated by local plant organizations, plus an annual horticultural festival. Visit the Everglades area, the mangrove preserve or the large collection of palms and cycads. The botanical garden's winding paths provide magnificent views of exotic plants, tropical flowers and fruits, flowering vines, palms and oaks. The hidden trails wind around eleven lakes, rain forest displays, wild undergrowth, ferns and orchids. There are overlooks and vistas that offer expansive views of gardens. And when you're ready to meander indoors for a while, there's the Palm Products Museum, detailing palm uses and the work of plant explorer David Fairchild. Since visiting the Gardens is - at the very least - a day long expedition, the Rain Forest Café offers sandwiches and the like for those taking a break. The Garden bookstore features a wealth of literary collections on such topics as botany, horticulture, flowers, rare plants and the South Florida environment.
Fairchild Tropical Gardens is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road (305) 667-1651 or http://www.fairchildgarden.org/.