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Coral Gables, with its stately 1920s mansions and tree-shaded boulevards, isn’t just a pleasant excursion for your mom and dad anymore. With an evolving food, bar and hotel scene, you too might be just as likely as them to book your next vacation there. Less than 10 miles south of Miami, the city is reinventing itself and becoming a destination in its own right.

RELATED: 5 great Florida family vacation ideas—that aren’t Disney

Photo courtesy of the Colonnade Hotel

Photo courtesy of the Colonnade Hotel

Revitalization abounds in Coral Gables, namely at the Hotel Colonnade, which just completed an $18 million renovation. Already a beauty with vaulted ceilings and a grand staircase in the lobby, the hotel’s tres chic Latin vibe is now accented with a new, eye-catching stained glass “rosary” style window and oversized Murano glass chandeliers. There’s a state-of-the-art game room with a pool table, shuffleboard, mega TVs, a bar area and much more.

Miracle Mile | Photo courtesy of Roberto Montoya

Miracle Mile | Photo courtesy of Roberto Montoya

The Hotel Colonnade is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also a $21-million neighborhood-wide streetscape project that will shape the city’s legendary Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue. Improvements will include wider, more walkable sidewalks, additional outdoor dining and new trees.

Coral Gables’ restaurant and bar scenes are flourishing, too. Cooper 29, a new speakeasy, is upping the Miracle Mile’s cool factor. Try the handcrafted libations, like Cooper’s Mule with Grey Goose chia seed-infused vodka, aloe juice, kombucha fermented tea, lime and fever tree ginger beer; or the Hibiscus 29 with Facundo Neo silver rum, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, hibiscus shrub and bergamot acid foam. Delight yourself with apps like short rib sliders and truffle mac and cheese with white cheddar, fontina cheese, crispy pancetta and toasted bread crumbs. The DJ plays old-school R&B jams, reggae and other songs that create a laid back, feel-good mood.

Another hot spot is The Local. This cozy pub boasts 18 rotating beers on tap and prides itself on serving locallysourced food. The eating is good: Think blue crab hushpuppies with Mississippi comeback sauce, hot fried chicken oysters, and flatbread with house-made morcilla, Florida gouda, grilled onions, and roasted pear. If you don’t fancy beer, go for the craft cocktails like Baby, I Got Your Honey, made with Hendrick’s gin, fresh lemon juice, toasted lavender honey and cucumber. You don’t want to miss the Seven Dials restaurant either.

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Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel

But there’s plenty to do besides eat and drink in this city of 65,000. If you want to find out why Coral Gables is called “The City Beautiful,” take a historic walking or bike tour with Dr. Paul George, whom you can find through the HistoryMiami Museum. Be ready to ooh and aww at the palatial Mediterranean Revival style homes, and landmarks like the gorgeous historic Biltmore Hotel, a 1926 National Historic Landmark resort, where presidents and celebrities alike have stayed.

Venetian Pool | Flickr CC: Lima Pix

Venetian Pool | Flickr CC: Lima Pix

Meanwhile, you’ll swear you stepped back into the glory days of Hollywood if you take a swim at the stunning Venetian Pool, created in the 1920s from a coral rock quarry. The 820,000-gallon pool is fed with spring water from an underground aquifer. The scene is breathtaking with palms trees, loggias, porticos, two waterfalls, large lookout towers and the famed bridge. All that is yours to enjoy for a mere $10.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Bill Baggs Cape FloridaState Park

Keep soaking up that Florida sunshine by venturing over to Key Biscayne’s Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park with it’s beautiful beach, historic lighthouse, kayaking, biking and fishing. For Cuban fare, do eat at the park’s Lighthouse Café or the Boater’s Grill. If you’re in the mood, grill your own goodies on the barbecue pits. Coral Gables is also a short drive to Little Havana, the Miami neighborhood that is all things Cuban. The Ball & Chain nightclub there is where you’ll hear some of the best live music in Miami. It has a long tradition of showcasing top talent from the days when Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker performed there. The food and cocktails are just as good as the music.

Looking to spend some time on the green? Golfers have their choice of the Biltmore Golf Course or the Granada GolfCourse. And art lovers aren’t left out either, as Coral Gables is home to the Lowe Art Museum and dozens of galleries.

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Tagged: Destinations, Florida

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Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl is a writer and editor, specializing in travel, personal finance, business and career topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Money, DailyFinance.com, Forbes.com, ABCNews.com, Upscale Magazine, Essence, Black Enterprise and others.

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