After changing hands many times between 1882 and 1916, the property that would eventually be known as The Kampong—which means "village" in Malay—was snatched up by David Fairchild and his wife Marian, a daughter of Alexander Graham Bell. Fairchild was one of the most influential horticulturists in the United States, devoting his life to plant exploration and finding new strains of flora suitable for introduction to the states. Though he and his wife spent much of their time in Washington DC until 1928, The Kampong became an "introduction garden" for many of the plants he collected during his travels.
After constructing a house on the garden property in 1928, the Fairchilds made Miami their permanent home, and they were eventually were joined by Marian's sister and her husband on the adjoining property. Today, as part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, most of the adjoining property has been absorbed to be part of The Kampong, creating more than 11 acres of verdant gardens. Inside the leafy labyrinth, many of the experimental plants still thrive, including an 80-year-old baobab tree, more than 50 mango varieties.
At Happy Cruises, all the sightseeing and sunbathing takes place on a 42' yacht dubbed Happy Ours. That includes sunset cruises through Biscayne Bay, dinner cruises in a lagoon, and eight-hour day cruises that give folks their fill of the sea and increase their chances of seeing Poseidon come up for air. If you need to step away from Mother Nature for a second, the vessel features an air-conditioned interior with two bathrooms and showers. Best of all, each trip is navigated by a USCG-licensed captain.
When the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum began in 1952, the school could comfortably display its entire collection in three unused classrooms. Those days are long past. Today, the museum stands as Miami's most comprehensive collection of western and non-western art. The permanent collections feature pieces drawn from across human history, with notable works including Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge and a recently acquired face mask from the Dan people of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, forged from wood, cloth, and fur. A sizable trove of Native American artifacts includes pieces from the Southeast such as a beautifully embroidered bead shoulder bag. Other exhibits include paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and photographs from the Middle Ages through the present, including the Samuel H. Kress Collection of Renaissance and Baroque art, as well as pottery, sculpture, and metalwork from ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, dating from the first millennium BCE through the 4th century CE.
A few miles away, the tower of the 1939 Old Police and Fire Station rises above the street, gazing down on an unusual blend of sleek, depression-era modernism and Mediterranean revival ornateness. Founded in 2003, the Coral Gables Museum Corp. completely renovated the old municipal building. Spanish touches were added—the new Fewell wing and a 5,000-square-foot plaza—and the space was opened in 2011 as a museum dedicated to the civic arts of architecture, urban design, historic and environmental preservation, and sustainable development. Today, it holds regular art and design exhibitions, educational events, and concerts.
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A two-day pass aboard the Hop On Hop Off Tour provides riders with accessible transit and the cranial expansion of local knowledge. Throughout the route, a narration crafted by expert locals will keep you up to speed on where you are, where you are going, and where to direct your photographic and human irises. Non-English-speaking guests or bilingually curious natives can tune in to multilingual headsets along the ride. In addition to directing rubberneckers, the local good-times gurus at Gray Line lead wide-eyed wonderers into cultural hotbeds and fashionable storefronts. Riders who want to simply sink into the sun-soaked sand can browse the beach buffet out their window, hopping off when the bus reaches a towel-worthy strip.
It's easy to forget amid all of the concrete and neon, but Miami is an ancient place. Eons before the first modern residents began to move into the Coconut Grove cemetery, indigenous people were shielding themselves from the elements using the region's natural rock ridge and sunless tanning salons. Today, Ghost Tours Miami visits the restless spirits that have gathered here over the centuries, including the specters in the windows of the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Pirates, pilots, gangsters, and those too close to gangsters have all met their ultimate fate in this tropical cove, and the photographs and stories of spooked tour guests testify to their continued presence.