Hotel St Michel
Coral Gables, Florida
Along Ponce de Leòn Boulevard—named for the Spanish explorer who once reputedly searched the area for the fountain of youth—the Coral Gables trolley reinvigorates the historic city southwest of Miami much like the fabled fountain itself. Originally dreamed up by 1920s real-estate developer George Edgar Merrick, Coral Gables' neatly aligned boulevards still bear the Mediterranean Revivalist mansions that once served as summer homes to Merrick’s contemporaries. Beneath the arching boughs of ancient live oaks, the blocks of Coral Way hide the fluted columns and terra-cotta tiles of Venetian-inspired villas, including the museum and former Merrick manor known as the Coral Gables Merrick House. While sojourners wander nearby avenues, signs demarcating local and national landmarks pop into view as frequently as brown anole lizards dart across the sidewalk. To the south, the elongated business district of the Miracle Mile shelters popular restaurants and independent boutiques.Nearby, the neighborhood of Little Havana speaks to a different history, one filled with cigar-making secrets, intensely strong cafecitos, and the alliance of Hispanic cultures that helped shape Miami's modern identity. Calle Ocho, or Eighth Street, brims with Spanish-language cafés and restaurants that serve everything from coconut-laden Nicaraguan cuisine to Cuban sandwiches pressed as flat as an elephant's flip-flops. Nestled at the center of Calle Ocho, Domino Park reverberates with the click of gleaming game tiles as masters of the classic game play from dawn until dusk. The area buzzes with live music, gallery openings, and free walking tours led by historian Dr. Paul George during Viernes Culturales—or cultural Fridays—held on the last week of every month.