Best For: Couples, girlfriend getaways Date of Stay: April 2010
The Lowdown: My husband and I were long overdue for a romantic getaway. We’d been promising ourselves one since our tenth wedding anniversary, and we’re now counting down to our 14th! The problem was that we couldn’t arrange our schedules to get away for a full week, and the best travel deals for all-inclusives seemed to require a minimum 7-day stay. So, with the cost of flights to Florida dropping and the Canadian dollar at par with its US counterpart, we instead opted for a four-night sojourn to South Florida, and are we glad we did!
First of all, there’s a great selection of flight options, and the flight itself is under three hours long. We left early Wednesday morning, and were on South Beach for lunch. South Beach is unlike any Florida beach I’d visited before. I could have sat all day and watched the people (and the ocean didn’t look too bad either!)
We stayed at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Coral Gables is a beautiful residential neighbourhood in Miami, and the Biltmore is one of the most gorgeous hotels in North America. The accommodations are top-notch and boast beautiful grounds (capped off by the largest hotel pool in the United States), a great golf course, impressive restaurants and an amazing spa.
Husband’s Comments: Our trip to Miami was exactly what we needed; sun, relaxation and time to reconnect (what can I say…he’s a man of few words!)
Top 5 Things You Should Know About a Stay at Biltmore Hotel, and Miami in general:
The Restaurants: You could never leave the hotel and still enjoy some of the most amazing meals of your life. The Fontana Restaurant is an al fresco establishment surrounding the hotel’s fountain which serves delicious Northern Italian cuisine. The Palme d’Or, with its French nouvelle cuisine is rated as South Florida’s best restaurant by Zagat guide. However, if you choose to leave the hotel you’ll find wonderful meals all around Miami from delicious ceviche at Jaguar, to steaks at Smith & Wollensky on South Beach. Be prepared to gain a few pounds!
The Hotel’s Amenities: The Biltmore Hotel first opened in the 1920s and it certainly oozes old world charm, but it’s been updated along the way and boasts wonderful amenities, too. I spent a great afternoon at the spa enjoying the best facial I’ve ever had. During that time, my husband tried out the popular lunchtime spinning class. The 10,000 square foot fitness facilities are well-used
, and rightly so. During our stay I did a serious aerobics class with rocking Cuban music which made it seem somehow more fun! For those inclined, the hotel also has golf, tennis, and a newly-opened culinary academy that I think would make a great vacation destination with a few girlfriends.
Miami’s Neighbourhoods: One of the nicest surprises about this getaway was the opportunity to discover Miami’s many neighbourhoods, from the artsy Coconut Grove, to the art deco of South Beach, to the established and well-off parts of Coral Gables, we walked (and ran) it all. The Biltmore concierge was wonderful about suggesting driving, walking and running routes for us each day, and we loved the freedom (no kids!!!) to just set out for a couple of hours and discover.
Fairchild Tropical Gardens: This was another unexpected find. When the idea of a visit to the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens was first suggested, I thought “meh”. It was my husband who pointed out that this was the type of place we never get to visit with three kids who would rather climb trees than look at them. So we went and spent a couple of hours wandering around the world’s largest tropical plan collections. The garden also has a number of incredible works of art, and it’s a really magical place.
Drive to the Keys: My husband and I stayed down in the Keys years ago, and have always talked about going back. While we didn’t make it all the way down to Key West on this trip, a two hour drive from our hotel got us down to Isla Morado, halfway between Miami and Key West. The drive itself is a fun excursion, but our ultimate desination, the Morado Bay Cafe, capped off a perfect day. We sat on the beach, sipping mango mojitos and eating delicious crab cakes, with our toes in the sand, listening to a live band. Together we watched the sun set and remarked on how fortunate we are, not only for our romantic getaway from reality, but also for the wonderful reality we would head home to.