In the most opulent neighborhood of one of the showiest cities in the world, the Biltmore is the greatest of the grand hotels of the American Jazz Age. If this joint were a fictional character from a novel, it’d be, without question, Jay Gatsby. Al Capone had a speakeasy on-site, and the Capone Suite is said to be haunted by the spirit of Fats Walsh, who was murdered here and may still haunt the thirteenth floor (natch).
Back in the day, imported gondolas transported celebrity guests like Judy Garland and the Vanderbilts around because, of course, there was a private canal system out the back. That's gone now, but the largest hotel pool in the continental USA, which resembles a sultan’s water garden from One Thousand & One Nights, is still here. The grounds are so palatial it would take a week to explore everything the Biltmore has to offer.
What is the Biltmore Hotel like?
After all, the Biltmore sprawls across 150 acres that encompass pretty tropical grounds, tennis courts, the massive swimming pool and a restored 18-hole golf course. Inside, there's even more afoot, and indeed, you could spend a few days ensconced in the many activities on offer. The hotel even has its own theater company. GableStage puts on thought-provoking contemporary works, staged at one end of the Biltmore. It's an intimate theater and there's not a bad seat in the house.
Rooms at the Biltmore are surprisingly business-like, with some baroque furniture flashes. There's nothing subtle about the soaring central tower, however, which was modeled after the 12th-century Giralda tower in Seville, Spain. The showy grandeur continues inside, starting with the colonnaded lobby with its hand-painted ceiling, antique chandeliers and Corinthian columns, and continues to the lushly landscaped courtyard set around a central fountain.
Things to do near the Biltmore Hotel
The hotel gives free 45-minute guided tours of the property on Sundays at 1:30pm and 2:30pm. You can learn more about the history and design of the place, as well as the work of developer George Merrick, who created the surrounding Coral Gables neighborhood, too, and founded the University of Miami in addition to joining forces with hotelier John McEntee Bowman to create the Biltmore in 1926.
Coral Gables is more reminiscent of an old Mediterranean village-town than a city planted in greater Miami. The Gables is a goldmine for foodies, with an ample supply of international, eclectic and high-end dining options. Many restaurants are clustered on or near ‘Restaurant Row,’ on Giralda Ave between Ponce de Leon Blvd and S Le Jeune Rd. As such, you could easily spend a few days here taking in the sights, checking out its restaurants, shops and cultural attractions – including more cinemas and theaters that reinforce the Biltmore's old Hollywood glam.