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Miami: Coconut Grove or Little Havana?

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Nov 20th, 2017, 04:02 PM
  #1
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Miami: Coconut Grove or Little Havana?

Hi,

I'll be in Miami for a full day this January, sandwiched between 2 nights at a downtown Miami hotel. I'll be there without a car. This will be my second time in Miami; my first visit I enjoyed myself staying downtown and taking to bus to South Beach, where I walked around a bit. This will be my first time in Miami in almost 10 years (although I was in Fort Lauderdale more recently). I remember there being a fun energy with people dancing in Bayside Marketplace Downtown in the evening last time I was there.

If you could only pick one, which of the two neighbourhoods in the title (both equally pique my curiosity), Coconut Grove or Little Havana, would you pick to spend a late morning, afternoon or early evening? Pedestrian-friendly is important but other than that I'm open to whatever reason you prefer the neighbourhood: uniqueness? fun energy? interesting architecture? some cute coffee or ice cream places? a particularly stellar restaurant or museum? great park? water views? I might be able to see both, but in case I only have the strength to do one, I'm curious where you'd choose.

I didn't mention it but if you'd pick Coral Gables (that I've never been to either) over these two neighbourhoods , let me know.

Best wishes, Daniel
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Nov 21st, 2017, 04:02 AM
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Good luck with this one. Last time around someone here was practically driven by others to South Beach described as "the" place to see everything good that Miami offers.

Living up the beach in FTL I suspect you might actually enjoy Coconut Grove.

On another note: have you been to Vizcaya in North Coconut Grove?
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Nov 21st, 2017, 07:14 AM
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Thanks for the Coconut Grove suggestion, Dukey.

While I'm glad I saw South Beach for a few hours my previous and so far only visit to Miami/Miami Beach, it is not a must for me this time around. Even though there's a small chance I might make it anyway to South Beach again this trip, I'm more looking forward to exploring and opening my eyes to these other neighbourhoods. Especially since who knows when I will return to the Miami area again; those 10 years since my last visit flew by fast! No, I have not been to Vizcaya.

Best wishes, Daniel
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Nov 21st, 2017, 07:40 AM
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I was not particularly impressed with Little Havana, though maybe I missed something. The Versailles restaurant there is an institution for Cuban food. Best time to go is on a Sunday when local families go there, but if you don't have a car and are staying elsewhere, that may not be practical for you. I have no experience with CG, so can't comment.

You might like Coral Gables
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Nov 21st, 2017, 07:58 AM
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Given the choice, I'd opt for Coconut Grove. Though the time I went, I paired it up with the Vizcaya and Science Museum. Coconut Grove also has a nice enough business district, though I'd avoid walking east of here as the area isn't good. There are no attractions I'm aware of in Little Havana, though of course it's ground zero for Cuban eateries (and will second the recommendation of Versailles). An excerpt from my trip report from a few years ago follows:

Yet another day
-Barnacle Historic State Park
-Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
-Miami Science Museum

This went exactly as planned. The Barnacle can be reached by taking Metrorail to the Coconut Grove stop, then the #249 bus (Coconut Grove Circulator, runs weekdays only) to the main downtown shopping district here. This is an old and somewhat low-key wooden house, one of the first built in the area, with understated furnishings and effects. There are a few out-buildings on the property, and the whole sits on what may be the last scrub hammock lot and mangrove shore in the general area. The house tour was enthusiastic and very informative, well worth doing.

Taking the #249 bus back to the Coconut Grove stop, then Metrorail to the Vizcaya stop easily affords access to the other two attractions. The Vizcaya Museum Museum and Gardens is the big fancy mansion museum in the city, and a must. It's quite ornate, Gilded Age but adapted to use some local building materials. The tour guide was a trainee -- oh well, you have to start somewhere, I guess -- he did his best. There's a lot of wonderful furnishings, a riot of fancy and ornate detailing, a pipe organ, and much else. The gardens are partly undergoing restoration, but much is complete here too -- lots of fountains, pools, a couple grottoes, loads of trees and plants, and a place clearly well-liked for wedding photos, as there were a couple such shoots going on.

The Miami Science Museum is across the street from here. It's primarily a kid's attraction. There are animals, birds, reptiles, and insects in cages or terrariums, photos of earth from space, a big stuffed bear, and some alternative energy vehicles, among other things. Not bad, but much cooler if you're 14 and under, I'd guess.

Link to full trip report:

https://www.fodors.com/community/uni...t-184065-2.cfm

Coral Gables also wouldn't be bad, though things are a little spread out for walking. You'd need to take a bus there (was the #24 when I went) from the Vizcaya light rail stop.

Would also recommend the Lowe Art Museum, which is the University of Miami's art gallery. It's arguably the best art museum in the city in a town not really noted for them. It can be reached by light rail, at the University stop, and then a moderate but easily do-able walk.
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Nov 21st, 2017, 07:59 AM
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Sorry, meant to say "walking west of here" regarding Coconut Grove's downtown business district.
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Nov 21st, 2017, 08:52 AM
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Also, Little Havana didn't strike me as especially walkable, plus it's likely time consuming to reach via bus (it's nowhere near a light rail stop). The time I went, I rode with a school chum to eat at Versailles.
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Nov 21st, 2017, 10:14 AM
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Thank you Vincenzo!

I'll be there on Thursday (Jan 4th), so guess I would be missing the larger groups of local families at the Versailles.

Thank you bachslunch!

I especially appreciate the public transportation advice and warnings with regard to the not-so-great walkability of Little Havana. The Vizcaya Museum sounds appealing, great detail from your trip report. Your description reminds me of the wonderful Lightner Museum in St. Augustine FL. I'd not heard of the Barnacle before, so appreciated that recommendation.

So, I'm getting a sense of appreciation for Coconut Grove area over Little Havana (except perhaps Versailles if I can swing it) and Coral Gables. My imaginings of Little Havana (parks with old men enthusiastically playing dominoes on the Calle Ocho, Latin music emanating from storefronts) maybe painted a more charming picture than reality.

Best wishes, Daniel
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Nov 21st, 2017, 08:04 PM
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Nov 26th, 2017, 06:55 AM
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Everyone on the same page, no reason to stay on little Havana. Coconut grove has a lot more going on. As for the Cuban food suggestion, yes Versailles is well known and not too far from coconut grove via Uber, but there are plenty of other places closer to the grove that are just as good, Havana Harry and Havana vieja, for 2. In Coconut Grove, the LoKal, has great burgers, and Bombay Darbar, has excellent indian food.
Coral Gables is currently updating it's streets to make them more pedestrian friendly. The work on Giralda street is complete and you should check if there are any goings on while you're in the area. Might make it worth your time to visit. If time permits and it's your kinda thing, I would rent a bike around Coconut Grove bike towards Coral Gables and check out the gorgeous homes and giant bayan trees that line the roads. The Biltmore hotel is worth a visit also. It's a gorgeous bldg, with an incredible history. I believe they do group tours on Sunday mornings, not sure if they could do a private one at other times. At any rate, you've choosen a great time of the year to visit. Make sure you get in some outdoor dinning while you're here, the weather should be wonderful!
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Nov 26th, 2017, 01:11 PM
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mabella101,

Thanks so much for your insight on the three neighbourhoods. I'll be staying in downtown Miami, but Coconut Grove seems quite accessible. I appreciate that you think I've picked a good time to visit--in fact, I've only been to southern Florida in late December/early January in recent years and I've always appreciated the escape weather-wise, especially coming from Canada! I am also grateful for your bike ride suggestion as that is indeed something I very much enjoy doing and am unable to do in January up north. Thanks also for the alternate Cuban (and other) restaurants in Coconut Grove and vicinity.

Looks like I'll skip Little Havana if no one weighs in in its favour.

Thanks again to each of you for the advice!

Daniel
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Dec 5th, 2017, 11:42 AM
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Little Havana while "unique" is also not "walk able" is ....well dirty, and honestly aside from Versailles not so much remarkable except for the nostalgic value as compared to the numerous good cuban restaurants EVERYWHERE.

Coconut Grove...ohh my...I remember the day when that place was THE place to go at night....but your 15 years too late. I remember the days where you would pay 30$ to park your car after driving in circles for an hour looking for a lot or garage not full.

While it's rebounding, its driven by office space and the shops are typical tourist ware and really not that interesting except for a restaurant there I quite like is Jaguar's on Grand Ave.

Now....as many others have suggested, go to Coral Gables....that is where ALL the action is these days. Galleries, boutique shopping and some of the best and hippest restaurants in the city.

It puzzles me that most people are not aware of how amazing the Gables is. I live in Bal Harbour which is just a few miles up from Miami Beach, but I drive all the way into Coral Gables at least once a week for dinner or meet friends for drinks.

The epicenter of Gables is the corner of Ponce de Leon and Coral Way. From there you can walk 2 blocks in any direction and see an amazing array of shops and restaurants of every description imaginable.

One of the best places to people watch, where the locals hang out...is Hillstone restaurant on that corner. The bar is packed solid by 5pm standing room only especially wed and Friday but it is one of my favorite places to be.
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Dec 5th, 2017, 12:17 PM
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OMG, a battle between "The Gables" and "The Grove" just what we need LOL
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Dec 5th, 2017, 08:40 PM
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ha ha. Well here's a little more to beat the drums. Coral Gables = Rodeo Drive, Coconut Grove = poor mans Greenwich Village
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Dec 11th, 2017, 04:34 PM
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Coral Gables = Rodeo Drive, Coconut Grove = poor mans Greenwich Village����

Coral Gables also has free events several days a week such as gallery night or music on the mile. There are dozens of coffee shops (I don't drink coffee so I can't help you there) and an awesome book store, Books and books, a precursor to Barnes & Nobles is still hanging tough with the big boys! Books and books also regularly has live music performances in their courtyard or authors signing books. I'll agree that Hillstone is full most if not all nights of the week. Also popular is Bulla Gastro bar, and tap 42 for beer drinkers.
Coral Gables also offes a free ride service. They've partnered up with Freebee, an electric car service that will take you around the main areas for free! You just need to download the app. I've tried it for lunch and they are quick and punctual.
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Dec 11th, 2017, 05:17 PM
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Thanks for the thoughts on Coconut Grove vs Coral Gables. Gives me more to ponder for my upcoming visit. Best wishes. Daniel
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Jan 13th, 2018, 12:39 PM
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Thanks to everyone for all the advice. I ended up visiting Coconut Grove and I appreciated the neighbourhood for its walkability, red-brick sidewalks and appealing-looking local cafes and restaurants. Possibly my favourite neighbourhood of what I've seen so far--sadly I did not have time to check out Coral Gables or Versailles in Little Havana...maybe another trip. I also visited the Vizcaya Museum--I was expecting nice but got stunning! So thanks for that recommendation Dukey and bachslunch. A highlight of my visit to Miami! Staying at the Aloft in the Brickell area, right next to the Brickell Metrorail stop, I was even able to see both using a $5.85 Metrorail Pass. A great day in Miami! Best wishes, Daniel
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Jan 14th, 2018, 05:00 AM
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So glad you enjoyed Coconut Grove despite the unseasonably low temperatures we've been having. Thanks for posting back!
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Jan 14th, 2018, 05:30 AM
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I'll be staying in South Beach at the end of the month. Vizcaya and Coconut Grove sound interesting. Can anyone tell me how to get there from South Beach? Thanks
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Jan 14th, 2018, 06:20 AM
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Mabella101--Ah, I feel like when I listen to South Floridians such as yourself (Bahamians too!) about the weather that I'm in some comedy skit. Everyone was saying how cold it was and Montrealer that I am, I'm thinking "What are they talking about? This is like a glorious fall day". I mean, I'll take it! No gloves, no hat, no scarf, fall jacket only and my friends up north have suffered through three weeks straight of highs around 20 below zero (Celsius but still!)! At one point, when the sun was beaming at Vizcaya, it got so hot, I even had to remove my fall jacket! My only weather disappointment was that it rained most of the afternoon, so I was unable to get a bike in Coconut Grove as you suggested .

Isabel--Are you asking: "how do you get there by public transit?"? If so, I didn't go to South Beach this trip, but I remember from my last trip, that there were regular buses from SoBe to downtown (in those days, it was the S, the C and the K buses but that advice may be dated), from which you could catch Metrorail (maybe from Government Center stop?) to Vizcaya & Coconut Grove.

In case anyone is interested, here is my full trip report (Miami was a small part): https://www.fodors.com/community/uni...train-1643913/
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