Tuesday, Sep. 22, 2009

Biltmore Hotel

This 1926 Mediterranean-style historic landmark that anchors Coral Gables still feels very Old Florida. The palm-adorned central courtyard's gurgling fountain and grand entrance-inspiring lobby have seen the likes of Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and an assortment of Vanderbilts. These days, the well-heeled stay in the Everglades Suite — reportedly owned for a time by Al Capone, who ran an underground casino there — but all the 275 rooms are comfortable and subtly done, with Jerusalem stone floors and natural wood furnishings, and come with Frette robes for lounging. Wear them out to the largest hotel pool in America (once home to aquacades, alligator wrestling, and Johnny Weissmuller) and the first-rate spa.

Insider Tip: If you can, avoid staying when a convention is booked here; it can lower the hotel's regal tone.

Room to Book: One of the north-facing rooms on the sixth and seventh floors. Most people opt for views of the golf course — don't. The hotel has rooms that face the gorgeous baroque, Mediterranean-style Coral Gables Congregational Church and look out over Coral Gables.