Posted Sept. 21, 2012
By RACHEL JANOSEC
MIAMI, Fla. — It is an extremely humid and sticky morning in Miami, the flight just landed from the northeast and it is the beginning of a child’s freshman year at the University of Miami.
What could be more exciting than a child’s first year as a college student? An overwhelming feeling of pride takes over as the large green and gold University of Miami landmark shining in the hot Florida sun welcomes families to campus.
Then it suddenly hits that although Florida isn’t a foreign land, there is still little clue as where to stay or what to do while here for an entire week with family. Research was done and a place called Coconut Grove came up that looked very appealing and close to campus.
A colleague from home suggested to stay in the center of Coconut Grove in a breathe-taking sky-high hotel called The Sonesta Bayfront Hotel. The commute from the university is only about five miles, which makes for a 10-minute car drive. But beware of the traffic in South Florida from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m., that 10-minute commute could turn into 25 easily, especially if the route is U.S. 1. The hotel has all the amenities a traveler could ask for including a large pool overlooking the beautiful Biscayne Bay.
Staying at The Sonesta Bayfront Hotel puts one directly in the middle of “The Grove.” Outside of the hotel one will be greeted by numerous restaurants to the left and right including, New York Pizza, Johnny Rockets, Chilis, The Cheesecake Factory, and a very delicious yet tiny taco stand.
But to really explore the cuisine and culture of Miami, a must try is Jaguars for dinner and Greenstreet Café for breakfast, both walkable from the hotel. Jaguars’ serves the best and freshest seafood from Miami and does so in interesting and intriguing ways. If you like ceviche, this is the place to go.
When one begins to get tired of walking around the grove and is looking for somewhere to have drinks and watch the sunset, Monty’s is the perfect spot. Monty’s has a casual beach vibe and is a great place for relaxing and drinking. It is located right on the water next to a marina where boats are visible coming in and out from the sea.
Monty’s is known for their happy hour deals from 4 until 8 p.m. for both drinks and food. It offers great seafood and a raw bar that will keep anyone coming back for more. A word of precaution about Monty’s is that Friday night happy hour is swamped with college students, so try to stay away on that night.
Another great restaurant to recommend, which is right alongside of Monty’s, is called The Chart House. The Chart House might be saved for the last night of a trip for a farewell dinner for the family. The prices are fairly high, but yet again worth it completely, the views itself are worth the price.
The Chart House is known for its spectacular waterfront dining experience. The panoramic view of the crystal clear teal water could draw any person in no matter what the food itself tastes like. But don’t worry; the food is just as good as the gorgeous setting. This restaurant is one to dress-up for and look nice at.
The menu varies but is known for its award-winning wine list, huge gourmet salad bar, tender beefy steaks, and fresh out of the water seafood. The portions are large so be prepared to eat a lot or to share meals.
“I was full after I only ate the salad bar. There is so many fresh veggies and toppings to chose from, and I just kept going back for more,” said Leigh Janosec, a first-time diner of the restaurant.
Steps away from dinner at The Chart House on South Bayshore Drive are the Dog Chow Dog Park and David T. Kennedy Park.
Kennedy Park is a gym essentially set-up outside in nature and is fairly new to the Coconut Grove area. Anyone can jog or walk outside but Kennedy Park allows for the public to use workout machines in the open warm air of the Grove, right on the shores of Biscayne Bay. There are several arm, leg and abs machines located outside on the bright green grass for all to use.
A source of entertainment in the Grove when the sun goes down is the Cocowalk Gallery Walk. The art galleries of the Grove open up the first Saturday of every month at 7 p.m. for free, so this is a great event to attend if it is something of interest because every other night there is an entrance fee.
The Grove is also lined with different shops and boutiques if someone has time for that on the trip. The front desk or concierge at The Sonesta will have a list of shops and other restaurants around the area that could be helpful.
For the people who love nightlife and want to stay local instead of going out on South Beach, Coconut Grove is also the spot. Whether one wants to sit down and have a beer or dance the night away there are a variety of bars and clubs. Some local favorites are Moe’s, Barracuda’s, Tavern, Sandbar, and the newest bar, Mr. Frog’s. Mr. Frog’s is the latest addition to the Grove and serves food and keeps the alcohol pouring all night.
Coconut Grove is an ideal location in South Florida for people of any age, whether a family is moving their child into college or not. The Grove is a chic neighborhood with the feel of South Beach, but it is more laid back, less expensive and less chaotic.
The Grove’s streets are often filled with obnoxiously loud college students on Thursday nights. In comparison, South Beach is taken over by young adults 24/7. The Grove’s atmosphere and astonishing views of the water is enough to welcome any traveler and there is enough activity to last a month. Remember to ask around and see what the locals think about the area when visiting. Most importantly remember to enjoy!
IF YOU GO
- Coconut Grove is a 20 to 30 minute commute from Miami International Airport with traffic.
- The taxi fare from the airport to The Grove is $24 with moderate traffic.
- The University of Miami is located at 5914 Ponce de Leon Blvd., in nearby Coral Gables.
- The Sonesta Bayfront Hotel is located at 2889 McFarlane Road, Miami Fla., 33133.
- The Sonesta offers parking but there is a parking garage right next to the hotel on the left, which is less expensive.
- The price per night ranges anywhere from $160 to $300 a night.
- There is meter parking all along the streets of The Grove that take credit cards but carry quarters just in case.
- Jaguars restaurant is located at 3067 Grand Ave., Miami, Coconut Grove, Fla., 33133.
- Greenstreet Café is located at 3468 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, Miami, Fla., 33133.
- Monty’s is located at 2550 South Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove, Miami, Fla., 33133.
- The Chart House is located at 51 Chart House Dr., Coconut Grove, Miami Fla., 33133.
- Everything in the Grove is walking distance but it does get hot.
- Coconut Grove is nestled between Biscayne Bay and U.S. 1.
- Stay away from Grand Avenue at night.