Staying at the Biltmore Means Never Having to Leave
It is arguably the most iconic symbol of the city, a building which Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli calls “the Eiffel Tower of Coral Gables.” It is also one of the finest hotels in the world. For both reasons, it may be the perfect staycation for anyone living here.
With the pandemic raging and travel to foreign locales either worrisome or outright prohibited, a stay at the Biltmore is an enticing alternative for anyone looking for a quick getaway from the daily grind and the endless home sequestering.
Yes, the Biltmore is familiar territory. There is hardly a resident who has not interacted at some point with the grand dame of the Gables’ Spanish revival architecture. Maybe it’s been via a wedding, or a round of golf, or a dinner at Fontana, or a business conference held there – regardless of why, most residents have at least visited the Biltmore. Vacationing here, however, is something else altogether.
Staying at the Biltmore is like seeing the world from the other side of the mirror. Now you are inside the great architectural marvel, looking out on the rest of the Gables. Now its grand, columned lobby belongs to you, and its vast pool – the largest in the state of Florida – is your aquatic playground. Some of its suites are extraordinary, with their own living rooms, balconies and lofty ceilings, but even the humblest standard rooms are elegant and comfortable, having all been redone as part of a $25 million facelift completed just last year.
We had only enough time to stay for the weekend (if you can stretch it out longer, the hotel will throw in a third night for free). But that was enough time to unwind.
There are several directions you can go with a stay at the Biltmore. Of course, there is the exquisite 18-hole golf course, originally designed in 1925 and then revamped in 2018 to the tune of $2.5 million. You can play the full 18 or just 9, plus avail yourself of instruction at the highly rated Jim McLean Golf School – or just practice on the putting green, driving range or bunker & chipping area. You can also use one of 10 lighted courts at the Biltmore Tennis Center, if that is your sporting preference.
Another way to go is a body weekend. The seventh floor spa, with its relaxing oriental vibe, reopened in June, as has the 10,000 square foot fitness center on the ground floor – albeit with the use of a mask and without the use (by county order) of the locker rooms, sauna, steam room or showers. Fortunately, since you are staying at the hotel, you can change and shower in your room. The important thing is you can still get a royal coconut milk and honey scrub, or enjoy a Moroccan purification ritual, or workout on state-of-the-art exercise gear with or without the guidance of a wellness program.
But we chose the path of pure laziness. The core of this indolence was the rental of a cabana by the pool. Depending on the size of the cabana and the day of the week, one of these nine enclaves on the south side of the pool can be yours for $179 to $279 for the day. Hidden inside clusters of palms, hibiscus and bougainvillea, each has teakwood lounge chaises, banana leaf ceiling fans, and outdoor showers – along with a mini-fridge and TV screen inside.
We planted ourselves on the lounge chairs and basically did nothing except dip into the pool, visit the restroom or saunter to the poolside Cascade restaurant. The solicitous staff will bring drinks (we were seduced by the mango daiquiri) as well as lunch. We thought we should get the exercise of walking 10 yards to Cascade, but outside of that we simply read that long-delayed novel in between cat naps.
For those who insist on leaving the grounds, there are bicycles for use by guests. But we found the building and grounds to be captivating. What other hotel has gargoyles and antique bird cages in a great hall with 40-foot ceilings? The three dining options were also hugely satisfying. In addition to poolside at Cascade (great lobster roll), you can watch golfers from the informal 19th Hole (great chicken wings), or enjoy fine Italian cuisine in the Fontana courtyard (great homemade pasta) with its enormous Venetian fountain and strings of light.
In the end, we left the Biltmore with a profound sense of having spent time in a place far away. We also left feeling safe, in an environment where everyone wears a mask and the staff is obsessed with keeping things sterilized. “I can tell you this much,” says Tom Prescott, who is part of the ownership team that runs the Biltmore. “We are investing significant resources into keeping the hotel safe, with surface cleanings every other hour for tables and elevators. The Biltmore has never been cleaner.”