Some Unusual Places in
Greater Miami
(Part 1 of 2)
(Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables)

by Anna Collins
photos by Anna Collins
unless specified

Take a trip to a historical fresh water pool, visit Miami's oldest bar, and meet a brilliant mosaic artist. Read on!

There's a lot more to Miami than South Beach, the Versace Mansion and Art Deco; although that's what most people think of when you mention Miami. But I'm going to introduce you to the little nooks and crannies and places extraordinaire you can visit the next time you trek to Miami and its neighboring towns. Hidden treasures off the beaten path are always lots of fun to explore and certainly more interesting than the usual tourist traps advertised in area brochures. So with that in mind, let's start off by paying a visit to Venetian Pool.

Venetian Pool

In 1921, George Merrick, then the county commissioner of Miami, envisioned a city of beautiful esplanades, plazas, ornate fountains, buildings and homes, all influenced by a Mediterranean design. Merrick's vision turned into the city of Coral Gables.

Located in historic Coral Gables, in a residential neighborhood, behind pastel painted stucco walls and iron gates, you'll find Venetian Pool. The only swimming pool to be named in the National Register of Historic Places, Venetian Pool was formed from a rock quarry back in 1923. It was later turned into a gorgeous 820,000 gallon pool, fed by cool spring water from artesian wells.

I was amazed how clean the water was; clear throughout the entire span of the pool. The pool was formerly drained daily to keep it fresh, and then allowed to refill. But in 1988, a new method was discovered that would allow the pool to clean its water daily by recycling, through natural ground filtration, leaving the pool fresh and conserving natural resources.

A rich history accompanies Venetian Pool. Beauty contests were held there, the Paul Whitman and Jan Garber orchestras played to poolside dancers and Esther Williams and Johnny Weismuller (Tarzan!) even swam it's refreshing waters. It has been the scene of political speeches and has had visits by dignitaries.

As I walked around the pool, I could almost hear the sounds of music and laughter coming from the cocktail parties and soirees back in the 1920's. There's a wonderful ambiance to the place; inviting and positive—like everybody who was ever there had a really, really good time. Myself included.

Part of Venetian Pool's charm is its two waterfalls, grottos and coral caves. There's even a little beach area where you can lay down your towel or blanket. The three story observation buildings around the pool (created in a Venetian-style architecture) sit alongside vine-covered loggias, shady porticos, and a Spanish fountain. A tiny island and foot bridge complete the unique design. And if you get hungry after all that swimming, you can grab a bite at the Cafe, that offers sandwiches, salads and deserts. To see a panoramic view of the pool click here.

Venetian Pool has an entrance fee of $8.00 per adult and $4.00 per child. There's men's and women's locker rooms (with shower facilities) where you can rent a locker for $1.50. The pool also offers group rates and rental rates for parties and special events.

I fell in love with Venetian Pool. It's in a league by itself and is one of those places that when you experience it—it makes you feel glad you're alive. Click here for directions. 2701 De Soto Blvd., Coral Gables, FL 33314 Tel: 305/460-5356. Website: www.VenetianPool.com.

Well, that's the swimming and recreation portion of the show. Now how about some creative shopping, delicious food and great music? All three are right next door to each other on a historic little street called South Miami Avenue.

Tobacco Road

"The Road" holds the oldest liquor license in Miami and is definitely one of the most colorful bars in town. It has a notorious 87-year history that covers nearly every sin and temptation. It used to be a speakeasy and gambling hall during Prohibition as well as a regular haunt of gangster Al Capone. Since then it has been investigated, raided, shut down, had its liquor licensed revoked and survived numerous devastating hurricanes. But still, The Road lives on! It was taken over in the 80's by a prominent businessman and made into a blues nightclub. From then on, it thrived.

You can come in and listen to great music seven nights a week. Many renown jazz and blues bands have performed here like B.B. King, Koko Taylor and Jr. Washington. The food is excellent and reasonably priced there's always some sort of special going on for dinner. (You can also stop by during the day for lunch; there's a great outdoor patio). Don't miss going to the upstairs cabaret named after the great Florida blues and gospel singer, Diamond Teeth Mary. Hours: Mon -Fri 11:30am-5:00am, Sat -Sun 12:00pm-5:00am. Tel: 305/374-1198.626 S. Miami Ave., Miami, FL. more>>