Bringing Fun Back to Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove’s genuine artsy charm – its bayside location, lush foliage and eclectic architecture – somehow manages to keep shining through, despite the best efforts of developers to strip this historic village of its character. Homegrown restaurateurs of note Michael Schwartz and Giorgio Rapicavoli and coffee roasters Panther Coffee have staked out space. Renowned photographer Clyde Butcher now has a gallery on McFarlane. Independent businesses like The Bookstore in the Grove and the fun pop-ups like The Typsy Mermaid add quirkiness amid the new accoutrements of urban living today – Citibike and Car2Go, to name a few.
Then there are the events. Classics include the annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival and the Mango Strut plus more neighborly festivals like the Gifford Lane Stroll and the monthly F-A-M (Fashion + Art + Music) gallery nights on Saturdays. More recently, it’s the annual craft beer festivals Grovetoberfest (October) and Sprung! (March) that are bringing fun back to the Grove, combining its friendly village-y vibe with craft beers.
“As a venue, Coconut Grove is the perfect mix of everything you want: waterfront, tree-lined streets … it’s a great place to live and entertain,” says Tony Albelo, whose beerfests draw thousands to tents set up in Peacock Park. “And craft beer is where it’s at.” The upcoming Sprung! Sat., Mar. 7 will feature more than 200 beers, many of them plucked from Florida’s blooming crop of breweries. One of the tasting events leading up to Sprung featured brews from Florida Beer Company, Miami Brewing Company, Concrete Beach, Native, Florida Avenue, Orange Blossom, Cigar City, Islamorada Beer Company and Due South. But, wait, there’s more: typical bar games like giant Jenga, mega Twister, beer pong and corn hole, and large-scale fun in the form of human bowling. For foodies, the Gold Coast Culinary Experience showcases four restaurants – The Seven Dials, Bollywood Masala, Jimmy’z Kitchen and Barley – whose chefs will demo dishes and the right beer pairings.
Sprung! tickets range from General Admission ($40), including samples, live music and games, from 4-7pm; Beer Socialite ($70), with one hour early admission, a backpack and souvenir pint glass; and VIP ($90) from 2:30-7pm, which includes VIP lounge access and appetizer and more swag. Buy tickets here.
The day after Sprung!, Albelo is debuting another festival, Grillin’ in the Grove, a family-oriented event that seems like a South Florida natural. “Every style of BBQ will be there – Memphis, Carolina, Kansas City, Texas, plus Brazilian churrascaria and Argentinean parrillada,” he says. Things will start heating up at two competitions, a backyard grilling contest (for home cooks) and the Greatest Grill contest (for restaurants). And kids are especially welcome (under 12 are free); the Family Fun Zone includes a Treasure Island attraction and a Robo Surfer surf simulator.
Like Sprung!, Grillin’ in the Grove offers a VIP experience (access to the bar, free beer and sodas, free BBQ plates and sides) at a premium price ($65). Other choices are a family pack (two adults, $25) and individual admission ($15), which gets you entrance, activities, cooking workshops, live music and Family Fun Zone admission. Food and drink are available for purchase. Buy tickets here.
And we’ll keep our eye out for more reasons to visit Coconut Grove. The right kind of comeback looks like it’s on its way.