With pristine Biscayne Bay as its backdrop, Coconut Grove - or simply the Grove, as it is known to the locals - provides an idyllic venue for a once-a-year watershed event in South Florida's cultural calendar: The Coconut Grove Arts Festival.
With its lush vegetation, scenic streets, varied eateries, and vibrant nightlife, this quaint city regularly draws many visitors, locals and tourists alike, who come to enjoy a taste of the Grove. But it is in February, on the weekend of Presidents' Day celebrations, that the village of Coconut Grove extends a warm South Florida welcome to thousandths of visitors and hundreds of artists that flock to a few blocks of its downtown area to be a part of the premier arts festival in the United States.
From its modest beginning 47 years ago, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival now attracts hundreds of the finer artists from across the continental U.S. and Canada, who come to showcase their creations in clay, mixed media, glass, watercolor, wood, digital, painting, photography, printmaking and drawing, jewelry and metalwork. For 3 days in February, 150,000 visitors stroll along South Bayshore Drive perusing the different works of art for sale in the more than 350 booths located along this scenic thoroughfare. At the end of each day, art enthusiasts and collectors carry home their purchased works to proudly display in their homes or places of business. Last year's take: 4 million dollars.
Though the magnificent artwork on display is unquestionably the arts festival's main draw, there are other popular attractions sure to please every member of the family - young and old. Want to hear live music? Grab a lounge chair and head over to the bandstand in Peacock Park. Each day of the festival, there are well known and aspiring bands of every musical genre, which entertain throughout the day the visitors that escape periodically to the relative tranquility of the park seeking a respite from the crowded streets.
For an opportunity to rub elbows with renowned chefs and sample some of their culinary creations, stop by the popular Culinary Pavilion, where cooking demonstrations are held throughout the day. For a more hearty meal, visit the Global Food Village and sink your teeth into a steak sandwich or an Italian sausage, or try one of Lundy's salads tossed to order, and wash it all down with a Wild Bill's gourmet soda. Situated adjacent to the Global Food Village, the Sculpture Garden is a veritable zoo of over-sized colorful animal sculptures, many of which have moving parts that momentarily bring to life the towering beasts; it is a great place to let the children run around and work off some of their boundless energy.
At the end of the day, sample authentic Cuban cuisine at one of the many fine restaurants located outside the grounds of the arts festival, and make plans for next year's trip; a single visit to this magnificent event will not suffice. If you are an out-of-towner visiting from colder climates, be sure to plan an outing to one of the area's beautiful beaches before heading back home. There is no better place to be in the United States in February than in South Florida, and there is no finer event anywhere for art lovers than the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.