July 4th music and fireworks is a joint venture between the city of coral gables and the venerable Biltmore hotel, coral gables chamber of commerce and numerous sub sponsors---making it a truly community wide event.
The music and fireworks open to the public, and take place on the hotel's spacious golf course with the towering hotel serving as backdrop. We were in attendance as (paying) guests of one of the major sponsors. It was our second Biltmore 4th.
It's a very well done event. VIP dinner/fireworks tickets run $250pp. dinner is served indoors in the two ball rooms on the balcony concourse, after which VIP’S walk out onto the sizable balcony to enjoy the music and fireworks up close.
The food has improved considerably since the inception of this event two years ago (the Biltmore fireworks show was only recently reinstated after a lengthy hiatus). VIP diners enjoy a sizable buffet including a very fresh and tasty salad station with particularly remarkable potato salad. Typical July 4th main dishes are cooked over grills directly behind the buffet line on the outdoor balcony. Featured: new York strips, BBQ chicken, 1/3 pound all beef hamburgers, fresh sesame seed buns, and excellent hot dogs. Baked beans, corn on the cob are terrific side dishes. Condiments for all the above are readily accessible. Steaks can be cooked to order by simply asking the grill men for your desire.
VIP diners then retreat in doors (which in the tropical humidity is a treat) and dine.....with the all you can eat feature a major plus. MOET CHANDON supplied the champagne for every table and the bars featured all liquor, beer and wines with ice tea and lemonade dispensers for self service. Service is typically Biltmoresque....attentive, friendly, and responsive. A dessert table inside for those so inclined featured a slightly pasty blueberry cobbler, apple pie and tasty all American sugar cookies (the dessert offerings could have been boosted a bit.
The overall decor was pleasantly Americana.....not overdone....but tasteful. Table cloths of white and hints of red white and blue made for a colorful setting.
The fireworks display at the Biltmore is plentiful. It’s every bit of a half hour and no skimping on the product----large multi colored chrysanthemums produce the requisite oohs and hash. A sound track when audible over the speakers is a bit tired and lacking in the intensity big fireworks displays require. Some 30,000 watched and cheered as the rockets peaked overtop the palm trees on the golf course.
There were only two serious deficiencies at this event from a VIP ($250) perspective and both bear mentioning in hopes they will be addressed in future years:
First, VIP’s get a dashboard decal to park directly across the street from the hotel's magnificent entry. Until you arrive there you don't realize that this is a valet operation......upon departing later you discover it costs $6 per car. The intro in daylight is reasonably well organized with the dozen or so valets taking the cars and making the best possible use of the parking area. However, after the show, when 30k VIPs and general public descend away from the hotel......the VIP service was totally overwhelmed. People waited in line to pay a $6 fee that they were unaware of ($250/pp VIP should certainly include that) to wait in line for the runners to scatter all over the parking field to eventually bring your car. This needs to be seriously reviewed. Though the VIP valet slows down the egress of the vehicles into the people filled streets (as the Coral Gables police clump together and make no effort to direct traffic). But, in doing so there becomes a traffic boondoggle within a traffic jam (all of Coral Gables after the fireworks). An hour later some VIP’s were seen departing.
Secondly is easily remedied: following the VIP dinner indoors the guests congregate outdoors to hear the orchestra and see the display. But there's no place to sit. VIP guests had to go indoors and carry their own chairs out to the balcony--- to sit for upwards of 45 minutes to relax and enjoy the show. Meanwhile the previously attentive servers in the dining areas began to clear the tables, when they, and other hotel staff could easily have fetched the chairs and made a makeshift viewing area facing the fireworks----another oversight for $250.
This review doesn't attempt to cover the actual Biltmore hotel accommodations (individuals can get a July 4th room package whereby they can enjoy the VIP experience), the hotel's 4 star restaurants and spa/golf etc. Amenities, however, rest assured from personal experience it is a high level and one of the finest resorts in south flap
Make your reservations early for 2015.