Why Miami is the Ultimate Holiday Destination for Art Deco Enthusiasts
The beauty of Miami’s Art Deco design and architecture stands proud at any time of year, making it a vibrant destination to explore solo or with friends and family.
If the thought of a trip to Florida conjures up images of families packed in like sardines at Walt Disney Resort or inebriated teens enjoying one too many shots over Spring Break, then it’s time to think again.
The colourful buildings of Miami’s Art Deco Historic District, it's street art, live performances and photography have long drawn in art enthusiasts from all over the world looking to explore more than the city’s white sandy beaches, with an eclectic bar and restaurant scene to boot.
Stepping foot into this bustling city is like entering a time capsule, where the golden era of architecture and design thrives, so if you’re looking to embark on an unforgettable journey through Miami's Art Deco wonderland, read on for everything you need to know.
Miami has the highest concentration of stunning, candy coloured Art Deco buildings in the world.
Miami’s Art Deco History
A modern take on neo-classical architecture that is equally historic, retro and fabulous, Art Deco architecture reached its heyday in the ‘20s and ’30s, with many of the infamous buildings that line Ocean Drive nearly demolished in the ’70s after decades of neglect.
Thankfully historic preservationist Barbara Baer Capitman saved the day by founding the Miami Design Preservation League, to ensure the city’s architectural history was preserved, motivating designers and developers to bring out the area’s Art Deco elements and restore its pastel-hued boutique hotels to their original style.
Where to See Miami’s Art Deco Architecture
Make Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District – the first 20th century neighbourhood to be recognised by the National Register of Historic Places – your first port of call. Located between 5th Street and 23rd Street along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue, it is home to around 800 buildings all defined by bold lines, whimsical tropical motifs and vibrant colour palettes.
The waterfront Lummus Park offers a wide-angle view of Ocean Drive’s Art Deco skyline, while the Wynwood Arts District, otherwise known as the Wynwood Walls, is another hot stop for tourists looking to admire larger-than-life street art and murals by renowned artists from around the world. Take your time to explore the intricacies of each artwork, snap some photos and immerse yourself in the dynamic energy that emanates from this artistic haven.
Next pay a visit to Miami’s Art Deco Museum on Ocean Drive. Providing an immersive glimpse into the layers of design that serve as the foundation for the city's glamorous reputation through photographs, models and displays, it’s one of the best places in town for an enlightening overview of the Art Deco district.
There are also heaps of fairs and exhibitions held throughout the year that pay tribute to Miami’s vibrant Art Deco scene. The annual Art Deco Weekend, for example, takes place in January each year and showcases Miami Beach's unique collection of Art Deco design and architecture in open-air style with live music, a classic car show, guided architectural tours, outdoor film screenings while Art Basel, the crème de la crème, was held this past June, uniting 284 galleries, including 21 first-time participants, over the four-day event.
Where to Eat in Miami’s Art Deco District
If all that architecture admiration has got you working up an appetite, there are plenty of buzzy eateries lining the Art Deco district designed to satisfy all tastebuds.
For traditional Mexican cuisine right in the heart of the action, head to Serena Rooftop. Located on the second floor rooftop at Moxy South Beach, the menu is surprisingly meatless, with the bar serving primarily agave spirit based cocktails making it a great option for those on a health kick. Head there for brunch which comes accompanied by live music and bottomless cocktails.
If you’re craving a taste of Italy, you can’t go wrong with the fettucine alla carbonara at Osteria del Teatro at The Marlin, while Havana Vieja Cuban Restaurant Miami Beach will transport you direct to Cuba thanks to inventive dishes like ropa vieja and pollo asado.
Celebrating a special occasion? Don’t miss the opportunity to dabble in a little high end Mediterranean cuisine at Versace Mansion, housed in the former home of fashion designer Gianni Versace. Très chic, if we do say so ourselves.
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Where to Drink
A cross between a tiki bar and a speakeasy, you won’t find bad margaritas served by the gallon at Swizzle Rum Bar & Drinkery. Instead, this dimly lit space is defined by an excellent drinks menu and carefully-crafted cocktails, making it a charming spot for a nightcap.
Elsewhere along South Beach we also highly recommend Water Lion Wine + Alchemy for wine connoisseurs, Sweet Liberty Drink & Supply Co for its excellent happy hour complete with cut-price oysters, and Monterrey Bar at hip hotel The Standard for anyone who wants to feel like they’ve stepped right into a James Bond movie.
The Best Art Deco Hotels in Miami
For an artistic and retro hotel experience, you can’t go wrong with the Celino South Beach, an Art Deco gem that was once a popular hangout for Hollywood glitterati like Rita Hayworth, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable. The Carlyle is another Miami Beach institution – all striking vertical piers, horizontal lines, sunshades and curvy corners, you might recognise it from its starring role in the likes of The Birdcage, Scarface and Bad Boys II – while The Breakwater, which opened in 1936, remains one of the most popular Art Deco hotels in South Beach.
For a splurge, visitors can opt for a stay at The Goodtime Hotel which, an escapist retreat on South Beach’s Washington Avenue, is the brainchild of superstar musician Pharrell Williams and Miami nightclub guru David Grutman. Definitely one to tell the kids about.
When Should I Visit Miami?
Looking to escape the crowds? Winter is the most popular time to pay a visit for all the obvious reasons – while the rest of the country freezes, Miami stays near-perfect, kids are in school and prices won’t peak.
With year-round sunshine, however, there are things to do pretty much every day of the year – just try to avoid hurricane season from mid-August to September, unless you fancy getting blown away. To be fair, Miami will do that to you anyway.