With thirty some odd blocks of hotels and apartment houses built during the glamor days of the roaring twenties through to the fabulous forties, Miami Beach is home to some of the greatest art deco architecture in the world.
Offering a geometric and pastel wonderland that’s as photogenic during the day as it is at night, the Miami Beach Architectural District (aka the Miami Art Deco District) of the South Beach area of Miami Beach has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since the late seventies.
The deco district stretches from South Beach’s Atlantic shore to Alton Road to the west, Sixth Street to the south and the Collins Canal and Dade Boulevard to the north, with nearly 1,000 historic structures to marvel at.
Whether you’re heading to South Beach to take in all this historic architecture or you’re simply booking flights to Miami in hopes of getting a tan and dancing the night away, learning a bit about the area’s scenic grandeur adds layers to any Miami experience. It also provides you with some useful knowledge as you navigate your way through this picturesque playground of sophistication and stylish design.
From sunup to sundown and all through the night, here’s a guide to how to have an art deco day in Miami Beach. Follow fully for a stylized stroll down memory lane or pick and choose as it suits your vacation plans.
Why not start your day in style with breakfast in an art deco setting?
Front Porch Café on Ocean Drive at 14th Street is located in the deco area near Penguin Hotel and reels in locals and tourists alike with inexpensive and hearty breakfasts such as its famed French toast.
Another great AM feast may be had at the 11th Street Diner (1055 Washington Avenue at 11th Street) . Like so many of SoBe’s residents and visitors, this diner is a transplant from the north. This streamlined, stainless steel, built in New Jersey during the forties came to Miami in the early nineties after spending more than forty years in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
However, it’s now already a mainstay of SoBe’s gay and lesbian scene and something of a local icon fitting in perfectly with its deco setting. And, of course, the 11th Street Diner is a great place for a classic American breakfast or late night nosh with a menu offering greasy spoon comfort alongside more healthy option.
The Art Deco Welcome Center is a lovingly renovated deco period Beach Patrol Headquarters information center on the beach at Ocean Drive and 10th Street is an excellent spot for finding out things to do while in Miami Beach. On duty concierges help make the most of your vacation by booking hotels, tours and more. Plenty of brochures, event guides and other resources provide the info you need to be sure you’re in the know during your stay.
There are a number of art deco guided tours operating in South Beach. A safe bet might be to go on one conducted by the Miami Design Preservation League. The MDPL’s ninety minute tours cost $20 (discounts for seniors, veterans and students), visit a number of interiors and start from the Art Deco Welcome Center. If you think you’re up on your deco history, you could always save some money and do it on your own and at your own pace. The MDPL has self guided audio tours available too.
SHOP TILL YOU DROP
Upscale shopping mecca Lincoln Road is an eight block pedestrian walkway running from Washington Avenue to Alton Road featuring a who’s who in contemporary fashion list of boutique and big brand retailers. Even reluctant window shoppers should find Lincoln Road’s stunning backdrop of art deco and Mediterranean architecture worth a look. This is also a fabulous area for lunch, a caffeine re-up or a cocktail.
The deco indulgence doesn’t have to stop once you’re off the streets. Many of Miami Beach’s finest examples of art deco architecture are actually the hotels themselves. From the boutique and budget friendly South Beach Group with a handful of design conscious and deco era properties lined along trendy Collins Avenue to lavish self contained beach front resorts such as the Delano, there’s something deco for all tastes.
Photo Credit: Chris Osburn (Author)