Standout examples of classic Miami Art Deco include the postcard-worthy neon-lit Breakwater Hotel and the McAlpin. Though a small building, the latter is arguably the purest form of Art Deco because of its perfectly symmetrical façade and candy-colored hues. The Breakwater Hotel, meanwhile, is one of the jewels of Ocean Drive. Built in 1936, this boutique hotel features clean, symmetrical lines that become a neon blue beacon come nighttime. The Raleigh Hotel, which is considered the grand dame of Art Deco buildings, is also worth a visit. Its pool with curved-edges was once voted as the most beautiful swimming pool in America.Miami has the largest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the world, housing over 800 of these structures. Most of them are found in Miami Beach, a city famous for its luxury beach resorts, restaurants, bars, and cruise lines. That being said, a tour of the most notable Art Deco buildings is another worthy addition to your itinerary.
The 20th century architectural trend was created as an avant-garde expression of wealth and sophistication. It’s characterized by symmetrical, streamlined designs. Although it was born in Paris via the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, it was the United States that took the lead in developing Art Deco. Miami Beach invented its own variant through incorporating pastel colors, white stucco, neon lights, and decoration features like herons, sea shells, and palm trees.
At some point in the past, the Art Deco scene deteriorated and was eventually neglected by its residents. But thanks to the efforts of the non-profit organization Miami Design Preservation League, many of the Art Deco structures were restored to their original appearance. Many of these iconic structures are situated in South Beach, where the Art Deco Historic District is located. Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, in particular, make for a fascinating spectacle of pastel three-storey hotels.
In line with the League’s preservation efforts, newer buildings were also constructed in the neoclassical style of Art Deco. The Betsy Hotel’s new wing on Collins Avenue is the perfect example. Reopened in 2009 after a multimillion-dollar restoration, the hotel marries Art Deco with modern interiors. The Tides South Beach is another building that has a vintage outer appearance and modern interiors.
Not all Art Deco structures are hotels though. You can also admire the classic beauty of Colony Theater, which lies on Lincoln Road. The theater was built in 1935 and last renovated in 2006. Today, it hosts events like music festivals, theater performances, and stand-up comedy specials, among others. There is also the Bass Museum on Collins Avenue, which houses the Miami Beach Public Library and Arts Center. Its aesthetic is a bit different from the rest of the Art Deco buildings in Miami due to its use of fossilized Paleolithic coral during construction. The distinctive façade features intricate carvings of a montage of scenes, including the Spanish conquest, a pelican eating a fish, cruise ships, and planes.
In celebration of the style and its cosmopolitan era, the League also holds an annual three-day community cultural festival. During this time, the neighborhood transforms into its former glory, giving attendees a blast from the past. Vintage cars line up the streets on Ocean Drive, jazz parties and retro fashion shows light up the night, and walking tours of the Art Deco Historic District take place. It’s an experience that could leave you mesmerized.
Yet another example of why I suggest you make your way to Miami for an ungforgettable vacation.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission. I travel (on average) 30 weeks per year hosting and producing a television series for PBS. In addition, I host a weekly radio show and produce original travel videos for online distribution. I am very fortunate for these opportunities and it is my hope you will join me on my travels!