If you want to take a break from the beach during your next visit to Miami, plan a visit to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Get transported back in time and experience one of the grandest mansions and museums in North America, located not far from the cruise terminal. This early 20th century estate is steeped in history, unique architecture, and elegant gardens to explore at your leisure or with a guide. On a recent pre-cruise stay in the Magic City, we spent an afternoon wandering about this time capsule and recommend you do the same. See why in our 5 Reasons to Visit Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
5 Reasons to Visit Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
While the Coconut Grove area of Miami is only a few miles away from Downtown, it feels worlds apart. This eclectic neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city and has a suburban feel. The quiet palm tree-lined streets are the perfect backdrop for this unique estate. You can discover various cafes and restaurants, boutiques, and other hidden gems in this neighborhood. Plan accordingly, as there is plenty to view at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens itself. We suggest giving yourself between 2-4 hours, depending on your walking speed and how much you want to discover during the tour.
The Amazing Architecture
It took over 8 years (from 1914 to 1922) to construct the massive estate and two years to design the main house. The 34 room main house was modeled after an 18th century Italian villa. Four men, including the owner James Deering, had a hand in designing the various elements of the 50 acre property. Despite the old-fashion design, Vizcaya did contain many conveniences of the 20th century, including a water filtration system, central vacuum system, and elevators. Several architectural elements were adapted to fit the Miami tropical climate, including the large Courtyard, which is one of the first areas you see when entering the property.
Designers also customized the plans based on Deering’s purchases but still took care to ensure the entire building maintained a cohesive ambiance. Even today, each room is like its own museum, perfectly curated to display the massive collections Deering acquired in his travels across the world.
Take time to read the various room guides which detail each room’s distinct design and showcase pieces. You don’t need to be an architect to appreciate the grandeur and scale of building in each room.
The Extensive Collections
James Deering was an avid traveler and collector of antiques. From Europe, Asia, and the United States, he acquired rare artifacts and pieces of art to fill his estate. Today, several different collections exist throughout the rooms of the main house. It could easily take you hours to explore them all.
The estate’s architectural designer, Paul Chalfin, also acquired specific pieces of furniture and sculptures to achieve the precise artistic representations of each room. This is most evident when exploring the various bedrooms (a total of 9 guest rooms). Each room was specifically designed and subsequently named based on the decor and styling of the room. This is where a guided tour or one of the audio tours can come in handy during your visit. Unfortunately, all the audio tours were already sold out when we arrived around noon. Still, the signs in each room can pinpoint the signature pieces and focal points.
Built on Biscayne Bay, the outdoor East Terrace is a cruisers dream come true. With its own boat shaped “barge”, Vizcaya was designed to be accessible by the water. Unfortunately, the once ornate greeting area has not withstood the elements. In the mansion’s hey day, this barge would welcome guests for parties, complete with electricity and gondolas to chauffeur guests from the main home. While the structure is no longer usable, you can admire the bayside views and the ornate stonework of the barge itself.
Once you are done marveling at the views, you might want to turn around for another amazing vantage point of the main house. Of course, this would be the perfect location for a few selfies!
The Meticulous Gardens
To complete your tour, you will want to spend some time outdoors. Adjacent to the south terrace is the large formal gardens, actually a series of separate little gardens. The gardens were originally modeled after similar large installations found in 17th and 18th century France and Italy. Your first glimpse at the space might be a bit overwhelming, but the perfectly manicured grounds are waiting for you to explore.
Strategically scattered throughout the gardens are sculptures and fountains. Many of these pieces were designed from limestone and coral. These local materials would weather giving the gardens an aged appearance after only a few years.
Even when the museum is busy, you can often find some quiet spaces within the gardens. Similar to the main house, you should take time to review the signs at each area to learn more about the history and distinct features of the different gardens.
Are you ready for something different on your next visit to the Miami? History buffs, cultural aficionados, art lovers, and nature enthusiasts alike will enjoy spending the day at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. So, next time you are cruising from Miami and want to step away from the crowded beaches and shops, plan a visit to this magnificent estate. You will be glad you did.
Have you visited the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, FL? What is your favorite thing to do in this port of call? Drop us an anchor below to share your favorite shore excursions and tours in this popular cruise destination.