After the devastating hurricane of 1926, Art Deco emerged as the silver lining. The chic new design theory was imported from Paris and quickly took root on the shores of South Beach as developers and architects scrambled to rebuild the leveled landscape. Today, over 800 Art Deco structures remain, lighting up Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue in a rainbow of neon and pastel. Outside of the sleek boutique hotels, there are theaters, restaurants and shopping districts that offer more Art Deco-themed entertainment. Even the orb-shaped lifeguard huts recall the bold geometric designs of the 1930s and 40s. While decades have come and gone, the enduring panache of these major Art Deco landmarks is only outshined by their glowing neon marquees. A guided walking tour organized through the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive is a great way to effectively survey all that the area has to offer.
Like a graceful statue, the Delano’s white winged façade stands tall on 16th Street and Collins Avenue. Robert Swartburg’s sharply chiseled, angular design screams Art Deco from top to bottom. Head inside and you’ll see the interior has been completely updated and modernized, with several vintage elements sprinkled throughout. Retro chandeliers and wall coverings remind us of days gone by in the swanky, revamped Rose Bar.
But when it comes to pools, no one does Art Deco like The Raleigh Hotel. Only a block from the Delano, the curvaceous, beveled outline of the Raleigh’s glistening lagoon has made it legendary around the world. With breathtaking views, delicious dining options and a chic Martini Bar that still retains its original 1940’s appearance, the Raleigh has galvanized itself as a timeless fixture in pop culture.
For art lovers, the intersection of the Lincoln Road Mall and Collins Avenue houses the Sagamore, officially known as The Art Hotel. Four private collections are on display -- the Cricket Taplin Collection, the Martin Z. Margulies Collection, the Rubell Family Art Collection and the Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz Collection. From murals in the stairwell to art videos in the garden, the Sagamore’s inspiring exhibitions are constantly growing, changing and evolving.
Playing off of rounded, futuristic Art Deco silhouettes, The Clevelander is an all-inclusive destination for drinks, good eats and poolside fun. Between the lounges, sun deck, sports bar and proximity to the beach, you’ll never run out of things to do or see at this 1938 icon.
Just a stone’s throw away and incorporating boxier, bold lines is the electric Hotel Breakwater. Atop this iconic hotel, a tranquil rooftop lounge provides a breathtaking line of sight over palm trees and out to the vast blue ocean beyond. By nightfall, fluorescent bulbs, surrounding its name, blast shades of orange, blue and fuchsia, illuminating nearby Lummus Park like a colorful beacon.
The more understated of the Ocean Drive hotel lineup, the Carlyle Hotel remains one of the most identifiable, appearing in several feature films and nearly every photograph of the famed Ocean Drive strip.
For comfort food that won’t break the bank, check out the 11th Street Diner on Washington Avenue. This intimate eatery is housed in an original Art Deco dining car. Any time of day or night, settle into a red leather booth for some Southern Fried Chicken, voted “Best of Miami” by our local New Times publication.
Commandeering the corner of 14th Street and Collins Avenue like the bow of a retro cruise liner, Jerry’s Famous Deli exhibits the nautical side of Art Deco. But Henry Hohauser’s streamlined structure hasn’t always been a deli. This spot originally opened in 1939 as a cafeteria and later became the “China Club” and the illustrious Warsaw Ballroom. On the Ocean Drive drag, several of the Art Deco hotels offer sidewalk eateries that are worth checking out. The Cardozo Bar and Grill, owned by Latin music sensation Gloria Estefan, uniquely marries retro flair and tropical pizazz in an easygoing, beachside setting.
Sandwiched between Lenox and Washington Avenues, the Lincoln Road Mall is the most popular shopping destination in the Art Deco sprawl. This open-air, pedestrian mall makes the perfect destination for window shopping and snacking at charming cafes. Here you’re sure to encounter common stores like Banana Republic, Anthropologie and J. Crew, as well as international offerings like Desigual and All Saints.
Off of Lincoln Road, you’ll find several recognizable fashion brands occupying historic storefronts on Collins Avenue. For example, Gap inhabits a funky teal and yellow building topped with an abstract asymmetrical curve. Sporting the symmetry and geometrical composition of the Art Deco style, The Webster has been totally repurposed, going from a three-story hotel to a 20,000 square foot mega boutique. If the high-end offerings of YSL, Marc Jacobs or Lanvin aren’t in the budget this month, you can still head to the rooftop lounge for unforgettable views and a tasty cocktail.
Outside of the trendy shops and exotic eateries, the Lincoln Road Mall is also home to the majestic Colony Theatre. This stunning entertainment venue opened in 1935 as part of Paramount Pictures’ theater chain, and attests to the Art Deco aesthetic with a classic marquee, vintage ticket office and terrazzo flooring. After an impressive restoration, this 430-seat Performing Arts Center continues to showcase Broadway productions, comedy, opera and film. Also conceived as a theatre, the opulence of the 1930’s even extends to Miami Beach nightlife with Cameo. The popular nightclub remains one of the hottest destinations in the Washington Avenue entertainment district, and continues to declare the evening’s lineup on a glowing red marquee.