Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

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Named after one of the most captivating shorelines on the Spanish coast, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens captures jaw-dropping European extravagance in an enchanting American context. The home’s builder, James Deering, was a prolific industrialist who explored uncharted territory in the creation of this ambitious home, planting his Renaissance-inspired estate at the heart of Miami’s tropical hardwood hammock. Although inspired by the earlier architectural style, the home was very innovative in it’s incorporation of the modern technology available at the time of it’s construction (1914), including everything from details on how the structure itself was built to the incorporation of modern touches such as a telephone switching system and a central vacuum system. Though he only wintered at Vizcaya from 1916 to 1925, upon James’s departure, the estate was left to his half-brother Charles. Deering’s adventurous spirit lives on to this day. The estate’s very emblem – “The Caravel” – commemorates a ship used during the “Age of Exploration.” As you begin your own exploration of this historic Miami icon, you’ll notice an image of the mythical voyager “Bel Vizcaya” at the entrance, marking the beginning of a most memorable journey ahead.

Inside the Main House

In 1914, Deering enlisted 1,000 workers to bring his dream home to life. He and his design partner Paul Chalfin scoured Europe for the finest furnishings, antiques and paintings. The duo imported gilded panels, carved mantels and fresco ceilings from Tuscany and France to line the villa walls. It took years to perfect the mansion’s 70-plus rooms, 34 of which overflow with treasures dating back to the 15th century. As you enter the Tea Room, you’ll notice sleek marble floors, reflecting a rainbow of light, beaming through stained glass doors. Step into the Breakfast Room and marvel at the motif, designed to represent the exchange of ideas during the “Age of Exploration” by combining Chinese ceramics with Neapolitan seascapes. Finally, as you make your way into the Cathay Room, you’ll get a taste of the lavish accommodations enjoyed by movie star moguls like Lillian Gish during her visit in 1917. But any trip to Vizcaya would be incomplete without a tour of its Edenic grounds.

The Gardens

The greatest of photographs cannot convey the serenity of Vizcaya’s ten acres of gardens. In many ways, the Formal Gardens resemble the layout of France’s Versailles. Low, trimmed shrubs organize walkways into mesmerizing, geometric patterns. Thick columns, lush mazes and classical statues also lend to its European aesthetic; but Vizcaya uniquely embraces its tropical surroundings as well. Here, palms, rare orchids and Cuban limestone infuse the palatial Mediterranean vibe with a signature Miami flair.

The sprawling Formal Gardens were designed by landscape architect Diego Suarez to feel like a great outdoor room, connecting to the main house along a North-South axis. Several architectural elements come together in one fluid, integrated space. A massive topiary-lined corridor gives way to The Mound, where The Casino pavilion provides an aerial view of the gardens. East of The Mound lies the Fountain Garden, its centerpiece is still in working order and was imported from Sutri, Italy. Another must see on your garden tour is The David A. Klein Orchidarium, where rows of vibrant Vandas and rare Cymbidiums dangle elegantly overhead.

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Deering was an avid seafarer and welcomed his guests by boat as well as by car. Just a few steps from the Yacht Landing, the swimming pool served as a refreshing remedy for a long hot day on the bay. In addition to his maritime passions, Deering had a penchant for pop-culture and enjoyed watching Charlie Chaplin films in the open-air courtyard. Vizcaya has since become a star in its own right, appearing in films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Bad Boys II, and Iron Man 3. While you won’t be able to take a dip in the pool, you can experience a wide-ranging variety of special events held at the Museum and Gardens, some of which should best be reserved in advance.

Cultural Impact

Located in the lively Coconut Grove neighborhood, Vizcaya has always been a cultural hub. Deering chose the Grove as the site of his winter retreat in order to preserve the natural habitat for future generations. After Deering’s passing, surviving family donated much of the property to the county, leading to its renaming as Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Today, Deering’s dream of preservation and conservation is realized in many educational lessons and tours.

From Popes to pop stars, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens has played host to countless celebrities and dignitaries. And it’s still one of the most sought-after locations for photo shoots, weddings and events.

With customizable tour options and affordable ticket prices, there are plenty of ways to become part of Vizcaya’s legacy. The property is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Tuesdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving.

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