Park Central hotel on Ocean Drive is an iconic sight
in Miami Beach. Designed by Henry Hohauser in 1937,
the hotel was among the first ones renovated in
South Beach in the late 1980s. It is currently
closed for a $40 million renovation.
BEACH ó With the energy of the sun and colors to rival a
rainbow, Miami Beach architecture is happiness wrapped in
I know. These are not the analytic words of a serious
I donít know a doo-dad from a hole in the wall.
just that you donít have to be an architect to
appreciate the cityís Art Deco and Miami Modern
sensibility. Real, curvy and a little zany, most buildings
are in condition that would make their original architects
I moved to Miami Beach I thought it was just a party town,
and it took me a little while to connect to the history
and culture," says Amanda McMaster, marketing manager
for the Miami Design Preservation League.
it almost seems like it is its own country."
Miami Beach glows with vitality. Artists, designers,
celebrities, several variations of rich people, hotel
developers, spring breakers and South American visitors
all play here.
some renovations remain, the city has come a long way from
the dumpy shape it was in 30 years ago. Billions have been
poured into this beachside city since the 1970s, says
Daniel Ciraldo, the preservation leagueís historic
preservation officer. That was when a handful of Miami
Beach citizens ran to the rescue of teetering old
buildings built between 1915 and the 1950s. They
successfully argued that the one single thing that made
the city special was the architecture.
were right. Miami Beachís Art Deco District is not only
on the National Register of Historic Places (www.nps.gov/nr/travel/geo-flor/39.htm),
it arguably has evolved into one of the most delightful
tourist spots in the world.
arrivals may not exactly grasp what makes Miami Beach so
appealing, other than picking up a sort of happy,
comfortable feeling when they arrive. But one key is that
everything is human scale here.
the clever architectural details of the bright Art Deco
hotels and businesses built between the 1920s and Ď30s
are ship-like railings, port holes, eyebrow window
overhangs, odd-stepped ziggurat roofs and terrazzo floors.
north in the Miami Modern area, where the buildings date
from the 1940s to 1960, hotels and other buildings sport
wild details such as huge expanses of plate glass, mosaic
tile, fin walls, woggles and cheese holes.
you need more education.
between your trendy alfresco dinners, bar hopping and
beach sunning, here are a few suggestions of how to spend
your Miami Beach moments:
the beach: The whimsical, vivid lifeguard stations dotting
the wide beach for miles have recently been updated to
harken back to Miami style. And if you want to see a real
tropical Art Deco gem, try the Beach Patrol Headquarters.
It dates from 1936 (1001 Ocean Drive).
into the Miami Historic Preservation League Visitors
Center and its 2-year-old museum, 1001 Ocean Drive, open
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (www.mdpl.org). There you
can see the history of Miami Beachís boom-bust-boom
your picture taken in front of some of the sweetest
cinematic hotels, the Breakwater (1936) and the Park
an organized or self-guided architecture tour. There are
independent walking tours (such as www.artdecowalks.com or
www.artdecotours.com ) or seek out a tour through the
Miami Design Preservation League (www.mdpl.org). League
tours include self-guided audio tours, a guided 90-minute
Art Deco tour, a MiMo (Miami Modern) tour, Miami Beach
culinary-history tour, a Jewish Miami Beach tour, and a
gay and lesbian Miami Beach tour. During the annual Art
Deco weekend each January, there are 40 different tours
involving everything from cocktails to the Mob.
in Miami Beach, of course, you must stay at a historic
hotel. This is harder than it seems. Even new buildings
look vintage. And some buildings that say
"hotel" on the outside actually arenít.
example, the Raleigh Hotel on Collins Avenue was recently
bought by fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and will close
in May to be turned into a private club. On Ocean Drive,
walk by the cute McAlpin Hotel ó but donít try to stay
there unless you are a member of Hilton Vacation Club.
thing. Donít be surprised if your hotel has two names on
the building. Because of historic preservation rules,
"some hotels canít change names because it was part
of the original hotel," McMaster says. A new Hampton
Inn on Collins Ave. still says "The Claremont"
on one side. The Ritz Carlton stills says "DiLido
Beach" on one tower. The spire of the Hotel says
"Tiffany" because it was once called the Tiffany
owners wanted to be the Tiffany Hotel again, but Tiffany,
the brand, wouldnít let them," McMaster says.
confuse the issue further, hotels keep changing hands and
changing names. With pedigrees more carefully noted than
that of a French poodle at the dog show, hotels keep
reinventing themselves. This spring, for example, Hyatt
bought South Beachís Thompson hotel, formerly known as
the Crown, originally known as the Lord Tarleton. Hyatt,
for reasons known only to its marketers, plans to rename
it "the Confidente.
this city is so popular (tourism in the greater Miami area
rose to a record-breaking 15.1 million between fall 2014
and fall 2015), you will be fighting for elbow room at
some points during the year here. Follow these three tips
for a happier visit:
Double-check what festivals and events are happening
during your Miami Beach visit. For instance, donít be
the person expecting a quiet romantic March weekend if the
electronic music festival is booming. http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/events/annual-events
Ask your hotel ahead of time if renovations are going on
and the pool is open. So many hotels are being renovated
that calling ahead can avoid unhappy surprises.
Look at photos of your hotel. Many historic hotels that
have been preserved and renovated still have fairly small
rooms and elevators. That is part of the charm, but if you
donít want that, either stay at another property or
upgrade to a larger room.
Beach may be only seven square miles and beribboned with
seven miles of beach, but, as they say, good things come
in small packages.
there: Miami Beach is about 25 minutes from the Miami
International Airport, about a $35 cab ride.
Iíd recommend staying at a hotel away from busy Ocean
Drive and instead on Collins Avenue around 17th Street.
These hotels all are one block from the beach.
National Hotel, 1677 Collins Ave. (www.nationalhotel.com,
$225-up). Epic 1939 Art Deco hotel totally renovated in
The Hampton Inn Miami South Beach (www.hamptoninn.com,
$150-up). Historic hotel totally renovated in 2015.
The Nautilus (www.sixtyhotels.com, $225-up.) Historic
hotel just reopened after two years of renovations.
more: Miami Beach Tourism: www.miamiandbeaches.com; Miami
Design Preservation League: www.mdpl.org; Miami Modern on
the North Shore: www.mimoonthebeach.com; City of Miami
Beach, www.miamibeachfl.gov/visitors. If you see a
building you like, look up its history. Many have been