Miami, FL

Visiting Vizcaya Museum and Gardens: Miami's Little Slice of Europe Awaits You

Gayle Kurtzer-Meyers
Vizcaya Museum & GardensPhoto Source Averette - Own work

Miami's little slice of Europe

Miami, Florida, is one of the world's most popular cities. Known for its nightlife scene, great cuisine, and diverse population, many tourists come to Miami, Florida, for the history and beautiful architecture. The unique beauty designs match the diversity of the people who inhabit this energetic town. If you can appreciate these characteristics of South Beach, consider embarking on an architectural adventure and explore the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Since its creation, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens has caught the eye of many architectural enthusiasts, including the producers of big-screen films. As a result, this beautiful museum has made cameos in many films, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Iron Man 3, and the action movie Bad Boys 2. I was in love with Vizcaya the moment we met. It was love at first sight.

With jaw-dropping views and lovely greenery and flowers, it makes sense that people enjoy renting this estate for photoshoots and even weddings. But, if you’re in South Beach or the surrounding areas, visiting this property also allows you to learn about the family behind one of Florida’s most beautiful landmarks.

A brief history of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Originally, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was the home of a well-renowned industrialist from Chicago called James Deerling. After his retirement, Deerling moved to Miami to build his estate. Then, with the help of some European architects and artistic directors, to create a combination of the Caribbean and European structure and decor.
European designed interior of Vizcaya Museum and GardensPhoto Source: Mary Mark Ockerbloom - Own work

This beautiful estate sits on 130 acres of land. The main house was finished in 1916, and the gardens were completed in 1923. After the untimely death of James Deerling in 1925, his estate was passed on to his brother Charles Deerling, which was then inherited two years later by his daughters once he also passed away.

After the Deerling estate was finished, several hurricanes hit South Beach causing damage to both the gardens and the main house. Over time, it became expensive to maintain the property, so James Deerling’s nieces faced a tough decision.
Letter, Deering to Chalfin, discussing purchase of tapestriesPhoto Source Public Domain

In 1952, the Deerling estate was sold for one million dollars to Miami-Dade County, converted to an art museum. After being remodeled, the Deerling family donated artifacts and artwork to the museum. Unfortunately, the value of this artwork and precious metals attracted thieves that stole over one million dollars worth of merchandise and brought it to New York.

Although the culprits were found with some of the property, only a small percentage of the property was recovered. Nevertheless, four decades later, Vizcaya Museums and Gardens was declared an official landmark.

What to expect during your visit

Both tourists and Miami Florida residents enjoy the beauty and history, so it’s likely to see a crowd every time you visit. But, aside from general maintenance and gardening, the people who run the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens strive to maintain the integrity of the estate. So, you’ll get a chance to experience the original uneven floors and countless steps that James Deerling walked on nearly a century ago.
Waterfront view from Vizcaya GardensPhoto Source : Ebyabe - Own work

Although you may not be alone in the museum or gardens, there’s plenty of room to enjoy the estate, even with social distancing regulations. But, of course, you’ll still need to wear the proper facial coverings to ensure your safety as well as the safety of the other patrons. If you fail to take the mandated pandemic precautions, you'll be asked to leave.

For an extra five dollars, you also have an opportunity to get an audio-guided tour. This 90-minute tour comes in five languages and walks you through both the house and gardens. The guided tours teach you about the animals who live at the estate and a detailed history of the entire property.

Since you know there will be a crowd, you should get there as soon as they open. However, there are a limited number of parking spaces, so you want to be there by 9:30 from Thursday to Sunday.

Since there’s so much to see within the museum and gardens, it’s best to make a day of it. Going through the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a fun adventure, so give yourself and your family time to embrace the full experience of this estate.

In addition to learning about the Deerling legacy, you’ll also have a great time learning more about Miami’s European architectural inspiration. People who either visit and reside in South Beach are familiar with the Caribbean flavor of this city. However, the museum and garden tours make the visitors feel like they are on vacation overseas.

When you show up, remember to bring your ID. You may be eligible for one of the many discounts if you’re a senior citizen, AAA student, or military member. If you’re intrigued by what you see and want to come back, consider becoming a member. The cost of a year-long membership is 70 dollars, which is roughly equal to three visits. Becoming a member also gives you great discounts and allows you to explore some of their exclusive programs.

South Beach is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. In addition to the warm weather and cool breeze near the water, this town offers some of the greatest architecture around. By visiting the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in South Beach, you're treating yourself to a gorgeous piece of history. Give yourself enough time to appreciate the many acres of beauty with your family, and don't forget to arrive early enough if you want to utilize the on-site parking lot.

Looking forward to sharing my little piece of Europe with you.

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I am a Licensed Community Association Manager for the State of Florida and a published author. My top articles are about Florida RE, property management, and the many beautiful venues and activities available in the Sunshine State. Thank you for reading my work and joining me on the journey.

Kissimmee, FL

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