Home Americas Travel BlogUnited States Travel Blog Exploring the Art Deco District in Miami

Exploring the Art Deco District in Miami

by Silke Elzner

When planning our Caribbean cruise there was no doubt in my mind that I also needed to add an extra night to our itinerary to also explore the wonders of the Art Deco District in Miami. I am a big fan of art deco, and I couldn’t wait to explore this historic district which to me is almost synonymous with Miami itself.

In this article I want to take you on a tour along South Beach’s Ocean Drive to see some of the most beautiful art deco buildings in Miami and share with you some information on the district, its history, and some of the best sights.

Not to forget the craziness that sets in late in the afternoon when crowds of people in the weirdest outfits stroll along Ocean Drive in the timeless pursuit of drinks, food, and a good time. I don’t want to go into detail, but boy, did we see some weird folks with some very questionable fashion choices!

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South Beach in Miami is famous for its art deco buildings, many of which are hotels just like the beautiful Waldorf Towers Hotel on Ocean Drive.
South Beach in Miami is famous for the many art deco buildings, many of which are hotels just like the beautiful Waldorf Towers Hotel on Ocean Drive.

What is the Art Deco Historic District in Miami?

The art deco style, as you may have guessed, originates in France and is mainly characterised by an overindulgence in form, colours and material. Floral designs, pastel colours, rounded corners are all part of this eclectic style and can be easily spotted along Ocean Drive and beyond. The Art Deco District in Miami features many of these characteristics.

The reason why there are so many art deco buildings in South Beach is that this style was particularly popular at a time when many of these buildings were constructed. Other fine examples of art deco in the US include the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in New York City. South Beach has always been a tourist destination, and since nobody ever wanted to stay in an old-fashioned hotel, architects made sure they followed the latest trends.

Out of roughly 1,200 heritage listed buildings in Miami, 1,000 are classified as art deco buildings. I am not a big fan of maps when it is the whole district that shines. So I really want to tease your appetite with the below suggestions and then encourage you to simply explore further at your own leisure.

Pastel colours, daring shapes and a clear tendency for overindulgence are the easily identifiable characteristics of the US art deco architecture which can also be found in New York City.
Pastel colours, daring shapes and a clear tendency for overindulgence are the easily identifiable characteristics of the US art deco architecture which can also be found in New York City.

Where is the Art Deco District in Miami?

The Art Deco District can be found in South Beach in Miami, with some of the most famous buildings such as hotels, bars, and restaurants located along Ocean Drive facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Some fine examples of this architectural design, however, can also be found in the streets behind Ocean Drive such as Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue (up until approximately 6-7 blocks from the beach).

There is no strict border, but generally speaking the historic district stretches from 6th Street to 23rd Street.

Not just the hotels and bars on Ocean Drive are built in the art deco style. Art deco is also the dominating style of the imposing Miami Beach Cinematheque.
Not just the hotels and bars on Ocean Drive are built in the art deco style. Art deco is also the dominating style of the imposing Miami Beach Cinematheque.

What it’s like to visit the Art Deco District in South Beach

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we had checked into our hotel after a long-distance flight, but with first light breaking we headed to the beach to get a glimpse of the historic art deco district. I was immediately smitten with the beautiful colours and shapes of the architecture, the air of freedom of the wide open beach, and the peaceful morning atmosphere.

We walked a little bit down Ocean Drive and immediately stumbled on Gianni Versace’s mansion which we recognised from the Netflix show which recounts the story of his murder right there on the steps of his home. All of this, plus the colourful lifeguard posts on the beach, the handsome guys on Muscle Beach and the cheerful atmosphere of the bars even this early in the morning moved me to tears. Of course, I will blame the jetlag.

But seriously, staying right in the middle of it all was the best decision for our trip to Miami and gave us the essential touristy Miami Beach feel that we had been after.

South Beach is certainly one of the craziest tourist places in Miami. It never gets boring. Just spend a couple of minutes at Muscle Beach and feel entertained.
South Beach is certainly one of the craziest tourist places in Miami. It never gets boring. Just spent a couple of minutes at Muscle Beach and feel entertained.

What to do in the Art Deco District

Besides checking out the beautiful art deco architecture, there are many things you can do in South Beach. The historic art deco district as well as the tourist zone of South Beach are certainly not a quiet holiday destination but rather for those who like to go out and explore.

The Cavalier Hotel borrows some design elements from far away cultures which you can clearly make out in the exotic patterns on the facade.
The Cavalier Hotel borrows some design elements from far away cultures which you can clearly make out in the exotic patterns on the facade.

For example you could:

  • Have a picnic in one of the beautiful tropical parks such as Soundscape Park, Lummus Park, or Flamingo Park
  • Go for a swim: There is a gorgeous beach after all!
  • Check out some of the most visited places in the art deco district such as the Gianni Versace Mansion, the Colony Hotel with its bright blue neon signs, and the Wolfsonian
  • Visit one of the many great museums such as the Art Deco Welcome Center, the World Erotic Art Museum, or the Jewish Museum of Florida
  • Watch the boys and girls work out at Muscle Beach
  • Shop in the boutiques and fashion stores on Lincoln Road Mall
  • Rent a CitiBike and ride down the beach
  • Party on Ocean Drive, sip on huge cocktail glasses, indulge in Cuban food, and watch the crowds
  • Visit South Pointe Pier park for views of the beach, the cruise ships, the exclusive mansions on Fisher Island and the gorgeous Miami sunsets
  • Check out the illuminated hotel buildings at night on a leisurely walk
We had some amazing Cuban food on Ocean Drive . Granted, this is not Calle Ocho, but the taste of that braised beef was just amazing and much better than we thought!
We had some amazing Cuban food on Ocean Drive. Granted, this is not Calle Ocho, but the taste of that braised beef was just amazing and much better than we thought!

Tip: Staying at an Art Deco Miami Hotel

Before joining the cruise ship to the Caribbean, we stayed in one of the many art deco hotels in South Beach. It was the best decision we ever made, breathing and feeling the style from the second we opened our eyes in the morning until we went to sleep.

I cannot speak for the other hotels in the Art Deco district, but our hotel of choice, the Marlin Hotel on Collins Avenue, was simply perfect: gorgeously appointed, spacious, clean, good smelling, well serviced, centrally located and reasonably priced and delicious breakfast buffet.

We stayed in one of the suites with a rounded corner window with our family of four and couldn’t have asked for a better hotel to stay. Feel free to check out rates, reviews, and prices on our affiliate website.*

The Marlin Hotel is one of South Beach's true art deco hotels. We had one of our best hotel experiences here ever.
The Marlin Hotel is one of South Beache’s true art deco hotels. We had one of our best hotel experience here ever.

Joining one of the Art Deco Walks

We discovered the beauty of this historic quarter on a hop on hop off bus ride, but there are certainly a number of art deco walks and tours that you can join which will look into all the interesting details of this very special part of South Beach.

Check out the following suggested Miami tours:

How cool is this art deco diner?
How cool is this art deco diner?

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