I was just sharing on my Instagram today, about exploring your own town/state/country like a tourist. Visiting Vizcaya was the outcome of me doing so back in my hometown. I grew up an hour away from Miami and had been there countless of times but had never heard of Vizcaya. I was shocked when I arrived and found this incredible, well preserved, piece of Florida history. In South Miami, away from the bustle that is South Beach, you can find an incredibly preserved 18th century Italian Villa- although I would call it a castle. There isn’t much history in South Florida- Miami alone was founded in 1870, and unfortunately since then, most buildings haven’t survived mass developing and major hurricanes, so this is truly a gem.
Best Time to Visit
Visiting Miami is always best from October-March, when you can avoid the torrential downpours and equatorial heat.
Make sure to bring your camera because this place is photogenic from every angle! In fact, Vizcaya is highly sought after wedding venue and photoshoot backdrop! On the weekends, you’ll most likely see a Quinceañera birthday girl dressed in her ballgown for photos. The back of the villa points east, making early morning is best for photo ops!
What to Do
The museum offer tours and I typically suggest guided tours, but for this one unless you are a serious history, architecture, or museum buff, I would skip it. I hate to say that, but I didn’t feel like discovered any mind blowing facts, and there are placards around the property that share valuable information. Also, if you’re reading my blog, I basically shared all the good details! There is also a small café and museum store for you souvenir loving travelers out there. Definitely bring your camera, this place is an instagrammable hotspot! (Wow, I just added ‘Instagrammable’ to my WordPress dictionary… 🙆 The world we live in!)
Vizcaya is a great venue for all sorts of occasions but be ready to drop some big bucks and be added to the year long waiting list! I heard to just use the property starts out at $50,000- with nothing included. Vizcaya also hosts a few events and programs throughout the year such as The Bay Drift, a bay clean up, BioBlitz, and Gardens by the Moonlight. Check here for more details.
Vizcaya was originally the winter home of one of the richest men in America, James Deering. He spent a lot of time and effort into building this place into the castle it is today. But sadly only got to enjoy it for less than 10 years.
He was a little pressured by Europeans who antagonized him by saying “American’s have no culture”,
so he decided to bring beautiful architectural design to America via his winter home. In 1914, Deering began construction. The main house and massive courtyard was designed with an 18th Century Italian Villa feel, and the gardens were inspired after 17 & 18th century French and Italian gardens. Once on 180 acres, this home was lost in a tropical jungle that was nothing but desolation and farm lands. Today, having sold most of the land, the 4 gardens now spans 10 acres, still with century old plants, and a pool.
The main house boasts 34 rooms with art work commissioned in the early 1900’s. The themes vary throughout rooms, although the different styles and eras somehow flow together. And of course, you can’t have a castle without a trick door! They have a few of those on the first level. Unfortunately, there is no photography allowed inside the house, and security guards are on top of preventing that! You’ll have to visit to see this grand villa!
What makes this mansion so unique is the coral rock and limestone exterior. These building materials are highly permeable, prone to erosion, yet still hard, and gives it that coral-like appearance. Although, John Deering was a smart man and largely used reinforced concrete, behind the façade- the latest technology of the period. He also had a water filtration system, heating and ventilation, two elevators, a central vacuum-cleaning system, a dumbwaiter and a partly automated laundry room- basically a high-tech castle…
In the garden on the top of the mound you will find a ‘casino’. I thought, how fun, a whole building dedicated to gambling… But I learned that in 18th century Italy, the word casino actually meant house or cottage. It was more so used for outdoor entertainment. This mound is actually artificial- Florida is flatter than a pancake. It was used as an architectural tool to keep the garden from getting lost in the surrounding tropical jungle.
Hours & Admission
Vizcaya is closed on Tuesdays but open every other day from 9:30-4:30. They are also closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Adults are $18, Children 6-12 are $6, and Children under 5 are free. Seniors over 62 are $12, Students are $10, Wheelchair visitors are $10 and Veterans and Active Military are free.
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