By Beth Whitman, on December 5, 2013

The Miami Art Deco District

Miami’s art deco. Without even showing you a photo, an image pops into your mind, doesn’t it? Maybe you just got a mental image of a building that’s pink, light green, or sky blue. Perhaps it’s white with pastel-colored trim and nautical designs. The corners may be rounded. Or maybe you envision neon lights brightening the night sky.

Before the Art Deco District rose to prominence as one of the most iconic places in Florida, the pastel-painted buildings that line South Beach were nearly demolished. Saved by the wrecking ball in 1979 by the Miami Design Preservation League, these buildings are now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and – thank goodness -won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

  • The 404 Building

  • The Carlyle

  • Crescent Resort on South Beach

  • Majestic Hotel

  • The Park Central Hotel

  • Waldorf Towers

  • Art deco building

  • Typical art deco building

  • Rounded corners on art deco building

The buildings’ designs were inspired by the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Artes Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. In simpler terms, art deco. Impressively, there are more than 800 buildings in the district.

Development started after the great hurricane of 1926, which destroyed much of the city, and continued until about 1943. The district is loosely bounded by Ocean Drive and Washington Avenue on the east and west (with Collins Avenue in between) and by 6th and 23rd Streets south and north.

Viewfinder Tip: Be sure to visit early in the morning for the best light and in the evening for the best nightlife.

Start your tour at the Art Deco Welcome Center located in a small building on the beach side of Ocean Drive. Here you can pick up free information as well as art deco-themed souvenirs and books.

The biggest clump of amazing art deco buildings is on Ocean Drive. The beach side of the street will give you an excellent view of all the buildings, but you’ll need to make more than one pass to take in all the details. Walk up the ocean side of the street for the big picture and then walk down the west side of the street to see the iron work and colors up close.

Meander up and down Collins and Washington Avenues, zig-zagging the numbered streets in between. With so many historic buildings, you’ll likely make some discoveries off the tourist map.

And for a really special view, stay in one of the hotels on Ocean Drive. Built in 1937 and remodeled in 1987, The Park Central Hotel is one of the best known hotels on Ocean Drive. Located on the slightly quieter north side of South Beach, the Crescent Resort on South Beach is a boutique hotel built in 1938. The facade resembles a steam ship and even has port holes.

What’s your favorite art deco building in Miami?