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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Part of the grounds of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Tagging along with my husband on his business trips is something I have rarely taken advantage of even with his extensive global travel schedule the past thirty years.

I am trying to carve out pockets of time on my calendar to join him when possible and recently decided at the last minute to do just that when he needed to be in Miami for a short visit. South Florida is a special place for me as my grandparents resided there. The salty air, sunshine, thick spongy grass lawns, sandy beaches, endless supply of shells and sparkling waters remind me of some of my favorite childhood summers spent with them and I was instantly on board with an opportunity to tap back into those sweet memories.

While we did not dip our toes in the waves this time, I did take a walk from downtown to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The weather was gorgeous and lingering a few hours on the grounds of an historical estate with European influence is the perfect adventure I wish I could pencil more of in my planner! So I thought I would share a little of my experience there with you until you have the chance to explore it on your own one day.

Front entrance of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Side view of Vizcaya Museum

Biscayne Bay view of the Vizcaya Museum

As one of Miami's most beautifully preserved landmarks overlooking Biscayne Bay, the stunning Vizcaya estate was the winter residence of James Deering, a successful industrialist from Chicago who purchased the 130 acre waterfront property in the Coconut Grove area of Miami in 1909 after retiring as Vice President of International Harvester - the largest producer of agricultural machinery at that time. He commissioned architect Francis Burrall Hoffman, Jr. for the project, Paul Chalfin for the interior styling and tasked Colombian landscape architect Diego Sanchez after meeting him in Florence with designing the meticulous gardens. Construction began in 1914 and the home emerged as a modern interpretation of an 18th century Italian villa that blended seamlessly with the surrounding subtropical environment.

Archway entrance on the grounds of Vizcaya gardens

Completed in 1916, the stunning main house showcases ceilings, architectural elements, impressive art and furnishings imported from Europe and innovative technologies including electricity, central vacuum-cleaning and water filtration systems, heating, ventilation, generators, refrigerators, dumbwaiter, two elevators and automated telephone switchboards. Set around a central courtyard originally open to the sky, the first floor includes the Library, Dining Room, Music Room with a built-in organ, kitchen and various reception rooms. The second floor accommodated Mr. Deering's personal suite of rooms, guest rooms, modernized bathrooms, the Breakfast Room and a second kitchen.

From the chandeliers, crests and wall murals to the carvings on the massive doors, the docent highlighted key details throughout the stately hallways and enclosed loggias and pointed out a set of china on display known as Mr. Deering's second favorite pattern, his most favored having unfortunately been sent over to the United States on the Titanic...

Hallway off of the interior courtyard at Vizcaya Museum

Interior ceiling at the Vizcaya Museum

The elegance that permeated every single inch of the interior setting is remarkably replicated in the exterior gardens - with the calming waters of the bay and contrasting glass high rises of Miami today as a backdrop. Orchids, statues, fountains, mazes and columns skirt tidy, circular pebbled paths leading to grottos and covered gazebos. A spectacular forest of mangroves is right on the edge of the shoreline and a stone barge once acting as additional outdoor space was built in front of the property to serve not only as a work of art, but also as a breakwater to protect the home from storms. The grounds are a pure oasis of green drenched in sunlight.

Pebbled path with statues in Vizcaya gardens

Grotto in Vizcaya gardens

Mangrove forest along the Biscayne Bay shoreline at the Vizcaya Museum

Vizcaya Museum garden path

Pond and gazebo at Vizcaya gardens

Fountain area in the garden of Vizcaya Museum

Outdoor pool at the Vizcaya Museum

Vizcaya Museum barge in Biscayne Bay

Vizcaya is a delight and well worth an afternoon break from the beach when in Miami. If you go, the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. and the gardens from 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. As of my visit in March 2022, tickets must be purchased online and include an audio tour - admission is free for U.S. military veterans, active military personnel and persons with a disability + one caregiver. Two group tours are also available for an additional nominal fee. There is a gift shop and a café on site located near the outdoor pool that serves a selection of hot and cold plated options.



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