Home / Travel Guides - Miami / Art Deco In South Beach

flickr/Brad Clinesmith

Art Deco in South Beach South Beach comprises the area from 21st Street down to 1st Street near the tip of Miami Beach. Within its confines lingers the Art Deco District, a distinctive neighborhood where flat-roofed, stucco buildings are crowned with soaring finials and stepped parapets, and many sport such distinguishing architectural touches as porthole windows and edgy geometric patterns.

“SoBe,” also known as America's Riviera, draws a trendy social mix of models, paparazzi, locals, bohemians, producers, people on vacation, inline skaters, drag queens and celebrities. Al fresco food places serve with a European flair. Funky shops line Collins Avenue. And there is an ever-changing number of fashionable nightclubs in which to dance the night away. The blossoming artists' colony on Lincoln Road attracts a sophisticated, international crowd, and the street's pedestrian mall, full of hip retail shops and local restaurants, is an especially pleasant place to browse. Everything is within walking distance, so there's no need for a car.

History of Art Deco in South Beach

How did this once dowdy beachside venue become the toast of Miami? The answer lies within the fanciful Art Deco hotels, built during the 1930s and '40s as an answer to Depression era blues. But the fanciful seaside lodgings languished by the 1980s, their facades crumbled and paint peeling. Developers were set to raze the buildings, a fate that seemed likely until conservationist Barbara Baer Capitman intervened. Her associate, Leonard Lazar Horowitz, had an idea to cover the drab brown and tan exteriors with playful hues of lavender, pink, melon and mint, literally transforming Ocean Drive with a paintbrush. A community was dazzled, and investors took notice. The rest is real estate—and preservation—history.

flickr/Francisco Herrera
The term Art Deco, which was not coined until 1968, is derived from a 1925 French design fair, the Paris Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Two other words from the name of that gathering—industrial and modern—pretty much sum up what Art Deco architecture is all about. Early Art Deco buildings (mid-1920s to mid-1930s) are characterized by angular and geometric shapes and decorative ornamentation, much of which was inspired by ancient Egyptian art. The later style (late 1930s to early 1940s), commonly called “streamline,” is distinguished by rounded corners, expanses of light-catching glass, banded stripes and, frequently, nautical motifs. Colorful neon lights emphasize these architectural details. Looking for fun places to go? The largest concentration of renovated Art Deco gems can be found along a 10-block stretch of Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th streets.

Travel Tours in South Beach

The organization Capitman founded in 1976, the Miami Design Preservation League, sponsors the annual Art Deco Weekend festival in January as well as the Art Deco Welcome Center at 1001 Ocean Dr. Ninety-minute guided walking tours, led by local architects and historians, depart several times a week from the center. Or, if you want to explore on your own, the league also has self-guiding audio tours that introduce visitors to the district's distinctive architecture.

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Miami, FL

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Travel Information

Miami Population

399,457

Miami Elevation

20 ft.

Miami Beach Population

87,779

Miami Beach Elevation

4 ft.

Sales Tax

Miami-Dade County sales tax is 7 percent. An additional hotel room tax is 6 percent in Miami-Dade County, with the exception of Surfside and Bal Harbour, where the resort tax is 4 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(305) 476-5423 (Miami-Dade County) or (305) 579-6111 (Miami)

Fire (non-emergency)

(786) 331-5000 (Miami-Dade County) or (305) 416-5400 (Miami)

Time and Temperature

(305) 324-8811

Hospitals

Baptist Hospital of Miami, (786) 596-1960; Jackson South Community Hospital, (305) 251-2500; North Shore Medical Center, (305) 835-6000; University of Miami Hospital, (305) 689-5511; Westchester General Hospital, (305) 264-5252.

Visitor Information

701 Brickell Ave. Suite 2700 Miami, FL 33131. Phone:(305)539-3000 or (800)933-8448

Air Travel

Miami International Airport

Rental Cars

Miami and Miami Beach are served by many major car rental agencies. Hertz, (800) 654-3080, or (305) 871-0300 at Miami International Airport, and (305) 534-4661 inside the Fontainebleau Resort in Miami Beach, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

The Amtrak Station is at 8303 N.W. 37th Ave. For arrival information phone (305) 835-1221; for reservations and other information phone (800) 872-7245.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc. stations are at 3801 N.W. 21st St., (305) 871-1810, in Miami; at 16000 N.W. Seventh Ave., (305) 688-7277, in North Miami.

Taxis

Cabs are plentiful and operate on the meter system. Fares are $2.95 base fee plus $2.40 per mile and 40c for each minute of waiting. A $1 fuel surcharge and an airport surcharge may apply. The largest companies are Yellow Cab Co., (305) 444-4444, and Metro Taxi, (305) 888-8888.

Public Transportation

Transportation by elevated light rail, people mover and bus is available in Miami.

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