Walk with us while we explore the the art deco district of Miami Beach. Cut from a rat infested mangrove swamp, Ocean Drive became the most glamorous tourist destination of the 1930’s with its pastel colored hotels, its sun washed beaches and its tropical flavor all adding to the excitement of the time. This golden age ended with America entering World War II in 1941 and we continue the story of the area’s steady decline through the 1950’s ‘60’s and 70’s and its rebirth during the last 30 years due to one woman’s crusade to save the buildings from demolition. We discuss the 3 distinct styles of architecture, Mediterranean revival, art deco and MIMO (Miami modern) and take you to visit the interiors of some of the hotels so you can appreciate not only the remarkable diversity of style but capture the flavor and mood of the time. We additionally tell the stories of some of the people who with their flair and passion have restored this area once again as a sparkling winter playground for all.
Tour time: 90 minutes
This is an art deco tour with a difference as we begin with Frank Gehry's fabulous New World Symphony building, and then lead you down the fabled Lincoln Road. Built out of a mangrove swamp by the legendary Carl Fisher, it was originally a street with traffic and in the 1920’s and 1930's was known as the Fifth Avenue of the South - the fanciest shopping street in America outside of New York. All the top stores were represented; Tiffany, Bergdorf-Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the most stylish New York furriers! Even the car showrooms of Cadillac and Packard oozed elegance and art deco style. Converted into a pedestrian mall in the late 1950’s by Morris Lapidus whose iconic designs, shapes and sheer fun of architectural design (known as Miami Modern or MiMo) are still far ahead of their time, we explore not only the architecture but also the linear landscape, the planting, trees and shrubs and a newly created area containing ponds and paving reminiscent of a plaza. A not to be missed visit to the Swiss firm Herzog & De Meuron's parking "Installation" (yes, that’s right!) will totally intrigue you, we can promise you will never see the like of it anywhere else, with amazing views of Miami Beach, its hotels, its beaches and the skyline of downtown Miami across the sparkling waters of the bay. We will talk to you about the history of the buildings on Lincoln Road and the work of Morris Lapidus, his landscape history and design.
Tour time: 90 minutes.
Urban Spaces - Two Tours
Tour 1 - Urban Green Spaces of South Beach: This unique art deco tour offers visitors a glimpse of some of our green spaces and their history. We visit the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, the last remaining vestige of what was in the roaring twenties a golf course. We tell you the history of Carl Fisher whose vision in the early 1900’s turned Miami Beach into a playground for the wealthy winter residents from New York, Indianapolis and Detroit. After a gentle stroll around the gardens we walk along the Collins Canal and learn the story of another visionary John Collins, a Quaker farmer from New Jersey who built the canal to ship his tropical produce to the markets in the north. We pause at the oldest building in our National Historic District, the Carl Fisher golf course Club House and take a walk past splendid art deco hotels to The Bass Museum, located in Collins Park where we explore both the architecture and the park. Another short walk takes us to The Fillmore Theatre, where Jackie Gleason hosted his show from 1964 and where we discover the handprints and signatures of many stars in The Walk of Fame. Crossing the road we end our tour at the new Miami Beach Soundscape an urban park designed by landscape architectural firm West 8 to complement the landmark building designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, as the new campus of the New World Symphony.
Tour 2 - Iconic Garages: Urban Parking Places of South Beach: Parking garages are more than just a group of parking spaces...some of them in South Beach have become destinations of themselves and attained individual iconic garage status. Every building, even a parking garage, can be a work of art! Art Deco Walks' new Iconic Garages tour visits four of Miami Beach's newest parking additions: Frank Gehry's LED-clad New World Symphony Garage, Herzog & de Meuron's spectactacular parking 'installation' at 1111 Lincoln Road (the tour will visit the Alchemist shop on the 5th level of the garage, and take in the 270-degree panoramic view of South Beach from the 7th level), Perkins +Will's garage addition to Miami Beach City Hall and, fourth, Enrique Norton's just-opened Park@420 at 16th St. and Drexel Ave.
Tour times: 90 minutes each.
Secrets South of Fifth
Fifth Street marks the boundary of the Miami Beach Historic District but "below Fifth" holds a wealth of history rarely seen by visitors. Come walk with us as we stroll to Browns Hotel, the oldest hotel in Miami Beach. Learn the history of the old bathing casino where Joe Weiss started his fish and fries sandwich bar in 1913 which became one of the most famous restaurants in town! We stroll past some of the oldest residences in South Beach and walk past The Jewish Museum which houses exhibitions of Jewish Life in Florida. We then take our time to enjoy the urban landscape of South Pointe Park with its wilderness planting and stunning views across the sparkling waters of Biscayne Bay to the skyline of the City of Miami. We stroll along Government Cut a man made deep water channel built by the army in 1905 to give access to shipping into the Port of Miami. On the other side of the "Cut" is exclusive Fisher Island only reachable by boat and invitation! We tell the stories of this island once owned by the legendary Carl Fisher who, as the driving force in the shaping of Miami Beach, played an interesting and unusual part in Fisher Island history.
Tour time: 90 minutes
Prices for all our art deco tours:
- Tours are priced at $28 per person. Groups of twenty or more persons receive a 25% discount, or $22 per person.
- We now offer five (5) different tours (see above).
- Guests taking more than one tour will also receive the discount priced of $22 per person.
- Marty and Paula make every effort to deliver same-day tours, but 24-48+ hour advance notice for a tour works best.
- We do tours of all sizes: from couples (2) and families (4-5), to social clubs, wedding groups, 'girls getaways', alumni & business groups of 50+ people.
- We try to combine 1-person tour requests with other groups, if possible, to accommodate the solo visitor. If we are unable to do this, there is a somewhat higher charge for an individual tour of $40.
- Our tours also make an excellent gift for friends or family visiting South Beach when you can't be here with them. Surprise them with a tour!
- Starting times/locations for tours will be specified when the tour is booked.
- If you are staying at a South Beach hotel, we are happy to meet you in your lobby (the only Art Deco Tour to offer this service). Otherwise, we will select a mutually convenient meeting place and time, usually the Art Deco Visitor's Center at 10th and Ocean Drive.
- We do morning tours, afternoon tours and twilight tours. Tours are also available in French. We make every effort to offer our tours to guests coming/going from cruise ships at the Port of Miami.
A 50% deposit payable by PayPal is required on day of booking, balance due (cash only) at end of tour. Art Deco Walks will send you a secure PayPal Invoice for the deposit, which can be paid either through your PayPal account or any major credit card.
Tips, Highlights & Recommendations for our guests:
- Bring a bottle of water with you - it’s essential in our climate. Wear comfortable shoes for walking and bring an umbrella if it looks like rain. Yes, we tour in the rain, too!!
- Marty and Paula have prepared "Art Deco Highlights" which we email to each of our guests when they get back home, if we have your email address and not just a phone #. These highlights retrace the Ocean Drive walking tour with many of the names , faces and dates that are mentioned in the tour. The highlights, coupled with your own photos, will let you share the tour with friends and family.
- NEW! We have prepared a list of recommended restaurants and bars (with addresses and phone #s) that can be provided in advance of your arrival, to help with your lunch and dinner planning.
- We aim to please, and that's why we have more than 100 5-star reviews on Trip Advisor and have been awarded the Trip Advisor "Certificate of Excellence" for BOTH 2012 and 2013.