Miami has an amazing history, and Villa Vizcaya is one of them. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a National Historic Landmark is located just outside Miami’s downtown district, Villa Vizcaya will transport you to a different time and place entirely.
Villa Vizcaya is a National Historic Landmark that provides visitors an insight on how the rich lived in the early 20th century. The style is Mediterranean Revival and Italian Renaissance. It’s like a typical Italian villa, with beautiful gardens and is located on Miami’s beautiful Biscayne Bay.
Vizcaya, was the winter residence of James Deering. The beautifully maintained 34-room mansion was built between 1914 and 1922 in the Coconut Grove area of Miami.
Miami visitors approach this hidden architectural treasure by turning off South Miami Avenue on to a winding driveway through a forest of native trees and brush known as the Rockland Hammock. This spate of dense tropical woods essentially hides the grandeur of Vizcaya from public view.
At the end of the drive there is a parking lot, and it’s a short walk from the lot to the ticket booth, and on to the entry drive leading to the impressive circular driveway in front of the main house.
The house is structured around a center courtyard with an entrance loggia and ground level arcades to the left and right decorated with fine pieces of Renaissance furnishings.
Mr. Deering was captivated by the extraordinary European splendor of the 15th through early 19th centuries, and spent a great deal of money acquiring period artifacts from all over Europe and Asia. When he built his dream residence in Miami, the rooms were designed around his extensive collection of furnishings, rather than the other way around.
At one time, the courtyard was open to the weather, but today it is protected by a glass roof. Air-conditioning was installed in 1986 to help preserve the many treasures inside the mansion.
The house was designed to take full advantage of its location on Biscayne Bay. Deering wanted Vizcaya to be approached and seen from the sea, and the east façade on the bay is the most monumental and the only symmetrical one—it opens onto a wide terrace that descends toward the water.
The signature architectural statement of Vizcaya is the amazing Stone Barge to the east of the house. The barge functions as a breakwater in the estate’s cove between the boat landing and the lattice topped Tea House.
The gazebo also created a scenic doorway to Biscayne Bay, while poles rose up out of the water depicting Venetian moors. Tropical flowers laced the walkways around the gardens.
Once replete with dense tropical plants and trees – long since vanquished by decades of storms and hurricanes – the stone barge remains a lasting testament to James Deering’s love of the sea. Deering maintained two yachts at Vizcaya and he wanted to make certain that the water entry to his estate would not be forgotten by his guests. It would certainly be difficult to forget the elaborate stone barge.
The other sides of the house have unique surrounding grounds. The north façade, which has greeted visitors since Deering’s time, is simple and contrasts with Vizcaya’s elaborate interiors. The north façade accommodates one of Vizcaya’s most delightful inventions—the swimming pool that emerges from vaulted arches at the lower level of the house.
On the first floor, several reception rooms, the Library, the Music Room, and the Dining Room surround the Courtyard.
The second floor housed Deering’s personal suite of rooms and guest bedrooms as well as a Breakfast Room and the Kitchen.
In old European villas, many of the sleeping rooms and the kitchen are located off a gallery on the second floor, and so it is at Vizcaya.
The south facade of the house is one of my favorite with Vizcaza gardens. The grounds alone are worthy of five stars. Impressive stonework as far as the eye can see, make sure you get up close and personal with the delicate masonry. The massiveness of the house and its attachments are gardens straight out of a European travelogue. Stairs, greenery, hiding spaces, turrets, flowers, fountains, shrubs, statues, and more create a lattice-like landscape fit for exploration, romance, day dreaming, imagination, and contemplation.
At Vizcaya, the reference to the past was coupled with an enthusiastic embrace of technology, modernity and comfort. Regardless of its Baroque appearance, Vizcaya was a very modern house. Many are surprised to learn that it was built largely of reinforced concrete, with the latest technology of the period, such as generators and a water filtration system. Vizcaya was also equipped with heating and ventilation, two elevators, a dumbwaiter, a central vacuum-cleaning system and a partly automated laundry room.
If Vizcaya looks familiar to you, it is because it has provided the setting for many films, such as Tony Rome, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Any Given Sunday, Bad Boys II, Airport ’77, Haunts of the Very Rich, The Money Pit, and Iron Man 3. The music video for The Cover Girls’ song “Promise Me” from 1988 was filmed at Vizcaya. The music video for New Edition’s song “I’m Still In Love With You” from 1996 was also filmed at Vizcaya.
Plan to arrive early, just as they are opening. You will need 2-3 hours to see everything but you can easily spend a day there. If you want an in depth explanation, the “audio tour” is useful. You can simply punch a number of the place you are and hear interesting tidbits, like the fact the gorgeous pool was used by the owner only once.
Vizcaya is a great place to host a party and a very popular venue for a Vizcaya Gardens Wedding.
Hours and Admission
Vizcaya welcomes visitors every day except Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Adult – $18
- Child 6-12 – $6
- Children 5 and under – Free
- Seniors 62 and older with ID – $12
- Students with ID – $10
- Visitors using wheelchairs – $10
- Veterans and active duty military personnel only with ID – Free