My parents and sister moved to Miami, FL in 2005 and over the past 13 years we have visited many incredible places together in the Magic City. Though I've been to several museums, gardens, beaches and restaurants, I had never explored Vizcaya, which is a crown jewel of the Miami cultural scene. Even more embarrassing, it's located less than a mile from my parents' front door, and I probably drive by it at least twice per day every time I'm in town.
At long last I made it, on the final day of my recent visit. My sister and I had just finished brunch at the Eating House in Coral Gables, when we decided to zoot over to Vizcaya to explore.
We drove through the stone gates, where the trees have grown so tall they've formed a natural canopy over the entrance, adding to the grandeur.
My sister used to work at the Guggenheim in New York, and with one flash of her employee ID, they waived the cost of her ticket. Feeling very satisfied that we got two tickets for the price of one, we skipped toward the museum.
It was a scorching hot day (86 degrees and 76% humidity) so we decided to start indoors. The museum has preserved what was once the private home of James Deering. He purchased this land in 1912. Construction began in 1914 and the main house was completed two years later in 1916. You can check out the entire timeline, including a visit from painter John Singer Sargent, right here.
The very first thing we saw was a trio of sculptures that looked like they were rising up out of a bathtub.
An arch above the sculptures featured a tiny ship at the pinnacle.
We turned down the hall to the left, to begin wandering through the entertaining spaces. Let me tell you, there was nothing subtle about this decor!
There was a dedicated room for talking on the phone, which my sister and I found endlessly amusing.
As you walked from the left side of the first floor to the right, you pass this through gorgeous sun room that overlooks the water.
Hanging from the ceiling . . . another boat!
I was in complete awe of the ornate music room, especially the floral chandelier.
We kept meandering and found ourselves at a series of windows overlooking the gardens. They were so beautiful they took my breath away.
After poking around the whole first floor, we stepped through this gilded iron gate into the central courtyard.
My sister said, "Doesn't this remind you of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston?" Personally, I think the Gardner courtyard is much more impressive.
Upstairs, I was very taken with this turquoise and baby pink bedroom (one of 11 rooms on that level).
The second floor hallway was decorated with all kinds of things, from statues to bird cages.
We wound down the spiral staircase so we could head outside to check out the water view. This is a barge, built just for this house, sitting in Biscayne Bay.
The barge was designed as a breakwater to protect the house and terraces from the waves. It used to feature fountains, electric lights, trees, plants and a gazebo for entertaining.
We walked down and to the right, to a look out called the Tea House.
From this spot, you could see the front of the barge.
The view looking back at the house was spectacular.
After I must have said, "This can't be real" about 50 times, we strolled away from the water toward the gardens.
This is the entrance to what's called the Secret Garden.
How gorgeous are these stairs? All I could think about was how lovely a bride would look descending those steps.
And here's a look at the other side.
When we turned the corner, I audibly gasped. I had no idea the grounds were this expansive.
This is the Center Island, which has perfectly manicured hedges.
The Oval Plaza is shaded by a wall of shrubs and guarded by life size statues.
We walked up a flight of stairs to the Garden Mound, which looks down on the Fountain Garden. You know, casual.
At the very top, was a building that was apparently a casino.
The casino ceiling got extra special treatment.
As we were exiting the gardens, we stumbled upon this statue, which looks freakishly like my dad!
We were both getting uncomfortably hot in the blistering sun, when my sister asked, "Do you want to see the swimming pool before we go?" It was on the complete other side of the property, but the idea of a cold body of water sounded very appealing in that sweaty moment.
The pool was much smaller than I was expecting (what you see below is about half of the entire thing), but then again, when you have Biscayne Bay as your backyard, perhaps the pool becomes less important.
We were so hot that I was seriously considering jumping in.
As we walked up the path toward the parking lot, I said to my sister, "I cannot believe I had never been here." Honestly, Vizcaya puts the Newport, RI mansions to shame. It's over the top, mega luxurious and don't even get me started on the views of the bay.
If you've never been to Miami before, this has to make it onto your itinerary. I'm already thinking about when I can go back (in cooler weather) because I know there are things I missed the first time around.