South Beach Miami, Florida evokes a variety of images. Italian sports cars zipping between stop lights. Supermodels tanning on the beach. Wild nightlife in the clubs.
Exploring the famed Art Deco architecture and getting a feel for the culture most intrigued me, though.
Our recent winter escape to South Florida and the Bahamas allowed me a day to leisurely wander South Beach. It was and wasn’t what I expected. I left with a smile, though.
I asked my Uber driver to drop me off at Lummus Park. He left me in front of the Art Deco Center, which was perfect. I wanted a map of the famous Art Deco buildings of the area and this was where to find it. I purchased a $3 map featuring the Architecture of South Beach.
The main Art Deco district of South Beach stretches for about 15 blocks along two roads that parallel the coast. It is easily walkable. Lummus Park borders the beach along most of the route. Hotels, restaurants, shops, and clubs add color and life to the streets.
The beach is vast expanse of soft, light yellow, sand. The softness surprised me. Atlantic Coast beaches tend to be hard and packed. Azure blue water gently rushed and retreated onto the shore. Bright lifeguard stands dotted the scene. Palm trees and grassy dunes sat further back.
It really is beautiful. I have visited beaches along most of Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. While the panhandle’s Emerald Coast remains my favorite, South Beach is now second.
Lummus Park separates the beach from the city from 5th to 15th streets. Plenty of park benches provide places to rest your feet. Palm trees shade the green space. Many people use exercise equipment in the park.
Walkers and joggers tread the paved path that winds through the park and continues up Miami Beach.
South Beach Art Deco
The South Beach Art Deco district spans Ocean Drive and Collins Blvd. from 5th through 21st Streets.
Geometric designs, symmetry, bright colors, and metal trim distinguish Art Deco architecture.
The historic structures from the 1930s and 1940s are interspersed throughout. Many of the other more modern buildings wear the Art Deco facade giving a feel of continuity.
The original buildings range from immaculate to sad disrepair. Several were being renovated when I visited.
Most still operate as hotels as they did in the 1930s heyday of South Beach.
Open air cafes spill into the streets.
South Beach Style
First, by style, I am not referring to fashion. As a typical working male, khakis and a polo reach the zenith of fashion to me. I am describing the ambience or feel of South Beach.
Bright, lively and vibrant describe what I saw. On a warm Friday in January, the streets teemed with people.
People exercised throughout Lummus Park: walking, running, doing yoga, and using exercise equipment. The open air cafes were filled with patrons enjoying food, drink, and company
A variety of cool cars cruised the streets. Lamborghinis were common. Antique cars evoked a Cuban feel.
Galleries sold bright modern art. Colored lights decorated palms. Eclectic art and tropical flora caught my eye.
This was how I had imagined South Beach would be.
Lincoln Road intersects Collins and runs east to west from the Atlantic to Biscayne Bay. Most of this area is a pedestrian only shopping area. Local and chain restaurants and shops await the avid shopper.
Impression of South Beach
South Beach Miami has all the glitz that I had imagined. It feels much more alive and vibrant, less touristy than I had expected. The beautiful beach and green space provides a scenic backdrop.
The bold Art Deco details, both original and new, make the setting both classic and classy. I was thoroughly impressed and had a wonderful day.
If you like the beach, architecture, shopping, people watching, or dining, then visit South Beach!
Even though you have to back track a few blocks, the Art Deco Welcome Center is a great place to start. The $3 Miami Beach Architectural Guide provides a great map and is quite helpful. You can buy souvenirs here, too.
Behind the Welcome Center, the Beach Patrol Headquarters houses public restrooms that are handy and at least somewhat clean.
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