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A Walking Tour of the Best Art Deco Architecture in Miami

Art Deco Breakwater Hotel on Ocean Drive | Phillip Pessar/Flickr
Art Deco Breakwater Hotel on Ocean Drive | Phillip Pessar/Flickr
Miami is famous for its Art Deco District, which dates back to 1925-1940. There are several Art Deco gems that still stand strong in Miami and give it that retro feel. Art Deco architecture includes blocky elements, vertical structures, curved and geometric shapes, bright, intense colors, and the use of materials like stucco, concrete, smooth-faced stone, glass, and terracotta. If you want to visit some of these beauties yourself, here’s a tour laid out for you, with a lunch spot included!

1. The Colony Theatre

The Colony Theatre dates back to 1935 and was restored first in 1976 and again a few years ago. It shows films, dance performances, music, and even opera. If you’re strolling down Lincoln Road you’ll run right into it, and its Art Deco spirit still shows strong among the other, more modern-looking buildings found in the rest of the outdoor mall. Owned by the city of Miami Beach, it is landmark spot in Miami for Art Deco architecture and is used as a location for the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival each year in May.

The Colony Theater In Miami Beach Phillip Pessar/Flickr

2. The Essex House

This hotel is one of Miami’s Art Deco gems and dates back to the late 1930s. The building was designed by Henry Hohauser in 1938 and boasts an original Earl LePan mural over the fireplace, from the Art Deco era. Today it stands as a retro, stylish hotel a couple of blocks from the beach and has 70 cozy rooms that you can rent for the night (or a little longer!). Located right on the corner of Collins and 10th Street, the Essex House offers easy beach access, so you might need to make a little pit stop at the beach during your Art Deco tour.

Essex House on Collins Ed Schipul/Flickr

3. The Carlyle

The Carlyle was built in 1939 and has been the backdrop for several movies like Scarface, Pronto, Bad Boys 2, Random Hearts, and The Birdcage. It is one of the most iconic landmarks for Art Deco architecture in Miami, and still stands tall and proud today, barely changed from its original form, which makes it incredibly special. While many other Art Deco builds have been renovated and restored for more modern times, this hotel still has its original charm. It’s right on Ocean Drive, just 100 yards from the Versace Mansion.

The Carlyle Hotel on Ocean Drive Dan Lundberg/Flickr

4. A Fish Called Avalon

After working up an appetite sightseeing, you need a lunch break. If you’ve found yourself on Ocean Drive, good job, you’ve been following the tour! A Fish Called Avalon is a restaurant in the Avalon Hotel. The hotel mimics traditional Art Deco architecture, full of blocky designs broken apart with geometric or curving designs that were symbolic of this creative, stylish era. The restaurant is right on the beach and you’ll get to enjoy some great food while people-watching the infamous Ocean Drive stretch. Outside you’ll find vintage cars parked too, keeping with Miami Beach’s retro feel. Dishes here include fresh crab cakes, lobster, ceviche, maple-glazed salmon, and filet mignon. If you’re a fan of fresh seafood, this is your spot.

5. The Breakwater

The Breakwater hotel was built in 1939 and remains one of Miami’s most iconic Art Deco buildings. The hotel was designed by Anton Skislewicz, and also represents the Streamline Moderne style that was popular during the time it was built. Towers and vertical elements were highlights of the Art Deco movement, and that is clearly showcased by The Breakwater’s sign that protrudes into the Miami night sky and burns bright with neon once the sun sets. Intense colors were also an element of Art Deco, again highlighted by the hotel’s use of yellow and blue accents against its cream base.

Art Deco Breakwater Hotel on Ocean Drive Phillip Pessar/Flickr

6. The Delano

Finally, our tour ends at The Delano and we’ve saved the best for last! This is a gorgeous Art Deco gem on Miami Beach that sports a huge pool and outdoor area in the back. At this luxury boutique hotel, you’ll find billowy white curtains, perfectly manicured trees, and large cabanas that you can lay out on underneath the bright Miami sun. Staying here will make you feel like a celebrity, and it will cost you a pretty penny, too. The hotel was built in 1947 and still has much of its original Art Deco vibe, from the blocky windows and design to geometric, curved elements, and vertical, tower-like structure. Stop by the hotel’s luxurious Rose Bar for a gin and tonic, and wind down from the day.

The Delano Hotel in Miami Beach Phillip Pessar/Flickr