On a recent trip to Miami, FL my family and I visited the exquisite Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Coconut Grove. Vizcaya is an Italian-style villa located on the Biscayne Bay, and the former estate of International businessman James Deering. A National Historic Landmark, it was built between the years 1914-916. When one thinks of Miami, the first things that come to mind are the beach, ocean and nightlife – not a tour of an early 20th century home and gardens. But Vizcaya was one of the most interesting and unique things we did the entire trip, and one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Miami.
The Man and History Behind Vizcaya
James Deering was a wealthy Chicago businessman, a vice president of International Harvester. He wanted to create a winter home that would incorporate the Renaissance and Baroque European styles he so loved, as well as the art and furnishings he collected on his travels. His idea was to build an estate that would resemble a Tuscan villa. He wanted it to look and feel as if it had been around for centuries, with different eras incorporated into and around the design of the home. With the help of three designers he built Vizcaya.
The house took two years to complete, and the gardens were not finished until 1921. During construction it is believed a whopping 10% of Miami’s population worked at Vizcaya. What now covers 50 acres, used to comprise 180 acres, much like a Tuscan farm. It is said the surrounding gardens are one of the best examples of Italian garden design and architecture in the United States, using only plants adaptable to Miami’s subtropical climate. Though meant to look old and historical, Vizcaya was built with all the modern conveniences of the 20th century, such as central heat, elevators and a phone system. It was a place of many social gatherings and lavish parties.
Walking around Vizcaya
Walking through the home and outside and around the gardens is a treat. From the moment you drive up through the tropical wooded forest, you feel as if you’ve been let in on a secret. Approaching the villa on the main path, you know you’re about to enter another world, another era. To be honest I wasn’t sure if this was something I should be bringing my kids to. I never came across Vizcaya in the articles I read on “Miami with Kids” (maybe once). But I was intrigued, and decided to go for it.
As we neared the main house of Vizcaya, I spotted other children – even strollers – and felt a twinge of relief. I wasn’t the only crazy mama lugging her girls around to see what I wanted to see. The girls loved it though. They really did. They enjoyed seeing all the old bedrooms with their fancy old beds, the organ room with its huge organ, the secret stairways that led to the third floor, the dumbwaiters which they had never seen before, the old elevators, the old telephone room. The Courtyard, the central room in the house, is big and glorious and fun to walk through as well. Every which way you turn there are sculptures, tapestries, works of art. The details are everywhere.
One of our favorite parts of Vizacaya was walking around outside. Located on Biscayne Bay in its own tranquil oasis, the views of the water are beautiful. Deering apparently created his own channel with a large stone barge – one that not only served as a breakwater for smaller boats, but as a social gathering place for parties. It’s an unusual site and a sign of the grandness of the estate. Then there are the exquisite and famed Gardens – formal in nature but adventurous to walk through. There are fountains, waterfalls, pools, terraces, bridges, a maze. All surrounded by the native woodlands, adding to the intrigue and allure.
Vizcaya with Kids
While I wouldn’t say Vizcaya is the ultimate place to take the kids, it is most definately a worthwhile visit. The older the kids are, the better. The house will be difficult with toddlers, as you can’t touch anything. But outside, the gardens are a wonderful place to let them run around and explore. I saw all ages at Vizcaya. It’s a place not to be missed, and one I would imagine where the parents who are like me, and decide to take their kids anyways. Like I mentioned, I saw a number of strollers. Just know that some of the terrain outside is uneven and may be difficult at times for strollers. Bottom line: if you’re visiting Miami with your family, Vizcaya is a must-see. It’s one of the great estates in the area, and in the country.
Need to Know
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is located at 3251 South Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33129. Tel: 305-250-9133
Hours: Open 9:30-4:30. CLOSED TUESDAYS.
Admission: Adults, $18, Children 6-12, $6, Children 5 and under free.
Enjoy this post and want to save it or share with others? PIN IT!
Linking up with MONDAY ESCAPES, CITY TRIPPING, FARAWAY FILES and CULTURED KIDS.
So many tourists take inspiration from Italy home with them. I’d love to wander around those gardens.
It’s so true. Italy is simply a magical place.
I must have stuck to those “Miami With Kids” articles Corey because when we spent a week in Miami a few years ago I missed this place. What a shame, it looks stunning and the kind of day out we would have loved. Still…. another reason to go back.
It really hardly comes up under things to do with kids..I can understand it not being an ideal place for the wee ones, but we did see plenty of families there. Like you said – for your next trip ;).
beautiful estate! #mondayescapes
THAT’S a museum? Goodness, looks more like a castle! And in the US? How have I never heard of this!! PINNED! 🙂 #MondayEscapes
Thanks! I know I had never heard of it either – highly recommend!!
I have heard about this place but, sadly, I visited Miami with friends who were not interested in attractions like this. Anyway, I visited Miami a long, long time ago. It is time to go back!
Yes, always an excuse to get to Miami! The best!
It looks so ornate and simply beautiful! So much detail! I love it. #MondayEscapes
Thanks – the detail was stunning!
Wow wow wow, I had no idea a place like this existed! I’ve never been too drawn in by Miami, but now I may just have to plan a visit!
Thanks Addie! It’s a special place, I highly recommend going!
This place sounds fascinating – a real treasure trove of history, and all so beautiful. Like you I’m sometimes surprised at what the kids take an interest in. I think my two would like it here too – and it would break up all those beaches and relaxation at bit! Thanks for joining in with #CulturedKids
I love the beach but I def need to break it up with other activities so I’m glad we discovered this place..a real gem :).
Loved reading about the history behind the estate – it’s incredible to think that 10% of Miami’s population worked on it! I tend not to visit many stately homes in the U.K as I much prefer natural attractions but I’d definitively head here if I was in Miami. #Farawayfiles
I couldn’t believe the 10 % fact either..amazing that that many people worked on it! Thanks for commenting.
Such a great idea to highlight these sort of places to people who might otherwise miss them! Very Italian influence. Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes
I tend to like to go to places that are a bit more unusual.. was so glad – and relieved – my girls wound up enjoying it!
So very stunning. I could see Great Gatsby being filmed here (although I know the novel is set way north, on Long Island). My kids would love wandering around somewhere like this too – they definitely have illusions of grandeur! #FarawayFiles
Clare – Great Gatsby was one of the first things that came to mind. One of my all time favorite books :).
If I hadn’t known from the title I would have sworn that was in Italy – and the interior is just as stunning. I never need an excuse to revisit Miami but this is definitely on my list for next time. #citytripping
I know – looks just like the real Italian deal!
Corey, James Deering sounds like a man after my own heart. If you can’t be in Italy, bring it to you! Looking forward to visiting Miami and Vizcaya Museum soon. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
Right?! Thanks Katy.
oh wow what a beautiful place, I would 100% take our boys there. That staircase is breathtaking its like a photography dream, thanks so much for linking up #mondayescapes
Total photography dream, I agree :).
We missed this in Miami – next time
Ahhh – another new one I need to know! Have never heard of this, but then again – I’m a west coast girl and haven’t been to Miami! Looks stunning, those gardens amazing. Thanks for sharing! #FarawayFiles
I’m sure you’ll make it there some day Erin!
What an extraordinary place! James Deering certainly knew what he wanted – and employed a vast amount of people to provide it for him! It really is stunning.
Thanks Trish! I know the employment number is shocking!
What a beautiful place! Thank you for your sharing!
Thanks for reading 🙂
When we visited Vizcaya over our Spring Break, there was a school field trip (older elementary or perhaps middle school), so I felt completely comfortable taking my kids there. My own kids were zonked from a 10:45PM premiere of Beauty and the Beast followed by a super early disembarkation from our cruise boat, so they were not that interested by the interiors of the villa. They did perk up outdoors, though, in the incredible gardens. I’m so glad that your girls enjoyed it.
I think my girls would have been zonked after a 10:45 premier as well! At least they enjoyed the outdoors..my favorite part was being out by the water in the tea house and checking out all the views.