Miami, Florida’s second-largest city, is perhaps best recognized around the world for its sun, sand, surf, and influx of spring-breakers. Despite this preconception, Miami remains a quiet, cultural hotbed with decades of historical significance. Read on to learn more about five historic sites to add to your Magic City itinerary.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Millionaire and bachelor James Deering was only in his 50s when afflicted with pernicious anemia and given a prescription of a warm and sunny climate. The destination? Miami. The result? Vizcaya, an impressive modern and subtropical interpretation of an 18th century Italian villa that sits tranquilly on Biscayne Bay, built as Deering’s winter home. Today, visitors can tour the mansion to see what luxury looked like in the 1920s, or roam the European-inspired gardens, which are among the most elaborate in the U.S.
Ancient Spanish Monastery
The Ancient Spanish Monastery is indeed ancient. Something of a dichotomy, the structure is technically the oldest monastery in the U.S., but also relatively new. An import, the structure was first completed in northern Spain in the 1141. Decades later, after a period of social and civil unrest, much of the church was disassembled, sold, and stored away. The stones and building materials of the monastery eventually made their way to the U.S. in 1924 and were reassembled in 1953 to form the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami, Florida. Another fun fact: Scenes from Ace Ventura and Rock of Ages were also shot here.
Art Deco Historic District
This highlight is comprised of pastel buildings, porthole windows, and nautical motifs. Here you can walk — or bike — by some 800 historic buildings erected during the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s in a variety of architectural styles. Bonus: The district is in Miami Beach’s famed South Beach area, so you’re never too far away from the celebrated beach or bars. Guided and self-guided audio tours are available.
Skip the beach for a day and head to this pool in Coral Gables, which was created in 1923 from a coral rock quarry. In the spring and summer months, the pool is filled and drained daily — no small feat, considering the 820,000 gallon pool is fed with spring water from an underground aquifer. The pool also has waterfalls and grottos, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Also known as Rock Gate, this attraction is one of the quirkier in the Miami area. Consisting of 1,100 tons of coral in the form of walls, carvings, furniture, and a castle tower, the entirety of the structure was created by Latvian-American “eccentric” Edward Leedskalnin, who spent more than 28 years building Coral Castle. Rumor has it that Leedskalnin was ditched by his fiancée on the day before their wedding, and was driven to create this impressive art of scale. Most impressive is that Leedskalnin claims to have used no tools during the process, only a “perpetual motion holder.”