From 1916 to 1925 Vizcaya was the winter home of James Deering, a millionaire and socialite who made his fortune in the family business of industrial agriculture. This picturesque location on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove drew in Deering’s attention after he was told to spend more time in warmer climates to improve his health. Deering spent the last nine years of his life at this extravagant home before he passed away on a return voyage from France. Since then, the home was passed down through family until it was given to Dade County in 1952.
The attractions at Vizcaya include the extensive gardens and the traditional Mediterranean-inspired home itself. You will get lost wandering the grounds and many rooms.
The gardens designed by landscape architect Diego Suarez echo the styles of those found in Italy and France. Much like the 18th and 17th Century European gardens, it is organized in a "series of rooms." There are parterre gardens and an orchidarium, all using flora native to the humid region of southern Florida. The ornate stonework uses local materials like the oolitic limestone found all over southern Florida. It is easily identified by its porous character allowing moss to fill the voids. The stunning local flora and the moss-filled stonework make for a garden unlike any other in the world; although it draws inspiration from the Old World European style, Vizcaya's gardens are uniquely South Floridian. You will find amazing specimens of bromeliads, orchids, hedges, and succulents that flourish in Miami along with the occasional Jurassic looking iguana waiting to have its photo taken by the sunken ship out in the bay. It is no surprise that on any given day, even in the midst of a brutal humid Florida summer, you will come across a few wedding fashion and quincenera photo shoots occurring all over the grounds. Artists of all kinds are welcomed to use the home for inspiration.
The house, designed by artist Paul Chalfin and architect Francis Burall Hoffman Jr., was inspired by the villas in the northern region of Italy. You can explore the many rooms, starting with the central courtyard. The architecture responds well to the harsh climate of Miami, utilizing natural ventilation, passive cooling and rain water collection. Inside, it also housed many modern amenities that were not commonplace during the early 1900s. The art collection is one to boast about, as Deering collected and commissioned amazing pieces. After roaming the grounds and exploring the house, relax in the beautiful cafe found at the lower level of the home adjacent to the grotto pool, which is currently being renovated.
Keep an eye out for the many events that occur at the museum including Sunday tea, holiday parties, moonlit tours, and many more. Parking is free, entry is $18 for adults, $10 for students with an id, $12 for seniors with an id, $6 for children 6-12, and free for veterans and active military personnel with an id.