Art Deco Historic District, South Beach, Miami
The heart of South Beach is its Art Deco Historic District, from 18th St. and south along Ocean Dr and Collins Ave, one of the largest areas in the US on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, the rejuvenation and rebirth of the District as a major tourist destination are a direct result of its protection as a historic site in 1979.
The National Registry designation prevents developers from wholeheartedly ransacking significant portions of what was, in the 1980s, a collection of ruined monstrosities populated primarily by drug-crazed lunatics, Cuban refugees and elderly residents. It’s a far cry from that now, with a lively mix of neighbors, including gay men, just for the winters, plus a sprinkling of old redoubts. Today, the facades of hotels and apartments are decidedly colorful, with architectural details in pastel tones.
Your first stop here should be the Art Deco Welcome Center (305-531-3484; 1001 Ocean Dr; 10 am-7:30 am Monday through Saturday, until 6pm Sunday). giving you a good idea of this beloved but often misunderstood district. You’ll find an informative permanent exhibit in the gallery, a group of walking tours you can sign up for (including a great self-guided audio tour), and a well-stocked gift shop selling souvenirs, from vintage postcards to decorations. jewelry style.
Venetian Pool, Miami
As tons of earth and rock were taken in for the Merrick construction boom, a very large limestone quarry soon formed. Then a creative thinker thought; Why not transform this monstrosity by letting it fill with water into an extraordinary and beautiful swimming hole? Now off the National Register of Historic Places, this 1924 spring-fed pool (305-460-5306; 2701 DeSoto Blvd; adult / child Nov-March $ 6.25 / 3.25, April-Oct $ 9.50 / 5.25; varies by season but generally 11 am-5pm), with a capacity of 820,000 gallons, it features coral rock caves, waterfalls, a palm-fringed island, vine-covered loggias, and Venetian-style moorings. It was designed by Merrick’s uncle, the ubiquitous muralist Denman Fink, and is large enough to house a large waterfall, an area for children, and a swimming area for adults. In fact, during its heyday in the 1920s, it hosted synchronized swimmer Esther Williams and Johnny ‘Tarzan’ Weismuller, both seen in historic photos in the pool. Whether you want to swim in it or not, this pool is a sight to see.
Mallory Square, Key West
Mallory Square is the belly of the beast. While it’s just another waterfront park filled with shops during the day, in the early afternoon the area transforms into a crazy night at dusk – an over-the-top display of street craft vendors, fire eaters, singers, unicyclists, mimes, and other diverse characters, all competing for the tourist dollar. As people mill around and gather around the most outrageous artists, the event quickly turns into a mob scene. But love it or hate it, it’s an integral part of Key West culture, so be sure to check it out at least once. You can always calm down by watching the glorious sunset.
Author: Kenneth Ng, Lonely Planet