Landscape Architect Diego Suarez grew up in Italy; he excelled at incorporating the best of European gardens, as per Deering's desire. A European garden always begins with parterres, the classic low hedges that typically draw guests into a maze of pathways so geometrically playful that even Euclid would have thought he’d died and gone to that great Cartesian plane in the sky.
The kid in me (and obviously Lynda) thought the entire garden would have been an awesome venue for Hide and Seek. We dropped breadcrumbs as we went to insure we found our way back to civilization.
We burned through three hours the day of our visit. It was time well spent, the villa and gardens a detailed snapshot of a place of grace and grandeur, historical significance and eccentric charm. Today, it’s a popular venue for weddings and private affairs, a favorite for women celebrating their quinceanera (15th birthday).
In 1952 the Deering family bequeathed Vizcaya to Miami-Dade County. James Deering’s nieces, Barbara Deering Danielson and Marion Deering McCormick inherited the property that had passed to their father, Charles Deering, James’ half-brother, when James died in 1925 onboard the steamship SS City of Paris en route to the United States.
Barbara Deering Danielson and Marion Deering McCormick spent years maintaining Vizcaya via a minimal staff. In 1934, the nieces briefly opened the estate to the public after hiring Paul Chaflin to repair the house and gardens following a devastating hurricane in 1926. Their efforts were short lived when Vizcaya suffered a second devastating hurricane a year after opening the estate.
The nieces sold off portions of the original 180 acres (the Lagoon Gardens and the southern grounds on the west side of South Miami Avenue where Vizcaya village had been built went to the Diocese of St. Augustine and Mercy Hospital) to weather another storm, the Depression.
When what remained of Vizcaya (50 acres, 10 of which was formal gardens) was sold to Miami-Dade County in 1952 for $1.4 million, that sale included 2,500 priceless antiques, paintings, sculptures and decorative art spanning 2,000 years covering the Renaissance, baroque, rococo, and neoclassical periods. Vizcaya is one of the few historic estates to come with the original furnishings (European, Asian, and American) intact.
Vizcaya became a freestanding County agency in 1998, now overseen by the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust. Wish I could lose that much acreage with the passing of time.
Verdict: If you love Europe, classic Italian style and grace with a bit of whimsy, you’ll love Vizcaya inside and out. Kids will love the gardens; the house, not so much. The volunteer tour guides were fairly aggressive with visitors who got too close to the priceless furnishings.
By Metrorail, proceed to Vizcaya station. Cross US 1 on the pedestrian bridge. Continue in the same direction, one block to South Miami Avenue. Cross SW 32 Road and proceed to the crosswalk. Cross South Miami Avenue to enter Vizcaya.
From the South, take US 1 (South Dixie Highway) north to SW 17th Avenue. Turn right on SW 17th Avenue (east). Turn left onto South Bayshore Drive. Turn right at 5th light into Vizcaya.
From the North, take I-95 south to Exit 1A. Turn left onto SW 26th Road. Turn right onto South Miami Avenue. Turn left at 3rd light into Vizcaya.
From Miami International Airport, take 836 east and exit onto I-95 south. Follow I-95 south to Exit 1A. Turn left onto SW 26th Road. Turn right onto South Miami Avenue. Turn left at 3rd light into Vizcaya.
From Miami Beach, take 836 west and exit onto I-95 south. Follow I-95 south to Exit 1A. Turn left onto SW 26th Road. Turn right onto South Miami Avenue. Turn left at 3rd light into Vizcaya.
Vizcaya offers free parking for automobiles. During the winter months the main parking lot frequently fills up and, when that occurs, parking is available across the street in the parking lot at the Miami Science Museum. Arrangements for buses or other large vehicles should be made in advance.
If you’re into pipe organs, you can hear Vizcaya’s 1917 Welte Philharmonic Pipe Organ played weekdays from 4 to 4:30 p.m.
Vizcaya is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, with the exception of Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
Admission: Adults, $18; Children 6 -12, $6; Children under 6, free; Seniors 62 and older (with ID), $12; Students with ID, $10; wheelchair bound visitors, $10.
The shop offers a line of gift items inspired by Vizcaya’s architecture, gardens and collections, as well as a selection of calendars, postcards, books and souvenirs. Exclusive jewelry pieces inspired by Vizcaya’s architectural details are also available.