Florida is full of beautiful gardens and fascinating museums, but the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens just might be my favorite combination of the two. I recently spent the day here while on a trip to Miami and I was stunned by how gorgeous and ornate this historical site is.
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a national landmark situated on Biscayne Bay. There are acres of gardens and shoreline to explore in addition to the preserved interiors of the estate. Regardless if you are staying on South Beach or the greater Miami area, I highly recommend taking at least half a day to visit this stunning estate. This post will explain everything you need to know before visiting!
Where is the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens?
The Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are situated on the Biscayne Bay, just south of Downtown Miami and north of Coconut Grove. This makes the estate a convenient stop from most South Florida destinations. We were staying in Coral Gables and it took us less than fifteen minutes to drive here.
Upon arriving, I was surprised to see how natural the area is. Despite the large city around it, the Vizcaya is relatively secluded in its own oasis. Being on the bay, it also felt much cooler here than the hot sidewalks of Downtown. Best of all are the views of the entire city from the water!
Who built the Miami Vizcaya?
The history of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is quite fascinating. You will learn plenty when visiting, but the estate was developed by businessman James Deering starting in 1914. He hired multiple architects and landscapers to design this Mediterranean Revival style mansion and garden and it was completed in 1922.
After Deering’s death in 1925, his family owned the property until 1945. In 1952, Miami-Dade county acquired part of it and started an art museum. Finally in 1998, the county acquired the entire estate and it became the Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
The site is now a designated National Historic Landmark. It is also listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places due to rising sea levels and over development. The county is actively working to maintain this estate, as there is so much beauty and history to see here. In fact, it is so stunning that it has even been featured in movies like Iron Man 3 and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective!
Highlights of the Museum
There are three key areas to explore in the Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. First is the main house which has two floors of rooms to peruse. Each room is decorated exquisitely and filled with antique art and furniture. The first floor feels especially Mediterranean with its open-air courtyard and lots of plants.
The second floor is only accessible by stairs, due to the nature of the restoration. Up here, there are bedrooms, sitting rooms and surprisingly the kitchen. Two dumb waiters were used to transport the food to the first floor. You can also climb up the stairs of both the north and south towers and then take the spiral staircase down to the terrace.
Exploring the Gardens and Terrace
I found outside to be just as captivating as inside, despite less art, thanks to the views and architecture. There was so much to see from the bay and with the barge framing it, it was a great spot for pictures. The tea house was another unique structure with filigree roof and archways.
Of course, the garden really steals the show. The maze garden looks straight out of a movie and the fountains are striking. The first section is right in the sun, but the rest of it has plenty of shade. You can easily spend an hour wandering around here and seeing what’s in bloom. The roses are finally back, after being gone for almost a century due to hurricane destruction. The Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens now has a dam system that will hopefully prevent future hurricane flooding.
Our Experience at the Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
We visited the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on New Year’s Eve 2021. One might think we would be the only people spending the morning here, but it was actually quite packed. Despite the large influx of people, we were still able to buy tickets online about an hour before. Parking was a bit farther away, but mot unreasonable.
Because of the omnicron surge, they were requiring masks inside the Vizcaya Museum, but not in the gardens. With the grand entrance of the estate beckoning us, we decided to explore inside first.
The ground floor is pretty majestic with its large windows and glass ceiling. Surrounding the ornate lobby are all sorts of other rooms to check out. The dining room, library and music room had lavish decor to learn about and take pictures of. I especially enjoyed seeing the Christmas tree in the lobby with traditional ornaments of the time period, like animal cracker boxes!
Next, we made our way up the grand staircase to the upstairs. There we plenty of bedrooms fit for royalty, but personally I most enjoyed seeing the kitchen. The detailed fine china and old timey kitchen appliances were so different from what we have now!
After plenty of exploration on the upper level, we found a “secret” staircase and decided to follow it. I was honestly surprised to find us end up outside! This path works out well, because it brings you to the pool and the waterfront.
Though the gardens are the star of the Miami Vizcaya, I actually found the waterfront side to be my favorite. The views were fantastic, especially with the barge and the teahouse. Both were used for entertainment purposes, and I am sure were stunning to guests. It still rings true, because while we were there, the staff was setting up for some sort of fabulous looking New Year’s Eve event!
Last, we finished our visit with a walk through the gardens. They were very elaborate with all sorts of unique hedge designs, fountains and more. It took us about an hour to fully pursue this section, including taking lots of pictures. All in all, we spent over three hours at the Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and might have stayed longer if we hadn’t been hungry for lunch!
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Events and More
In addition to wandering the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, there are frequently events and activities to do at this historical site. Guide house tours are available daily for an additional $5 at 11:30 and 12:30, and garden tours are available on weekends. You can also visit the Vizcaya Village for free every Sunday and check out the farmer’s market.
Other unique events at the Miami Vizcaya include gardening classes, biodiversity lectures, and festivals. One event locals in particular love Baynanza. This is an earth day event where a bay clean-up and celebration are held on site.
If you want to host your own event at the Museum and Gardens, you can do that as well! The Miami Vizcaya is a magical wedding venue. Ceremonies can be held for evening receptions or daytime garden ceremonies. The venue can be booked any evening of the year for any event up to 300 people.
Know Before You Go: Explore the Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
If you are looking for fun things to do in Miami, I think the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are one of the best options! With both indoor and outdoor sights to see, it is an activity suited for any kind of weather. Though adults will probably find it more fascinating, the Museum and Gardens appeals to all ages and is very accommodating. Here are few things to keep in mind before visiting as of 2022:
- The Miami Vizcaya Museum and Gardens hours are 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM Wednesday through Monday. It is closed on Tuesdays and Christmas Day.
- Admission to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens currently costs $25 for adults and $10 for children 6-12 There is no senior discount. Admission is free for children under 5, veterans, active-duty military, people with disabilities and SNAP EBT cardholders.
- Parking is free, but on busy days it can be hard to find.
- Dogs are not allowed at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens unless they are federally trained service dogs.
- You can book weddings and special events here and there are monthly events.
- Food and drinks are available at the Vizcaya Café and Shop. Outside food and beverages are prohibited.
- If you are looking for a close place to eat afterwards, Coral Gables and Little Havana are both within a fifteen-minute drive.
- Applications for volunteers at the gardens are available if you would like to help maintain the property.
Have you been to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens before? Let me know what you thought if you have! For more ideas for things to do in Florida, check out my Ultimate Bucket List and my Favorite Vacation Spots Guide!