The Art Deco Capital of the World

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March 12th 2019
Published: March 15th 2019
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So it finally arrived--the entire reason I had planned this trip. We went to South Beach to see the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world. It's probably weird to say that we went to South Beach for any reason other than the beach or for shopping or anything associated with beach vacations. And that's not to say that we didn't do either of those things. We did get in some beach time, we got some food from one of the local restaurants, and we even bought a few supplies at a store. And I did the touristy thing and got a Starbuck's drink as we were about to leave. But the primary purpose for visiting was also the primary purpose for this trip: checking out the Art Deco.

The voyage down from West Palm Beach was relatively uneventful, and we got a parking deck at the police station/city hall. I figured it was a safe bet. Then we walked a couple of blocks to the Art Deco Welcome Center, and I must say I was pretty unimpressed. They were welcoming, for sure, but we had missed the walking tour ($25 by the way) and there were no maps of the area to point out any buildings of note. They did have an audio self-tour, but it was $15 and you had to rent the little audio thingy with headphones per person, and it wasn't really explained well. So we went into their gift shop, which was frankly a big mess. There were lots of things that had nothing to do with Art Deco, but nothing that actually WAS Art Deco appealed to me. So we moved along.

Specifically, we moved to the bathroom behind the Welcome Center and then to the beach right behind that. For being on vacation in south Florida, I have been pretty bad at packing beach-appropriate attire. Maybe that's because I don't really like the beach and had no intention of getting in the water anywhere or of getting any sun in places that hadn't already gotten a little sun this year. Anyway, I was wearing those shoes I had just bought, along with some of those low-cut socks. Jack was all about getting in the ocean, and I was trying to avoid getting my socks soaked. Just when I had determined to take off the socks and shoes and dip my feet into the ocean, the ocean decided it would take the initiative. So now I had some soaked socks, but my shoes were doing just fine. Really the biggest casualty of the surf was the pair of bandaids on my heels to keep the backs of the shoes from digging into the cuts from the Hollywood tour. This would necessitate a visit to the CVS on Ocean Avenue on the way back down the street.

Once we got our feet rinsed off, we walked several blocks south, just admiring the Art Deco buildings. Along this street and the next one over, Collins, there really wasn't a need for a guide. It might have been nice to know the dates of construction and maybe whether we could/should go inside the buildings, but there were so many of them that you could easily spot them without needing a map. The only real issue I had with this huge concentration of Art Deco is that many of them conformed to the "basic" Art Deco that we see in most buildings around the world--the angular striping and a flare or two at the top. So while there are tons of buildings in this style, what is really fun is finding the buildings that have unique additions or interpretations of the style. I'm not going to say too much about the buildings individually; I'll let the photos show you what I found to be interesting.

We had lunch at some Italian place, where Jack got a calzone that was bigger than his head. I finished my pizza but he didn't even get close to finishing his. Then we hit up the CVS for some new bandaids on my heels. Lots of frat boys and sorority girls were in there, buying other kinds of supplies, so we knew we were here on Spring Break. We probably spent 3 hours wandering around this district, taking in the nostalgia that comes with Art Deco. It was becoming too hot, and when we passed by a Starbuck's, I knew I needed to get one of their milkshakes, also known as a vanilla bean Frappuccino. After that, we walked back to the car and were on our way back to West Palm Beach.

So far, South Beach has easily been my favorite experience on this trip. While I would never consider living in the area (one of the considerations I always make when I go some place new), it was a perfect getaway. The sights were fascinating, and being able to have such divergent experiences added to its appeal. This would truly be a perfect place to go if I wanted a beach holiday, since there's the beach (of course) but also all the food opportunities and then the Art Deco. The only issue would be the parking situation, which can get expensive if you're there for the day, and is going to be at least two blocks from the beach. But the beach was beautiful, as were the ocean views. And you already know what I think about the architecture.

Additional photos below
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16th March 2019
Art Deco in South Beach

South Beach
Amazing architecture.

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