Art Deco Historic District, South Beach, Miami
South Beach & # 39; s heart is its Art Deco historic district from 18th St. and south along Ocean Dr and Collins Ave – one of the largest areas in the United States on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, the rejuvenation and rebirth of the district as a major tourist destination is directly the result of its protection as a historic site in 1979.
The National Registration designation prevents developers from curing a sizable portion of what was, in the 1980s, a crime-ridden collection of crumbling-eyed sites populated mainly by drug-mad maniacs, Cuba refugees and elderly residents. It's far from now, with a lively mix of neighbors, including gay men, only for winters plus a sprinkle of old timer's. Today, hotel and apartment facades are definitely colorful with pastel architectural details.
Your first stop here should be the Art Deco Welcome Center (305-531-3484; 1001 Ocean Dr; 10 am-7:30pm Mon-Sat, until 6:00 pm Sun). giving you a good sense of this much-loved but often misunderstood district. You will find an informative permanent exhibit in the gallery, a wealth of hikes you can sign up for (including an excellent, self-guided audio show), and a very well-equipped gift shop featuring souvenirs from old-fashioned postcards to deco-style jewelry.
Venetian Pool, Miami
When tons of land and rock were taken to Merrick & # 39; s building boom, a very large limestone quarry soon formed. Then a creative thinker thought; why not transform this eye by letting it fill with water to become an extraordinarily beautiful swimming hole? Now in the National Register of Historic Sites, this spring-born pool from 1924 (305-460-5306; 2701 DeSoto Blvd; adult / child Nov-Mar $ 6.25 / 3.25; Apr-Oct $ 9.50 / Varies by season, but generally 11 am to 5 pm, with a capacity of 820,000 gallons, boasts cliffs of coral, cascading waterfalls, a fronted island palm tree, wine-covered loggias, and Venetian-style moorings designed by Merrick & # 39; s uncle, the ubiquitous muralist Denman Fink, and is large enough to accommodate a large waterfall, a kiddies area and adult & # 39; lap swimming area. During the 1920's heyday, it hosted synchronized swimmer Esther Williams and Johnny & # 39; Tarzan & # 39; Weismuller, both seen in historical photos by the pool, whether you want to swim in it or not, this pool is worth a look.
Mallory Square, Key West
Mallory Square is the belly of the beast. While there is just one more waterfront park lined with shops during the day, the area at early evening turns into a crazy sunset siren – an over-the-top display of artisans, fire eaters, singers, unicyclists, mimes and other various characters, everyone is competing for tourist dollars. When people paint 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 the Key West culture, so be sure to check it out at least once. You can always reassure yourself by actually watching the glorious sunset.
Author: Kenneth Ng, Lonely Planet