1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

A Visit to the Eclectic South Beach Neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida

by Suzanne Fluhr on December 11, 2012 · 24 comments

About five months ago, my husband, Steve, asked me if I wanted to do my Baby Boomer trailing spouse thing in Miami, Florida in December where he would be attending an international tumor immunology conference. Hmm. Let’s see. Will I want to go to Florida in December? My decision-making process went something like this:

  • Pros: It will be cold in Philadelphia in December and one of our sons (the travel blogger) lives in South Beach.
  • Cons: The last time I accompanied Steve to Florida for this conference, it was held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami. Downtown Miami was not a happening place. In fact, it was creepily deserted after business hours.

I had the audacity to say I would go if we could stay on South Beach instead of at the conference hotel and, BTW, why don’t we drive down to Key West after the conference?        Mr. Dr. “Thank God I Had the Good Sense to Marry Him” said, “Sure”.

I began my on-line search for flights to Florida which involved some dithering about whether it made more sense in terms of time, price and distance to fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale.  Finally,on December 1st, we boarded our American Airlines flight to Miami despite the fact that neither of my “pro” reasons for wanting to make the trip turned out to be true. During the week we were in Florida, Philadelphia experienced disturbingly unseasonal spring like weather, and our South Beach based son was chilling at our Philadelphia apartment after a two month trip to Asia, having rented out his condo to a French couch surfer until mid-December. Oh well.

Plane Over Miami

Are we there yet?

South Beach is the southernmost neighborhood in the city of Miami Beach, and, not surprisingly —  it’s on the beach. It’s a barrier island boasting an Atlantic ocean beach and backing onto Biscayne Bay.

South beach

South Beach Ocean View From the Seaside Promenade

South Beach has its share of beach front high rise hotels and condo buildings, restaurants, bars, and retail shopping, but it since 1979, it has also been home to the Miami Beach Architectural District, an almost one square mile area of protected and restored hotels and residences built in the 1930’s art deco style. The District is on the National Register of Historic Places.

While Steve was conferring with his science peeps in Miami, I spent part of my time sitting under a palm tree, people watching in Lummus Park, adjacent to the ocean beach. Today’s South Beach people scene is a melange of visitors from all over the country and the world; well preserved retirees; well muscled tan, gay guys; hipsters; hospitality industry workers; and, some obviously down and out homeless people (frequently speaking to people who aren’t there). Attire ranges from barely there to cruise ship casual.

South Beach Lifeguards

Ladies, If You Have to Almost Drown, Let Me Suggest Having to Be Saved In Front of This South Beach Lifeguard Station. Only, “Hey Fellas, Turn Around, You’re Supposed to Be Watching the People In the Water!”

This is a vast improvement from the South Beach scene from the mid-1970’s until the late 1980’s which was described by one observer as “a peculiar mix of criminals, Cubans, and little old ladies.” Indeed, when the popular TV show, Miami Vice, started shooting in South Beach in 1984, they were able to film on location in seedy, rundown abandoned buildings.

For exercise, I window shopped along the Lincoln Road pedestrian street mall and picked up the pace on the shoreline walking and bike path.

Lincoln Road, South Beach Menorah

Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall Sea Shell Menorah

To learn about the South Beach renaissance of the late 1980’s and 1990’s, I went on an art deco walking tour sponsored by the non-profit, Miami Design Preservation League. During the engaging hour and a half tour, our knowledgeable guide pointed out the characteristic features of the South Beach art deco architectural style which borrows aspects of the streamline moderne and nautical moderne styles such as curved edges, racing stripes, “eyebrow” platforms over windows, “frozen fountain” and porthole motifs, and bas reliefs on facades.

Marlin Hotel, South Beach

Marlin Hotel, Repeated Stripes, “Eyebrows” Over the Windows

Although the original buildings were painted shades of white and beige, today, the buildings are painted in soothing, soft pastels.

Cardozo Hotel, South Beach

Cardozo Hotel, Streamline Moderne Style

On the tour, we were able to enter the lobbies of some of the hotels to observe design features of etched glass, terrazzo floors and murals.

Essex House Fireplace, South Beach

Essex House Fireplace and Mural, Terrazzo floor

South Beach also boasts the third most photographed building in the United States after the White House and Graceland. It is the former home of Gianni Versace, one of the international fashionistas whose arrival spurred the revival of South Beach. The mansion was built in 1930 and was modeled after the oldest house in the Western Hemisphere, the Santo Domingo 1510 house built by Christopher Columbus’ son in Santo Domingo in today’s Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, Mr. Versace was assassinated in 1997 on the front steps of his mansion by a serial killer.

Versace Mansion on Ocean Drive, South Beach

Versace Mansion on Ocean Drive, South Beach

Remember the “drive down to Key West” part of my suggestions for this trip? That’s exactly where you’ll find us in a future post.

PS:  For some more photos of Art Deco South Beach, check out Boomeresque’s Facebook page.

Have you been to other places in the United States and the world that have revived themselves by protecting their past?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Madaline Fluhr December 12, 2012 at 12:22 am

Nice, Suzanne – I was almost strolling along with you enjoying the architecture. What is a “terrazzo” floor? Something to do with the word “terrace”. Elucidate, please….


Just One Boomer (Suzanne) December 12, 2012 at 2:53 am

OK, Mads. I hate to do this, but this Wikipedia article explains the terrazzo process very nicely. But, the short answer is that it is a composite process used to create colorful, highly polished floors.


Lucretia Coleman December 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Suzanne, thanks for sharing your South Beach experience with us. It’s been a few years since I traveled to South Beach but while reading your blog I was reminded that I need to visit again…soon!


Just One Boomer December 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Lu, with your appreciation of color, I think South Beach would provide a lot of stimulation for your mind’s eye—-and this is not a reference to the eye candy on the lifeguard stand 😉


Leslie In Portland, Oregon December 13, 2012 at 1:01 am

No matter where you go, it’s always fun reading your stories about being there!


Just One Boomer December 13, 2012 at 5:11 am

Thanks. (BTW, we were horrified by the news from outside Portland yesterday. Happy holidays?)


Roz Warren December 13, 2012 at 2:19 am

I LOVE Florida!! Enjoyed this post. Great photos.


Just One Boomer December 13, 2012 at 5:12 am

Thanks, Roz. I’ll try to come up with a non-travel post for you soon. 😉


ANGLO/Dale December 15, 2012 at 3:38 am

I love finding art deco style scattered around towns. In my home town there are a couple of houses (but not many) that have those great curved windows with multiple panes of glass & the striking black/white colourings that elsewhere might look mundane, make the building look fashionable & quite desirable. South Beach looks desirable as I’d expect, and more.


JustOneBoomer December 15, 2012 at 8:37 am

Given your fondness for interesting buildings everywhere you travel, I think you would both enjoy South Beach and Miami, in general. And when you tire of looking at buildings, there is a lovely beach.


Montecristo Travels December 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm

We love that area. In fact we have our own review coming up shortly! What a coincidence. I loved the Art Deco Revival. It gives Miami “something” that is less transient in nature.


Just One Boomer December 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I’m looking forward to seejng Monte strut his stuff on Ocean Drive!


Sue Slaght May 3, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Wonderful to see South Beach through your eyes. My daughter and i had a getaway to Miami a few years ago and loved it. Quite the photo of the barely there attire. 🙂


Donna Janke May 3, 2015 at 10:20 pm

I enjoyed reading about your time in South Beach. The art deco walking tour sounds right up my alley.


Suzanne Stavert May 3, 2015 at 10:30 pm

The first time I went to South Beach I wasn’t sure what to expect, I loved it. It was vibrant and colorful and full of life. The ocean was a color blue I had never seen before. The architecture is spectacular and I had so much fun taking great photos!


Rachel May 3, 2015 at 11:13 pm

I love that deco architecture! When I was there back in 1997, there was still a seedy edge to it all. I remember we could actually afford to stay in one of those deco hotels, though it was much less impressive inside than outside. If I ever go there again, I’ll make sure to take a tour so I know more clearly what I’m seeing.


Paula McInerney May 4, 2015 at 2:03 am

Love the art deco architecture of a place and taking a tour with someone who knows the history is always interesting


Yasha Langford May 4, 2015 at 9:39 am

Lovely photos – we just love the art deco buildings of this place.


Carole T. Meyers May 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm

I’ve never been to South Beach but would love to check it out. Vicariously, I’ve been there with my son who a number of years ago had a video shoot (he is a director) at the Versace Mansion. I believe you can stay there now if you have enough $$$.


Anita @ No Particular Place To Go May 6, 2015 at 2:36 am

I really enjoyed your post since we just visited Miami for 4 days in April and spent a day walking around the South Beach area admiring the art deco architecture and people watching. I kept an eye out for Versace’s home (after explaining to my husband who he was) but I don’t remember seeing it. How fascinating though, to know that it was modeled after the home Diego Colombus built in Santo Domingo, DR, which we had toured a few weeks earlier.


Kristin Henning May 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Dang, one of us wanted to go to Miami for the AARP event, but they apparently balked at flying Tom from Madrid (which is probably cheaper than from MSP) so we’ll take a raincheck. Does AARP 50+ always meet in Miami?


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