Astride Biscayne Bay, early-20th-century Midwestern farm equipment honcho James Deering bequeathed Miami one of America’s most distinctive grand manses (built in 1916), where you could describe the vibe as “Renaissance Italianate meets the tropics.” As that might suggest, the place is ridiculously photogenic, and in fact you’re almost guaranteed to spot one or multiple photo shoots involving brides or quinceañeras (Cuban sweet 16s); as for the likes of you—snapshots outside only. Thirty-four rooms furnished in heavy Old-World style are arranged around a bright, airy courtyard that was once open to the elements and is now covered by a huge glass skylight. You can get a guided tour of the first floor, then check out the upper two floors yourself, or for $5 pick up a helpful audio guide. Do pop into the gift shop/cafe, whose wares are definitely a cut above the norm (and this has to be the first time I’ve ever seen a discount table in a shop like this). The gardens are also an integral part of the experience—formal in the European style closer in, then gradually growing wilder and more Floridian—meaning slash pines, live oaks with Spanish moss, even mangroves. Finally, a heads-up: the street entrance, on the south side of South Miami Avenue, is all too easy to sail right by.
- David Paul Appell