South Beach, Miami Beach’s southern neighborhood, is synonymous with Art Deco. The Bass Museum of Art, the Shorecrest Hotel and the Amsterdam Palace were its first Art Deco-influenced buildings. It was 1920’s and many rich families from the north were looking for new places for their vacations. The country was embracing modernity and modernity got them bringing Art Deco to their construction projects. With 13 new hotels in 1936 and 23 in 1939, Art Deco buildings soon became part of South Beach landscape.

The designers forced the style and adapted it to the fantasies of the American vacationers of the time. The tropics, the famous ocean liners of the time, like the Queen Mary and the Normandie, and Hollywood glamour, inspired architects. They used vibrant colors, streamline curves to create a nautical feel, open round windows, and included glass and steel and winding staircases in the design and construction of the buildings.

Look for  gems such as the Colony Hotel and Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive; the Essex House, the Hotel Webster, the Marlin and the just-renovated Todor Hotel along Collins Avenue between 10th and 12th streets. There are many more, just walk along Collins Avenue and Ocean drive and you will get a feel of the past in the present. Over on Lincoln Road, the wonderfully nautical Albion (at Lincoln & James Ave.) and the Lincoln Theater (at Drexel Avenue) are also outstanding "deco delights".

If architecture and Art Deco is your thing, the Art Deco Welcome Center has guided tours, exhibitions and a helpful Vistors Center at 1001 Ocean Drive (at 10th Street). Its sponsored by the Miami Design Preservation League, which was organized to save the Art Deco Historic District in 1976, and proceedes for the tours go to the preservation and education efforts of MDPL. One of its most popular programs is annual Art Deco Weekend Festival in January. Additional architectural and botanical tours of Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road, and Colins Park are also offered by www.artdecowalks.com.