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To Plan A Trip

June 2024
2min read

For information on the 1999 weekend of Art Deco events (January 15-18), contact the Miami Design Preservation League, P.O. Box 190180. Miami Beach. FL 33119-0180, or call 305-672-2014. The theme will be sports, tied to the Super Bowl being held in Miami and with special attention paid to Miami’s 1930s sports stadium, the Orange Bowl. If you can’t make that week, ask for the MDPL’s list of tours, which run year round. One of the most delightful aspects of visiting South Beach is choosing a hotel. If I had my way, I’d stay in a different one every night. As it was, I was content at the Hotel Astor, which was gaining a reputation for cool around the time of my stay and which had a justifiably popular restaurant. The Astor’s location, two very short blocks from frenetic Ocean Drive, allowed for peaceful nights but easy access. Still, I couldn’t resist dropping in on a number of other hotels. Prices start at less than a hundred dollars at a pair of small hotels with small rooms on Washington Avenue surrounded by an unexpectedly lush garden (the Kenmore and Park Washington) and soar to above three hundred and fifty dollars for a spacious ocean view (every room has one, along with a telescope) at the Tides, on Ocean Drive and very fashionable indeed. Up on Collins, a fifteen-minute walk from the heart of Ocean Drive, I was very taken by the National Hotel, recently renovated, with a reverence for Art Deco that comes off beautifully, without the cloying sense of parody found in some places.

Although the cafés along Ocean Drive are often dismissed in guidebooks and by locals as being tourist traps, I had good meals in several, including the Boulevard Bistro. I also enjoyed the llth Street Diner, a gleaming 1940s example, brought to South Beach from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. And I must call attention to the tiny Le Royal Bakery on Washington, owned by genial identical twins from the south of France. After four breakfasts there I felt like a local, no more so when the waiter (not an owner), on hearing that I was leaving the next morning, said, “Well then, when you come in, pick out any pastry you want. It’s on the house.” And it was.

Don’t miss two wonderful museums that stand close by on Washington. The Wolfsonian occupies an immense Deco warehouse that once held winter residents’ possessions. It was founded by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., the son of Miami Beach’s first Jewish mayor, who recently turned it over to Florida International University. The place is beautifully laid out to showcase its collections of early-twentieth-century pieces of decorative and graphic arts. Space doesn’t permit an inventory here. Trust me. Go there. Follow the same imperative to the Sanford L. Ziff Jewish Museum of Florida, housed in a Deco-style former Orthodox synagogue, dating from 1936.

The museum’s timeline starts with the mid-eighteenth-century arrival of Jews in Florida and explains that Miami, long thought of as a “Jewish resort,” didn’t receive its large Jewish population until after World War II. A touching display in a wall of photographs shows Herbert Karliner, an excited youngster on the deck of the St. Louis in 1939, standing next to his clearly worried father. From that deck Karliner first saw the palm trees and hotels along Miami’s shore, and he promised himself he’d live there someday. The ship, filled with refugees, wasn’t permitted to land, and the family was forced back to Europe, where all but Herbert and his brother perished. He arrived in Miami in 1954, and he is still there today.

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