Blue Star Voices: Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
At the end of a grand promenade, framed by tropical foliage, stands a stately home that has become a jewel in Miami’s cultural crown. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens sits on the shores of Biscayne Bay, surrounded by manicured subtropical gardens.
However, all I could see was the potential for a breach of the peace or broken artifacts as I led my highly energetic kids down the garden path to a home filled with priceless art and antiques. It would be an understatement to say I was nervous. Would they be bored? Would they damage something?
My fears were unfounded---the staff at Vizcaya genuinely welcomes kids (and the museum is child-proof). More importantly, the rooms are filled with fascinating exhibits that kept my son, ten, and daughter, eight, remarkably entertained.
“My favorite part was going into the museum and checking out all of the rooms and places. I liked how they had really nice beds and big, big rooms with lots of stuff in there, like furniture, coffee tables, and art. I saw lots of doorways, passages, stairs, paintings, and tapestries,” my daughter said.
Vizcaya was built in the early 1900s as the winter residence of James Deering, an industrialist who wanted to spend time in Florida’s climate to improve his health. Deering and his team designed the home in an Italian style, guided by the furniture and architectural elements that would eventually sit in each room.
This is a place where around every turn is something extraordinary. As a family, our most overused phrase during out visit was, “Wow---look at this!” And that’s just on the inside.
While the home was inspired by Italian architecture, the gardens evoke the French and Italian landscapes of the 17th and 18th centuries. Taking a stroll through the manicured gardens is mesmerizing. The original intent was to take the tropical plants native to South Florida and apply classical gardening techniques.
“When I was outside, I saw this stone ship that you couldn’t cross, all the stone statues that were there were quite elegant. I also went to a little maze made out of plants. I liked how the plants were spread so it looked like shapes in an organized way,” my son said.
We were fortunate to be welcomed to Vizcaya as part of a Blue Star Museums event for military families in South Florida. The museum has been steadfastly committed to the program, and it participates year after year. During our visit, the members of the museum staff were sincerely enthusiastic to support military families and to share their bayfront paradise.
My ten-year-old son originally had some trepidation about spending the day at Vizcaya, but, in the end, he said he was surprised to be wrong.
“I thought it would be a little bit boring,” he said, “but it turns out it was really beautiful.”
Shelley Kimball is the 2013 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year and a chapter director for Blue Star Families.