Miami is often viewed as a vacation destination for the young and wild, but this isn’t necessarily the case. There still are places that exude old world luxury, charm and class and are capable of transporting visitors to another place and time where life slows down and time seems suspended, if only for a short time.
The focus in Miami is on what’s new, hip and fresh, but you can find some of the classic, historical gems with a rich past and gorgeous architecture. The Biltmore Hotel, built in the 1920’s is one of these locations and although it can be a little bit of a drive from some of Miami’s other hot spots the drive is worth every minute. Consider a luxury car rental if you’re coming in from the Miami airport over any public transportation option, which can frankly be a bit of a nightmare, and you can explore Miami at your own leisure.
The Biltmore was frequented by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Al Capone, and the mystery surrounding the murder of gangster Thomas “Fatty” Walsh on the 13th floor has led to persistent rumors that the location is haunted.
In the late 1920’s the 13th floor was leased by Ed Wilson a known gambler who transformed the floor into his own speakeasy. Although Ed Wilson was thought to have murdered Walsh in the packed club no one claimed to see a thing and the murder remained unsolved. The hotels single original elevator is said to rise to the floor under its own devises, called by Walsh himself.
On one trip in particular with my wife, we were getting ready to check-out and as we gathered our luggage the radio in the room turned on. Thinking an alarm had been set, I didn’t think much of it as I moved to turn it off. That’s when I saw the radio button was in the on position and no alarm had been set. My wife and I have decided we had an authentic ghost encounter, although there is a lot of ambiguity surrounding the experience.
Today the 13th floor has been renovated into a posh suite although the floor, along with the rest of the hotel has been careful to retain its 1920s charm.
The beautiful lobby features a famous bird cage and photos of the original building and the space itself is absolutely stunning.
There is a distinct lack of amenities for children and the location is better suited for a romantic escape from daily life, or perfect for a day trip—especially on Sundays for the divine brunch.
Make sure you take time to stop by the pool which used to be the largest in the world. It is surrounded by beautiful arches and Grecian statues which only contribute to the feeling you have escaped modern Miami.
If you’re craving more of the classic elegance of past decades while in Miami stop by the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens as well. It pairs perfectly with the impression left by the Biltmore and the gardens are absolutely stunning. However, if you’re expecting more of a traditional garden with flowers as the main feature you may be disappointed. If you’re expecting statues paired with the landscape you’re in for a treat. The garden features fountains and waterways and you have can see fantastic views of the ocean from the garden.
During the hottest part of the day you can escape the heat by heading inside to explore the museum, the only downside being photos aren’t allowed inside. The expansive terrace located toward the center of the house will make you swoon—it opens up to the second floor and is enclosed with a glass ceiling which is absolutely incredible.
Again, this is a location that isn’t well suited for children and the sculptures mainly feature nudes, but for people interested in history, art and architecture, this location is a priceless experience.