Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Built in 1916 as a winter home by industrialist James Deering, this Italian Renaissance-style villa and its 10 acres of formal gardens was the first great over-the-top house in town, and it's now open to the public. At a time when Miami's population was only 10,000, more than 1,000 workers spent years to create this house, a demented yet lovely palace that's a glorious triumph of artifice. It's filled with flashy (but not necessarily notable) art and furnishings ranging from the 15th to the 19th centuries, and over the years, Vizcaya has hosted such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth II, President Ronald Reagan, and King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain. Still, even for ordinary tourists, the house and ornate gardens—full of hidden grottoes, stone boats, mangrove swamps, and every known variety of tropical vegetation—are somehow ennobling.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.