The Ten Best Neon Signs in Miami

Neon made Miami great. The city's look grew one brightly lit step at a time — from the '40s art deco vibe to '80s Miami Vice. Some images are so iconic they redefine the skyline. Ocean Drive, anyone? It can be hard to look away from neon's eye-catching colors, and, boy, does it photograph nicely. Just ask Toronto native Bill Brothers. The 34-year-old photographer has been living in Miami for more than a decade and spent the past three years collecting images for his recently published book, Miami at Night.

Before he picked up a camera professionally, Brothers was simply looking for photos to decorate his apartment. "I couldn't find any recent skyline pictures," he remembers. "So I picked up a camera and started shooting. I was really drawn to the colors and the long-exposure shots."

Though he mostly photographs buildings and cityscapes professionally, his passion lies in nighttime photography. He says his book of 70 photographs is the only one that features Miami "specifically at night." He adds, "I tried to capture the city at angles and vantage points that aren’t typically seen by the average local. The 70-plus photos feature downtown Miami, Brickell, Brickell Key, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, and Miami Beach.

Here are Brothers' ten best pictures of neon signs. If you know of any others, please leave a comment. 

10. Tobacco Road
Tobacco Road was built in 1912, and its red-and-green sign is one of the city's most recognizable. "The neon above the front entrance that shined brightly on South Miami Avenue let you know that the Road was open until 5 a.m.," Brothers says. "This bar survived Prohibition but could not survive development in Brickell, as it was demolished in November 2014 after 102 years."

9. Key Biscayne Galeria
Though this might be a drive for anyone other than a key local, "the Key Biscayne Galeria sign adorns the top of an outdoor plaza." The lettering is totally reminiscent of the 1980s, Brothers says. It's like stepping into an episode of Saved by the Bell. But unlike the NBC comedy that aired its final episode in 1993, the Galeria is still open today. 

8. Joe’s Stone Crab
For a few months of the year, this South Beach icon unlocks its doors and flips on its classic outdoor sign. "You know you are close to Joe's Stone Crab when you drive down South Pointe Drive and see the red-and-green neon lights shining from the side of the building." Brothers' favorite part of lighted sign is knowing that it indicates stone crab season has begun. 

7. Welcome to Miami Beach
Nothing says, "Welcome, tourists!" like a giant blue-and-pink neon sign. "As you drive eastbound over the Julie Tuttle Causeway towards Miami Beach," Brothers says, "drivers are greeted with this colorful sign that has caused many to pull over to take a picture of it." The first time he saw the sign was in 2004, when he visited Miami. It was so shocking — yet welcoming — that he parked his car and took a photo. "I've seen plenty of people stop to take a picture of this sign, so I'm glad it wasn't just me," he laughs. 

6. The Miami Herald
The old Miami Herald building overlooking Biscayne Bay was an important part of the city' skyline for years — partly because of that great blue neon sign. When the building was torn down in 2014, "it was rumored that the letters were thrown in the trash," the photographer says. 

5. Colony Hotel
Located on Ocean Drive, the Colony Hotel is recognized by tourists everywhere (especially because it's often featured in films and TV shows). "The sign sits on the front of a classic art deco building in the heart of South Beach that people flock to take photos of as soon as dusk hits and the blue lights glow in the night," Brothers says romantically. 

4. Mac’s Club Deuce
"This local dive bar that smells like cigarettes and alcohol has been serving patrons for 52 years on South Beach. But it's the red-and-green neon Mac’s Club Deuce sign that really lets you know you are about to enter somewhere special."

3. 11th Street Diner
The 11th Street Diner is a dining car that was built in 1948 in Pennsylvania and transported to Miami in 1992. It's such a popular spot, Brothers says, that he often sees on social media plenty of celebrity guests tweeting about their dinner there. "The teal-blue 'Diner' sign and red 'Cocktails and Dinners' sign are simple but make you want to stop and take a photo as you walk by." 

The Ten Best Neon Signs in Miami

2. Breakwater Hotel
"This giant sign in South Beach can be easily seen as you walk down Ocean Drive, and its yellow-and-blue glow shines against this classic art deco building," Brothers says. "Built in 1939 by architect Anton Skislewicz, this sign has not changed much over the years."

1. Ball & Chain
The original Ball & Chain bar opened on Calle Ocho in 1935 and closed in 1957. "It reopened in 2014 in the same location and reflects the classic style. The iconic neon sign returned to the new bar and is an exact replica of the original."

Miami at Night, by Bill Brothers

Available to purchase at amazon.com

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