Calle Ocho, or Eighth Street, is the unofficial capital of Miami's Cuban community. Known for its food and restaurants, Cuban coffee windows (or ventanitas), cigar shops, music and cultural activities, Calle Ocho is the main artery of Little Havana. The lively street, just west of Brickell Avenue and Downtown, hosts several festivals and art fairs throughout the year but it’s alive every day with the hustle and bustle of local activity and tourists exploring the authentic neighborhood.
Maximo Gomez Domino Park is a landmark on Calle Ocho, and is always full of neighborhood domino players - usually older men who have mastered the game over years of practice. Named after the famous soldier Maximo Gomez who fought for Cuban independence from Spain, Domino Park sits on the corner of Calle Ocho and 15th Avenue. It is surrounded by shops and restaurants. The park is free and opened to the public during sunlight hours, and you're sure to find a loud, spirited domino game going on at any time of day.
Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays is a free monthly arts and culture festival on Calle Ocho, primarily located between 14th and 17th Avenues. It celebrates the work in visual arts, music and more that the Cuban’s have preserved so well in Miami. The monthly festival has been a huge success, as it is a mix of old and new Cuban culture. It draws a diverse crowd of Cuban locals, visitors, young art enthusiasts and anyone looking to get out and have a good time. The night features activities and entertainment such as dancing, dominoes, art galleries, Cuban coffee, cigar rollers and mojitos. Many stores stay open late and several restaurants offer specials from the menu. With activities and entertainment ranging from tango classes to street performers and live music, you'll definitely find something interesting and fun at Viernes Culturales.
Carnaval Miami on Calle Ocho
The annual Carnaval Miami on Calle Ocho is a giant cultural festival, always featuring top Latino music stars in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. The festival is organized by Kiwanis of Little Havana. Over the past few years, Carnaval Miami has hosted performances by Pitbull, Willy Chirino, Hansel y Raul and other Latin and Cuban artists that have crossed over into the mainstream music scene. The festival consumes a two-mile stretch of Calle Ocho, from SW 27th Avenue to SW 8th Avenue, with music, dancing and a good time from one side of the block to the other. A vibrant showcase of Hispanic pride, Carnaval Miami on Calle Ocho continues to grow every year. It has become reflective of Miami’s changing landscape, even more of a melting pot of all Latin American cultures.
Another landmark on Calle Ocho, the Tower Theatre sits right next to Domino Park. Originally built in 1926, this cultural and historical landmark has had many lives. It was originally a movie theater. In the 1950s and 60s it became a performance center and entertained hundreds of Cubans who had just fled their homes, with shows that felt familiar in an otherwise unfamiliar country. In 2002, it was completely remodeled and reopened as part of Miami Dade College's Cultural Affairs Department and now regularly shows foreign, independent and award winning films in both English and Spanish.
Cuban Memorial Boulevard
A monument to Cuban heroes, you can find Cuban Memorial Boulevard packed on May 20th every year, the day Cuba gained its Independence from Spain in 1902. The boulevard runs into Calle Ocho and is lined with iconic images of Cuban history. The Memorial contains several monuments, including statues of heroes Jose Martí and Antonio Maceo, as well as a memorial flame honoring soldiers from the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The flame is always lit as a reminder of the sacrifices the Cuban-American forces of the Bay of Pigs made for their home country.
Calle Ocho is most famous for its restaurants. Versailles Restaurant on 36th Avenue touts itself as the “World's Most Famous Cuban Restaurant,” and it might be true. It serves home-style Cuban food and features a bakery with countless sweets and pastries. But Versailles' most famous feature is the coffee window. The ventanita, translated to "little window," serves Cuban coffee, cigars, pastries, Spanish-language tabloids and finger foods. It’s a regular stop for Presidential candidates trying to win over the Cuban-American vote.
Further east sits El Pub, with its own famous ventanita facing Domino Park and also serving Cuban food. While the area has always been primarily Cuban, you can find well-regarded and delicious cuisine from a wide range of cultures tucked away on Calle Ocho in mini-malls and behind average looking facades.
Hy Vong is just across the street from Versailles, in an unassuming shopping mall, but it is known as the most authentic Vietnamese cuisine in South Florida. Mr. Yum Asian Cuisine on 19th Avenue serves Miami-centric sushi rolls like a Calle Ocho Tuna appetizer of tuna tartar and avocado with wonton chips. Over at Casa Juancho on 24th Avenue, you’ll discover classic Spanish tapas in a Don Quixote inspired ambiance. If you want classic homemade Mexican food, swing by Taqueria el Mexicano. Have a sweet tooth? After dinner, swing by Azucar Ice Cream Company for a desert of homemade Cuban ice cream, featuring flavors like Café con Leche, Platano Maduro and Caramel Flan; all Cuban dessert favorites re-imagined into ice cream flavors. On Calle Ocho, you are inundated with the sounds, smells and flavors of one of Miami’s most bustling cross-cultural neighborhoods.