Explore Miami’s Heritage Neighborhoods

By Petra Brennan | Jul 26, 2017
Domino players in Maximo Gomez park in Little Havana
Domino players in Maximo Gomez park in Little Havana

Miami is a place full of heritage and a continuously growing and evolving diversity. From the spicy streets of Little Havana to rich Bahamian culture of Coconut Grove, you will want to experience each flavor of Miami for it's own special unique nature. The best way to do this is by taking a multicultural heritage tour. Listed here are a few "must see" spots in each of our heritage neighborhoods that you won't soon forget, so make sure to stop by.

Little Havana

In Little Havana, Hispanic culture permeates everything and you will want to experience it all. Start your Walking Tour along well-known Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) and begin your adventure by stopping into the Little Havana Visitors Center and picking up a copy of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Multicultural Guide. This will come in handy as you explore the cultural corridors of SW 8th Street. Enjoy the spectator sport of Dominos at the famous Maximo Gomez Park, popularly nicknamed “Domino Park”. A tradition for over 35 years, the gameplay at this park is serious and exciting to watch.

You will want to pick up some souvenirs at the Little Havana To Go Marketplace where you will find a selection of handmade crafts and artisan style treasures. Little Havana’s cigar factories, art galleries and other cultural shops always attract visitors and offer up a variety of unique treasures just begging to be collected as a remembrance of your experience.

Azucar Ice Cream shop in Little Havana 

Cuban food is considered a staple in Miami and Little Havana is the right place to enjoy authentic Cuban cuisine. El Cristo Restaurant is a great stop for some Cuban comfort food — black beans & rice with a side of plantains are sought after traditions. Take the heat off or treat yourself to something sweet at Azucar Ice Cream Company — an ice cream and sorbet boutique, with flavors made from locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables from South Florida farmer’s markets and Redland, Florida growers.

Coffee connoisseur or not, it’s sure worth the experience to try some traditional Cuban coffee. Live like a native and try a shot of Cuban coffee and a pastelito — a yummy flakey Cuban pastry sometimes filled with guava or other tasty treat. Los Pinarenos Fruteria is also great for sampling fresh exotic fruits from the Caribbean.

And if you find yourself here close to the weekend, keep in mind that every last Friday of the month the streets come alive with pulsating music, arts and crafts vendors for Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays) that you just won't want to miss!

Lyric Theater in Historic Overtown

Historic Overtown

Miami’s historically black neighborhood, Historic Overtown, reflects a blend of the ancestry of the Caribbean, West Indies, West Africa and the old south. The charm and history of this neighborhood would explain why it was once referred to as the “Harlem of the South”.

Stop by the Overtown Visitor Center located in the Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex where you can appreciate one of Historic Overtown’s oldest treasured structures. In its heyday, the theater anchored the district known as “Little Broadway”; an area alive with hotels, restaurants and nightclubs frequented by tourists as well as residents, both black and white. Following its renovation, the theater officially reopened to the public in February 2014. On the first Friday of each month the theater showcases its signature Apollo style talent show called Lyric Live and you will want to stop by and get in on the fun.

Jackson Soul Food in Historic Overtown 

You can’t miss a stop at Jackson Soul Food, one of the oldest, authentic soul food restaurants in Miami. Other classic and delicious Historic Overtown eateries include Lil Greenhouse Grill with thier edgy neo-soul cuisine, House of Wings and Two Guys Restaurant, so don't leave without getting your fill of some fantastic and authentic cooking.

Historic Overtown is also home to the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum. This building is unique as there is no other known structure in the nation that was designed, devoted and operated as a separate station house and municipal court for blacks during segregation. The museum showcases the history and legacy of the preservation of African American history and the struggles and accomplishments of Black Police Officers in Overtown, as they served during the pre-Civil Rights Movement.

Little Haiti Cultural Complex

Little Haiti

This Miami neighborhood is the cultural heart of the Haitian diaspora. Waves of Haitian immigrants sought refuge here in the 1980’s, resulting in a bright, ever-present celebration of all things Caribbean that can be found in galleries, museums, family-owned restaurants, and bookstores.

Little Haiti Cultural Complex serves as the epicenter for this neighborhood. It offers a series of events including cultural dance classes, theater performances and museum-quality art exhibits. Be sure to stop by the Caribbean Marketplace for authentic Haitian art and crafts as well as a fantastic Spice it Up! Miami social experience every second Friday of the month featuring celebrity chefs and restaurants. During Spice it Up! Miami, you will be able to really immerse yourself in the culture of the islands with music, dancing and an education on creating appetizing bites and creative cocktails. The 9,000 square foot marketplace is the largest venue space within the Little Haiti Cultural Complex and is also home to the Little Haiti Visitor Center.

Libreri Mapou Bookstore in Little Haiti 

The street corridors on N.E. 2nd Avenue is also considered the downtown district of little Haiti. This is where you will find Libreri Mapou, a quaint bookstore and cultural center specializing in French and creole publications. For an added treat, it offers sampling of a special Haitian liquor called Crémas.

Little Haiti offers a great selection of dining options. For an authentic Haitian experience, try Chef Creole. This Caribbean-inspired restaurant features a charming thatched roof and open style seating that can even accommodate small groups for an interactive cooking session with the chef. Clives Restaurant, located on NW 2nd Avenue, specializes in Jamaican cuisine and for a quick grab and go bite, stop by Philly Grub a neighborhood sandwich shop on the corner of 54th Street.

The third Friday of every month features a free outdoor concert, Sounds of Little Haiti, on the plaza of the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. The performance features a live Haitian band and the musical sounds of Kompa, Zouk and other Caribbean melodies. Included in the evening is a Cultural Art Walk through downtown Little Haiti.

Nassau Daddy peacock in Coconut Grove

West Coconut Grove

West Coconut Grove is an enclave of rich Bahamian culture. This heritage neighborhood features landmarks, monuments and institutions that tell the story of a once thriving community, first settled by Bahamian immigrants.

On Charles Avenue, you will find the structure of the Colored Library which was the area’s first black library and the focal point for community meetings and was later repurposed as a church. You'll also find the Mariah Brown House who was one of the first Bahamian settlers to Coconut Grove back in 1851 and worked in hospitality at the Peacock Inn. Her home was designated as a historical site by the City of Miami in the 1990’s.

Still on Charles Avenue today is the E.W.F Stirrup House. Ebenezer Stirrup was an African-Bahamian immigrant who became one of the largest landowners in Coconut Grove. He was responsible for many Bahamian immigrants becoming homeowners by building more than one hundred homes in the Coconut Grove community. The traditional style of residence at that time was referred to as shot gun houses. One could see from the front directly through the rear of the house. Some of those homes still exist today. Mr. Stirrup ultimately became a millionaire through his successful real estate business ventures. Plans are in place for the future restoration of his house.

Coconut Grove Cemetery is a landmark for many “Grovites,” (nickname for Coconut Grove dwellers). The cemetery was created in 1913 by the Coconut Grove Colored Cemetery Association, which included several prominent, local, black citizens including E.W.F. Stirrup, Walker Burrows and Joseph Riddick. It is the final resting place of many influential pioneer settlers.

West Grove is also the home of the first African American astronaut, Winston Elliott Scott. He was born in1950 and lived on Frow Avenue in Coconut Grove.

Macedonia Church in Coconut Grove 

West Coconut Grove is also known for its churches — Christ Episcopal Church located on Hibiscus Street and Macedonia Missionary Baptist, which holds the honor of being the oldest African American church in the Coconut Grove Village West Community.

KROMA Gallery is located on Grand Avenue and is a collective art space in the heart of Coconut Grove consisting of 18 artists’ studios and a communal gallery space. Many of the art exhibits featured at KROMA pay homage to West Grove’s rich heritage and influences. It is also home to the Coconut Grove Village Visitor Center.

And before you go, make sure to try and catch a glimpse of Nassau Daddy Peacock, this iconic whimsical sculpture was created by artist Rosie Brown and celebrates the rich heritage and culture of the residents.

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