Best Things to Do in Little Havana

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By: Shayne Benowitz

If you want insider access to Little Havana, start by cruising Calle Ocho (or Eighth Street), the main thoroughfare of this neighborhood established by Miami’s Cuban diaspora. Sweet soca music blares from storefronts, Domino Park is a perennial gathering place and ventanitas sell Cuban coffee and croquetas on every corner. The neighborhood is filled with art and vitality—and it’s ripe for discovery. Let us be your guide on a whirlwind tour of Little Havana.

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Since 1971, Versailles has been a local gathering spot for the Cuban diaspora and one of Calle Ocho’s most popular locales. The décor features golden chandeliers and surrounding mirrors showcasing a throwback to the Hall of Mirrors in France’s Versailles Palace. However, the sprawling restaurant has a decidedly casual diner vibe. You’ll find every staple of Cuban cuisine on the menu here, from ham croquetas to Cuban sandwiches, cafecitos and heaping portions ropa vieja with yellow rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains.

    Ball & Chain

    Breathing fresh life into historic Little Havana, the 1930s Ball & Chain concert hall is new again, following a loving restoration. The result is a luscious dark wood-paneled bar with deep green accents and a whiff of Old Havana, all designed for Miami’s modern revelers. There’s also an unexpected outdoor garden and bandshell. Once a venue where Chet Baker, Billie Holiday and Count Basie performed, today’s Ball & Chain honors its history with an entertainment line-up that covers everything from jazz to salsa. Inventive and classic cocktails, like the mojito, are on offer as well as a modern tapas menu.

      Azucar Ice Cream

      Located in the heart of Little Havana, Azucar is Calle Ocho’s resident Cuban artisanal ice cream parlor. Rooted in a deep love for family and inspired by tropical Caribbean fruits, Azucar churns out more than 45 different flavors made with all-natural ingredients. You can’t miss it as you’re strolling down Calle Ocho. Just look for the façade with an enormous ice cream cone piled with colorful scoops growing out of the building. Once you’re there, go for the Abuela Maria, made with guava, cream cheese and served with a galletas Maria cookie—it’s Miami in a cup.

        Life House Little Havana

        Life House hotel in Little Havana is the neighborhood’s first boutique lifestyle hotel—granting visitors unprecedented access to exploring the neighborhood. With an eclectic design inspired by world travel, guestrooms boast herringbone wood floors, platform beds, a warm color palette and brass finishes. You can also opt for their Bohemian suite quad or modern double room, which feature design-forward bunk beds for an affordable and comfortable night’s stay when traveling with a group.  Terras, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant has amazing views Miami’s skyline and a menu inspired by urban street foods found in South America, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

          Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center

          The Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center is home to Cuban artists, local musicians and intellectuals who gather to play music, admire art, engage in discussions or simply enjoy a hand-rolled cigar and a glass of rum. The brainchild of Roberto Ramos, this museum and performance venue houses one of the largest privately-owned Cuban art collections in the world, as well as one of the most comprehensive selections of rum.

            Miami Culinary Tours

            For more than a decade, Miami Culinary Tours has been conducting daily tours throughout the city's historic neighborhoods, and was awarded “Best Tour Operator” at the 2019 Summit for Cultural & Heritage Tourism. Their Little Havana Food & Cultural Tour provides guests an opportunity to discover the neighborhood with a local guide who introduces the group to the history and culinary delights that most people won't find on their own. Their Little Havana Cultural Walking Tour explores important landmarks such as the Cuban Memorial Blvd, Maximo Gomez Domino Park and covers the art, music and culture of the neighborhood.

              Little Havana Walking Tours

              Little Havana Tours will also introduce you to the rich history and cultural traditions of the motherland—explore history, politics, food, art, music, cigars, coffee and rums. Their daily Little Havana Cultural Walking Tour provides historical background, but also explores social, political and artistic contributions. You’ll see how strong Cuban influences are woven into everyday Miami life. Their daily Little Havana Cultural Walking & Food Tour is very similar to the Cultural Walking Tour, but with an added bonus—food tastings and a stop to enjoy a delicious lunch at a popular Cuban restaurant. Also check out their unique and fun specialty tours, such as the Cigar & Rum Tasting Experience, or the Cuban Art & Cocktails Tour, which introduces you to the largest Cuban art collection in the world, outside of Havana, Cuba. 

                Los Pinareños Fruteria

                Los Pinareños Fruteria is the oldest open-air market in Miami. Here, you’ll find fresh-made juices and milkshakes flavored with exotic fruits from all over Latin America that have influenced the area. Think, avocados, mangos, carambola, pineapple, coconuts and more. Spoil yourself with a signature treat like their banana cafe batido, a banana milkshake with a shot of Cuban coffee, or a mamey batido, made from the deep red, sweet and creamy tropical fruit native to Cuba.

                  Maximo Gomez Domino Park

                  Maximo Gomez Domino Park is where locals get down and dirty with a game of dominoes—and trust us, to them it’s not a game. Nostalgia hangs in the air just as potently as the smell of a cortadito. You’ll typically find older Cuban gentlemen dealing dotted tiles over coffee and social commentary. But don’t let their age fool you, these seasoned professionals are fierce.

                    Viernes Culturales & Local Galleries

                    Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays) is held on the third Friday of the month when Little Havana swells with 4,000 visitors out to celebrate the arts and cultural offerings of local restaurants, bars, shops and galleries along Calle Ocho from 13th to 17th Avenue. A stage is set up in the heart of the festivities for dance and musical performances. Pop into local galleries that stay open into the evening hours for exhibition openings and artist talks. The Futurama Art Building is the epicenter of art in the neighborhood with 12 studio and galleries open to the public all under one roof. Many of Little Havana’s art galleries are found on the same block, including Mildrey Guillot, Obrapia Fine Arts, Kontempo Art, and Molina Fine Art Gallery. Another cluster of galleries like Krave Art and Galeria Adelmo can be found off Calle Ocho at SW 6th Street and SW 12th Avenue.

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