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Greater Miami And Miami Beach's Multicultural Neighborhoods

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For more than 100 years, Greater Miami and Miami Beach has attracted people to live, work, play and create. Lured by the warmth of the sun and the promise of a better day, the early settlers of Miami-Dade communities arrived from many places, forged a new way of living in our tropical paradise, and left their undeniable mark. Discover our heritage and find a Miami you never knew existed but is worth exploring. Peel back the layers of time and uncover our variegated roots.

Experience our past within the walls and gardens of our historic places. Get to know our future through the culturally significant landmarks and unique experiences that you can find in our colorful and diverse neighborhoods. The sun and the fun will bring you to Miami, but its rich multicultural essence will keep you coming back again and again.

Greater Miami and Miami Beach embodies multiculturalism. From historically Black neighborhoods to communities shaped by immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas and other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, Miami is culturally rich by virtue of its amazing diversity.

A great way to get to know our multicultural gems and diverse community is Miami Arts, Culture & Heritage Month in December and January, which features everything from historic walking trails and bus tours, to special events and promotions. The dedicated website MiamiTemptations.com provides a resource to locals and visitors to help them learn more about the heritage neighborhoods and how best to experience them. To make trip planning easier, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau launched its Greater Miami Multicultural Guide (www.MulticulturalMiami.com).

Historic Overtown: Just north of downtown, one of Miami's oldest African-American neighborhoods, Historic Overtown, is on the upswing. In its heyday in the 1920s through 1940s, Historic Overtown was Florida's version of Harlem – a thriving Black community where businesses and community life prospered, including an entertainment district anchored by the Historic Lyric Theater -- which features the Historic Overtown Visitor Center highlighting the neighborhood’s sights and sounds and The Black Police Precinct Courthouse and Museum: a historical preservation of African American history as it relates to the struggles and accomplishments of Black Police Officers in Historic Overtown, as they served during the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1940′s through 60’s. Today, revitalization is underway to restore the neighborhood's historical legacy with renovations of the Historic Lyric Theater, the Greater Bethel AME Church, the Dunns-Josephine Hotel and recently completed is the D.A. Dorsey House (home of Miami's first Black millionaire).

Little Havana: Miami’s Little Havana is a national treasure awarded by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. Set directly west of Downtown Miami’s Brickell area, this slice of the motherland created by Cuban exiles in the 1960s seems to hum with perpetual activity, especially along Southwest 8th Street (or Calle Ocho), where you will encounter most of little Havana’s major sights. Calle Ocho is lined with comfort food restaurants featuring Latin specialties, such as Azucar Ice Cream - an artisanal ice cream and sorbet boutique where you can wrap your taste buds around the comfort of Miami flavors such as Flan, Galleticas Maria and Platanos Maduros (sweet plantains). Locals can always be seen gathering at the corner of SW 14th Avenue, at Maximo Gomez Park, popularly known as Domino Park. This popular daytime attraction is filled with elders from the community who come daily to smoke cigars and discuss the day’s happenings over a game of dominoes. Half a block west, the Tower Theater screens films in Spanish and English (with Spanish subtitles) along with cultural performances and free educational lectures. At the nearby Walk of Fame, pink marble stars embedded in the pavement honor the Latin American superstars who have impacted this neighborhood, including Celia Cruz, the “Queen of Salsa”. Also make sure to set some time aside to explore the Bay of Pigs Museum, a memorial to the members of the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

Here, artisans still hand-roll cigars found in shops such as The Little Havana Cigar Factory and tailors create custom Guayaberas (traditional linen shirts), while the sounds of salsa and merengue fill the air. In the heart of Little Havana is also where you can find places like DAF (Dance, Art & Fitness) Studio, and feel the flavor of Cuban dance through contemporary classes including: ZUMBA, Yoga, Pilates, Ballet, Ballroom, Hip-Hop, Belly Dance, Tango, Contempo Dance and Afro Cuban Dance; several times a week. For those who want to dive deeper into the flavors of the Latin Quarter, Miami Culinary Tours offers Little Havana Food Tours (and other neighborhoods such as South Beach and Wynwood Arts District). Although Little Havana remains Cuban to the core, the area reflects the neighborhood’s reputation as the “Ellis Island of Miami,” with many other Spanish-speaking immigrant groups from all over South and Central America coming to start their American dream. Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center, another inside look to Cuban culture, serves the community as a cultural and research center encompassing an extensive library and important collection of artworks created between 1850 and 1958 by various Cuban plastic arts masters. The center promotes painting, theater, music, literature, and the arts in their entirety, as well as sponsors cultural events designed to disseminate the works of Cuban artist throughout Miami. 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 or visit Little Havana’s cigar factories, art galleries and other cultural shops to find unique treasures as a remembrance of your experience.

Those who would rather spend their day watching sports can check out the sleek Miami Marlins Park featuring a state-of-the-art retractable roof and an operable wall in left field providing fans with spectacular views of downtown Miami. Here you can watch America’s favorite pastime while sipping on Cuban coffee or enjoying a warm Colombian arepa.

Lemon City: Once a community on the shores of Biscayne Bay, predating the incorporation of the City of Miami, Lemon City was home to a mix of pioneers. Most of the Blacks in this area were of Bahamian descent and established flourishing communities and businesses including the only U.S. Post Office in the area, a library, churches, a “colored school” and a cemetery. There were at least three identifiable Black communities in Lemon City—Nazarine, Knightsville, and Boles Town—all dating from about 1900. After the area underwent a drastic demographic shift in the 1920s, Lemon City became a distant memory in the minds of many of Miami’s Black pioneers.

Today, over a relatively short period of time, Haitians have moved in the area and changed the character of the neighborhood that was once known as Lemon City. The culturally vibrant Haitian community has enriched Miami-Dade’s multi-ethnic character. Little Haiti, bounded by I-95 and the Florida East Coast Railway, spans from 54th to 87th streets. Its business district, along Northeast 2nd Avenue, is of great social and cultural significance to the Haitian Diaspora because it is the only area in the history of Haitian immigration primarily inhabited by Haitians. It bustles with Haitian-owned and operated business, where the aroma of Creole cooking, multi-hued artwork, the rhythm of Haitian compass, and the expressive tone of Haitian Creole greet residents and visitors alike.

The name of a cultural icon graces this major thoroughfare in the heart of Little Haiti – Northeast 2nd Avenue is known as “Avenue Felix Morisseau Leroy,” and it leads to Toussaint L’ouverture Elementary School. One of the neighborhood’s distinguishing characteristics is the colorful and distinctive Caribbean signage along the business corridors. Miami’s Little Haiti has earned a national and international reputation and boasts the Little Haiti Soccer Park and the iconic Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center – which features the iconic Caribbean Marketplace. The Caribbean Marketplace features 9,500-square-feet of retail and concessions, including gift shops, arts and crafts and private event space. 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.

While the name Lemon City has vanished from the map and the area is now known as Little Haiti, through the recent discovery of the Historic Lemon City Cemetery Memorial Ground, significant facts and tangible evidence of this once vibrant pioneer community are being uncovered. You can also learn more at 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.

Coconut Grove: South of downtown where the foliage becomes lush and tropical, Coconut Grove was legendary in its heyday as an arts colony. Coconut Grove is the oldest community in Miami. Situated on Biscayne Bay, this 4.17 square mile community includes the West Coconut Grove neighborhood, which is the present-day historic enclave of the Bahamian and African-American descendants of the early settlers of Coconut Grove. Their presence as the first Black community on the South Florida mainland began here in the late 1870s when Blacks primarily from the Bahamas came via Key West to work at the Peacock Inn. Their first-hand experience with tropical plants, agriculture and building materials proved invaluable to the development of Coconut Grove.

Among the valuable contributions made by this thriving community to Miami was architecture and their knowledge of how to construct simple sturdy houses able to withstand the most intense hurricanes. These houses, many of which still stand today, are extremely durable having been made of Dade County pine, a termite resistant and affordable building material (although it is now a relic of the past). Other local materials such as coral-rock were used as well, giving these structures a very distinct look. The style of house that was most used by these settlers is often referred to as a “shotgun house,” which can be traced back to West Africa. The name "shotgun" was given because of the typical alignment of the house's doors; supposedly, a bullet fired at the front door would pass straight through the house and out the back door. The rooms are lined up, one behind another, usually the living room, then one or two bedrooms, and the kitchen at the back. The shotgun houses are usually tiny (12ft wide) constructed on piers with no set back from the street, a front porch, wood frame, wood siding and sometimes, chimneys made of stone.

Besides private homes, the early buildings included the Odd Fellows Hall, which served as a community center and library, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, home of the oldest Black congregation in the area, and the A.M.E. Methodist Church, which housed the community's first school. On Charles Avenue, you will find so many historic gems full of stories and richness. From 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, to the E.W.F Stirrup House, an African-Bahamian immigrant who became the largest landowner in Coconut Grove, many of Miami’s historical sites can be found in this community.

Home to popular attractions like Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, (an Italian Renaissance mansion), and the Barnacle, historic home of Miami pioneer Ralph Monroe, the Grove honors its artistic roots each February with the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, the nation's largest annual outdoor celebration of visual arts and crafts. It also nods to its beatnik past on New Year’s weekend with the low budget but hilarious King Mango Strut, a political spoof parade. 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.

Miccosukee & Everglades: For a fun, educational and memorable experience, head to Miccosukee Indian Village, Everglades Alligator Farm or Everglades Safari Park to check out their unique alligator shows. While you’re there, observe Miccosukee Indians as they engage in the art of doll making, beadwork, patchwork and basket weaving. Learn about the culture, lifestyle and history of the Tribe. Be captivated by live alligator demonstrations and explore the Everglades on airboat rides, which stop at an authentic, hammock-style Indian Camp. Visit the Gift Shop and taste local cuisine at the Miccosukee Restaurant or explore Everglades National Park by tram or bicycle at the Shark Valley entrance.

Historic Cultural Tours

During the month of February, visitors can take part in Miami-Dade Transit's award-winning Black History Tours. With reservations booked far in advance, the three-hour tours, which began in 1994 in honor of Black History Month, travel through Miami's oldest black communities: Coconut Grove, Overtown, Liberty City and Brownsville, pointing out various landmarks and recounting events of historic significance.

HistoryMiami offers many heritage tours, some led by celebrated historian/author Dr. Paul George. The fun Moon Over Miami River Boat Tour includes hidden neighborhoods, the Miami Circle® archaeological site, and a place where black residents of Overtown boarded ferries for Miami Beach back long ago before there was a bridge. The Stiltsville, Key Biscayne and Cape Florida Lighthouse Boat Tour includes a trip to one of Miami’s secret gems—Stiltsville, a remnant community of seven houses perched on stilts in the middle of Biscayne Bay. During the program, learn about how Key Biscayne was a stop on the underground railroad. The Dinner Key and Coconut Grove Twilight Walk starts at historic Miami City Hall, once the Pan Am seaplane terminal, then ambles through the shaded byways of this leafy waterfront neighborhood, which boasts the oldest Bahamian settlement in Miami and Ralph Monroe’s pioneer home.

History Miami also offers a bike tour through Virginia Key Beach, once the official segregated beach for Miami, as late as 1964. Virginia Key Beach, once accessible only by boat, was established in 1945, as the only public beach for the “exclusive use of Negroes” in Dade County. In 2002, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The El Portal Eco-Walk features a tour through this charming oak-shaded black community nationally recognized as a bird sanctuary. The Overtown Trolley Tour includes stops at Dorsey House, Dr. William Chapman House, Booker T. Washington Sr. High School, People’s BBQ, Jackson’s Soul Food, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Lyric Theater, and the Black Police Precinct Museum.

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is your headquarters for celebrating the Jewish culture in South Florida. This museum is comprised of two adjacent, restored, former historic synagogues, connected with a skylighted bistro. The museum first opened in the 1936 Art Deco synagogue. In 2007 the museum expanded into Miami Beach’s first synagogue, built in 1928-1929. The core exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida, 1763-Present, includes photos and artifacts depicting the Florida Jewish experience since 1763.

Fabulous Festivals and Events

In the summer, the party atmosphere kicks into high gear. In July, Miami Beach Bruthaz, an annual summer lifestyle event for same gender loving men and women from around the world, offers a series of social, knowledge-filled and personalized activities to promote unity and camaraderie. The event is focused around a central theme: Knowledge Culture Fashion.

In August, the annual IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Festival features over 15 dance and drumming workshops as well as dance parties, culminating with a spectacular Dance Gala. The African rhythms continue in August with the African Diaspora Dance and Drum Festival of Florida, an annual three-day cultural arts educational event with dance and drum workshops and concerts.

Miami Heat Legend and NBA Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning hosts his annual charitable event, Zo’s Winter Groove (ZWG). Zo's Winter Groove, a weekend-long slate of sports and entertainment events takes place in January. ZWG is focused on improving the lives of youth through mentoring, healthy living, and laughter to raise awareness of the issues and needs facing inner-city youth in Miami-Dade County. Throughout February, Miami celebrates Black Heritage Month with various events celebrating the destination’s rich cultural history, from music and soul food to tours, and guest speakers. In March, the destination celebrates its African-American music roots with the reggae-filled 9 Mile Music Festival. That month the City of Miami Gardens bursts with music during the free Jazz in the Garden Series, boasting an array of jazz artists performing a wide variety of styles—including salsa, blusion, vibraphone, and Afrofunk—every Friday evening. For another multicultural experience, the Miami Dade County Asian-American Advisory Board and Thai-American Association of South Florida host the annual Asian Culture Festival in March at Fruit & Spice Park in Homestead. Featuring a variety of Asian cuisine, arts & crafts, plants, and live entertainment the festival promotes the cultural diversity by offering a virtual day trip to Asia.

May brings Haitian Heritage Month – a great time to explore Haiti’s rich arts and culture with many events throughout the destination – including Little Haiti. It is also Jewish American Heritage Month; a nationally observed heritage month has deep roots in South Florida that you may not even realize. Make sure you visit in April to experience the annual Miami Jewish Film Festival.

Foodies visiting in August and September will love Miami Spice Restaurant Months, where Miami’s top restaurants offer three-course meals at special prices– many with Caribbean influences created by world-renowned chefs.

Held each year the Sunday before Columbus Day, the Miami Carnival lights up the streets with more than 20 masquerade bands and 6 steel bans parade and compete for "Band of the Year" bragging rights, and revelers are adorned with beautiful, colorful and intricate costumes, dancing to the infectious musical sounds of Soca and enjoying Caribbean food.

Book lovers of all colors love the Miami Book Fair International, an eight-day literary party in November. During Street Fair weekend, more than 250 publishers and booksellers exhibit and sell books, with special features like the antiquarians, who showcase of signed first editions, original manuscripts and other collectibles. Those in town for the holidays can take part in many Kwanzaa celebrations, including seven days of African-American cultural events at various Miami venues.

Carnaval Miami is the marquis annual fundraiser of Kiwanis Club of Little Havana in support of the Kiwanis Little Havana Foundation’s youth development programs. Host to a series of captivating events that attract an average of 1.5 million attendees each year, Carnaval Miami is best known as host of the country’s largest ‘Latino’ festival, Calle Ocho. A marquee event of Carnaval Miami, Calle Ocho is the world’s largest ‘Hispanic’ festival! Block after block of Little Havana full of musical stages, international food, dance, sampling sites and family entertainment to celebrate life and all Hispanic ethnicities. In November, celebrate Native American Heritage Month with events at Miccosukee Indian Village. This commemorative month aims to provide a platform for Native people in the U.S. to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways/concepts of life.

Art of Black Miami is a marketing platform and destination driver that showcases the diversity of the visual arts locally, nationally and internationally, celebrating the black diaspora. While Art of Black Miami’s season kicks off in December, there is art representative of the African diaspora throughout Miami 365 days a year. This initiative highlights the artistic cultural landscape found in Miami's heritage neighborhoods and communities year-round throughout Miami.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is an independent not-for-profit sales and marketing organization whose mission is to attract visitors to Greater Miami and the Beaches for leisure, business and conventions. For a vacation guide, visit our website at www.MiamiAndBeaches.com or call 1-888-76-Miami (US/Canada only) or 305-447-7777. To reach the GMCVB offices dial 305-539-3000.  Meeting Planners may call 1-800-933-8448 (US/Canada only) or 305-539-3071 or visit www.MiamiMeetings.com.