Explore Miami's Heritage Neighborhoods

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By Petra Brennan

Miami is made up of so many multicultural jewels and rich diversity, it’s impossible to overlook the heritage neighborhoods that make up our city. From the spicy streets of Little Havana, to the historic Bahamian culture of Coconut Grove, you will want to explore each flavor that makes up our cosmopolitan city. The best way to start your journey, is by multicultural heritage tour that you won’t soon forget.  Keep scrolling for a quick taste of some of our decadent flavors and remember to stop by our visitor centers–available in most neighborhoods–to pick up a copy of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Multicultural Guide. This will come in handy as you explore the cultural corridors of our vibrant city.

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Allapattah

Locally known as Little Santo Domingo, Allapattah is one Miami’s hidden gems beaming with pride of its Latin heritage and cultural diversity. Make sure you stop by  Club Típico Dominicano, a family-owned staple in the community since 1985, for a taste of authentic Dominican cuisine and a night of dancing. Or if you’re craving something sweet, visit Nitin Bakery, famous for its traditional Dominican cakes and array of Dominican specialties, including stuffed yucca and empanadas.

Allapattah is also home to Jackson Memorial Hospital, the Rubell Museum–one of the biggest private contemporary art collections in North America, and Juan Pablo Duarte Park where locals can soak up the Miami sunshine while working out, walking the trails, or attending any of the events hosted on the baseball fields and basketball courts.

While Allapattah has historically been a special community for residents, the neighborhood has been blooming with new restaurants, museums, and activities welcoming locals and residents to come and explore.

    Hialeah

    Looking for a full Cuban American experience in Miami? Look no further than Hialeah, home to the highest percentage of Cuban Americans in the United States and plenty of Latin cuisine, bodegas and ventanitas serving delicious Cuban coffee and pastries. Get some shopping done at  Ñoo Que Barato Discount, founded by Cuban native Serafín Blanco, designed for locals to purchase inexpensive Cuban goods to send back home.

    When in Hialeah make sure to stop by the Leah Arts District, the neighborhood’s art central where abandoned warehouses have been transformed into galleries, murals, local vendors, thrift shops, and block parties featuring local artists and live music.

    Interested in Hialeah’s historic places? Then head over to the Hialeah Park Racing & Casino, a mainstay on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of the most beautiful racetracks where flamingos run wild–making flamingos the city’s mascot.

      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, energy, and history of this neighborhood would explain why it was once referred to as the “Harlem of the South” and is currently undergoing its renaissance as an exciting Arts & Entertainment district.

      Stop by Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex where you can appreciate one of Historic Overtown’s oldest treasured structures and learn of its importance to the community. Following its renovation, the theater officially reopened to the public in February 2014 and now hosts a variety of events, including its signature Apollo style talent show called Lyric Live , which showcases local talents in a one-of-a-kind interactive performance.

      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 their edgy neo-soul cuisine and House of Wings, so don't leave without getting your fill of some authentic cooking.

      Historic Overtown is also home to the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum which 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. 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.

        Liberty City

        Liberty City, a historically Black community in Miami with deep roots dating back to the first black migration in 1937 and the site of the 1980 riots, is now on the brink of an economic revitalization and continues to host the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade annually on Martin Luther King Boulevard which runs from Biscayne Boulevard to Hialeah. 

        When in the community, it’s important to visit the Historic Hampton House, home to civil rights meetings held by Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950 and host to top Black entertainers including Sammy Davis, Jr., Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole, is still a staple in the community offering monthly live jazz events and other activities throughout the year.

        For locals the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, which opened in 1974, offers artists and youth opportunities to display their work and build on their creativity through after-school arts programs and unique programming embracing the talent within the community.

          Little Haiti

          This Miami neighborhood is the cultural heart of the Haitian diaspora beating since the 1980’s when waves of Haitian immigrants sought refuge. A bustling, Creole-speaking community that celebrates all things Caribbean via galleries, museums, family-owned restaurants, and more, Little Haiti is an oasis of Haitian culture and a welcoming community where locals and visitors can find authentic experiences.  

          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. It is also home to the Caribbean Marketplace, a 9,000 square foot venue space within the Little Haiti Cultural Complex and also where you can find the Little Haiti Visitor Center.

          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.

          The third Friday of every month features a free outdoor concert, Sounds of Little Hait, 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 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 Havana

            It’s impossible to explore Little Havana without swaying your hips to the lively music bustling down Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street). In this lively neighborhood, Hispanic culture permeates everything from the delicious smells of Latin cuisine throughout to the sounds of the music at Ball & Chain, Little Havana’s oldest bar and lounge. Begin your adventure by walking over to the famous Maximo Gomez Park, popularly nicknamed “Domino Park”, to enjoy the spectator sport of Dominos. A tradition for more than 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 or visit Little Havana’s cigar factories, art galleries and other cultural shops to find unique treasures as a remembrance of your experience.

            Hungry for more? Cuban food is considered a staple in Miami and Little Havana is the right place to enjoy authentic Cuban cuisine with so many options to choose from. 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. Los Pinarenos Fruteria is also great for sampling fresh exotic fruits from the Caribbean. Whatever you do, be sure to try a traditional cafécito (shot of Cuban coffee) and a pastelito—a yummy flakey Cuban pastry filled with guava or other tasty treats. 

            And if you find yourself here close to the weekend, keep in mind that every third 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!

              Miami Gardens

              The third largest city in Miami, Miami Gardens is a diverse destination with fun for the whole family, delicious authentic Caribbean cuisine and live entertainment. Closed in by four state parks but still accessible via all the major Allapattah area highways in Miami, Miami Gardens is a central neighborhood yet a destination of choice for many families. Some of the well-known restaurants in the area include Shuckin & Jivin, and ode to Black American Southern culture (they also offer catering), Lorna's Caribbean & American Grill for authentic Jamaican, Bahamian, and American dishes, and Ice Cream Heaven, the only black-owned ice cream parlor in Miami Gardens.

              Home to the Hard Rock Stadium which hosts large events like the Miami Open, Orange Bowl, football games for both the Miami Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes, annual music festivals like Jazz in the Gardens and Rolling Loud, the International Music & Food Festival, and recently host to Super Bowl LIV.

              Fun fact: South Florida’s only Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Florida Memorial University, is in Miami Gardens and has been part of the community for more than 140 years. Go Lions!

                Opa-Locka

                Seeking Moorish Revival architecture? Look no further than Opa-Locka, where you can find the largest collection in the Western Hemisphere inclusive of minaret towers and Ali Baba-inspired domes. Explore the neighborhood and you will come across the train station resembling a mosque and the Turkish harem looking Chamber of Commerce. Though a predominantly Black neighborhood, Opa-Locka hosts an Arabian Nights Festival annually at the Opa-Locka City Hall.

                Another cultural stop is the ARC Center, part of the Opa-Locka Community Development Organization. Home an art gallery, recreational art space, and vast outdoor courtyard space, the ARC continuous to host unique arts-based social and economic opportunities for current and future residents as well as visitors.

                Beyond the rich history and architecture, you’ll want to stop by the Opa-Locka Hialeah Flea Market, open 365 days a year featuring more than800 vendors from appliances, fresh produce, jewelry, and tons of free family-friendly events and food to make your visit last an entire afternoon. Most shops are cash only so keep that in mind when planning your visit!

                  West Coconut Grove

                  A enclave of rich Bahamian culture, West Coconut Grove is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami and 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 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. 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.

                  West Coconut Grove is also known for its churches—Christ Episcopal Church located on Hibiscus Street andMacedonia Missionary Baptist, which holds the honor of being the oldest African American church in the Coconut Grove Village West Community, and Church of Christ which has been part of the West Grove community for more than 70 years. Another landmark for many “Grovites,” (nickname for Coconut Grove dwellers) is the Coconut Grove Cemetery 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.

                   

                  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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