Best things to do in Little Havana
As you walk up and down SW 8th Street (between SW 17th and SW 12th Avenues), you'll notice that the sidewalk is marked with pink marble stars, making up the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame. This Little Havana version of the Hollywood attraction began as a way to recognize Cuban celebrities. Cuba's most famous salsa singer, Celia Cruz, who died in 2003, was the first to be immortalized in 1987, and since then singers and soap stars from all over Latin America have been honored.
Viernes Culturales, the Little Havana street party and gallery walk, which is now in its 17th year, celebrates Latin culture with an old-school pachanga, featuring art exhibits, live music and dancing in one of Miami’s most famous cultural hubs. Various food and drink vendors routinely set up on the sidewalk along the strip.
Taste Miami’s rich Cuban history during a guided, edible journey through Little Havana’s Calle Ocho. Stops on the Little Havana Food Tour include drinks at historic bar Ball & Chain, sweets at Azucar Ice Cream Company and a hearty meal at home-style eatery El Pub. Little Havana, meeting point disclosed with ticket purchase (786-942-8856). Daily at 12:30pm; $59, children $49.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Miguel Discart
At 45 years old, La Casa de los Trucos is Miami's oldest costume shop. The family-owned and ran business has evolved from a tiny shack on Calle Ocho to a large building adjacent to its original location, which today houses thousands of costumes, regional regalia and all sorts of makeup and accessories to create your own custom getup. As it did when it first opened, the shop carries a wide selection of jokes and gags, from fart machines and smelly perfumes to exploding gifts that wow kids of all ages. The place is a madhouse come Halloween but every bit worth the rush.
Miami-Dade College has partnered with this historic cinema in Little Havana to present new films from Cuba and other Latin American countries, as well as shorts and features by budding Miami cineastes. In Little Havana’s heyday, it was the only movie theater in Miami to show English-language films with Spanish subtitles; these days, it’s one of the few local theaters with a regular rotation of foreign language films.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Phillip Pessar
At the corner of SW 14th Avenue, the combined clatter of clacking domino tiles and Spanish chatter announces Máximo Gómez Park. Cuban retirees have been gathering on this corner to play dominoes and drink coffee for decades; it was designated a city park in 1976 and is popularly called Domino Park.
Part gallery, workspace and studio, Futurama showcases mostly works by Cuban artists, many of whom have been hand-selected for temporary residency. The six-year-old space opens to the public on weekdays and on the last Friday night of the month for Viernes Culturales, Little Havana's popular gallery walk.
Shows at this elegant 839-seat theater range from the Miami Lyric Opera to Latin stars, such as Maria Creuza, the Brazilian bossa nova diva, and José González, the Swedish-Argentinian folkie.
This museum has a small but interesting collection of ephemera and memorabilia relating to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, when a small brigade of Cuban exiles in Miami was trained by the CIA as part of a covert operation to invade the island and restore US interests. But the 1,300-strong force, known as Brigade 2506, was met by the Cuban army soon after landing at the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Almost 100 were killed and the rest—including the father of pop singer Gloria Estefan—were taken prisoner. Perhaps the most notable exhibit is a Brigade 2506 flag held up by President John F. Kennedy during a speech at the Orange Bowl in 1962, welcoming the survivors back to Miami.