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Maximo Gomez Park/Domino Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Phillip Pessar

The best things to do in Little Havana to get immersed in Cuban culture

The best things to do in Little Havana include sightseeing strolls, live theater, dancing food and, of course, cafecito

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Written by
Virginia Gil
&
Falyn Freyman
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May 2019: Little Havana is more vibrant than ever, with new murals, restaurants and cultural happenings popping up on the regular. To celebrate the full scope of the neighborhood’s offerings, we’ve added in a can’t-miss food destination, La Carreta (practically a Miami rite of passage), a wonderful ice-cream shop and a hub for all things music and dancing (with killer cocktails too), Ball & Chain.

Whether you ventured to Little Havana to experience the best Cuban food in Miami or for a brave attempt at salsa dancing at one of Miami’s top Latin music clubs, there are no shortage of things to do in Little Havana. Most of the major sights are in the historical district between SW 12th and SW 17th Avenues. The stretch of Calle Ocho from SW 12th to 16th Avenues is particularly vibrant, with the air of rich tobacco wafting from cigar shops, and Cuban music coming from the open doors of Latin record stores and lively Little Havana bars. Close your eyes, listen long enough and let your senses transport you to the Cuban capital by way of Miami’s most iconic neighborhood.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Little Havana

Best things to do in Little Havana

Calle Ocho Walk of Fame
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Willy Gobetz

1. Calle Ocho Walk of Fame

What is it? 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.

Why go? 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
Photograph: Courtesy Viernes Culturales

2. Viernes Culturales

What is it? Little Havana’s street party and gallery walk, Viernes Culturales, happens every third Friday of the month along Calle Ocho between 13th and 17th Avenues.

Why go? Running strong for 19 years, it celebrates Latin culture with an old-school pachanga, featuring art exhibits, live music and dancing in one of Miami’s most famous cultural hubs.

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Little Havana Food Tour
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Miguel Discart

3. Little Havana Food Tour

What is it? Taste Miami’s rich Cuban history during a guided, edible journey through Little Havana’s Calle Ocho.

Why go? Stops on the Little Havana Food Tour include fresh guarapo juice at Los Pinarenos Fruteria, 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; $56, children $39.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • East Little Havana
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A fantastic Cuban triple-threat from James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein, her chef/restaurateur husband David Martinez and nationally acclaimed cantinero Julio Cabrera, where you can score an authentic meal and a classic mojito, plus dance ’til late to live music.

Why go? Bernstein’s croquetas aren’t traditional (you can try La Carreta or Versailles for that), but they will blow your mind.  

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  • Movie theaters
  • East Little Havana
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? 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.

Why go? 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. 

 

  • Shopping
  • Costume shops
  • East Little Havana
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Pushing 50 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.

Why go? 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • East Little Havana

What is it? The neighborhood’s most famous ice-cream shop showcases an impressive variety of Cuban-inspired flavors.

Why go? Have you ever had rum-spiked flan ice cream? How about an addictive treat that mixes guava, cream cheese and Maria crackers? If you answered no to either, well, it’s high time you did.

  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • East Little Havana

What is it? At the corner of SW 14th Avenue, the combined clatter of clacking domino tiles and Spanish chatter announces Máximo Gómez Park.

Why go? 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.

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  • Bars
  • East Little Havana
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Today’s Ball & Chain is a recreation of a 1930s hotspot that once occupied the same space and welcomed jazz superstars like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker to its stage. Across from the historic Tower Theater, Ball & Chain has its own storied past filled with Jewish and Cuban community influences.

Why go? The bar program, created by the top mixologists at the Regent Cocktail Club, is a smattering of classics (margaritas and mojitos) and new-wave drinks unique to Ball & Chain. Boasting 80 hours of live entertainment each week (much of which occurs inside an adorable pineapple-capped stage), Ball & Chain is also Little Havana’s premier spot for live music of the hip-moving variety.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • East Little Havana

What is it? Part gallery, workspace and studio, Futurama showcases mostly works by Cuban artists, many of whom have been hand-selected for temporary residency.

Why go? The eight-year-old space opens to the public on weekdays and on the third Friday night of the month for Viernes Culturales, Little Havana’s popular gallery walk. 

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