We'd be doing a poor job indeed if we failed to mention Miami's Cuban connections. Little Havana is probably the best known Cuban American neighborhood in the country, boasting all that is vibrant and wonderful (and tasty) about the culture. This Latin area formed in the 1960s with the arrival of Cuban refugees escaping Castro's regime, some of whom set up businesses that are still there today. Plus, thanks to campaigning by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, much of Little Havana's original architecture – historic bungalows, Mission Revival blocks and oolitic limestone facades – is being preserved. Marvel at the colourful buildings while you're there and look out for street parties, sweet cafecitos and crispy tostones.
Consult any travel guide, online list or hungry local about where to grab some Cuban food down in Little Havana and one name will always pop up: Versailles. It’s not hype. The food at Versailles is done with tradition in mind, and the result is classics such as croquetas, Cuban sandwiches and cafecito that have even the most hard-to-please viejos nodding in agreement.
Lung Yai Thai Tapas
Little Havana has some culinary surprises waiting, like this cozy Thai joint that serves small Thai bites, noodle and rice dishes until 1am on the weekends. Sign your name on a list by the door and prepare for an unconventional delicious dining experience.
Little Havana’s famous ice cream shop is very worth the trip. With only-in-Miami flavors that are unique, creative and—above all else—delicious, this place does not disappoint. Don’t forget to pose with the huge ice cream cone sculpture outside.
Ball & Chain
Day, night, weekday or weekend—you’re going to Ball & Chain. Originally opened in 1935, the bar and music venue was renovated and restored in 2014 with its rich musical history in mind (Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker have performed there). Equally as impressive as the live music programming is the drink menu, which features a pitch-perfect mojito and a Calle Ocho old fashioned made with rum and garnished with a tobacco leaf.
Union Beer Store
If you’re a beer person, Union Beer Store provides a tasty dive into South Florida’s rich brewing culture. The small bar has world class beer on tap and a couple free arcade games to help pass the time.
If neither beer nor cocktails do much for you, hopefully, the over 300-strong wine list of Lekoke Wines & Bites will satisfy. The homey atmosphere is perfect for cracking open a bottle and ordering a few Latin tapas.
Hoy Como Ayer
Don’t leave Little Havana without catching some live Cuban music. There’s no better place to do just that than at Hoy Como Ayer, a historic venue that showcases, among many other things, live salsa in an intimate setting. Dancing is encouraged. Rum is essential.
Life House Little Havana
This new boutique hotel is a first of its kind in Little Havana, which has only recently become a massive tourist destination. Life House is perfect for those looking for something a little more hip. There’s live music programming, an in-house cafe and a rooftop bar that’ll be opening in 2019.
If you do just one thing…
Book your stay during Viernes Culturales, which takes place on the last Friday of the month. This monthly block party has grown in popularity along with the neighborhood. All night long, local vendors and live musicians fill the area while hundreds of people flow up and down Calle Ocho. There are food and dancing as far as the eye can see.