Miami Beach is party central, no doubt. But have you cut across the bridge and explored the Magic City’s mainland yet? Little Havana, also known as Calle Ocho (8th Street), might just be where the city’s heart beats the loudest. This Cuban neighborhood, just a 15-minute drive from the ocean, is chock full of personality, live music at all hours and the tastiest Latin American cuisine in town.
Bring the whole family for some good old-fashioned fun or make it a date night or a girls’ night. You can even take the neighborhood by storm solo. Use this list to find all the happening haunts in Little Havana. One thing’s for sure: you won’t run out of things to do here.
Taste Rum and Check out the Art at Cubaocho
This museum, bar and performing arts center is said to have the largest rum collection in Miami and maybe even all of Florida. At Cubaocho, you’ll never experience a dull moment. Check out the events calendar for live music, salsa lessons and bachata nights. Don’t forget your dancing shoes — and by dancing shoes, we mean the most comfortable ones you’ve got — because you’re about to burn some serious calories here. Try the famed mojito or a sampling of the best rum in the house.
Catch a Flick at Tower Theater
One of Miami’s oldest cultural landmarks, Little Havana’s Tower Theater Miami has been open since 1926. The historic Art Deco-style theater is now run by Miami Dade College and shows both Spanish and English-language films, hosts local exhibitions and performances and welcomes MDC faculty for free lectures on various topics open to the community.
Experience Delectable Flavors at Azucar Ice Cream Company
This family-owned shop, right across from Tower Theater, was founded in 2011 and offers Latin-inspired ice cream and sorbet flavors made with only the highest quality ingredients. Almost everything here is locally-sourced, from the mamey picked up down the street at the Los Pinarenos fruit stand to the sweet plantain ( or maduros) prepared at El Nuevo Siglo Grocery Store. Azucar Ice Cream Company also works with Florida growers in the Redlands who provide locally-grown seasonal fruits and veggie to the shop when possible. You can’t go wrong with seasonal or signature Miami flavors here, but a cult favorite is the Abuela Maria made up of premium vanilla ice cream mixed with ruby red guava, rich cream cheese and crispy, crunchy Maria cookies.
Dance Your Heart Out to Live Salsa Music at Hoy Como Ayer
Hoy Como Ayer features well-known Latin artists in live music shows that’ll keep you on your feet all night long. You may have seen this bar and lounge in the 2014 Jon Favreau film, "Chef," but chances are you’ve heard about it from a friend of a friend who took a life-changing weekend trip to Miami at some point. Hoy Como Ayer prides itself on celebrating today as if it were yesterday, with throwback Cuban salsa hits, proper nostalgia and live acts a few days a week.
Spot the Stars the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame
Also known as the Latin Walk of Fame and the Hispanic Hollywood, the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame — approved by the city in 1988 as a separate walk of fame specifically recognizing Latin celebrities — runs between 12th and 17th Avenues and includes pink marble stars embedded on the sidewalk. Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, Calle Ocho’s Walk of Fame commemorates only Latin artists and celebs with ties to South Florida. Pose for pictures here and find big names that have helped shape the community, including the queen of Cuban salsa dancing and music Celia Cruz, whose star was the first added in 1987.
Watch Miamians Play Dominos at Maximo Gomez Park
One of the most Miami things you can do is participate or act as a spectator in an outdoor game of domino. Just around the corner from the Walk of Fame, you’ll find Maximo Gomez Park, also known as Domino Park. Here, mostly older Cubans have a blast from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, sipping their cafecitos, engaging in good old fashioned conversation and playing a serious domino game. For over 35 years, this has been a meeting spot for local Cubans and now all Latins, a place where everyone is welcome. The park features domino-decorated tiled walkways and benches for anyone who cares to sit and watch a while.
Get Your Steps in During a Little Havana Food Tour
There’s no better way to really get a feel for the local food than trying a little something here and a little something there. Miami Culinary Tours offers a Little Havana Food & Cultural Tour that will teach participants about the neighborhood’s rich culture and history all while snacking at a handful (or more) of Calle Ocho’s greatest restaurants. Try a guava pastry or an authentic freshly-made Cuban sandwich. Empanadas are on the menu as well as exotic tropical fruit juices — always made right before your eyes.
Visit the Bay of Pigs Museum
Maybe a slightly odd and somber way to spend an early afternoon sightseeing in Miami, but the Bay of Pigs Museum (which closes at 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday) showcases memorabilia relating to 1961’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba where close to 1,300 Americans stormed the island and were met by the Cuban army. Nearly 100 people were killed in the takeover and many more were taken prisoner. This museum honors those freedom fighters who didn’t make it as well as survivors.
Enjoy Authentic Mexican Food and Tequila
There’s one old-school taqueria in the area that’s just as authentic as it is affordable and delicious. Mi Rinconcito Mexicano is frequented by locals and two can often share a huge meal for under $15. Then there’s Los Altos, the new second-story cocktail lounge and bar above Taquerias el Mexicano features floor-to-ceiling Mexican design, even in the bathrooms where you’ll find hand-painted Mexican fixtures. Cocktails are similar to what you’d find in Mexico City: intricate concoctions made with tequila or mezcal and fresh fruits, veggies, spices and more.