Miami is home to a vibrant Cuban-American community that has helped shape the culture of the entire city. The best place to go to experience Cuban culture firsthand is the historic Little Havana district, specifically its main thoroughfare, Calle Ocho (8th Street). From restaurants to art galleries, here are five things to see and do in iconic and energetic Little Havana, Miami, which can totally thrill your senses.
Feast Your Eyes at Cubaocho Museum and Performing Art Center
In the early 1990s, art collector Roberto Ramos arrived in Miami seeking asylum with numerous works of Cuban art in tow. Fast forward to 2019, and he’s now the owner and operator of the Cubaocho — a successful museum and cultural center highlighting the best of Cuban-American art. In addition to taking in the diverse range of visual art pieces, you can catch live music performances on certain nights of the week.
Enjoy the Rich Scent of Cuban Cigars (and Learn a Thing or Two)
Curious travelers have been been catching flights to Miami over the decades to understand more about the Cuban art of cigar making. Even if you don’t smoke them, there’s something so appealing about the smell of a quality cigar. Little Havana boasts multiple cigar shops, the most famous being the Little Havana Cigar Factory. Their knowledgeable staff is ready to teach you anything you’d like to know about the history of cigars, how they are made, as well as tips for selecting one from their extensive collection that will appeal to your unique senses.
Sip a Mojito and Move Your Feet to a Live Salsa Band at Ball & Chain
The iconic Ball & Chain music club was founded in 1935 as a saloon, and has continued to evolve through various owners over the past 80 years. In the 1950s, musical greats such as Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and Louie Armstrong graced the Ball & Chain’s pineapple-shaped stage. Today, live musicians play Cuban classics (as well as contemporary hits in Salsa style) as tourists sip strong drinks, down delicious Cuban sandwiches, and dance the night away.
Stroll the Latin Walk of Fame
Located between 12th and 17th Avenues (just look for Domino Park), the Paseo de las Estrellas is a series of pink marble sidewalk stars commemorating influential members of the Latin community. The first star was dedicated to Celia Cruz in 1987. Since then, stars for celebrities like Gloria Estefan, Thalia, Pablo Raúl Alarcón, and Agustín Lara have been added.
Taste Traditional Cuban Cuisine at Versailles Restaurant
You really can’t say you’ve visited Little Havana if you don’t eat at Versailles! A neighborhood hotspot since 1971, Versailles is more than just a restaurant; it’s where much of the history in the Cuban community has been made. It’s not uncommon to see politicians and celebrities enjoying ropa vieja and other delicious Cuban dishes in Versailles’s iconic dining room. If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, head to the take-out counter or bakery to sample some of the unforgettable fare.
Have you visited Little Havana, Miami? What spots would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments section.