After the dictatorship of Fidel Castro rose in Cuba in the late 1950s, a number of Cubans left their country and resettled in Miami. At first, they thought it would be a temporary home, but those same immigrants ended up staying for generations and leaving a lasting impact on what has become one of Florida’s most exciting cities. Cuban culture has seeped into the roots of Miami, once making it a spot to sample Cuban culture for those that couldn’t visit Cuba. While the country may have opened up its borders again, Miami is still very much a place to get an authentic sample of Cuban culture.
If you are looking to explore how local Cubans have helped shape what Miami is today, there are a number of “must-stop” spots to really experience the culture and flavor of Cuba.
Walking the Calle Ocho
One of the most enticing neighborhoods in Miami is Little Havana. This is where you can feel the Cuban influence most strongly, but it isn’t the only spot in town. You will want to start a visit to Little Havana on the main drag, the Calle Ocho. Streets lined by brightly colored roosters and a walk of fame that honors famous Cubans, you can find everything here from small art galleries to Latin music. If you are visiting in March, you may be able to catch the annual Carnival of Calle Ocho that culminates every experience had here out in the streets. Of course, even if it isn’t March, visiting this area for the restaurants and bakeries alone is well worth it.
Take a Break at the Azucar Ice Cream Company
If you are new to Latin culture, then you don’t know that they have the absolute best ice cream flavors. If you need to find out right now, then a visit to Azucar Ice Cream Company is your next destination. While they have the classic flavors, be bold and try something you can’t find at Baskin Robbins likes Café con Leche, Sweet Plantain, or Caramel Flan. They are also pretty well-known for busting out seasonal flavors a well like Egg Nog around Christmas and Vanilla and Pink Meringue around Valentine’s Day.
El Titan de Bronze Cigar Tour
Everyone knows how coveted Cuban cigars are, even when they were illegal – perhaps because they were illegal. However, what makes them so special? If you visit the El Titan de Bronze, you can find out. This family-owned cigar shop is an old hand at creating Cuban cigars, rolled right in Miami. To ensure the best quality, they roll their cigars in small batches and invite interested parties to come to watch in order to see how it is done.
Dance at Hoy Como Ayer
If there is one stereotype about Miami that will always hold true is that the city loves to dance. You would be hard-press to go more than a few blocks in any direction and not find a place to do so. However, if your flavor of the evening is Salsa dancing to Latin funk, the Hoy Como Ayer is a must. This club is a little dated compared to Miami’s hotter nightclubs, but it blends the heritage of Cuba with the modern world in a perfect way. If that’s not enough enticement, they make an excellent mojito as well.
Enjoy Cuban Food at Versailles
Don’t be confused by the French name, Versailles has been dubbed the most famous Cuban restaurant in the city. It is one of those spots that is a true landmark when it comes to food. If you are exploring Cuban culture in Miami, it would be a travesty if you didn’t have at least one world-famous Cuban sandwich from Versailles or any other great restaurant serving them up. However, you also might want to consider an order of croquetas, ropa vieja, or lechon asado as well.
While you are in the area, you may also want to consider a quick break from the Miami heat in one of the many small Cuban cafes as well. They make a great cup of coffee and guava pastries or empanadas are a flavorful way to start the morning as well.
If you are a big foodie and be honest, who isn’t? You may also want to look into the culinary tours that go through Little Havana. They are a great way to learn a lot about Cuban culture in the city and get absolutely lost in an eclectic variety of Cuban flavors.
Attend “Cultural Fridays”
If you find yourself in Miami on the third Friday of any month, it must be spent in Little Havana. Viernes Culturales or Cultural Friday is a free festival in Little Havana. It is meant to highlight local art, music, and food. Vendors set up their stalls street side and you can see a little bit of everything without getting lost in all the shops. Of course, you risk getting lost in all the food stalls, so be careful there.
Play Dominoes in Maximo Gomez Park
Also known as Domino Park, if you are feeling sporting and have any talent for dominoes, this is the place to go. This park is a place to enjoy coffee, a cigar, and the vicious trash talk you hear from elders in the local Cuban community. Really, the trash talk is worth a visit alone as they have some pretty good stings. However, best sharpen up your domino game and grow some thick skin if you are looking to play a little.
Watch Culture Culminate at the Cubaocho
While the aforementioned Hoy Como Ayer is better for dancing, Cubaocho is an experience unlike any other. While their typical entertainment is live Latin music, they also have events like film screenings and drama performances. However, no matter what is happening, it is worth going inside. Essentially the whole building is one giant Cuban art gallery. You would be hard pressed to find even a foot of the bare wall in the place. Adorned with art and showcasing local culture for everyone to enjoy, Cubaocho is the culmination of all the Cuban culture you can see in Miami.