Visitors to Miami will have many attractions to enjoy, such as the Miami Metrozoo, Seaquarium, and Vizcaya along with pristine beaches and popular South Beach with its historical Art Deco district. But to soak up some local Cuban culture, the place to go for the best atmosphere is surely Little Havana Miami. The popular thoroughfare of Southwest Eighth Street that runs through the heart of the area is known by its Spanish name of Calle Ocho in Little Havana.
This very busy area is full of atmosphere, and it's the perfect place for strolling through the streets, shopping or sampling the fare at a local restaurant in Little Havana for a taste of Cuban cuisine. As you take a leisurely stroll along Calle Ocho in Little Havana, you will find locals playing daily games of dominos at Máximo Gómez Park, also known as Domino Park.
The Tower Art Center in Little Havana Miami features Spanish movies and is in itself a beautiful building built in the Art Deco style prevalent in Miami for several decades. Several art galleries found along Calle Ocho in Little Havana include Molina Fine Art Gallery, Latin Art Core, and Irene Albalat Fine Arts, which features original Cuban art in oil, ink-jet printer generated giclee prints, and acrylic painting.
Finding a restaurant in Little Havana serving authentic Cuban food won't be difficult. There are numerous restaurants and cafes in Little Havana where you can dine on Cuban specialties such as roast pork and breaded steak. A favorite restaurant in Little Havana among locals and visitors alike is Versailles, where the atmosphere is friendly and the generous servings of black beans and rice, shredded beef stew, and Cuban sandwiches are served in a décor of etched mirrors, chandeliers, and murals.
Little Havana is also known for its aromatic Cuban coffee, and while strolling the area, a cup of sweet espresso along with a fresh-baked guava pastry or coconut macaroons from one of the Cuban pastry shops is a real treat. Shops selling flavored tropical ice creams such as coconut and tamarind or sugar cane juice provide add to the atmosphere of this energetic Latin district. Numerous stores and shops also have a variety of other items, such as imported goods from Spain and herbal medicines.
Miami's history includes an active cigar manufacturing business, and when visiting Little Havana Miami you will have the opportunity to see the process of creating hand-rolled cigars. Tourists and locals can enjoy a freshly rolled cigar from one of the cigar shops in the area, and at the El Credito Cigar Factory, opened in 1968, visitors can tour the factory and watch a dozen cigar makers create La Gloria cigars firsthand. Just down the street from El Credito is the family-owned El Rey de Los Habanos cigar factory, which is the smallest factory in the area. Visitors can enter the factory and watch the cigar makers roll the cigars by hand without the use of any machinery or other devices.
For two weeks during March, Little Havana celebrates Hispanic culture and heritage with the Calle Ocho Festival, one of the best events in Miami. The festival covers several blocks of the area, with more than 40 stages set up throughout the streets for live music and other performers. The festival is a huge street fair that also has dancing, singing, parades, food, and drinks, and it attracts huge crowds to the area.