Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: A Guide to Miami’s Little Havana

If you’re planning a trip to Miami, you’re probably already planning to visit the Art Deco District along Ocean Drive to check out the numerous elaborate and colorful 1920s buildings, andLincoln Road Mall (known as the Fifth Avenue of the South) might be on your list for some high-end shopping. Of course you‘ll want to hit South Beach for a dose of quintessential Miami: the ocean, waves, surfers, models, hipsters, and celebrities. But there is an area you may not have thought of – Little Havana. It should be on your itinerary so you can delight in classic Miami.

Photo by Anja Recker via trover.com

What to See

See the stars on Miami’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame - the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame. It honors famous Hispanics including Roberto Duran, Tito Puente, Martha Flores, and Maria Conchita Alonso. You’ll also see several monuments commemorating the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion in the nearby Cuban Memorial Plaza. The eternal flame monument and the 16-foot-long relief map of Cuba monument are especially impressive. Walk west down Calle Ocho and you’ll happen upon a brightly colored wall mural which pays tribute to Cuban, Latin, and American heroes like Selena, Ruben Dario, and Abraham Lincoln.

What to Do

Go to Máximo Gómez Park and watch the finely dressed Cuban old-timers play dominoes. It is more entertaining and fascinating than you would believe. Next, visit the Agustín Gaínza arts gallery. Gaínza is a famous Cuban-American artist who you can meet and chat with when you visit his gallery. You might even get to watch his technique as he paints. Now it is time to shop. Buy a Cuban cigar from one of the many cigar shops on Calle Ocho or a guayabera from a boutique. You should be starting to get a feel for classic Miami by now.

What to Eat

Try as many delicious Cuban foods as you can. The flavors and combinations of ingredients are sure to please. Calle Ocho is lined with cafes, food markets, bakeries, and coffee counters. You’ll find dishes like bacalao (codfish), chilindrón de cordero (lamb stew), Cuban chorizio burgers served with plantain chips, and steamed Cuban-style tamales with fresh salsa. The bakeries have breakfast empanadas and delicious guava pastries. A popular dessert is mantecado (vanilla ice cream with nutmeg and cinnamon). If you’re a coffee person, you’ll love the café cubano and café con leche, as well as the Cuban espressos.

Where to Stay

Spend your nights in one of the nearby Miami hotels that is close to the ocean to make the most of your stay. Conrad Miami is a 4-star hotel with a spa and a great location just a couple of blocks from the ocean. The hotel also has an on-site restaurant with creative cuisine and spectacular views. Courtyard by Marriott Miami Downtown, also not far from the ocean, has handsome rooms and a beautiful pool. You’ll love the sophisticated bistro and lounge too. JW Marriott Hotel Miami and JW Marriott Marquis Miami are two more well-reviewed hotels for your consideration.

Photo by Kev Hagopian via trover.com

Miami is an amazing city no matter where you stay and what you do. Be prepared to have a blast!

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