Little Havana & Art Deco/SoBe must-sees?

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#1
Minneapolis, MN
593 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
We are going on the Escape for our honeymoon in December and want to spend one night in Miami before our cruise plus one night after. We'd like to see Little Havana on one of those days and South Beach/the Art Deco district on the other day.

We are foodies and big drinkers, love craft beer, craft cocktails, girly-girl drinks made with real juice, authentic Cuban food, Latin fusion cuisine, ceviches, plantains, yuca. We'd like to see a few things of historical/cultural interest, but no guided tours or museum days.

Our itinerary will probably be something like this:

First Friday: Arrive MIA early afternoon. Take public transportation to whichever neighborhood we choose for our first night's stay so that we can see a little of the city and the people on the way to our hotel. Drop off bags and take a self-guided walking tour. Check in and shower for dinner. Eat, drink, dance. Head back to hotel around 11 PM, sleep around midnight.

Embarkation Saturday: Wake up around 8, walk to a hot local breakfast place around 9. Pack up and check out around 10. Uber to port.

Disembarkation Saturday: Wake up around 8. Big breakfast in Manhattan Room around 9. Leave the ship kicking and screaming around 10, last disembarkation group. Public transportation to second neighborhood. Drop bags at hotel. Then beach? Self-guided walking tour? Have street food or tapas in the late afternoon. Then more drinking/dancing. Late night snack. Back to hotel around midnight. Asleep by 1.

Final Sunday: Sleep in. Local brunch spot around 11. Lie on beach or by pool in the early afternoon? Self-guided walking tour? Uber or public transportation to airport around 2. Fly out around 4.

I would appreciate any suggestions on which neighborhood to do first and why; best public transportation options that don't involve a lot of transfers; recommended hotels in MIA East area, Little Havana proper, downtown/POM, South Beach Ocean Drive, and/or South Beach Art Deco District; good foodie-friendly breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner spots as well as bars/food trucks/nightclubs; and ideas for self-guided walking tours of Little Havana and the Art Deco District.

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#2
West Hartford, CT
361 Posts
Joined Jan 2007
South Beach and you enjoy a good cocktail (or two or three)? Check out the Art Deco Cocktail Tour (if you google those words, you'll find the right company with plenty of reviews on tripadvisor). Small tour company that is truly top notch.

I know that you indicated that you're not interested in a tour, but this really was outstanding and worth the time and money. We did this evening tour 2 years ago while spending a few days in South Beach and really enjoyed it. Learned a good deal about the art deco style (and actually still remember a lot of what we learned) and the tour included a specialty cocktail in several of the hotels. We really had a blast and you'll learn things that you never would on a self-guided tour. Only my husband and I were on this tour so it's not like we were being ushered through with large groups (and I think they always keep the groups small).

Haven't done it yet, but we are planning on checking out the Little Havana tour that this company does as well. No drinking on that tour, but seems like there's some serious good sampling of Cuban food (and coffee).

Regardless of what you do...Happy Honeymooning!
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#3
Fort Lauderdale, Florida!
15,437 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
There are walking food tours for Little Havana but make sure you are out of there after dark. It isn't dangerous but there is enough petty crime to make it a pain at night.

Just a heads up, there is no such thing as inauthentic Cuban food in South Florida. We have the largest Hispanic population in the world outside a Spanish Country. I'd also check and see if there are any food tours in Hialeah. It is better for Cuban food.

Literally any corner store will have the best Cuban food you've ever eaten. Just hire a guide.

There is a great walking Deco tour by the Miami Design Preservation League. They are the ones responsible for saving South Beach from developers so give them your tour money. www.MDPL.org
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#4
Minneapolis, MN
593 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
Hmm, I guess there are a few reasons I'm not considering guided tours. One, obviously, is the cost. This trip is already a big splurge for us. So adding $200+ for tours in Miami really isn't in our budget.

But another reason is just that we aren't really tour people. I'd rather spend the next 7 months learning a little bit about Art Deco and Cuban culture and then wander through and see a few high points while we are there. I'm not going to retain a ton of names and dates, so that isn't really important to me. And my boyfriend is uncomfortable in small groups of people who he doesn't know well. And we both like having the option for spontaneity.

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#5
Ft. Lauderdale
158 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
I just googled "self guided Art Deco tours Miami" and a couple web sites popped up that you could use as a guide. One if the sites said your first stop should be the Art Deco Welcome Center that the MDPL referenced above runs. You could probably map out a route and see a few of the more famous buildings. As for Little Havana, the most famous Cuban restaurant is Versailles. Yes the famous Cuban restaurant is named after the palace of the French royalty. I have never been there so can't rate the food. Enjoy your trip.
#6
Fort Lauderdale, Florida!
15,437 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Originally posted by anonmom
Hmm, I guess there are a few reasons I'm not considering guided tours. One, obviously, is the cost. This trip is already a big splurge for us. So adding $200+ for tours in Miami really isn't in our budget.

But another reason is just that we aren't really tour people. I'd rather spend the next 7 months learning a little bit about Art Deco and Cuban culture and then wander through and see a few high points while we are there. I'm not going to retain a ton of names and dates, so that isn't really important to me. And my boyfriend is uncomfortable in small groups of people who he doesn't know well. And we both like having the option for spontaneity.

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If you had gone to the MDPL website, you'd see the tours aren't $200 and they offer a self guided walking one for $15.

You'll drop a pretty penny for Cuban food in Little Havana outside a tour. I'd seriously consider it. Otherwise I'd just pick a Cuban restaurant and eat there.
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#7
Minneapolis, MN
593 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
Yup, I've found some self-guided walking tours online. We very well might end up following one.

What I'm really looking for though is personal recommendations from people who have been to specific restaurants, dance clubs, hotels, and historic sites.

Like is there one art deco hotel that you thought was really special, either for the architecture or the history behind it or the cocktail you had there or the deal that you got on the room or anything else that stood out to you?

Or a club in either South Beach or Little Havana that had a great vibe, the best drinks, fabulous music, etc.

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#8
South Florida
317 Posts
Joined Jul 2016
If you want to do a bar/club in Little Havana with latin flare go to Ball and Chain. As long as you stay on the main road SW 8th Street, Little Havana is fine during the night too. Another good spot in Brickell is Black Bird, there is also the roof top bar at the Langford Hotel in Downtown Miami and the roof top bar in Brickell City Centre, Sugar. Sugar has pretty much the best skyline views in Miami at the moment. Get there EARLY, especially on a weekend as the line gets long to go in.

As for food, I highly suggest either Drunkin Dragon or Yardbird in Miami Beach. Then walk around lincoln road and ocean drive at night.

As much as you don't want to do guided tours a great way to get around and see the main spots is the Hop On Hop Off Bus. Think about it as a mean of transit opposed to a tour. Biscayne National Park (coral reef snorkeling) is worth a look. The Everglades is fantastic, but its not pleasant there in the summer.

My favorite Pervuian food in Miami is at Pollo y Jarras in Downtown Miami, good casual place. Great everything. As for Cuban, you won't fine bad Cuban food in Miami, period. The best places are often the small kitchens in Downtown or Hialeah. Check out Enriquetas if you want something more local, lunch only. You could always also go to Versailles in Little Havana.
#9
Minneapolis, MN
593 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
Originally posted by Flymia
If you want to do a bar/club in Little Havana with latin flare go to Ball and Chain. As long as you stay on the main road SW 8th Street, Little Havana is fine during the night too. Another good spot in Brickell is Black Bird, there is also the roof top bar at the Langford Hotel in Downtown Miami and the roof top bar in Brickell City Centre, Sugar. Sugar has pretty much the best skyline views in Miami at the moment. Get there EARLY, especially on a weekend as the line gets long to go in.

As for food, I highly suggest either Drunkin Dragon or Yardbird in Miami Beach. Then walk around lincoln road and ocean drive at night.

As much as you don't want to do guided tours a great way to get around and see the main spots is the Hop On Hop Off Bus. Think about it as a mean of transit opposed to a tour. Biscayne National Park (coral reef snorkeling) is worth a look. The Everglades is fantastic, but its not pleasant there in the summer.

My favorite Pervuian food in Miami is at Pollo y Jarras in Downtown Miami, good casual place. Great everything. As for Cuban, you won't fine bad Cuban food in Miami, period. The best places are often the small kitchens in Downtown or Hialeah. Check out Enriquetas if you want something more local, lunch only. You could always also go to Versailles in Little Havana.
Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for. I had seen Ball & Chain online and that looks like the kind of place we'd enjoy. Is the Hop On Hop Off bus the same thing as the trolley?

I found a good rate at the EPIC for disembarkation Saturday and it looks like we could easily get from POM to EPIC on the trolley to drop off our bags, and then take the trolley over to Little Havana. I feel like if we do a little people watching and walk around Calle Ocho and see the park where everyone plays dominoes we'll feel like we've accomplished a lot and then we'll be ready for dinner/drinking/dancing!

When you say to get to Sugar early, what time do you mean? Early means so many different things in various places.

I'll look up the restaurants you mentioned and see what looks good to us. Thanks!


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#10
Ft. Lauderdale
158 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
There are several Art Deco hotels you could check out. The outdoor bar at the Clevelander is well known. I have not been there in years but the frozen drinks used to be really good and the people watching is top notch. The pool area at the Delano also used to be a popular hangout but again I haven't been there in years. That should get you started, there is lots of info online.
#11
South Florida
317 Posts
Joined Jul 2016
Originally posted by anonmom
Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for. I had seen Ball & Chain online and that looks like the kind of place we'd enjoy. Is the Hop On Hop Off bus the same thing as the trolley?

I found a good rate at the EPIC for disembarkation Saturday and it looks like we could easily get from POM to EPIC on the trolley to drop off our bags, and then take the trolley over to Little Havana. I feel like if we do a little people watching and walk around Calle Ocho and see the park where everyone plays dominoes we'll feel like we've accomplished a lot and then we'll be ready for dinner/drinking/dancing!

When you say to get to Sugar early, what time do you mean? Early means so many different things in various places.

I'll look up the restaurants you mentioned and see what looks good to us. Thanks!


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The Hop on Hop Off bus is a tourist bus, not sure of the price, but it has routes all over the city. The Miami Trolley Bus is good too, you can certainly use that and its free. You could always Uber/Lyft around too. The Epic is a great hotel and location, you can take the trolley or you can take an Uber which would be around $7.00

As for Sugar and early, it depends. On a weekday the bar will get busy with happy hour, so early would be 4pm-5pm. On a weekend the bar will get busy pretty quick as its very popular right now. 6pm-7pm would be "early." Not that Miami is an "early" city. Most bars, lounges, nightclubs don't start to really get busy until past 12am. But every time I walk by Sugar, even at 9pm on a weekend, there is a line to just put yourself on the list to wait in line to get in.
#12
New York, NY
631 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
The OP mentions public transportation the day before embarkation and the day of disembarkation. If you are not carrying much baggage .... this can work. If you are take a taxi.
#13
Fort Lauderdale, Florida!
15,437 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Flymia, I love all the places you mentioned but they are expensive. Even Sugar at Happy Hour is going to be tough for someone on a budget and Yardbird is probably out of their budget.

To the OP, Puerto Suaga in South Beach is very inexpensive. Also try Tap Tap on Espanola Way.

I think we get so used to South Florida being expensive that we don't flinch paying $7 for a happy hour draft beer or $26 for fried chicken for one.
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#14
Minneapolis, MN
593 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
Yes, budget is pretty important to us. We'd rather take more trips that are less expensive instead of just one big one that is all luxury.

These tips have all been great. I did some more research on Ball & Chain and found that they have a big pachanga every Saturday night, so we're definitely going to stay in Little Havana the Saturday after the cruise so we can go to that. Also found the menu and drinks menu on their website and everything looks amazing and reasonably priced.

I also found out that to get to POM from South Beach you have to go through downtown, even though it is halfway between the two as the crow flies. So I am now looking at hotels in downtown Miami for the Friday before our cruise. Preferably somewhere close to public transportation. We'll just have 1 rollaboard each and 1 backpack each, so luggage isn't a problem.

Plan so far is to fly in to MIA Friday afternoon or late morning, take public transit to downtown/POM hotel, drop bags and then head to South Beach to walk around, people watch, check out the art deco buildings and just kind of graze on food and drink that looks good when we see it. I suppose we should go to the actual beach, too.

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#15
Brickell, Miami FL
6,707 Posts
Joined Apr 2003
Love Ball and Chain! They have a great happy hour during the week and on Sundays. Drinks are BOGO and there are food specials.

Bar Nancy is another great new bar in Little Havana. They have happy hour every day from 5-7.

Love the rooftop bar at the Langford. And they have a great happy hour.

Sugar gets lines out the door. And they can be very picky about who they let up later on at night. I've gone with friends who are all in the industry (also had a friend who bartended for the hotel) and loved the view but didn't care for the cocktails. Most of us haven't been back. I didn't know they had started a happy hour!
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Carolyn

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#16
Miami - Ft. Lauderdale
1,927 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
[quote=anonmom;53174851]

I also found out that to get to POM from South Beach you have to go through downtown, even though it is halfway between the two as the crow flies. So I am now looking at hotels in downtown Miami for the Friday before our cruise. Preferably somewhere close to public transportation. We'll just have 1 rollaboard each and 1 backpack each, so luggage isn't a problem.

Once you come off the McCarthur Causeway (I-395), turn left on US 1 (Biscayne Blvd), and it is approximately 1 mile to Port Blvd (5th St). You do not go through Downtown at all.
#17
Minneapolis, MN
593 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
[quote=brunello22;53189082]
Originally posted by anonmom

I also found out that to get to POM from South Beach you have to go through downtown, even though it is halfway between the two as the crow flies. So I am now looking at hotels in downtown Miami for the Friday before our cruise. Preferably somewhere close to public transportation. We'll just have 1 rollaboard each and 1 backpack each, so luggage isn't a problem.

Once you come off the McCarthur Causeway (I-395), turn left on US 1 (Biscayne Blvd), and it is approximately 1 mile to Port Blvd (5th St). You do not go through Downtown at all.
Hmmm, I guess I'm using the wrong term. Maybe "downtown" refers to a smaller area than I thought. I just mean that the island with the port on it only has a road going onto it on the west end. So even though South Beach is super close to the east side of the port island where the ships actually dock, you have to drive off of Miami Beach's island, down that causeway, over a few tiny islands, and then drive on the mainland a little way, before turning on to the island the port is on.

Before I looked closely at the map, I assumed there was a bridge between South Beach and Dodge Island, so that you could just go from one to the other without having to go back to the mainland.

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#18
Minneapolis, MN
593 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
On Ball & Chain's website it says the happy hour is actually every day, including Saturdays. Hoping that is the case...

I think we'll skip Sugar. I don't need the stress of waiting in line and wondering if we'll be let in or not!
Originally posted by cjskids
Love Ball and Chain! They have a great happy hour during the week and on Sundays. Drinks are BOGO and there are food specials.

Bar Nancy is another great new bar in Little Havana. They have happy hour every day from 5-7.

Love the rooftop bar at the Langford. And they have a great happy hour.

Sugar gets lines out the door. And they can be very picky about who they let up later on at night. I've gone with friends who are all in the industry (also had a friend who bartended for the hotel) and loved the view but didn't care for the cocktails. Most of us haven't been back. I didn't know they had started a happy hour!

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#20
Brickell, Miami FL
6,707 Posts
Joined Apr 2003
Originally posted by anonmom
On Ball & Chain's website it says the happy hour is actually every day, including Saturdays. Hoping that is the case...

I think we'll skip Sugar. I don't need the stress of waiting in line and wondering if we'll be let in or not!



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Just checked with a friend and they do have happy hour on Saturday. I guess I haven't gone on a Saturday!

Honestly, Sugar is okay. I know someone who got turned away for having really nice dressy flat sandals on. There was a dress code and it didn't match the code!! lol My friend who bartended for the hotel didn't move up there to bartend because she figured that it would soon die down and she would rather be at the other bars. The other problem is if it rains, there is no where to go!
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Disney Wonder 7/19/02~Bahamas ---- Disney Wonder 1/5/03~Bahamas
Disney Magic 6/7/03~W. Caribbean ---- Disney Magic 1/3/04~W. Caribbean
Golden Princess 10/24/04~S. Caribbean --- Golden Princess 7/11/05~N. European Capitals
Star Princess 3/19/06 (the infamous fire cruise) ~ Western Caribbean
Disney Wonder 7/23/06~Bahamas ---- Crown Princess 11/4/06~S. Caribbean
Crown Princess 3/31/07~S. Caribbean ---- Crown Princess 3/29/08~S. Caribbean
Crown Princess 4/5/09~E. Caribbean ---- Crown Princess 10/30/10~Western Caribbean
Crown Princess 11/12/11~S. Caribbean ---- Norwegian Sky 9/3/12~Bahamas
Majesty of the Seas RCL 1/11/13~Bahamas --- Majesty of the Seas RCL 8/19/13~Bahamas
Ruby Princess 1/18/14~W. Caribbean ---- Ruby Princess 1/23/14~W. Caribbean
Caribbean Princess 9/25/14 ~ Princess Cay --- Regal Princess 11/6/14 ~ Caribbean
Regal Princess 11/9/14 ~ E. Caribbean --Norwegian Sky 2/13/15 ~ Bahamas
Regal Princess 4/12/15 ~ Caribbean --- Emerald Princess 3/5/16 ~ Caribbean
Norwegian Getaway 9/2/16 --- Regal Princess 11/27/16~Caribbean
Norwegian Getaway 4/16/17 ~ W Caribbean