THE MIAMI WEEKEND GUIDE - WHERE TO STAY ; EAT & EXPLORE <> MIAMI , FLORIDA

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Miami

The first time I "visited" Miami - it was a passthrough to get on the cruise ship to the Bahamas. I arrived at 10 a.m. and with just enough for a quick bit before heading off to the docks. The drive from the airport to the docks left an impression and I promised myself a return trip. That trip happened several months ago and although it started off terribly with a nine hour delay getting from Orlando to Miami and lost luggage, I still had an incredible time and will not mind a return trip. There were a lot of things I could not get to on the itinerary.

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Miami

GETTING AROUND. We rented a car for the weekend. Our flight back home was scheduled for late sunday which allowed us sometime to make up for the nine hour delay we experienced on Friday. To make the most of our time, we decided to go with the tour bus option. We were able to cover more ground in a short amount of time that way. As such, we did not use our rental car much besides an excursion to little havana on Saturday afternoon. We drove around almost 25 minutes before finding parking. Considering that, I think we would have been better off taking cabs or Ubers. 

South Beach

WHERE TO STAY. If you can find a good deal nothing beats staying on South Beach and if you find a hotel right on the beach even better. Using the Hotel Tonight app, we booked the Sherry Frontenac. The rate was decent and the location was perfect. The hotel is quite old and the interior needs some TLC but getting to watch the sunrise above the ocean from our window and getting to the beach in under five minutes made up for outdated decor and amenities. 

Miami
South Beach

WHERE TO EAT. Whilst planning the trip, one thing we had an abundance of was food recommendations. Unfortunately, we did not really get to explore the food scene like we wanted. Notwithstanding, we still found some gems that are worth checking out if you find yourself in these parts. We arrived too late on Friday to bother with food and the stress of missed luggage and delayed flights meant we slept in on Saturday. When our luggage eventually arrived, we made our way to Little Havana for lunch at  Versailles restaurant.  The restaurant was packed, and instead of waiting around for a seat, we chose to have a wander around Little Havana. We made our first stop at  Cafe La Llave for a shot of Cuban coffee. It was really good (and very strong). Next, we found  Yisell Bakery Cafeteria, a classic Cuban bakery famous for its guava filled pastry (ooh la la) and then on to Los Pinarenos Fruteria - the over 120-year-old fruit stand/shop around the corner where we got freshly made to order coconut water. We wrapped up our food excursion in Little Havana with a visit to  Azucar ice cream factory serving the most incredible ice cream with authentic Cuban flavors like plantain, rum raisin, and guava. I had two scoops of the plantain and guava flavors

For Dinner, we found an Italian spot close to our hotel on South Beach. Our dinner at Cafe prima pasta was incredible. The linguine seafood from the discount menu was amazing. We spent most of Sunday sight-seeing before winding up at Coconut Grove. We had the most incredible ceviche at Bice Bistro and a post-lunch dessert runs at Bianco Gelato.

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Miami
Azucar ice cream factory 
Little Havana, Miami
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Bice Bistro
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WHERE TO EXPLORE. Full disclosure - we spent most of our time exploring Little Havana and laying on the beach (South Beach). If that was all we did with our time - we will have been fully satisfied.  If there is one thing (maybe two) things I insist you do in Miami - watch the sunrise and sunset - Miami was where I fell in love with watching sunrise and sunset - something about the sun peaking above the waves - I cannot describe it - simply magical. We spent a lot of time watching the sunrise and set. Then we explored Little Havana - read all about that here. There is so much culture in Little Havana. After having a lazy Saturday on the beach and in Little Havana - we spent our last day as proper tourist. We got tickets on one of those tour buses - it was a perfect way to see and explore the city in a short time frame. We did not spend a lot of time exploring any one place, but I definitely built a list of places I will like to explore more if I have the opportunity to return to Miami in future. The arts districts are at the top of the list - the Wynwood Arts District in Miami is swoon and Instagram-worthy; Vizcaya Museum & Gardens; Coconut Grove. We also spent sometime on Ocean drive - we did not buy anything, but we window shopped to our heart's content.

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South Beach Miami
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Little Miami
South Beach
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Little Havana
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Miami
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A GUIDE TO SPENDING TIME IN LITTLE HAVANA <> MIAMI, FLORIDA

One of the top recommendations when I was planning a recent trip to Miami - a visit to Little Havana. We arrived too late on Friday evening to go anywhere and I was tired and frustrated from nine hour flight delay getting to Miami and lost luggage. Saturday morning was spent waiting for the airline to deliver my luggage.  Once all of that was sorted, we headed out to Little Havana. 

We arrived mid afternoon, parked the car somewhere around 8th avenue and started walking (apparently in the wrong direction) for about 10 minutes before realizing the main attractions are located between 12th and 17th avenue (many thanks to the helpful tour guide who pointed us in the right direction). We turned around and headed towards 12th avenue. We had all afternoon to wander around Little Havana which allowed us to pop in on anything that seemed interesting. Just in case you don't want to spend all afternoon here on your Miami getaway, here is a guide to the best (of the best) of Little Havana.

Little Havana, Miami

The main street of Calle Ocho is lined with restaurants, cigar shops, quaint mini markets and fruit markets. First, We walked past the Bag of Pigs monument at 13th and memorial avenue. The monument of an eternal flame burns in memory of those killed in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Continuing on Calle Ocho, we arrived at  Ball and Chain restaurant renowned for live music and authentic Cuban style food - The mojito is highly recommended. Then on to the domino park on S.W 8th and S.W. 15th - stop here to take in a spirited game of dominos and chess. About a half block from the domino park, you will find the only theatre in Miami dedicated to foreign films. I almost missed it.  However the blue vintage car packed outside caught my attention. There was a film festival going one and I did not want to brave the crowd so we continued on Calle Ocho. Eventually, we arrived at  El Pub  -considered one of the best restaurants in Little Havana. We did not stop in for lunch, because I was hoping to get to the world's most famous Cuban restaurant - Versailles restaurant, but it was highly recommended by locals which means a great deal to me.

We continued our walk past more shops and restaurant until we arrived at Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company - known for selling authentic Cuban cigars and the finest cigars outside of Cuba. Since I am not a cigar connoisseurs, I have to take their world for it, but the flow of traffic in and out of this store seems to attest to the claims.

The amazing aroma of coffee drew me to Cafe La Llave where I had a shot of cuban coffee - very dark and strong and quite good. On the corner, there is a shop that claims to have the best Cuban mojito - I did not put that claim to test, however, I can vouch for the lemonade - it was top notch.

A short while later, we arrived at Yisell Bakery Cafeteria, a classic cuban bakery famous for its guava filled pastry (oooh la la) and then on to Los Pinarenos Fruteria - the over 120 year old fruit stand/shop around the corner. Down the street is the Azucar ice cream factory serving the most incredible ice cream with authentic Cuban flavors like plantain, rum raisin and guava. I had two scoops - plantain and guava.  I would have been satisfied to return to my hotel after this - It alone is worth the trip to little Havana. 

Pay attention as you walk through the neighborhood so you don't miss the fabulous graffiti art that lines the walls and Calle Ocho walk of fame stars dedicated to famous latin entertainers. Our exploration was interrupted several times by light drizzles but nothing major enough to put and damper on the day. We spent a pleasant and entertaining three hours in Little Havana before heading back to our hotel. Don't leave Miami until you have spent time in Little Havana.

Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Miami

Have you been to Little Havana ? What did you think ? Any other recommendations ?