Calle Ocho Music Festival

The Calle Ocho Music Festival happens every year in March in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. We did not plan our trip around this festival but we happened to discover that it would be during our trip. We decided we should check it out since we wanted to see and eat in Little Havana anyways. The festival is the largest Latin American music festival in North America and it is free to attend. It takes place along several blocks on Calle Ocho. There are stages set up every couple blocks with live music. The festival is very crowded and can be a bit crazy as with any concert or music festival. We didn’t spend any lengthy amount of time at any one stage but when we did pass by the stages the music we heard was all very good. There were larger crowds around each stage and lots of people dancing and having a good time!
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We were really there for the food! There are street venders along both sides of the street selling all sorts of wonderful food! You can find any kind of Latin American food you want at this festival. We saw Mexican, Argentinian, Puerto Rican and Cuban to name a few specifics. We spent our time walking down the street in search of great street food to try.
We had some really awesome carne asada- that was the star of the afternoon for us! We saw this meat grilling on a tipi shaped wood fired grill (pictured below) and decided we had to stop at this food stand. We got the steak which came with fried plantains, something similar to coleslaw with fresh cilantro and potatoes. It was a lot of food but we did manage to try a few other things as we walked. We also tried a sweet corn pie which tastes like a corn pudding that is fried like a pancake and then some cheese is melted in-between two patties like a grilled cheese. We also had a fried empanada. Shredded chicken was the only filling in the empanada we had. It was not bad but we were expecting a filling more like what we had in Chile where there was always meat and cheese inside not just the meat. We felt like it would have been better with cheese as well as shredded chicken. This is just our preference and of course different cultures make their empanadas differently. We also only only tried them from one food stand so maybe others had different fillings.
While at the festival, you can see Domino Park and the iconic Calle Ocho rooster statues which you always read about when researching what to do in Little Havana.  It is good to know that a lot of the businesses and restaurants in Little Havana are closed during the festival. You can buy beer and other drinks from some of the bars in the area and from other street vendors. But if you are looking to sit down inside for a meal or a drink you will likely need to leave the festival to find something. We sat and enjoyed our carne asada at the Cuban Memorial Boulevard Park. This is a small park just off Calle Ocho with a memorial to those who fought for Cuban independence. It had a few benches with seating.  A lot of the street food available is easier to walk around with while you eat. You can also find less crowded areas along the sidewalk to stop and eat your food if needed.
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One big thing we definitely noticed was the lack of bathrooms. We were expecting at least one or two areas with porter potties or something since it was such a large festival. We passed a few restaurants that had signs saying $2 or $3 to use the bathroom. We finally came across a couple porta potties tucked back away from Calle Ocho. Those were free to use but were out of toilet paper. There happened to be a vendor selling soft drinks and water right next to these porter potties. He did have napkins he was charging for if you wanted to use some in place of toilet paper. So especially if you are drinking while at the festival just be aware that finding a bathroom may not be as easy or cheap as you expected.
We took an Uber from Miami Beach to the festival. Uber ride share is a great option to help keep your Uber costs down. Do be mindful that the festival is very crowded so the traffic getting there can be a bit crazy. Our Uber driver was able to drop us off within a block or two of the festival and then made sure we knew where we were going. A tip if taking an Uber away from the festival when you are ready to leave-  walk a block or two away so that you can more easily be picked up away from the crowds. If driving yourself to the festival be prepared to pay for parking and we would recommend getting there early before traffic gets too crazy.
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We had a great time at Calle Ocho! Whether you are there for the food, the music or just to have a great cultural experience it is worth a visit if you are in Miami in March. Again be prepared for big crowds. Knowing some Spanish is helpful when ordering food. If you don’t know any Spanish you can certainly point to what you want and still get by. We never felt unsafe or unwelcome while we were there. We saw lots of other tourists as well as locals. Our Uber driver recommended keeping your wallet in your front pocket and for women keeping your purse or bag close to you to avoid pick pocketing. We would second this recommendation and recommend not bringing a large purse or bag, just a small cross body bag for women is a good idea. Again we had no problems but this is just good advise whenever you are somewhere with a large crowd.
Check out or other posts for more information on the Miami Beach area:
-TFWYs
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What to Do and See in Miami Beach

We are typically pretty desperate for sunshine and warm weather by February/March since we live in Michigan where it is cold and usually snowing until mid to late April. We searched for a direct flight out of our local airport in hopes of a quick beach getaway and decided on Miami. Since we wanted a beach vacation we decided to stay in Miami beach not in Miami it’s self. We also wanted to see the historic Art Deco area so we landed on an Air B and B in South Beach. South Beach has a reputation for being a huge party area which is really not our scene. If that is what you are looking for you can definitely find it quite easily in South Beach. If you are like us and that isn’t what you are looking for don’t worry, there is way more to South Beach than just being a party town! Here is our list of what to see and do in South Beach besides just embracing the party scene.

The Beach:
Of course if you are staying in Miami Beach you are likely there for a beach vacation. The beach here is awesome! White sand, turquoise waters, and lots of space. The beach is wide and goes on for miles!

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We stayed near Lummus Park which is right along the beach. The park has a large outdoor workout space with lots of equipment and lots of volley ball nets. There is also a nice bike path you can walk along to get views of Ocean Drive and the Art Deco without having to be hassled by the street vendors or restaurants trying to get you to come in or sit down for a meal with them (we talk more about this in our where to eat in Miami Beach post, you can find the link at the end of this post). There are public bathrooms with shower stations you can rinse off at after enjoying the beach.  There are multiple points of entry to the beach on the island so wherever you are staying there will be public beach access nearby. The beach can get crowded but as we said it goes on for miles so if you happen to enter the beach in a more crowded area you can keep walking either north or south until you find a quitter spot. The beach is lined with life guard stations all decorated different colors going along with the Art Deco theme in the area. There are areas where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards and jet skis on the beach if that is something you are interested in.

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South Pointe Pier and Park:
If you walk all the way south on the beach you will come to South Pointe Pier. From the beach you can get to the pier and to South Point Park. You will likely see many people fishing from the pier. You can also get great views of the beach from the pier.

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After walking along the pier you can take the path through South Point park. The path goes along the channel so you can see the boats coming in and out as you walk. There are lots of benches if you want to stop and sit while enjoying the views. As you continue walking there are a few restaurants and some green spaces where you will see people sitting in the shade enjoying a picnic or just relaxing. There is also a small  park with some water fountains we saw kids running through and playing on. If you do have kids this could be something fun to do to if you are looking for a break from the beach. You will also walk past a marina full of very large, impressive boats/yachts which you can admire as you go. This channel is also where the cruise ships leave from. We saw multiple cruise ships leaving just about every day we were there.  Since Miami is on the east coast of Florida you don’t get a sunset over the beach but if you sit on the benches at South Pointe park you can get a sunset over the city. We brought our own bottle of wine and had a relaxing time here watching the sun set.

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Art Deco:
The area of South Beach near Lummus Park is the historic Art Deco district. There is an art deco welcome center where you can get information about the area. We did not go in so cannot comment on everything they have to offer. We walked around on our own and were able to see all the major Art Deco buildings in the area. The majority of these buildings are on Ocean Drive and Collins Street. Most of the buildings are hotels, shops or restaurants. Ocean drive is quite touristy and is definitely where you will find the party scene. We suggest walking on the sidewalk along Lummus Park which is across the street from Ocean Drive. That way you can get better views of the Art Deco and take photos without being hasseled by street vendors or the restaurants asking you to come sit down for a drink or a meal. The buildings are lite up at night so even if you aren’t much of a night owl it is worth walking around this area once it gets dark so you can see everything lite up.

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There is also a lot of really amazing food in South Beach. For more on where to eat check our our post A Foodies Guide to Miami Beach.

And for the best cocktails in Miami Beach check out or post The Broken Shaker – Best Cocktails in Miami Beach

We really enjoyed Miami Beach and would love to go back! We highly recommend this as a great beach vacation spot for anyone!

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-TFWYS