Tag Archives: Cuisine

Las Vegas Itinerary

21 Jan

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My husband and I spent three nights over MLK weekend in Las Vegas.  Below was our itinerary:

THURSDAY:  Arrived around 10am.  Checked into our hotel, Encore (HIGHLY recommend – see picture below of the view from our room).  Walked through Wynn, Palazzo and Venetian.  Ate at I ❤ Burgers at Venetian.  Relaxed and then walked the strip down to Paris.  Finally, we ate dinner at Olives at the Bellagio (HIGHLY recommend).  We got a table outside right next to the fountain (see picture below).  After dinner, we went to Ghost Bar on the roof of the Palms (see picture below of the view from Ghost Bar).

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FRIDAY:  We had breakfast/lunch at Terrace Point Cafe at the Wynn.  Afterwards, we hung out at the pool (see picture below of one of the pool areas).  We had dinner at CraftSteak at MGM Grand (HIGHLY recommend).  We then spent the rest of the evening walking around the Strip, including Excalibur and ending at Mandalay Bay.

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SATURDAY:  We had brunch at The Buffet (HIGHLY recommend).  Afterwards, we hung out at the pool again.  Then we spent some time at the sports book at the Wynn watching basketball games.  At night, we went to see Penn & Teller (HIGHLY recommend) at Rio Hotel (see picture below with Penn).  Afterwards, we went to Rio’s rooftop bar, Voodoo Rooftop Nightclub (HIGHLY recommend – the views are amazing).  We ended the night at Ne-Yo’s show at Surrender Nightclub at Encore (see picture below inside the nightclub).

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SUNDAY:  We checked out of Encore.  We ate lunch at the sports book at the Wynn.  My husband spent the rest of the day at the sports book, while I enjoyed my day pass at Encore’s spa.  We walked the Strip quickly, had a fast dinner at a Encore’s Lobby Bar, and then headed to the airport.  We had an 11:30pm flight that got us home Monday morning.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Meet a promoter and really utilize them to get into clubs for free or reduced prices.  My husband and I met a promoter on the street outside of Cesar’s Palace.  We ended up texting him each night to get on the list for certain clubs and it really worked out.  We saved a lot of money.
  • Bring a second ID with you at all times.  My husband and I tried to get into Hakkasan at MGM Grand, but they would not recognize my driver’s license.  After that, I traveled with a second ID even though I never needed it again.
  • If your husband is (or your friends are) hanging out at a sports book for the day (e.g., NFL Sundays), get a day pass to the spa.  I paid $40 for a day pass at Encore’s spa and really enjoyed it.
  • If you want to go to a sports book, my husband liked the one at the Wynn the best.   After the Wynn, his second choice was MGM Grand’s sports book.

Cape Cod MUSTs

3 Jan

Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod – The wine tastings are $10 per person and you try 5 wines.

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White Crest Beach in Wellfleet, MA – the cliffs and beach are beautiful.

The Beachcomber – It’s a bar & restaurant in Wellfleet, MA.  The drinks are great and the nachos are even better!

Cape Cod Chip Factory – The tour is really not all that great since you just walk down a hallway while looking through windows into the factory and reading the history of the factory.  However, at the end you can buy a lot of different types of Cape Cod chips that I have not seen in stores.

Provincetown – Visit the art galleries, walk around, and see a show.

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Eat dinner at the Lobster Pot in Provincetown, MA.  I don’t even eat seafood and I loved the food here.

South Africa and Mauritius Itinerary

10 Dec

Are you interested in traveling to South Africa and Mauritius?  Well, check out my 2 week itinerary!

Day 1:  Depart for Cape Town.

Day 2:  Arrive in Cape Town.  Hotel:  An African Villa.  Transportation from airport provided by Discovery Tours.

Day 3:  Cape Point morning tour with Hylton Ross (penguins, Cape of Good Hope).  Lunch at V&A waterfront (in particular, the market).  City & Table Mountain afternoon tour with Hylton Ross of Cape Town including Table Mountain, Camps Bay, City Hall, a market, and Malay quarter.  Dinner at V&A Waterfront.

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Day 4:  Great White Shark cage diving with Great White Shark Tours.  4:10am pick up.  Returned to Cape Town around 3pm.  Dinner near hotel – Sawadee (Thai food).

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Day 5:  All day wine tour with lunch through Wine Flies.

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Day 6:  All day Cape Town cultural and Robben Island tour through Hylton Ross.  Visited District Six Museum, Langa Township, and Robben Island.  Dinner at Raj in Camps Bay.

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Day 7:  Depart Cape Town for Kapama Game Reserve.   Hotel:  Kapama Karula.  Afternoon game drive.

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Day 8:  Morning elephant-backed safari.  Afternoon game drive.

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Day 9:  Morning game drive.  4+ hours at the spa.  Afternoon game drive.

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Day 10:  Morning game drive.  Afternoon depart for Johannesburg.  Hotel:  D’Oreale Grande Peermont.

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Day 11:  Depart Johannesburg for Mauritius.  Hotel:  Sugar Beach Resort.

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Day 12:  Beach day.

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Day 13:  Beach day.

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Day 14:  Catamaran – snorkeling, see dolphins, visit an island and lunch.

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Day 15:  Beach day.

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Day 16:  Depart Mauritius.  Return home.   7 hour layover in Johannesburg was spent exploring airport shops, lunch at City Lodge Hotel, and working out at Phela Live Wellness Centre.

Day 17:  Arrive home.

One Week in London Itinerary

10 Dec

Day 1, Tuesday:  

Leave for London in AM.  Arrive in London in PM.

Day 2, Wednesday:

Walk around London

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Day 3, Thursday:

Walk around London (again)

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Day 4, Friday:  

Trip to Paris for the day.  Booked Eurostar and Hop On Hop Off bus through Evan Evans Sightseeing Tours (Note: booking through a tourist agency was way cheaper for us than booking the Eurostar alone.  However, we also only booked the night before when Eurostar prices were really high).  We also bought metro cards when we arrived.   The Hop On Hop Off bus takes over two hours so to skip a lot of the delay we utilized the metro to get to a lot of the sites.

Some of the sites we visited include:  the Eiffel Tour (we didn’t go up), Le Louvre (we went inside and ran straight for the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa), Catedrale Notre Dame de Paris (we walked inside), Arc de Triomphe (walked underneath it), Opera National de Paris (only the outside), and we had lunch on the Champs-Elysses.   The absolute highlight of our trip was seeing the Eiffel Tour at night.  We had crepes and wine while watching the Eiffel Tour sparkle (at night, the  Eiffel Tour sparkles the first five minutes of every hour – after that, the lights are just the normal, beautiful lights).      Also, the best viewing spot is outside of Trocedero station.

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Extra Helpful Tips: (1) I would not attempt to go see the Catacombs if you only have one day.  It seems like the wait is hours any time you go.   (2) If you are planning this day trip in advance, book your Eiffel Tour fast pass tickets online.  We booked our day trip the night before so the Eiffel Tour tickets were already sold out. (3) Wear comfortable walking shoes.  If you are only doing a day trip, you will walk a lot!

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Saturday, October 26:

9am Train to Cambridge.  Arrived at 10am.  Walked around Cambridge, UK.  Visited John’s College and King’s College.  Had lunch near the river.  Shopped at the markets.

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We were back in London by 3pm.  When we got back to London we went straight for the NFL rally in Trafalgar Square (one of the reasons we were in London was for the NFL game that Sunday).  Afterwards, we walked around Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, and then we went to Covent Garden for cookies and macaroons.

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For dinner we went to Brick Lane for Indian food and then afterwards we went to a speakeasy – Callooh Callay.

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Sunday, October 27: 

For breakfast we ate at Up Market near Brick Lane (HIGHLY recommend).  Afterwards, we shopped at Up Market and at Spitalsfield Market.

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In the late afternoon we headed to Wembley for the NFL game (Jaguars vs. 49ers).  When that game was over, we went to Sports Bar & Grill at Victoria Station to watch more American football games.  At the very end of the night, we returned back to Buckingham Palace to take pictures at night.

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Monday, October 28:

We spent the morning walking around London some more: going inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, seeing the financial district, etc.  In the early afternoon we left London and arrived home in the evening.

Enjoy London (and Paris)! 

Options for a Layover in Johannesburg

8 Dec

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Stuck at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg for a while?   Well, we were too.  So, I created a list of some of the options for layovers.  Please note that the pricing may have changed.  Enjoy!

Have only an hour or two before your next flight?  I would just stay in the airport – there are quite a few stores and restaurants.  However, make sure that if you sit at a restaurant to let them know when your flight is.  We thought we had plenty of time – about 50 minutes before our flight started boarding – but the food came out after our flight was already boarding.

Want to workout?  Right outside the airport (it’s really across the street – walkable) is Phela Live Wellness Centre (see picture above).  They charged us $15 per person to use their gym for the day.   The gym is great: lots of treadmills and other cardio and weights.  They also have classes, but not while we were there.  In addition, they have a spa.  At the time we were there (November 2013) they had a great deal – $40 for two half hour sessions (for example, 1/2 hour foot massage followed with 1/2 hour head massage).   This is a great option if you have three + hours between flights.

Have a while and you want to rest, maybe hang by a pool, possibly even workout?   Head to City Lodge OR Tambo.  It’s about a block or two away (there are signs – it’s walkable).  City Lodge was going to charge us $60 total for a day pass (until 6pm) where we could get a room to wash up & rest, use the pool and utilize the gym.  Also, their restaurant had good food.

Have 1/2 a day or more?   Check out Emperor’s Palace – there are restaurants, a casino, shops, and a movie theater.  There is also a free shuttle from the airport.

Have almost a full day?  Check with local tourist agencies and book a day or 1/2 day tour of Johannesburg, Soweto, or the other sites nearby.

Are you arriving in the afternoon and leaving the next morning?  I recommend getting a room at the Emperor’s Palace complex.  We stayed at D’oreale Grande Peermont and really enjoyed it.  We slept well, had dinner at the Italian restaurant and were able to workout.  There is also a movie theater, a free shuttle to and from the airport,  a pool, shows, a casino, restaurants and shops.

Hope this helps!   Enjoy JoBurg!

One Week in Italy

1 Apr

In November of 2012, Matt and I spent 8 days in Italy. I have already posted our recommended TO DOs for each city (Rome, Venice, Florence, Tuscany), but below is our detailed itinerary. I hope that it shows that you can really see a lot in Italy in just 8 days!

Friday: We had a 9:05pm flight to Rome.

Saturday: We arrived around 2pm in Rome. We took the train from the airport to the main train station. We walked straight to the hotel (Hotel de Monti) and dropped off our luggage. We then changed into running clothes and ran around the town to explore. In particular, we ran to the Colosseum and Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. Afterwards, we got dressed up and decided to walk around more on the way to get dinner. We walked to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and then got dinner on the way to the Pantheon. After dinner we walked to the Pantheon and then back over to the Colosseum. Seeing the Colosseum at night is a MUST.

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Sunday: We ran in the morning and then went inside the Pantheon. Afterwards, we had our scheduled Colosseum tour. Our tickets included admission to the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. We then had gelato at Giolitti and then went to the hotel and rested. Later that evening we went to dinner at the best pizza place I have ever been to, Pizzeria Baffetto, and then went to an Irish pub, Scholars Lounge, to watch American football.

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Monday: We had a morning Vatican tour. Afterwards, we had pizza and gelato outside the Vatican wall. The gelato place is a MUST and is called Old Bridge. It was so good and cheap(er)! At night, we had dinner outside the Pantheon at Scusati il Ritardo. Great food and amazing view! After dinner we went to visit the Trevi Fountain again since it is just so magical.

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Tuesday. We spent our last day in Rome visiting the Aventine Key Hole (MUST) and getting a tour of the main synagogue in Rome and the Jewish ghetto. We took a 7:20pm train to Florence and arrived in Florence by 9:25pm. We checked into our hotel, Botticelli Hotel, and then went to have pizza. We still had time to see the Duoma (from the outside), ride the carousel at the Piazza della Repubblica, see the Ponte Vecchio, and see the David replica.

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Wednesday: We spent this day exploring Tuscany with WalkAbout Tours, which we booked through Viator.com. I posted information about our tour here. Afterwards, we came back to Florence. We ate dinner, walked around some more, and went back to the hotel.

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Thursday: We took a 9:25am train from Florence to Venice that arrived in Venice at 11:33am. We checked into our hotel, Abbazia Hotel, and then did our normal routine – ran around to see as much as possible. We got lost a bunch of times, but we were just awe struck by the beauty. Afterwards, we continued to explore and ate a lot! This town is really great for walking, exploring, window shopping, and eating. We ended our evening having prosecco and tiramisu next to the water and Piazza San Marco.

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Friday: We spent all day in Venice. We rode a gondola, saw the Jewish ghetto, visited Piazza San Marco again, shopped, and ate, ate, ate! We had a great dinner at Hosteria al Vecio Bragosso.

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Saturday: We left Venice for the United States at 7:40am. We arrived back in the U.S. that same day.

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

  • Because our time in each city was short, we stayed near the train stations.
  • Literally run around the city to see as much as possible.
  • Don’t waste money on hotels in Italy, instead, “waste” the money on food!
  • Bring good walking shoes.
  • Pack light so that you can travel around easily.

Enjoy Italy!

The Essential Travel Guide to Perth

25 Mar

Perth, in Western Australia, is one of the most modern and fastest growing cities in the developed world.  Despite this, it is still what would be considered a ‘hidden gem’ when it comes to taking a holiday in Australia. Most tourism in the country centres on the huge coastal cities in the south and east, that everyone around the world knows about. If not there, then the ‘Red Centre,’ with Uluru, Alice Springs, and thousands of miles of outback, tends to enjoy much attention.

A huge city and well on course to become a global business hub in recent years, Perth offers just as much as the other areas mentioned.

To prove it, we looked at some of the great things to see, at places to eat, and at where to stay when you travel there.

Getting to Perth

Before experiencing such a great place, you need to get there first. While Perth has a major international airport taking flights from cities around the world, look to add a touch of adventure to your trip.

Travel into another major city by aeroplane, and then use a company such as Transfercar to enjoy cheap or free car hire across the country to Perth. Yes, such a journey will take a few days, but it will give you the opportunity to add another experience to your break.

Some free time will also allow you to plan what to do when you get to Perth.

Getting Your Head Down

If you are looking at the higher end of accommodation yet do not want to pay a fortune, consider somewhere like the Metro Hotel. Four stars and close to the city centre, it is clean, tidy, and comfortable, with great transport links out of and around Perth.

Alternatively, the Underground Backpackers Hostel is almost in the dead centre of the city. This location will give you great comfort at even more of a bargain price.

Finding a Bite to Eat

With hundreds of bars and restaurants, finding the best can be a chore. Depending on your tastes, Perth offers something for every palate.

The Red Cray Seafood Restaurant offers great tasting fresh dishes for lovers of fish, crab, and a range of exotic seafood. Saowanee’s Place is one of the better Thai restaurants in Perth. Sawanee’s has won awards in each of the last five years if you need any more convincing.

What to Do

As with every Australian city, Perth is a culture and heritage rich place with so much to see and do.

  • Outside of the city, head south to the popular town and wine region of Margaret River, where you will find great shops and restaurants.
  • Back in Perth, take a tour of the once notorious Fremantle Prison, a former Australian convict site now on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • Sea life lovers have to visit the Aquarium of Western Australia, home to the country’s largest single aquarium and one of the best such centres in the country.

There will be even more to discover when you get to Perth. Print out and keep this list for those annoying occasions when your mind draws a blank.

This article is written by Transfercar, a car rental Australia service, providing travellers free transport for major cities in Australia.

 

The MUST SEEs of Rome

8 Mar

Matt and I only had a few days in Rome, but we were able to see A LOT.  Below are some of our MUST SEEs of Rome!  And, make sure to stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com for the post containing our full Italy itinerary, which will show how we really saw so much of Italy in just 8 days!

  • Visit the Trevi Fountain

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  • Tour the Colosseum.  Book your tickets in advance (DO DO DO).  This saves you from waiting in the line that goes on forever!  Also, I highly recommend the tickets that include the upper level and dungeons.  The photo taken below was from the upper level.  You can only go there with a tour.  We booked our tickets through TickItaly.com.

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  • Visit the Vatican.  Again, I recommend booking your tickets in advance to skip the huge line and I highly recommend a tour.  We bought our tickets through the Vatican’s website.

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  • Eat a lot of gelato!   I recommend Old Bridge, which is next to the Vatican, and Giolitti.  

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  •  Visit the Aventine Key Hole.  Amazing view of St. Peter’s Basilica.  The picture below is of Matt looking through the key hole.

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  • Go inside the Pantheon!  It’s free and just incredible.  

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Enjoy Rome!

Things To Do In Miami by Jeff

27 May

SOUTH BEACH

  • The Catalina Hotel on South Beach has a free happy hour from 7pm-8pm.  All well drinks are free, so throw ’em down before dinner.
  • Miami restaurant hot spots ($$$$) are: Joe’s Stone Crab (now in season if you like crabs), Prime 112 (steak), Nobu (japanese), and Barton G’s (high end continental with great presentations)
  • A Fish Called Avalon is right on Ocean drive and has really great seafood.  If you can sit outside, they have a great live band and is also great for people watching.
  • Walk around Lincoln Road for lunch/dinner.  Menus are all outside and many times the owners come up and try to convince you to eat at their restaurant.  Just go for the type of food you want and/or the best people watching spot.   Make sure to catch some street performers.
  • On the way, stop by Espanola Way  just before 15th street (if you’re heading north) between Washington and Drexel.  There is a great Spanish tapas restaurant on the corner called Tapas and Tintos.
  • Late night food: Best sandwich I have had on Sobe (and maybe ever) is from La Sandwicherie on 14th and Washington.  It’s open until 6am.
  • The nicest part of the beach (not sure where your hotel is) is up by 15th and ocean or down by 1st, 2nd.  If you’re down by 2nd, make sure to stop by the famous south beach establishment Big Pink’s for whatever type of food you can imagine because they’ve got it all.
  • Wet Willie’s is an icecream shop for frozen alcoholic beverages. Do it! At least once.  As the great Ludacris says “if you wit me ain’t no time to sleep, especially at Wet Willie’s on Miami Beach.”
  • Jazid has great live music
  • The Room is a great little bar with an amazing selection of beer on tap.  Then head to Primo’s pizza for the best slice on SoBe.
  • In terms of clubs, as I was leaving school in May 2010, the hot new clubs Liv and Louis.  Liv is the most exclusive.  Set is also really cool.  Mansion is the big ticket.  I’ve also been to Cameo.  These are both huge, impersonal clubs, but if you just want to dance you’ll have a good time.  There will be promoters trying to drag you into their clubs, and a lot of times they can get you in at a reduced cover, if that’s something you want.

BRICKELL (DOWNTOWN)

  • My favorite restaurant (both for the food and value) is Perricone’s in Brickell.  Perhaps one night, make a reservation to sit in their outside deck where they sometimes will open up the roof on a nice night while a jazz band plays from the second floor loft.  Really amazing setting.
  • Then there are a number of bars where most young professionals hang out at (i.e. Irish Pub, Blue MartiniTobacco Road (oldest bar in Miami-but not centrally located), and for a great view of Brickell (on the Miami River), head to Waxy O’Connor’s.  I would cab to Waxy O’Connor’s though because the neighborhood becomes dicey along the walk.
  • If you want an “authentic” Miami club experience, try taking a cab to Gloria Estefan’s Bongos (it’s close to the American Airlines Arena).  It’s more of a Latin crowd, along with Segafredo’s in Brickell.

CUBAN FOOD

  • The best Cuban food I know of is Havana Harry’s (located by University of Miami) and Versailles if you’re feeling adventurous and want to cab to Calle 8.

MIAMI AT ITS BEST

  • Monty’s in Coconut Grove for happy hour (I would suggest going Friday).  ½ price drinks and raw bar, tiki set up on Biscayne bay, music, etc.  (4pm-8pm)
  • Beach at Key Biscayne (South)

EVENTS

  • If you happen to be there for a full moon, head up to the beach on  82 and Collins (North Miami Beach) around 10-11pm for the monthly drum circles.  it is usually just a random group of people with drums, fire dancers, singing, screaming, whistles, dancing, drugs, booze, and oh-the police generally come and break it up but don’t give too many problems as long as you’re respectful!

Things To Do In MIAMI by Chris

21 May

(Digital photo taken by Marc Averette; Found on Wikipedia)

FOOD

NIGHT OUT

Historic/Touristic

Events
  • If you happen to be in Miami on the last Friday of the month (check the website to be sure of the date:  http://www.viernesculturales.org/ ), then go to Little Havana’s monthly street festival called Viernes Culturales.  It’s a festival with live salsa bands, live cuban folk bands, live contemporary bands, artists selling paintings/crafts on the street, street vendors selling food, coffee, etc.  People dance in the street, sing to their favorite songs, restaurants stay open later than normal and you get to see the best in Cuban and Cuban-American art, crafts, culture and politics.  Absolutely amazing experience and it ends by 11pm/12pm so you ca still hit up bars and clubs afterwards.  It’s 100% cuban culture and something that can only be seen in Miami.  Also, it’s free, costs about $5 to park just off calle ocho.