Explore these can’t-miss cultural spots highlighting the Sunshine State’s rich Hispanic heritage
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (October 2019): Hispanic Heritage is celebrated all yearlong in Florida. In fact, VISIT FLORIDA created the perfect tool for travelers looking to explore the state’s Hispanic roots and culture: Hispanic Heritage Hub. Jam-packed with cultural activities, events and festivals throughout the state, visitors can also find destinations highlighted in the Hispanic Heritage Hub such as Miami, St. Augustine, and Ybor City.
As “the Gateway to the Americas,” Miami serves as a true melting pot, fusing the past and present of Latin culture and traditions in this southeastern pocket of Florida. Neighborhoods such as Little Havana showcase Cuban influences on local cuisine as well as the vibrant music, dance, and art scene that are highlighted through smaller monthly festivals and a wildly popular annual street festival every March. Visitors will see nods to Cuban and Hispanic heritage throughout the neighborhood via giant rooster statues (an important symbol in Cuban culture), memorials like the Bay of Pig Monument, and Little Havana’s Walk of Fame, which honors more than two dozen Latin celebrities such as singer Gloria Estefan and boxer Roberto Duran. To capture truly local Latin flavor, sign up for the Little Havana Food & Cultural Tour which features the neighborhood’s rich history and culinary delights or take a stroll through Máximo Gómez Park where locals meet to play dominoes and sip Cuban coffee. For a trip back in time, don’t miss the outstanding tours led by HistoryMiami Museum’s Resident Historian Dr. Paul George. Another historical standout? The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora (a.k.a. The Cuban), which tells the story of Cuban exiles “through the eyes of its greatest artists, thinkers, and creators.”
On Florida’s Historic Coast in the northeast, visitors can be transported back in time with a trip to St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. As the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the U.S., visitors young and old can enjoy exploring the history of 20-acre Castillo de San Marcos along the picturesque Matanzas Bay. Built by the Spanish to protect the town from attackers, the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. took 23 years to complete, with construction starting in 1672. Nearby, soak in the old-world charm of the city’s two-acre Spanish Quarter, an interactive journey “where history comes alive” with hands-on activities, living history demonstrations, themed exhibits and period restaurants. For authentic Spanish cuisine, visitors can start their day with a Latin-inspired breakfast at Café La Herencia, nosh on paella at The Columbia Restaurant, or munch on empanadas at The Spanish Bakery and Cafe. Plus, the city showcases fabulous examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture, such as the 1797 Cathedral Basilica (America’s first parish, located off the Plaza de la Constitucion) and the stunning Ponce de Leon Hotel (now home to Flagler College.) Visitors can take a free walking tour of the college campus or hop on a low-cost trolley to see well-preserved sites in the historic district. Another Hispanic heritage gem? The Villa Zorayda Museum, a 1/10th scale replica of a portion of Spain’s Alhambra Palace.
On Florida’s west coast just northeast of downtown Tampa, Ybor City offers a glimpse into a vibrant Latin Quarter. As Tampa Bay’s only National Landmark Historic District, Ybor City welcomed thousands of new arrivals from Spain and Cuba nearly 100 years ago, transforming the community into the cigar-making capital of the world. Trace the legacy of the cigar industry's influence on the city with a visit the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. Museum, home of the famed El Reloj factory, which serves as the company’s international headquarters and is the only Cigar City factory still manufacturing cigars. (Note: To celebrate its 110th anniversary next year, the iconic factory is undergoing a restoration project with plans to reopen the museum in early 2020.) Stop by Ybor City Museum, which is housed in a 1923 Ferlita Bakery, to tour a restored casita (small house) for a peak into what life was like for the cigar factory workers of yesteryear. The city’s eclectic mix of history and heritage lives on, as cigar factory warehouses have been transformed into restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and small businesses. Visitors looking to kick up their heels will want to check out the Noches de Salsa Caliente monthly dance socials hosted by the Salsa Caliente Dance Studio. Shoppers, foodies, and art-lovers can stroll along the 7th Avenue commercial strip (between 26th Street and Nick Nuccio Parkway) for a whiff of roasting coffee, the pulsing sound of Latin music, and the sight of Viva Ybor mural highlighting the city’s colorful past.
About VISIT FLORIDA
As the Sunshine State’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming 124.7 million visitors in 2018. Based on the latest economic impact study, Florida visitors contributed $85.9 billion to Florida's economy and supported 1.5 million Florida jobs in 2017. According to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, for every $1 the state invests in VISIT FLORIDA, the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida, $2.15 in tax revenue is generated. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism to Florida through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs. As a public/private partnership, VISIT FLORIDA serves more than 13,000 tourism industry businesses, including major strategic alliance partnerships with Busch Gardens Tampa, Disney Destinations, The Hertz Corporation, Hilton, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando, Simon Shopping Destinations and Universal Orlando Resort. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, please go to VISITFLORIDA.org or follow us on our industry social media channels: Facebook and Twitter @FloridaTourism.