Calle Ocho (Getty)
Fat Tuesday may be today, but in South Florida, Carnival really kicks off on Feb. 27, during the country’s largest Hispanic festival. In fact, the largest — and last — event of the festivities, Calle Ocho drew an estimated 1 million people alone last year.
“Carnaval reflects what Miami is all about; the people, the music, international foods, and lots of hip shaking,” said Ross Jimenez, 39, president of the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, which hosts Calle Ocho.
We asked Jimenez to give us a few tips for enjoying the two weeks of festivities, many of which will be held in Miami’s Little Havana, where the actual Calle Ocho, or Eighth Street, is located.
More than 300 vendors will dole out snacks for under $5 throughout Carnival (or Carnaval in Spanish). Providing a virtual education in pan-Latin cuisine, treats on offer include Puerto Rican bacalaitos (fried codfish), Venezuelan arepas (corn cakes), Cuban sandwiches, Argentinean parrilladas (grilled beef), and Dominican sancocho (stew). Beer costs $2 and cocktails are available for $5.
Musical acts on more than 15 stages will rev up crowds during Carnival and a two-day jazz and art celebration, Carnaval on the Mile (March 5-6), gives visitors multiple opportunities to samba with the locals. “One of the most fun things is the dancing in the streets and the exchange of culture, what in Spanish we call calor humano,” said Jimenez. Performers include Pitbull, DJ Spam and the Spam All Stars, Suenalo, Xperimento, and Locos por Juana. More musical acts will be announced March 1.
One must-see event is the Domino Tournament (March 10), where Miami’s fiercest dominoes fans compete for cash prizes. Other activities include a kickoff 8K run, to be held February 26, followed by live music and an arroz con pollo cookout, along with a Golf Classic (March 11). But these games aren’t just for professional athletes, at carnival corporate sponsors will host games and give out prizes while four blocks will be devoted to children’s activities — with magicians and clowns — in the KidzZone.
Many attendees are international and come ready for the revelry, decked out in their national flags or colors, making for a festive scene as they parade up and down the 20-some blocks devoted to Calle Ocho. “The people that come just want to party hard and have a good time,” said Jimenez. Carnival is known for outrageous costumes and plenty of eye candy, so make sure you bring a camera — and a sense of humor.
Schedule of events
Domino Tournament: March 10(4 p.m.), Domino Park, SW 8th St. (Free to watch)
Carnaval on the Mile (Jazz and street fair): March 5 (7 p.m.-midnight), March 6 (10 a.m.-midnight), Miracle Mile (Free)
Calle Ocho: March 14 (11 a.m.-7 p.m), SW 8th St
Golf Classic: March 11 (noon)
Last Minute Travel Deals
Flights from NYC to Miami for $197 (March12-15) (expedia.com)
$129/night three-star hotel rates at Courtyard by Marriott, Hotel Indigo, and Kendall Hotel and Suites (March 12-15) (priceline.com)