For a uniquely South Florida scene, go to Calle Ocho, also known as Southwest 8th street. Weaving through a neighborhood known as Little Havana, Calle Ocho is the almost two-mile long stretch where you’ll find much of Miami’s lively Cuban-American and Jewish Cuban-American, or Juban, heritage. On Calle Ocho, the last Friday of every month is a Viernes Culturales, or Cultural Friday; visit the area then and you’ll find a street party between 14th and 17th Avenue. The street is home to an art scene that enjoys bold, tropical colors, and many of the street’s artists have open studios or show their work in local parks. Guided tours during Cultural Fridays are also available starting at the Tower Theater, a building dating to the 1920s that is both a theater and cultural center, with programming in Spanish and English. Last but not least, stay on the street into the evening and you’ll find spirited salsa music and dance performances on an outdoor stage.
Moving toward the beach, on the fashionable pedestrian-only Lincoln Road at Euclid Avenue, every December you’ll find an annual outdoor Hanukkah party that is, indeed, only to be found in Miami. Led by the Miami Beach Chabad House and Chabad on Wheels, you can find it by sight – a larger-than-life menorah and dreidel, both of which are made of seashells – or by sound – a Jewish rock band will be playing. Whether you are on a quest for latkes and jelly doughnuts, a mission to light a menorah (smaller, non-shell ones will be available) or seeking an outdoor Jewish dance party, Lincoln Road is the place to go. The festivities start at sundown and go well into the night.
At ROCK Fashion Week, you’ll find a hip but more secular experience of a final set of “eights.” For four days in October and another four in March, enjoy a long weekend of music and the latest in fashion. Watch models prance down the runway for nightly fashion shows by internationally known designers and then prance on a dance floor at a different after-party each night. The event is free, but make sure to RSVP because there is limited space.
Also in March, if you’re dressing up for Purim you might as well dress up for Miami Beach International Fashion Week. Bringing together more than 50 designers and more than 10,000 people, this five-day event moved in recent years from the Wynwood Arts District to the Miami Beach Convention Center to accommodate an ever-increasing crowd. The week features trade shows, fashion shows and exhibits on everything from swimwear to eveningwear to jewelry and accessories, as well as a plethora of design competitions for the up-and-coming. International talent from Canada to Eastern Europe is showcased, but this event is especially known for its Latin American and South American designers, and makes a point of featuring Floridian designers as well.
The Jewish Museum of Florida in the heart of South Beach on Washington Avenue is another go-to spot. A spectacle of cheerful art deco and dozens of stained-glass windows will greet you, as the buildings – two former synagogues – were home to Miami Beach’s first congregation. The museum hosts a series of special events, including a Florida Jewish History Month program in January, a Purim Party in March and other crowd pleasers.
Also in honor of Jewish History Month, the Miami Jewish Film Festival, a project of the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE), celebrates international films with a common theme. With films showing in three theaters, you have the option of seeing Miami premieres of award-winning full-length movies or shorts produced by students in the CAJE Young Filmmaker Institute, which has produced celebrated Miami filmmakers in the past.
Every March, a local alternative newspaper, the “Miami New Times,” and the Miami International Film Festival join forces to present Artopia. This one-night event brings together film, fashion, art, live music and other performances, and will be celebrating its fourth year in 2012. Despite the “international” in the sponsor’s name, Artopia is a great way to get a taste of styles that are distinctly Miami, as the event makes a point of showcasing local talent. This year the event will be held at Villa 21, a mansion-like pair of buildings with 14 differently decorated rooms, a patio, two covered porches and a tropical garden. The event starts at 8 p.m., and, though Miami-time and the fashion-centric nature of the event might make you think about being fashionably late, you’ll actually want to get to this one on time, as the event quickly fills up.
If you’re looking for something to do on the fly and a cool Jewish crowd to do it with, Miami has a few organizations that plan fun events just for you. With the tagline “Where’s your Jew crew,” Chaisocial.com offers an ever-changing calendar of events, from Shabbat gatherings to movie nights to yoga. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’ll want to check out The Tribe, a project of The Open Tent through the Woldenberg Center for Jewish Life. The Tribe is oriented towards young professionals and coordinates events ranging from the fun and lighthearted (A Vodka/Latke gathering at a South Beach hotel) to the spiritual. Finally, if you’re looking for something more athletic, the Mosaic Outdoor Club of South Florida organizes not-always-outdoor but almost-always-sporty and always adventurous events for Jewish singles and couples, ranging from volleyball and cycling to hayrides.
Finally, if you’re still not sure what to do and want to do it on the cheap, you have plenty of options. Jewpon.com is the Jewish cousin to, you guessed it, Groupon.com, and will give you a deal on the latest upcoming Jewish events in town – and of course, Miami is one of the featured cities.