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Enjoy Everything Miami Has to Offer After the Conference

By Ana Acle-Menendez
2005 NHLI Alumna, Writer, WestKendallToday.com

So you’re thinking about heading to Miami to the National Hispana Leadership Institute’s 2010 Executive Leadership Training Conference and Mujer Awards on November 4-5, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Miami.

Wise decision – you’ll attend two invigorating days of leadership and professional development training, celebrate Latina leadership through the Mujer Awards and Rising Stars Awards listen to inspirational speakers, connect with leaders from across the nation, exchange ideas, engage in dialogue but most importantly you will be among the 10,000 Latina leaders that have been trained and empowered by NHLI through its premier programs and conferences like our annual gathering. 

And after the conference you can enjoy everything Miami has to offer with your hermanas and new friends.

November in Miami means bright blue skies and cooler temperatures. The average temperature then is 73.6 degrees Fahrenheit and most days are either clear or partly cloudy. When the weather cools, it’s not unusual to see Miamians in a sweater, short shorts and sandals.

Now that you know what clothes to bring, here’s a look at Miami from a native – where the locals go.

Why Miami is Important
Miami is the gateway to Latin America and you’ll find all the Hispanic countries represented here. Of those Hispanics, Cubans account for the majority in Miami. So here’s my first rule: Do not spend a ton of money on Cuban food. This is the mecca for good Cuban food and it shouldn’t cost much.

Where to Indulge
A few good, Cuban restaurants: Villa Habana, *Versailles, Casa Lario’s (the original one on Flagler Street), La Carreta, La Casita Cubana, Sergio’s, La Rosa, Islas Canarias, El Rinconcito Latino, El Palacio de los Jugos, El Rey de la Frita (Cuban hamburger) and on and on. None of these are in heavy tourist areas, and many use paper tablemats with real dishes.

The star next to Versailles means you have to go there at least once during your stay. This is a gathering hub for Miami Cubans, where many go to discuss the latest news from the island and vent their rage against Fidel Castro. It’s not uncommon to see a TV news crew doing man-on-the-street interviews. Miamians will go there for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a late night snack after a zarzuela or for café at the window between 2 and 4 p.m. My favorite pick-me-up: A cortadito made with condensed milk — it’s Cuban coffee with milk and condensed milk. Delicious. (By the way, if you’ve never had Cuban coffee, there’s a reason why it is served in small doses.) Don’t miss the bakery side of the restaurant, either.

When you walk along Ocean Drive in South Beach, another must-do before you leave, stop at Casa Lario’s On the Beach (co-owned by diva Gloria Estefan) and drink a mojito. They just may have the best ones in town. I usually sip a few before I realize there is alcohol in them!

Fun Escape Away
The nightlife is the best in town and you can club hop until the sun comes up. There is a plethora of music and dance clubs to fit every taste. I suggest searching on www.miami.com or www.miaminewtimes.com Dress code in South Beach: Sexy.

If you’ve got a hot date, go to B.E.D. at 929 Washington Ave., the restaurant where you dine horizontally and then dance the night away. If you want eclectic cuisine, one of my favorites is Sushi Samba Dromo, 600 Lincoln Rd., which offers Peruvian, Japanese and Brazilian flavors. Taste buds tingle!

Not far from the conference hotel, is the Brickell neighborhood. Stroll along Mary Brickell Village, named after one of Miami’s founders, and take in its shops and area restaurants. I like Perricone’s Marketplace & Cafe, an Italian restaurant in an old house with an enormous tree. Tobacco Road, which opened in 1912 and has Miami’s longest running liquor license, features nightly entertainment with live blues, R&B and jazz. For Cuban music and dancing a la nightclub, try Bongo’s (also owned by Estefan) in the American Airlines Arena on the other side of downtown or take a boat ride around the bay and millionaire’s row from Bayside Marketplace.

Another neighborhood not far from downtown is Coconut Grove. I’ve lured several future residents by showing them the Cocowalk shops from the corner of Grand Avenue and Main Highway. The Grove also has entertainment, shopping and good restaurants. Have some seafood and a few drinks next to the marina at Monty’s, a Miami landmark.

Upscale shoppers also will want to visit Bal Harbour Shops, as well as the Village of Merrick Park and the boutiques of Miracle Mile both in Coral Gables. Most of the locals, however, go to malls: Dadeland, Dolphin, International, The Falls, etc.

Don’t miss a drive through Little Havana. While it’s not as Cuban as it once was, it still has some interesting places, such as Maximo Gomez Park (Domino Park), 801 SW 15th Ave., where many Cubans will take in a game of dominos and fire up a cigar. There are souvenir shops, art galleries and entertainment such as Hoy Como Ayer, a nostalgic restaurant that turns into a nightclub in the evening. For a bit of Spain, I like Casa Panza, a tiny place where people end up dancing on the tables. Maybe it’s the wine.

For a nice souvenir, get yourself a guayabera from several stores that sell them. Guayaberas are a style of shirt, but now they even come sleeveless. Try the stores Guayaberas Etc. or La Casa de las Guayaberas.

There are a ton of restaurants in Miami that offer other Hispanic cuisine but they are too numerous to list. I will just name a few of my favorites: Graziano’s (Argentine), Porcau (Brazilian), Aromas del Peru or El Chalán (Peruvian), Casa Juancho or Delicias de España (Spain), Old Lisbon (Portugese), Rincón Antioqueno (Colombian), Los Ranchos or El Novillo (Nicaraguan), and Old San Juan (Puerto Rican).

Other things to do: Ride a jet ski or charter a fishing boat at the beach, swim with a dolphin at Miami Seaquarium, visit Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, take an airboat ride in the swampy Everglades, snorkel or scuba dive at John Pennekamp in Key Largo, or see French movies during the France Cinema Miami Festival, which will take place that weekend.

But my suggestion would be to relax at the beach. That’s why we live here.

So there are no excuses to not come to Miami. You will attend the premier conference for Latina leaders and enjoy the city of sun we Floridians and tourists from around the world love so much.

Get your friends together and click here to register today. Take advantage of discounted rates until October 27.