Opa-Locka is a unique blend of exotic fantasy and grim reality. Developed by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss in1926, the city was based on the Arabian Nights theme. Those moving to Opa-Locka will discover a large collection of Moorish architecture. The city boasts 20 structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This small city is located in proximity to Miami and continues to make employment to benefit its residents.
The city of Opa-Locka was the vision of aviation pioneer, Glen Curtiss. The area was originally named by the Native Americans "Opa-tisha-worka-locka" meaning "a big island covered with many trees and swamps" but the name was quickly shorten to Opa-locka. The city was developed based on the Arabian Nights theme, which is evident, by the large collection of Moorish architecture throughout the city and with street names like Sabur, Sultan, Ali Baba, Sharazad, Aladdin and Sesame. Mr. Curtiss and architect, Bernhardt Muller, built 105 buildings with an array of domes, minarets and outside staircases. By the time Mr. Curtiss completed his vision for Opa-locka he had built a self-contained city with a hotel, zoo park, golf course, archery club, swimming pool, airport, and train station. The September 1926 hurricane badly damaged the City, destroying many of the structures, but the surviving Moorish style buildings continue to give Opa-locka its unique appearance. The U.S. Navy opened a base at the Opa-locka Airport shortly after the hurricane, which allowed the city to thrive after the hurricane, but the base closed in the 1950s. The city experienced a decline, and was labeled a "struggling community" in South Florida. Despite the challenges, the city has regained the spirit it was founded with in 1926. Under the direction of Mayor Joseph Kelly, city officials have vowed to turn the city around by focusing on crime prevention, cleaning up the city and maintaining financial stability. With such an interesting history, it's no wonder Opa-Locka movers are so busy bringing in new residents.
The name Opa-Locka is a contraction of the Native American's name for the area, Opa-tisha-woka-locka, meaning a dry place in the swamp with trees. Today it is a mix of residential, commercial and industrial zones, with Opa-Locka Airport representing the single largest land use. The City Hall and Logan Building, formerly the Opa-Locka Hotel, have been renovated. The small downtown area has many small thrift shops and restaurants, though one area is dotted with junkyards. Opa-Locka has high unemployment, poverty and illiteracy rates since 1980 and it has gained a tawdry reputation for crime. Drug dealing and shootings were common, especially in the infamous Triangle area. In 2003, Opa-locka had the highest violent crime rate in the country for a community of its size. The city made the headlines for local connections to the 9/11 terrorist attacks as the hijackers trained here in flight simulation. Major crimes, however, dropped by a third from 2002 to 2003 and Mayor Joseph Kelley has promised to turn around the city, focusing on crime prevention, cleaning the city, and financial stability. Despite limited resources, Opa-Locka has been the location for shoots by the TV and film industries. Texas Justice, Bad Boyz II and 2 Fast and 2 Furious have had shoots in the city. Disney has also considered Opa-Locka as a good place to shoot a movie. Things seem to be on the upswing at last.
Start by heading to the Calder Race Course. Opened in 1971 and located on 220 acres next to Pro Player Stadium in North Dade, this track is known as one of the most prominent racing centers in North America. It hosts the Festival of the Sun, Florida's richest day of racing with a $1.3-million purse. The racetrack can accommodate up to 15,000 fans and 1,800 thoroughbreds. Live racing season runs May through January, while simulcast wagering goes on all year. Then, head to Sun Life Stadium. Few sporting venues in the nation are equipped to host both NFL football and major league baseball. In 1987, this privately financed facility, known then as Joe Robbie Stadium, emerged as the home stadium for the Miami Dolphins and was called Dolphin Stadium. Today, known as Sun Life Stadium and owned by Stephen M. Ross, it continues to play host to Dolphin and Marlin home games, championships, as well as several concerts and other special events. Also within the stadium is the Grand Plaza, which is emerging as the new entertainment hub. The Club Level also has many restaurants and lounge areas where people can enjoy themselves.