Santa Clara is a great town to walk around. Thanks to the university here, the city has a bit of a typical college-town vibe. The heart of the city is the central Parque Vidal. The double-wide streets ringing the park are pedestrian-only and often crowded with locals and lovers strolling in leisurely circles. There's a separate 5-block-long pedestrian-only mall (the Boulevard), a block behind the Teatro La Caridad (tel. 42/20-5548), where you'll find a series of shops and restaurants aimed at travelers and dollar-spending Cubans. The active and ornate 19th-century theater, modeled after the Paris Opera, often features concerts and shows, and is worth a quick tour (CUC$1) during the day. It was restored recently; check out the cartelera or visit the box office for a schedule.
The biggest attraction in town is the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara, Plaza de la Revolución Che Guevara (tel. 42/20-5878), which features a huge sculpture of the revolutionary hero, overlooking a vast plaza where massive demonstrations and music concerts are often held. Underneath the statue is a museum with exhibits detailing the life and exploits of "El Che" and a separate mausoleum holding Guevara's remains, as well as tombstones (and some of the remains) of 37 other revolutionary fighters killed alongside Guevara in Bolivia. This place is deeply revered by most Cubans, so don't joke or take it lightly. The monument is located on the western outskirts of the city and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5:30pm; no cameras or video cameras are allowed.
Behind the mausoleum is a new cemetery where the remains of those who fought with Che in the 8th column from the Sierra Maestra up to Santa Clara are interred. Interestingly, the graves of those comrades who have yet to die have already been erected.
Another popular revolutionary landmark is the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado (Armored Train Monument) at Carretera Camajuani and the train line. It's a small park built around the spot where Che Guevara and his soldiers derailed an armored train during the critical battles for control of Santa Clara in 1958. In addition to the five cars and some sculptures, there's a tiny museum in this pleasant open-air park. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm; admission is CUC$1. About 450 meters (1,476 feet) northeast past the monument, on Ave. de la Liberación or Carretera de Camajuani, is El Che de los Niños, a bronze statue by Casto Solano that's located in front of the building that was once Che's barracks during the capture of Santa Clara; today this building is the seat of the Provincial Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. If you continue another 500 meters (1,640 feet) northeast and make a right turn at a gas station, you'll see signs to the Loma del Capiro, a group of three small peaks, where the first skirmish between Che's troops and Batista's troops took place on the December 29, 1958; there is a monument on the summit.
Santa Clara has an excellent Fábrica de Tabacos at Calle Maceo 181 (tel. 42/20-2211). The factory occupies a full city block and produces high-quality Montecristo, Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, Punch, and Robaina cigars. It's open Monday through Friday from 9 to 11am and 1 to 3pm. A 20-minute guided tour costs CUC$4 per person, but the ticket can only be bought at one of the three principal tour agencies in town. Across the street, there's a well-stocked shop, La Casa del Tabaco, Ron y Café La Veguita ★, Maceo 176-A (tel. 42/20-8952). The cigar sommelier here, Marilín Morales Bauta, is quite charming and one of the premier experts in the field. It is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
The Museo de Artes Decorativas, Parque Vidal (tel. 42/20-5368), is in an 18th-century house whose last owner was named Clara Cartas. The house is stuffed full of Baccarat crystal and chandeliers, including a "spaghetti" chandelier. Its other unusual items include a rocking chair with a carved protruding face at its tip to stop the nanny from falling asleep and a wall plate imprinted with the image of the Crystal Palace in London. It is open Monday to Thursday 9am to 6pm, Friday 1 to 10pm, and Sunday 6 to 10pm. Admission is CUC$2.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.