The only thing that lies between Americans and the sultry streets of Havana these days is the Florida Straits, since the Obama administration has widened the kind of travel allowed. A growing list of organizations have licenses to operate trips to Cuba, including National Geographic Expeditions, Austin-Lehman and the Center for Cuban Studies. There are also more flights from more American cities: Fort Lauderdale and Tampa recently joined New York, Miami and Los Angeles on the list, and Chicago will be added this year.
The "people-to-people" rules require Americans to interact with Cubans (sun-and-sand vacations are still prohibited) so tours involve meeting with art historians, organic farmers and others. Conveniently, new restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts, some in gorgeous colonial villas, have sprung up over the past year as the government has allowed more private enterprise. Havana is also gearing up for its 11th Biennial, from May 11 to June 11, which will draw more than 100 Cuban and international artists. VICTORIA BURNETT