Main festivals and celebrations in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, located in southern California, is city well known as the American Riviera. This city ends up being chosen for tourist to visit its Spanish Colonial architecture. Furthermore, weather and landscapes in Santa Barbara gain tourists’ attention or predilection for this city. But, there are other aspect that result being attractive for visitors, their events. People might ignore the nickname this city receives is “Celebration capital” or “Festival central”. This colonial and historical city is specialized in celebrations, festivals and all things fun. In Santa Barbara people do not need a cause actually, they can make a festival about anything special and make it special for sure. Celebrating local bounty or cultural heritage, they will make a memorable party about it. If you are planning a trip around, check first the following top 5 list of the most iconic events.

parade_santa barbara_california_kenny slaught
Image courtesy of Holly Chase at
  1. Old Spanish Days Fiesta:

    Celebrated either the last week of July or the first week of August, this annual summer event has been celebrated since 1924.  This is the biggest event of the year and takes Santa Barbara’s backgrounds from Spanish founders, Mexican and North American pioneers who first settled in the area and built the city. This is a colorful tradition combined with music, dance and songs talking about a friendliness spirit, hospitality and tolerance. Music and dance include folkloric, flamenco and Aztec mainly but country music and ballet dance are also included. The main public event is Fiesta Pequeña that is the beginning of the main event, people who plan the events are greeted by Flower Girls then, el president declares the official start of Fiesta week. Next, best dancers from local dance studios make their presentation. In the middle of the performances, a representative from “Native Daughters of the Golden West” appears as Saint Barbara, for the first time in public. Other public events are Mercados that includes food with live entertainment, Las noches de Ronda dance and music performance at nights, El desfile Histórico (The Fiesta historical parade) that is one of the largest equestrian parades in the United States, El desfile de los niños (The Children’s parade) and tardes de Ronda.

  2. Summer Solstice Parade:

    Summer Solstice Parade began in 1974 as a birthday celebration for Michael Gonzales, a popular artist and mime. This is the largest parade in Santa Barbara county drawing spectators from around the world. This Summer Solstice Celebration covers all the originality in displays of floats, giant puppets, whimsical costumes and masks. Dancing, music and drama enthralls spectators as well as Old Spanish Fiesta does. Every year there is a different theme for the Parade. Past Parade Themes have been children, carnival of illusion, myths and stories of the world, magic mystics & mysteries, circus, carnival, games and science fiction among others. Furthermore, at the park there are tables around where you can learn about new solar power companies and other solutions to ecological issues.

  3. Arts & Crafts:

    Since 1964, this is an event that takes place every Sunday year-round as well as Sundays of important holidays weekends. Artist and artisans display their art and craft; they talk about their work and sell some pieces. The show is located in Cabrillo Boulervard. As almost all events in Santa Barbara, this one does not escape from the Mexican influence, and it was inspired in the sidewalk art in Europe and the prestigious “Jardin del Arte” in Mexico City. In some cases, it is possible to see artists on action but if it is not possible, you will enjoy the great atmosphere created by the beautiful and shining art pieces.

    parade_kenny slaught
    Image courtesy of Daimon Eklund at
  4. Santa Barbara International Film festival:

    This is perfect for fancy cinemas and party lovers. Celebrated the last week of January and the first week of February, you will have 11 days for screening hundreds of films. The event planners, a non-profit organization, always look for the best in independent and international cinema. Hence, this festival is world-renowned, attracting Hollywood superstars such as Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and Wil Smith.

  5. French Festival:

    Each July, the closest weekend to Bastille Day, thousands of Francophiles are attracted by this popular festival in Oak Park. Actually, it is the largest French fest west of the Mississippi.  Furthermore, French culture takes the city with poodle parade, accordion music, dancing, live performances, French cuisine and wine, arts and crafts and femme fatales drags revue. Despite of the main purpose of the celebration, the French independency, admission is free no matter where you come from.

You have different cultural alternatives when in Santa Barbara, just check what event will be celebrated on your arrival.


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