Viva La Fiesta!
The name says it all – Old Spanish Days Fiesta is Santa Barbara’s party of the summer with five days feting our eclectic heritage with food, drink, music, dance, rodeo and more. Thousands of revelers will take to the paseos, plazas and parks August 3 – 7 to taste authentic specialties, listen to traditional music, watch Spirit of Fiesta dancers and celebrate Santa Barbara’s mix of Spanish, Mexican, Native American and early Californian history. Read on to uncover some of the weekend’s highlights and pick up few locals’ secrets to experience the best of Fiesta!
Pack a picnic for Fiesta Pequeña. In the official kickoff to the weekend’s festivities, dancers step to traditional songs of Fiesta on the steps of Old Mission Santa Barbara (celebrating its 225th anniversary this year!). Families and friends gather on the Rose Garden lawn to watch the spectacle as the sun goes down.
Locals’ Secret: avoid the parking snarl, and ride a bike, walk or catch the MTD Line 22 bus to the Old Mission. It’s an even better idea if you add a few margaritas to the mix!
Taste your way through all the Mercados! There are three Mexican markets set up around town, and each has unique specialties that should not be missed. El Mercado de la Guerra is in downtown Santa Barbara and is the epicenter for State Street’s merry mayhem. El Mercado Del Norte, by Mackenzie Park on upper State Street, has fun for the whole family with rides and attractions for the kids and the Crazy Horse Cantina for adult refreshments. On Sunday, the weekly Cabrillo Boulevard Arts and Crafts Show transforms into another Mercado with artisans from across California displaying their work.
Locals’ Secret: Make your way to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (227 N. Nopal Street) where an unaffiliated Mercado is stocked with some of the best Mexican food you’ll find in Santa Barbara.
Join the generations. Fiesta’s centerpiece event takes the stage on Saturday night at Las Noches de Ronda (“Nights of Gaiety”). Santa Barbarans of all ages gather at the Sunken Gardens to watch a variety show of music, singing and fiery Flamanco dancing against the backdrop of the architecturally stunning Santa Barbara Courthouse.
Locals’ Secret: Before you head to the event, grab a cold beer at Casa de la Guerra, where the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation sets up a beer garden in the city’s birthplace. It’s worth the small entrance fee to kick back a cold one while soaking in Santa Barbara’s history!
Arm yourself with plenty of “cascarones.” If it’s your first Fiesta, you may be puzzled by the dots of paper covering the streets. You’ll soon find out when you receive a bracing crack on the noggin – they’re confetti-filled eggs! It’s best to take the “if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em” stance and grab a few to grease your friends.
Locals’ Secret: Do a hearty head shake before hitting the sack. While you can’t get rid of all the confetti that seems to find its way into every nook and cranny, a little proactive prevention lessens the pile of paper you’ll discover in your bed the next day.