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Festivals To Plan For

No matter the month, you can expect a flurry of fun for all ages when visiting Santa Barbara. From wine tasting, film debuts, and musical performances to outdoor adventures, food festivals and art exhibitions, Santa Barbara has an event or festival for every palate. Plan the perfect getaway to our seaside haven with the use of this helpful guide, and explore the thrill of festivals in Santa Barbara!

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Due to state and county restrictions regarding COVID-19, many annual festivals and large gatherings have been cancelled. But don’t fret! We expect the return of your favorite gatherings and festivals in 2021. Before planning a trip around one of Santa Barbara’s signature festivals, please confirm all event details prior to arriving.

AUGUST

Santa Barbara’s rich heritage comes alive during the first week in August with the music, dance, and pageantry of Old Spanish Days Fiesta, the granddaddy of city celebrations, reaching back to 1925. Please check back for more information regarding Old Spanish Days Fiesta 2021.

If your travels to Santa Barbara are later in the month of August 2021, make sure to plan ahead to attend the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival. Held at the New Vic Theatre, this annual film festival will include five days of exceptional films from around the world on themes of Jewish culture and identity, including a wide range of documentaries, dramas, comedies, and shorts by American, European, and Israeli filmmakers. Please check back for more information regarding the 2021 Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival.

SEPTEMBER

Wineries large and small will show off their wares at the outdoor California Wine Festival, September 24-25, 2021. This two-day event kicks off on Friday evening with an educational seminar that compliments a reserve and rare wine tasting. On Saturday, the festivities move beach-side for a showcase of some 250 wines from 70 wineries, and the offerings of noted chefs, food purveyors, and wine-related vendors.

Santa Barbara is a haven for artisans, makers, designers, and those who are passionate about local craftsmanship, and what better than to celebrate the art that can be created using the natural gifts from the ocean? The Santa Barbara Sea Glass & Ocean Arts Festival, to be held in September 2022, is the perfect place to shop gorgeous sea glass jewelry for loved ones and explore ocean-themed art inspired by our seaside paradise. Artists from all over gather to display their oceanic wares, so don’t forget to mark your calendar next year for this incredible event!

Next year, taste samples from 50+ breweries, cideries, and wineries at the California Brew & BBQ Festival, September 24, 2022, at one of the most beautiful oceanfront venues Santa Barbara has to offer. Enjoy tri-tip from top Santa Barbara-based restaurants as local chefs compete for Best BBQ! As the cool ocean breeze wafts the sweet tang of barbeque through the beer tents, don’t miss your chance to meet World Champion Pitmaster Doug Scheiding and savor his award-winning dishes.

OCTOBER

Santa Barbara’s waterfront is the ideal setting for the Harbor & Seafood Festival — a tribute to hardworking local fisheries — each October. In October 2021, fresh seafood is on the menu (of course!), while the roster of activities focuses on all things marine, including boat tours, rides, and dockside demonstrations, as well as live music and arts and crafts vendors.

Celebrate fresh seafood straight from the Santa Barbara Channel during the Harbor and Seafood Festival. Photo Credit: J. Sinclair

NOVEMBER

Plan to raise a glass in November 2021 with the Taste of Santa Ynez Valley. Over a four-day period each Fall, visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves into events and experiences centered around the burgeoning food, wine, and beer scene in the towns of Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Solvang, Ballard, and Buellton.

DECEMBER

Bring the whole family and ring in the holiday season at the Annual Downtown Holiday Parade held each December. Witness high-stepping marching bands, fabulous holiday-themed floats, spectacular performance groups, and more. The ceremonial lighting of the community Christmas Tree will also take place on this wonder-filled holiday night.

Celebrate the end of the year with holiday cheer at Santa Barbara’s annual Parade of Lights. Bring the entire family to the waterfront, as more than 30 boats adorned with thousands (and we mean THOUSANDS) of lights and festive decorations will illuminate the waterfront as they navigate through the Santa Barbara Harbor and around Stearns Wharf.

March

March 11-13, 2022, Santa Barbara will bloom with orchids in every imaginable shape, color, pattern and texture at the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show. This three-day event, noted as one of the country’s largest and oldest celebrations of orchids, brings together more than 50 orchid exhibitors and vendors from around the world.

April

Each April, don’t miss the start of the Santa Barbara Polo Season, where ladies don their finest hats and gentlemen dress to the nines to watch the thrilling equine sport. The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club has hosted the likes of the royal family and celebrities, and with good reason! The pristine grass and stunning mountain views make an unforgettable backdrop to gaze at while sipping champagne and cheering on the players! Please note that due to COVID-19, entry to the polo fields is restricted to members only for the time being.

The modern environmental movement was born in Santa Barbara in 1970 — an occasion to celebrate each year at the Earth Day Festival. Engage in conversations with climate leaders, get into the groove with musical performances and art contests, build community ties and connect with eco-minded exhibitors, and learn how you can lean into climate action.

MAY

May 7, 2022, Santa Barbara Vintners is hosting the Vintners Festival in beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. More than one hundred wineries pour alongside many of Santa Barbara’s best chefs as live tunes fill the air. The festival is flanked by open houses, dinners and seminars that always inspire a long weekend visit to wine country.

The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, May 28-30, 2022, delights locals and visitors alike every year during Memorial Day Weekend. This year, hundreds of artists will show off their talents by producing colorful chalk paintings outside Old Mission Santa Barbara — some trompe l’oeil and larger than life. Named for the Italian street painters who traditionally depicted the Madonna, the festival raises funds for the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program.

The artists at work, during I Madonnari Street Painting Festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara. Photo Credit: Michael Brown

June

The Summer Solstice Celebration kicks off in June with a brilliant explosion of creative energy, just following the longest day of the year. Exuberantly decorated non-motorized floats, 1,000 imaginatively costumed participants, bands, dance, and drum ensembles parade up State Street from the waterfront to Alameda Park, where the party continues with more music, food, and arts-and-crafts booths. The largest arts event in Santa Barbara County, drawing 100,000 spectators, the Solstice Parade is an over-the-top funfest. Please check back for more information regarding Summer Solstice 2022.

Indulge in the best libations and treats our town has to offer at the Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival, June 25, 2022. Hosted by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, this foodie favorite is sure to have your taste buds tingling! Vendors offer bites and nibbles of their most popular dishes, and the wine is sure to be flowing all afternoon. Sample Santa Barbara the right way, and one hundred percent of the net proceeds supports the Museum and Sea Center’s nature and science education for adults and children.

JULY

Say “Bonjour!” in 2022 to all things French at the Santa Barbara French Festival held at Oak Park each July. This French fête includes pop-up market and shopping stalls, mouth-watering food vendors, wine, beer, colorful performances, and thrilling fully-armored sword fights. Check back for more information regarding the 2022 festival.

Later this month, don’t miss the Santa Barbara Greek Festival, held at the same location in Oak Park. Relish in delectable, handmade Greek favorites like gyros and moussaka. Explore pop-up shops and various Greek-themed vendors, jive along to musical entertainment and treat yourself at the end of the day with homemade pastries from Yia Yia’s traditional recipes: baklava, melomakarona, and kataifi. Opa! Check back for more information regarding the 2022 festival.