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Guide to Old Spanish Days Fiesta

Photo Credit: Fritz Olenberger 

Since 1924, Old Spanish Days Fiesta has drawn large and loyal crowds to Santa Barbara year after year in celebration of Santa Barbara’s rich cultural heritage. During the annual five-day celebration, this year from August 5 to 9, 2020, the streets of Santa Barbara burst with music, dance and time-honored traditions. 

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Immerse yourself in the history, culture, spirit and merriment that is Old Spanish Days with parades, dancing in the street, authentic cuisine and more. This year’s Fiesta theme is “¡Vamos a Bailar!” (“Let’s Dance”). So dance away and be sure to join in the fun of cascarones, the tradition of cracking a confetti-filled egg on an unsuspecting friend’s head. A Locals Tip: To help protect our environment, only buy from vendors that use paper confetti and use your cascarones sparingly.

To maximize your vacation fun, below is a list of must-visit events when traveling to Santa Barbara for Old Spanish Days Fiesta 2020:

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2020

Fun for All at El Mercado del Norte, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Located at Mackenzie Park on the corner of State St. and Las Positas Rd, El Mercado del Norte kicks off the Old Spanish Days festivities Wednesday and continues on through the weekend. Enjoy live music, tons of delicious food, carnival rides and a beer garden. Stroll through the Fiesta Bazaar for memorable keepsakes. Kids love the colorful adornments and exciting carnival games.  (3098 Las Positas Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)

La Fiesta Pequeña at Old Mission Santa Barbara, 8 p.m.
No backdrop could be more picturesque than Old Mission Santa Barbara at sunset during La Fiesta Pequeña (“Little Fiesta), the official opening event of Old Spanish Days. Pack a picnic and be sure to bring blankets and lawn chairs to watch this colorful, historical program that includes traditional songs and dance from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical and Mexican folklorico. Become a part of Santa Barbara history at the “Queen of the Missions” during this historical event, since 1924. (2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)

Photo Credit: Fritz Olenberger

THURSDAY, August 6, 2020

El Mercado de la Guerra, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Spend your Thursday afternoon strolling through a colorful Mexican market to feast on Spanish and Mexican-American foods, shop for crafts and souvenirs to take back home and enjoy live entertainment. Can’t make it on Thursday? Don’t worry, this Mercado is open from Wednesday, August 5 to Saturday, August 8, and is located in De La Guerra Plaza, on the first block of East De La Guerra Street.

Celebración de los Dignatarios (DIGS!), 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Held at the beautiful Santa Barbara Zoo, DIGS is the wildest and most talked about fiesta during Old Spanish Days. Stroll the lush gardens of the Santa Barbara Zoo while sipping the finest wines and tequilas, paired perfectly with a stunning Santa Barbara sunset. Come hungry to devour food from the area’s finest eateries and be prepared to dance the night away. This event is for guests 21+ only. (500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103) 

Professional Bull Riders (PBR), 7 p.m.
Located at Earl Warren Showgrounds, this is a great opportunity for rodeo fans of all ages to witness the greatest riders in the world – and where every seat is up close and personal. Fans will witness thrilling 8-second rides and jaw-dropping wrecks throughout the adrenaline-soaked performance. (3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93105) 

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FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, 2020

El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade), 12 p.m.
The Fiesta Historical Parade is a cherished tradition taking place in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara and is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades, featuring over 600 horses, antique carriages, coaches and wagons. Grab a spot and set-up chairs ahead of time along State Street to get a clear view of the parade. From historic floats to historical reenactments, sit back and cheer. The parade starts at West Cabrillo Blvd. and finishes on the 1500 block of State Street.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
One of the absolute best traditions of Fiesta is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado. Authentic, flavorful and entertaining, Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado is open Friday to Sunday, serving up authentic Mexican cuisine. To beat the crowds, head over after El Desfile Histórico to get a delicious taste of what Old Spanish Days is all about. (227 Nopal St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103)

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Rodeo Performance, 7:30 p.m. 
Giddy-up for a good time and the rodeo at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Excitement and entertainment are guaranteed as riders compete in events such as Bareback Riding, Tie-down Roping, Steer Stopping, Team Penning, Mutton Bustin’ and Saddle Bronco Riding, plus PRCA Team Roping, Barrel-Racing and Bull Riding. (3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)

SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, 2020


Annual El Desfile De Los Niños (Children’s Parade), 10 a.m.
The annual El Desfile De Los Niños (Children’s Parade) is a parade too cute and charming to miss. Children and parents of Santa Barbara dress in traditional costumes to celebrate the rich culture of the area, parading down State Street, from Victoria Street to Ortega Street in downtown Santa Barbara. Afterwards, take the kids to El Mercado del Norte or grab a bite at the mercado located nearby at De La Guerra Plaza.

Photo Credit: Fritz Olenberger

Casa Cantina, 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
For those who are 21 and over, celebrate Fiesta where it all began, as Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation presents Casa Cantina in the courtyard of historic Casa de la Guerra. Kick back, relax, sip a cold drink and celebrate at the home of Old Fiesta Spanish Days. Should you want to come back again, Casa Cantina is open Wednesday, August 5 to Saturday, August 9. ( 15 E De La Guerra St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)

SUNDAY, AUGUST 9, 2020

Fiesta Car Show, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The Fiesta Car Show is a free community event that includes exceptional cars of all makes and models. Stroll from car to car while enjoying live music, food and a beer garden. Be sure to take part in the raffle for a chance to win prizes. (632 E. Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103)